Confession time. I loved the first half of “Victory of the Daleks.”
I know the story is one of the more reviled of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. But as a classic Doctor Who fan, the first half was a pure delight. Seeing the manipulative Daleks, pulling the strings of the gullible humans all while the Doctor tries to convince everyone that they’re really up to no good felt like a writer Mark Gatiss channeling “Power of the Daleks” for a modern audience.
And, sure, I will admit that the Mighty-Morphing-Power-Daleks seem like a bit of a bad idea in hindsight. And maybe the spitfires in outer space strains credibility. But I choose to recall the positives of the first half of the story and how excited I was when I first saw it.
What Gatiss reminded fans is that the Daleks are more than just pepper pot shaped foes who yell “Exterminate.” The Daleks can be cunning and manipulative, not just seeking to conquer and destroy the universe but taking over things on a smaller scale.
The second installment of “Power of the Daleks” demonstrates this. There is a palatable tension as Lesterson tries to revive the Dalek and hides the fact that he’s been into the secret chamber we found to end episode one. Lesterson clearly has some type of agenda and he thinks the Daleks can help him achieve it. And we get hints that the Daleks are aware of this and taking advantage of him to restore themselves to full working order. (The implications of this will payoff later in one heck of cliffhanger).
“Power” sees everyone at the colony having something to hide. Whether it’s Lesterson with the Daleks, the Doctor with the fact that he’s taken over the identity of the Examiner and the mystery of who called for the Examiner and why, there are tensions bubbling under the surface left and right here. Add in a Dalek that clearly has its own agenda and you’ve got a great twenty-five minutes of character and world-building.
It’s also interesting to note that the Dalek appears to recognize the Doctor while Ben still isn’t convinced that the Doctor is who he says he is.