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20 June 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 171: The Evil of the Daleks, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I've often thought that if (when) I ever got my hands on a time machine, I'd quite like to visit Victorian England. Couldn't tell you why it's the top of my list, but I've always been fascinated by it. Even at school, the Victorian era was one of my favourites in history lessons. In many ways, I've always thought of Doctor Who being particularly suited to the era, too, and it seems many other's agree with me - several parts of the most recent season have been set there, and it's not been uncommon for the Doctor to visit in the past.

It's odd, then, to think that this episode marks the first time that we've actually seen this era in the series (yes, yes, pedants, the scene on the Marie Celeste during The Chase is technically set in Victorian times, but it was way out at sea, and might as well have been set in any generic past if it wasn't for the joke at the end, so I'm disqualifying it), almost five years in. Oh, and it's done beautifully. It's said a lot, but the BBC design department really do make a stunning job of this period, and this episode is no exception. Maxtible's drawing room has to be the crowning achievement, as it looks simply brilliant, and it's nice to have an episode from the story surviving so that we can really appreciate it.

Speaking of which, it's bloody lovely to see a Dalek again! We've had them in the series quite recently to welcome the new Doctor to the series, and I watched The Destroyers not all that long ago, but thanks to the gaps in the archives (and the lack of production of The Destroyers…) this is the first time I've actually seen a Dalek on screen, moving and everything, since The Daleks' Master Plan, and that feels like a lifetime ago. Technically, it was for the Doctor.

It's nice to see that the Daleks here are the same kind of manipulative ones seen in Power of the Daleks, and the cruel, terrifying version that we had in Master Plan, too. Yesterday's episode ended rather nicely with a Dalek screaming at Kennedy to identify himself (though it wasn't as good a cliffhanger as they had pretty consistently in their last tale), and then the resolution to that ending today? The Dalek exterminates him as soon as we're done with the reprise. Then it disappears, and Waterfield has something of a breakdown as he realises he'll have to dispose of the body. The Daleks really are at their best when their callous, and Whittaker knows exactly how to use them in the right way.

All that said, I'm sorry to say that the story still isn't really capturing me. I've seen this episode before (a long, long, time ago on a bored Sunday-afternoon viewing of the Lost in Time collection), and remembered it being pretty good, but this time around it still feels as if I'm waiting for things to get going. As ever, there's a lot to like, but it just don't seem to be doing very much. Maybe I'm being put off by the fact that people say it's one of the stone-cold 'classics' of Doctor Who, and my expectations are just set a little bit too high?

We do get our first introduction of Victoria in this episode though, as a captive of the Daleks, who seem obsessed with her weight. They're holding her prisoner as leverage with Waterfield, so that he'll help capture the Doctor and force him to conduct some experiments on Jamie. I complained yesterday that the plan to get the Doctor to the antiques shop was a bit round the houses… but now it makes even less sense! Surely it would have been quicker to knock the Doctor and Jamie out at Gatwick, transport them to 1886, tie Jamie up in the lab and force the Doctor to get to work under Dalek guard? Why all the messing about?

Victoria herself comes across as less obviously a companion as Sam Briggs did in the last story (heck, even Mollie seems to be a more likely candidate to step aboard the TARDIS at this point!), but it does have to be said that Debbie Watling does look beautiful in her first scenes. I've not seen much of Victoria's tenure outside of The Tomb of the Cybermen (as Deborah herself says on one of the DVD special features about this era - there's nothing left of there time on the show, really), so I'm hoping she'll blossom once she's out from under the Daleks' watchful eye-stalks.

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