It’s another Something of the Daleks story. Occasionally, these can be really good. Lately, however, this has become a less frequent occurrence. Davros returns, having escaped from the explosion in Resurrection of the Daleks, and does his usual routine of frothing at the mouth while yelling about his great plans to build the ultimate master race, etcetera, etcetera. Davros is definitely an iconic villain (particularly here, where for the most part he appears as a severed head attached to a machine), but this whole leader of the Daleks thing is getting tiresome now. When the ‘true’ Daleks return and arrest him, I thought that was a genuinely good moment and a simple but effective way to bring him down.
Severed heads and violent stabbings are combined with some misplaced comedy to create a distinctly mixed tone here. The low point has to be the DJ; what on Earth were they thinking with him? “He’s just so ker-azy, man!”, whooping and hollering as he destroys Daleks with a laser powered by rock and roll or something. And then steps out like a fool and gets shot. Dear me.
That said, none of the action is particularly good. They try to do an action-packed assassination attempt in Davros’ lab, complete with limbs being blown off, but a BBC TV studio and some weak video effects just can’t do that sort of sequence justice. Good effort, but no. That’s not to mention the mixed quality of acting. Clive Swift is a good comedy actor, but he’s just a bit weird and creepy in this. Jenny Tomasin is unwatchably awful and cringeworthy in every scene. The romantic interest subplot is inconsequential. Elsewhere, I sort of enjoyed the scenes with Kara and Vogel, but their motives are a bit foggy.
There isn’t much left to enjoy, really. Orcini, the ‘honorable’ assassin is a kind of cool character. Tranquil Repose is an interesting place where they preserve you in death but what they’re producing is suitably icky. The part where the Doctor finds his future memorial stone is quite creepy, but not enough is done with that because it turns out to be a set-up to snare the Doctor. And speaking of which, I don’t actually know why Davros wanted to bring him there; that seems awfully irresponsible! Overall, this was a mess. Maybe the show should have gone on some sort of hiatus for a year and a half…