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Monday, 30 April 2007 - Reviewed by Patrick McDermott

A change of scenery is always nice and for the first time we're outside of the British Isles (with the exception of another Dalek episode, but that underground museum could have been anywhere.) The Doctor and Martha go back to 1930s Depression-era New York to do some sightseeing but end up in a Dalek plot involving pig creatures, the Empire State building and, of course, world domination. It's a decent entry, with the first part being much better than the second. But what I failed to understand was why the Daleks wanted to evolve. The new Daleks were much more vulnerable so I'm not sure what the point was. Either way, it provides some Dalek on Dalek drama that's never been done before.

Some of the guest stars were a little trying, especially Tallulah who I supposed figured all women in 1930s America sounded like Betty Boop and Frank who has a southern accent that he picked up from watching Hee Haw reruns. Also, for a dude that got turned into a man-pig, Laszlo didn't seem all that upset.

The story also continued this trend of building romance between The Doctor and his companion. The whining about feelings that came out in series two was frustrating enough, but now it seems to be starting all over again. I long for the good old days when The Doctor and everyone just ran around without any drama.

Tiny criticism: A Hooverville in Central Park didn't set up until 1931.

Everything aside, I enjoyed it and think it's continuing a strong series so far.





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Monday, 30 April 2007 - Reviewed by Calum Corral

Anything with the Daleks is good. Right?

Well, I was worried beforehand. New York setting sounded great until I realised that the Doctor and co. didn't actually go and it was all special fx, secondly the pigmen looked awful in the previews, and thirdly, the so-called "Evolution" of the Daleks, this could be a total pig's ear of a story so to speak.

But thankfully I didn't need to be nervous at all as the story carried all the above off very well indeed and the whole story carried on at a rattling pace.

The brilliant graphics actually gave a detailed and realistic New York feel, I loved the dancing girls, and the arrival of the sinister Daleks to take control of the weak Hooverville humans who were vulnerable and ready to take on any job for a bit of pay.

The whole setting and backdrop was excellent and the Doctor was almost a bit part player to the Daleks I felt in the first episode. The Daleks, incidentally, were marvellously calculating and the build-up to the cliffhanger was nicely executed though spoilt by the Radio Times cover to a massive extent.

The Evolution part of Dalek sec was interesting and it was good to see the Daleks consipiring against him and finally turning the tables on him. The second episode was better than the first which did set the scene magnificiently but "Evolution of the Daleks" was the highlight with the Doctor putting himself forward for extermination by his most fearsome enemy not once but TWICE! Amazing stuff.

The changeover to human daleks certainly nodded back to "Evil of the Daleks" and again this was well executed and it was a great twist that timelord DNA managed to get in the way of the Daleks, and while the idea of the last surviving Dalek - Caan - performing a temporal time shift will no doubt attract criticism in some quarters - you have to keep the deadly Daleks still on the prowl!!!

There were so many great highlights such as the divebombing Daleks attacking Hooverville to the realisation of the Dalek's plan to survive via human daleks, and the scheming against Dalek Sec. I liked the way how the Dalek turned its eye-stalk round to check he couldn't be heard. That was quite human in fact!!!!

It was a lovely script and really captured the feel of 1930s New York with the Empire State Building and the sinister scheming Daleks were menacing and scary. Start spreading the News, the Daleks are back!

On a footnote, Dalek Caan could always have escaped in the Dardis - the Dalek time machine that arrived at the top of the Empire States Building in The Chase!!





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Monday, 30 April 2007 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

It looks great, and the sight of Daleks in Manhattan is highly striking, given that the series has rarely ventured into America. Manhattan is extremely well realised, and as an affectionate pastiche of the era, the over-the-top Brooklyn accents and showgirls are perfectly acceptable. The Depression backdrop fulfils the series original remit of being vaguely educational, conveying some of the wretchedness of the period very well. The pig-slaves are also visually striking, and don't look anywhere near as silly as they could have done, especially when they are menacingly advancing through the sewers. Even Laszlo doesn't look silly, largely because the actor brings pathos to the role. The only weak point is Dalek Sec, which looks like a nightmarish Muppet after his transformation.

