The Case Against… Daleks in Manhattan

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Guest contributor James Wynne makes the case against the 2007 two-parter, Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks.

With the first episode of series 7 set to be a Dalek bonanza, I thought I’d go back and watch all the Dalek episodes since 2005 to determine which was the absolute worst. This is all subjective, but I think all fans would agree that the fundamentals of the Daleks are; no emotion, supreme intelligence, disdain for any other lifeform and virtually unstoppable. So which episode failed on almost all accounts?

Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks

Very early in the first part of the story, while talking to Mr. Diagoras, we see Caan demonstrate sadness at the loss of his kind and his planet. Obviously it is hard to tell with the way the Daleks talk, but the tone of voice and the eyestalk dropping as he says it is a blatant attempt at emotion. A similar thing was done in the series one episode “Dalek”, but in that instance it was feigning sadness in order to draw parallels between the Doctor and itself, because it knew this would anger him.

Caan also seems to have admiration for the human race and in particular, Mr. Diagoras, due to our will to survive. This has not been present in any previous Dalek stories and that’s because of their belief that they are superior to any other being, so it really doesn’t make sense that they’d have any sort of admiration for us.

The main plot of the first half is the completion of the mast at the top of the Empire State building, and the disappearance of people who are being turned in to pig slaves. None of this makes sense. If they need the mast completed, why not do it themselves? They’ve built spaceships and they must have built the lab for their experiments, so they have the ability to do it. If they need humans for those experiments, why not go out and get them themselves instead of making pig slaves? It’s not like anyone in 1930‘s New York would be able to pose any threat to them and they clearly don’t care about people knowing they’re there, as they go on a rampage in Hooverville.

The biggest problem however, is the Human/Dalek hybrid. The episode itself struggles to come up with a good enough explanation as to why the Daleks chose to do it. The best we get is Sec citing that the reason the Cult of Skaro came about was to think of new ways to survive. It doesn’t take a massive amount of intelligence to realise that if you’re species is struggling to survive in an almost invulnerable armoured suit, then combining with a human so you can walk outside of it (with no protection) is probably not going to make it any easier!

Not only was the hybrid the most ridiculous looking monster of the modern era (basically a really ugly, one-eyed, human with a jellyfish for a head), but all it did was weaken Sec to the point that the rest of the Cult disowned him and wanted him dead. He even seems to delight in feeling all sorts of human emotions, which begs the question, how much Dalek is actually left in this supposed hybrid?

In the second part we find out about the Daleks plan to use humans as soldiers. If they wanted to create an army, why not repeat what was done in Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways and use human cells to create pure Daleks? If a crippled Emperor could manage it, why couldn’t the supposedly creative Cult of Skaro? It seems more logical than having humans as your army.

Another issue is how many chances they have to kill the Doctor. Twice they are ordered not to by Sec. Surely doing that should have made them instantly aware something was not right, and he was not fit to be in command. When they do eventually take control, they just restrain him which results in him escaping two minutes later.

This episode got almost nothing about the Daleks right and only succeeded in making them look absolutely stupid. It’s definitely the worst Dalek story of the modern era, and arguably of all time. I understand it has it’s fans and I have watched it multiple times because I enjoy every Doctor Who episode to an extent, but looking at it purely as a Dalek story, you can’t really argue it gets anything right.