‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “Daleks in Manhattan”
(intro to my Who blogging / previous: Episode 3: “Gridlock”)
Well, it was bound to happen, and the longer this new Doctor Who went on, the more likely it became: Here we have the first not-very-good episode of the new incarnation of the show.
Okay, it’s bad. There, I said it. And I was so looking forward to this one. The BBC’s Doctor Who Web site had the episode titles listed long before they’d even aired in Britain, and when I saw “Daleks in Manhattan” there, I thought, “Oh man, this is gonna be great!” There are some awesome Doctor Who stories you could tell in New York (and again, this new show has me thinking that I have got to write some new fanfic, write one or two of those great New York Doctor Who stories). This is not one of them.
I’ve convinced myself that Russell Davies, with this episode, is saying, “Remember how cheesy and implausible — even grading on the Doctor Who curve — so many of those old stories were? No? Well, here’s a reminder, just to make absolutely everything else we do here looks good.” That must have been the plan, right?
I mean: pig slaves? What’s up with that? Why pigs? Why not rats? At least rats live in the sewer. Hilarious, but ridiculous, the Daleks arguing with one another. And getting sucked into a Dalek? Gross! “Join with me”? Eww. God, at least buy the poor guy a drink first, maybe take him to dinner or something. Sheesh.
“I am a human Dalek.” Makes me think of Jim Carrey coming out of the machine in Earth Girls Are Easy, all shaved and not furry, saying, “We are human now.” And gee, what could it be about that human Dalek that makes me think he’s a real dickhead?
Why does Martha run out onto the stage while Tallulah is doing her number? Martha’s way too smart to do something that stupid. Why didn’t she just run around behind the rear curtain?
It bothers me, too, that Tallulah would automatically jump to the conclusion that the Daleks must be from “outer space.” I just don’t think such concepts were in the general culture in 1930, not enough so that a showgirl would be familiar with them. But maybe I’m wrong: turns out I was wrong about the George Washington Bridge, which appears in the deep background in the establishing shot over Central Park (up in the top left corner of the screen). I thought the bridge hadn’t been built yet in 1930, but it turns out ground was broken on the bridge in 1927 and opened to traffic just a year after the events of this episode.
Oh, all the terrible New York accents! Tallulah sounds like the actress in Singin’ in the Rain — “I can’t stand it!” (Still, I have to admit that were the situation reversed, and a show or movie shooting in New York needed to round up actors who could pull off Welsh accents, they’d have a lot harder time doing that than a show shot in Wales did rounding up actors who could do even moderately passable New York accents.)
It’s not all bad. I’m not saying I haven’t watching the episode half a dozen times already. Just because the overall story is pretty laughable doesn’t mean there aren’t nice touches throughout the episode. Tallulah turned out to be a lot tougher than she looks, following the Doctor into the sewer and not being freaked out by her pig boyfriend and stuff. I like how the Doctor continues to not be able to fob off people’s questions about who he is and where he’s from, like he used to. (“I’m not a fool, Doctor,” Solomon tells him when the Doctor tries the ol’ “oh, I’m from here and there” routine.)
David Tennant continues to be fantastic. His disgust with the Dalek — “No no no no no. They survive. They always survive, while I lose everything.” — was potent. And his moment with the pig thing huddling in the corner of the sewer was nice.
Random thoughts on “Daleks in Manhattan”:
• “Nearly 80 years ago. Funny, cuz you see those old newsreels all in black and white like it’s so far away, but here we are. It’s real — it’s now!” Yep, Martha definitely deserves to be traveling with the Doctor.
• “Versions of this city stand throughout history,” say a Dalek — well, duh, little tinpot machine. It’s Noo fuckin’ Yawk.
(next: Episode 5: “Evolution of the Daleks”)