The Daleks, with low numbers and low power, are forced to use cunning, and their plan to transform humans into Daleks harkens back to 'The Evil of the Daleks'. They are at their nastiest here, especially when a Dalek impassively listens to Solomon and lets him finish his speech before exterminating him, and when Dalek Khan kills the Dalek Humans. Sec's sudden development of a conscience is horribly predictable, but refreshingly doesn't go down the route I'd expected, with the other three rebelling against him ("You told us to imagine and we imagined your irrelevance"), chaining him up like a gimp, and finally exterminating him.

Unfortunately, it's largely bollocks. The Dalek plan to use the Empire State building to channel the gamma burst into the humans and turn them into Daleks, whilst pure Silver Age comic book science, makes perfect sense from a Dalek point of view and clearly would have worked, so what exactly is Sec's transformation all about? Or the pig-slaves for that matter? Are the Daleks just bored? After all, the Dalek Humans look human, so all the hybridisation business suddenly seems pointless. Then there is the ghastly contrivance of the Doctor somehow affecting them by channelling the lightening strike through his own body, as though electricity can carry DNA. It's almost like a first draft that hasn't been script-edited, and this is especially annoying given that it could so easily have been, if not spectacular, then a solid enough Dalek story. Predictably, one Dalek escapes at the end, but by now I'm getting fed up of the Daleks scrabbling about for survival.

In addition, we get silly moments such as the two Daleks whispering and peering over their shoulders, and the pig-slave shuffling impatiently in the lift. We also find out that the pig-slaves have a limited lifespan, almost immediately after which Laszlo starts getting hot flushes and falling over, which is horribly contrived. The biggest problem however lies in some of the dialogue. The second episode in particular degenerates into the sort of pompous and contrived morality speeches that Russell T. Davies tends to write in his worst moments, with the Doctor's speech about not a single more person dying feeling almost cringe worthy (although points are awarded for not killing off Laszlo, and thus avoiding the Talluleh sobbing over his corpse scene that I'd predicted. We get speeches from Dalek Sec, Solomon, and the Doctor, all of which are presumably meant to be rousing, but all of which are so unoriginal that it's just dull. Oh and Martha is increasingly gagging for Time Lord cock, which produces a funny line from Talluleh ("he likes musical theatre?") but generally just continues the feeling that the writers are so unimaginative and sex-obsessed that they can't think of anything to do with her apart from walking the same route that they went down with Rose, who gets mentioned yet again.

There is some decent acting on display, especially from Ryan Carnes as Laszlo and Hugh Quarshire as Solomon, and Freema Agyeman continues to impress, especially when Martha again gets to use her brain to think of an imaginative way to kill the pig-slaves. And Helen Raynor remembers that Martha is a medical student, as she tends the denizens of Hooverville. Unfortunately, Eric Loren is rather less impressive as Dalek Sec, giving a stilted, irritating performance throughout. Meanwhile, David Tennant continues to reign in the wackiness, and spends most of the episode emoting as the Daleks bring out the worst in the Doctor again. This works very well at times, especially when he mutters, "They survived. They always survive, whilst I lose everything", but leaves him shouting in a disturbingly hammy fashion during the second episode, something I hoped I wouldn't see him doing again. By the time he's delivering ultimatums to Dalek Khan, his performance is horrendously unconvincing, as is his simultaneous clowning and making a speech as he sets out to save Laszlo. And are we really expected to believe that the Doctor can now shrug off a lightening strike without even getting singed?

