TARDIS File 03-04: Daleks In Manhattan
The Big Idea: In the first of a splashy two-part story, the Doctor takes Martha to 1930’s New York, where the Daleks are up to no good involving the Empire State Building, pig slaves, genetic experimentation, and dancing girls.
What’s So Great…
- A brilliant teaser sets the scene with an evocatively lit cityscape, period music, and colourful, stagy dialogue; one is genuinely creeped-out as something stalks Lazlo backstage. The brilliant classic series writer Robert Holmes would have approved.
- A Dalek emerging from an art deco elevator flanked by two pig slaves like some sort of Jimmy Cagney-inspired mob boss.
- Martha and the Doctor looking up at the Statue of Liberty with “Rhapsody in Blue” in the background; CGI is allowing for some wonderfully iconic moments that wouldn’t have been possible in earlier years (CGI stitched together location filming on Ellis Island with footage of the leads in Cardiff).
- Pig prosthetics have come along way since Aliens in London; could it be long before we’re treated to Conquest of the Planet of the Pigs?
Quick Bits of Trivia: Ryan Carnes, who plays Lazlo, had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives as Justin, the love interest of that series’ Andrew Van De Kamp. When Martha realizes she’s in New York, George Gerswhin’s “Rhapsody In Blue”— used to great effect to underscore the New York City skyline in the 1979 film Manhattan— is briefly heard in what must be the first reference to a Woody Allen film in Doctor Who. The Empire State Building first appeared in Doctor Who briefly back in 1965 in the serial The Chase. Incidentally, the Daleks showed up on the structure during that story too.
Things to Geek Out About…
- The Cult of Skaro, last seen in Doomsday, is back scheming for the future of the Dalek race
- The Daleks refer to their armour as Dalekanium. The term was first used in 1964 in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
- Doctor Who returns to the sewers! Yes, I know it’s an odd thing to celebrate, but back in the day they made a creepy alternative to all the corridors.
- Dalek Caan mentions that his planet was destroyed in a great war picking up the continuity of the Time War, while offering a nice little echo of similar revelations the Doctor has made about his own home world (and possibly refers back to the original-series story Remembrance of the Daleks).
Not to Complain But… American accents have always been a bit sketchy in Doctor Who, but here they range from authentic (Ryan Carnes as Lazlo) to unevenly stylized (Tallulah) to just plain distractedly bad (Mr. Diagoras). And the wonderful Freema Agyeman isn’t given a lot to do as Martha, after some wonderful material last week.
All Things Considered… Daleks in Manhattan works at a leisurely pace to establish mood and character; to give us a wikipedia-researched, old-movie feel of 1930’s New York—and nothing more authentic than that. While Doctor Who has a healthy production budget, we were probably never going to see our characters wandering around the streets of the city, and to that length, the device of Hooverville offers a nice, if historically inaccurate, creative solution. Overall the art direction is fantastic with a kind of soft focus, mythical quality to the city itself.
Tallulah is fun, dotty and full of pithy advice like all showgirls in the genre, while Solomon offers high ideals and the gritty determination that highlights the best in humanity. Lazlo rounds out the proceedings as the tragic romantic figure. Curiously, the Daleks themselves, while fascinating in their machinations as always, seem almost to have settled down into a nine-to-five kind of routine. One can almost imagine them arguing over where the elevators should go.
The story also lacks a certain urgency; the Doctor and Martha never seem to be in lot of danger. Novelty seems to push the narrative forward. What are the Daleks up to? Why are they grafting bits of themselves onto the top of the Empire State Building? What happened to Lazlo? And what’s with the pig slaves? Bottom line: we’ll have to wait until next week to see how all of this shapes up. There are intriguing hints of dissent in the Dalek ranks. And if Lazlo brings Tallulah home to meet mom, will there be pork roast?
Line of the Week: “I should have realized—he’s into musical theatre.”
TARDIS File prepared by Scot Clarke
Who Party Toronto Presents:
An Afternoon With Gary Russell
Sunday June 9th, 2013 from noon until 6:00pm
Paupers Pub (second floor), 539 Bloor Street W.
Cost: $15 for the afternoon
On Sunday June 9th, 2013 join The Doctor Who Information Network and Who Party Toronto for An Afternoon With Gary Russell on the second floor of Paupers Pub at 539 Bloor Street West.
The afternoon will feature a Q&A session with our guest Doctor Who writer and Script Editor Gary Russell as well as a live video commentary of a Doctor Who episode that he worked on, an autograph session, a trivia competition and an afternoon of discussions and socializing with other Doctor Who fans.
The Snowmen Cometh (Christmas Special Reviewed!) : The 2012 Christmas special gets a look-over! Plus…
- Can good Doctor Who be bad television, and vice versa?
- Robots with human souls
- News and reviews
It has been announced that the final eight episodes of Series Seven of Doctor Who will be airing on BBC1, SPACE and BBC America starting on Saturday March 30th, 2013.
Archaeology Tomorrow (Season Reviews and Benny’s 20th!) : The 2012 season review issue, and the importance of being Bernice Surprise Summerfield! Plus…
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- Where are the new series’ truly iconic villains?
- News and reviews
The seventh series of Doctor Who comes to our screens on September 1 at 9 pm on SPACE!
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