'Daleks in Manhattan'/'Evolution of the Daleks' suffers most of all however from one continuing factor that plagues the new series remorselessly: all of the worst scenes are made exponentially worse than they actually are by having Murray Gold's sickening musical tripe smeared all over them, his saccharine orchestral excesses crudely trying to influence the viewer's emotions in the least subtle way possible. Unfortunately, with everyone on the production team waxing lyrical about his perceived talents, this is unlikely to relent any time soon.

Overall, 'Daleks in Manhattan'/'Evolution of the Daleks' is rather odd: neither truly great, nor genuinely bad, it's an odd mishmash of both, with some great moments (Laszlo's abduction at the start is an impressively creepy scene that brings to mind The Phantom of the Opera, and the Daleks look superb when they are glidingly menacingly around the sewers), let down by a nonsensical plot, a couple of duff performances, and some ghastly dialogue. As an attempt to do a Dalek story without it being an overblown, end-of-season epic, it's a worthy experiment, but it could, and should, have been so much better.





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Monday, 30 April 2007 - Reviewed by Robert F.W. Smith

A disappointment after the promise of the first three stories of the season, this two-parter nevertheless had a liberal sprinkling of the good qualities which characterise the 2007 run so far, enough to save it from sinking all the way back down to Series 1 and 2 levels.

The first 15 minutes are really excellent; Hooverville is a superb setting for a Doctor Who story, its pathos is well evoked despite the clich? of two men fighting over some bread, and the Doctor fits right in, of course. The loveable American characters are what really make the episodes, particularly as there are some fabulous accents on display, particularly Frank's Tennessee drawl: Helen Raynor deserves points for showing us more of a cross-section of US society than a story populated only by New Yorkers. Solomon is a commanding and sympathetic character, and Tallulah has some nice moments. The novelty of a traditionally Anglo-centric series venturing Stateside had me hooked from the word go.

More important by far is the treatment of the Daleks. Their role in the two previous two-parters has been to provide a 'shock' twist at the cliffhanger, meaning we only had one episode with them in. That trick got undeniably stale, and in an episode entitled 'Daleks In Manhattan' would certainly NOT have worked, so it was a relief to have two full episodes of Dalek action in this one, meaning I wasn't left with the sense of being short-changed that 'Bad Wolf' in particular gave me. Their reveal in the lift is excellent, as is the Dalek's ensuing dialogue with Diagoras, and our first sight of their operation recalls the spirit of countless Dalek stories which has them hidden away below stairs and working on mysterious things through human operatives: 'Day of the Daleks' especially, with Mr Diagoras standing for the Controller.

By the end of 'Evolution', however, the story much more readily recalls a mid-80s story than anything else; probably 'Resurrection'. The fragmented storytelling and multiplicity of loose ends give the whole thing an unsatisfying 'bitty' and episodic feel, as characters are killed off (though Solomon's death is quite a powerful moment) and we jump from setting to setting and threat to threat. The early promise deflates as plot lines fizzle out and everything starts to get repetitive; most annoyingly, the Doctor gets two scenes in which he offers himself up to the Daleks for extermination, and both times, in increasingly contrived ways, survives. That's just lazy. As is the confusion over whether the flashy special effect on top of the Empire State building is a simple "lightening strike" or a "gamma strike" from a solar flare (not to mention how the Doctor manages to alter a chemical process through standing in the way of the power source! What??).

Still worse is the cliffhanger. It's not even particularly exciting conceptually, as it is very hard to see just what Sec thinks he will get out of his 'evolution', but the lack of payoff, the way in which the Daleks (in evident agreement) just remove Sec from the plot fairly soon after he changes, with Raynor leaving him to be accidentally shot when the running time runs out, is practically unforgivable. I'm tempted to say, all told, that Helen Raynor's proper calling is script editor rather than writer. She shows clear and incisive understanding of the Doctor's character and obviously knows just what the programme SHOULD be like, better than almost every writer so far in fact, but the broad-brush characterisation and clumsy plotting negate the impact.

The Doctor still works though, thanks to a combination of a well-considered role in the story and David Tennant: the Doctor is at last beginning to consistently treat other people with a bit of respect, and his anguished scream when he believes Frank to be dead in part one is great. His willingness to help the Daleks is also surprising and shows a maturity which this incarnation is only infrequently capable of. He's still a bit omnipotent though, recovering from a very dramatically filmed zapping with disappointing ease.

Martha is, if not the strongest, then the most faultless element of these episodes, again. Freema Agyeman plays it with a healthy dose of fear that is absolutely necessary with such an all-knowing and invulnerable Doctor, and is gifted with a supremely traditional companion's role. She makes friends with the secondary characters, uses her wits and individual skills together with what the Doctor has taught her to defeat the minor villains and assist the Doc to wrap up the story; it doesn't get more classical than that! Although the two leads have a rather pointless spat about orders in the theatre, apropos of nothing, by and large Martha's chemistry with our hero is excellent, and her regret at killing the hybrids, when as a trainee doctor she is supposed to be dedicated to preserving life, is nicely handled.

James Hawes directs the Daleks nicely, but I've gone off him rather. And, despite the classical music echoes which keep appearing, of Gershwin especially, Murray Gold's music is even more ghastly than usual in this one, the execrable techno-choral chanting which follows that Daleks around doing nothing for them and nothing for the story.

The first misstep of Series 3, but with enough residual quality to keep me entertained.





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Monday, 30 April 2007 - Reviewed by Amanda Snyder

There seems to be a theme of moral ambivalence running through the episodes this series, and it's refreshing to find that theme continued so strongly in a Dalek adventure. On the surface, DiM/EotD is a pretty straightforward "Daleks want to rule the world, Doctor has to stop them" kind of story. In fact, as far as Dalek plots go, this one seems downright simplistic. Compare the Dalek plot here with the one in Resurrection of the Daleks, Renaissance of the Daleks or McGann's Time of the Daleks and you'll see what I mean. I thought it was interesting that the Daleks felt they needed a group like the Cult of Skaro for "imagination" when most of their plans were already needlessly overcomplicated. If anything, they needed a group to work on practicality, and in this story, that's exactly what Dalek Sec tries to do.

For a species as dependent on command structure as the Daleks, they have a surprising tendency to rebel against their leaders. They did it to Davros on several occasions, and here the same happens to poor Sec. If anything, the Cult of Skaro demonstrates that Daleks really are incapable of thinking outside the box. To do so is to become something other than a Dalek, and thus to be unworthy of existence. The Cult is, in essence, a contradiction, and was destined to be destroyed from within. The Doctor's involvement in all this is almost superfluous. For once in the new series, instead of the Doctor rushing in, turning everything upsidedown and leaving, he is merely a catalyst, accelerating a process that has already been set in motion. This is how the character of the Doctor works best, in my opinion, and surprisingly, some of the best scenes in this two-parter are those between the Doctor and the Daleks.

Sadly, the human characters are not treated with the same depth, and despite generally strong performances, the humans are largely forgettable. The Daleks and the Doctor are center stage throughout, and we don't forget it. The same goes for Martha, who is saddled with plot-necessary flashes of brilliance and yet more Doctor-pining and Rose-lamenting. Talullah and Lazlo, though potentially interesting characters, seem to have been contrived only to force a happy note onto this otherwise very open-ended story (as well as to give the Doctor his amusing "...and maybe the odd pig-slave Dalek mutant hybrid, too" line).

After 40 years of trundling around, shouting EXTERMINATE! and not killing the Doctor, I've learnt not to expect much else from the pepperpots, which is probably why RTD chose to (if you'll excuse the pun) exterminate most of them. Desperate Daleks are interesting Daleks, and they don't get much more interesting than dear old Dalek Sec. While he very easily could have swayed cliche, Sec didn't. He stayed on-message throughout, a true human-Dalek hybrid in form and personality, neither overwhelmed by the emotionalism of humanity, nor completely insanely power-mad like a Dalek. I'm tempted to go as far as calling him one of the most sensible and relatable villains Doctor Who has ever produced.

But still, one has to wonder what was going on in the Doctor's head when he agreed to help Sec finish his final experiment. However rational Sec's plan, the fact remained that he'd killed at least a thousand humans to do it, which would generally throw up a big red flag for the Doctor. But if their sacrifice would mean the birth of a new race of Daleks not hell-bent on conquering all of time and space, was that adequate justification? The humans in question were already more or less dead. Was the Doctor using the same sort of reasoning that led him to grant the Gelth passage in The Unquiet Dead? He couldn't undo the damage the Daleks had done already, but if he helped Sec, perhaps he could turn lemons in lemonade. Or, was the Doctor merely stalling for time, trusting that Martha would have figured out his incredibly cryptic message and disabled the Dalek antennae (which, unless I've misunderstood, he didn't even know about until after the Daleks captured him)? Considering his final solution, it's also possible that the Doctor used the opportunity to spike the Dalek DNA juice in the lab, and his stunt on the mast was merely insurance, or compensating for the missing piece of Dalekanium (Which begs the question that if the mast did its job with just the two plates, then why did the Daleks bother putting three on in the first place? It's not like they had extras to spare).

Speaking of themes, another one in this series seems to be the Doctor really pushing the limits of his body. He mentions being electrocuted in Smith and Jones and then gets irradiated ("Itches, itches, itches!") and sucked nearly dry by a plasmavore. In his next outing, he suffers partial cardiac arrest at the hands of the Carrionites, then spends a day in New New York sucking lethal levels of exhaust fumes. And now he's been electrocuted (again). Maybe having a medically trained companion has inspired him to take more risks? I'll say this for the Tenth Doctor, next to Peter Davison's fainty Five, he's every pain fetishist Who fan's dream come true. At the very least, it's good to finally see the Doctor showing a more vulnerable side after two series' of having him built up as this unstoppable, angsty superman.

As much as this two-parter successfully rose above the usual Doctor Who formula, the presence of Daleks does dictate certain necesities, one of which being their inevitable escape at the end. The final confrontation between the Doctor and Dalek Khan is a moment that deserves to become a Doctor Who classic. In a situation eerily reminiscent of Rob Shearman's Dalek, we see the last of the Time Lords once more facing off against the last of the Daleks. But this time it's different. In a powerful role reversal from two years ago, it is the Dalek that panics and flees whilst the Doctor calmly, sincerely offers an olive branch. It's a very simple scene, with an ending spotted miles off, but as Khan vanishes in a temporal shift, the viewer is left feeling just as sad and frustrated as the Doctor. Admittedly, though, how else could it end? "Daleks always come back," the Doctor said. And as long as the BBC can fork up the dough to the Terry Nation estate, they will continue to do so. Kudos to writer Helen Raynor for taking a predictable end and making it work quite well.

There are other aspects to the story that are dismissable as too convenient and cliched to make Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks stand out as a truly great piece of Doctor Who, but it's a character-driven tour-de-force for the Doctor and his greatest enemies. Raynor's empathic touch bring a complexity and depth to the main characters that is too often either overlooked or beaten to death in new Who. In this fight, neither side is completely right, nor completely wrong. Moral lines blur in the game of survival, and that is the key ingredient that turns this otherwise overlong, pedestrian Dalek runaround into an intriguing thought piece. "Daleks always come back," the Doctor lamented, and in this story, the Daleks finally have a comeback worthy of their reputation.





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Monday, 30 April 2007 - Reviewed by James Tricker

Daleks in Manhatten and the Evolution of the Daleks present a bizarre mix of the powerful and downright risible. I don't really know where to start. It is perhaps saying a lot when I confess that one of my favourite scenes was the first episode's musical number! We've had musical interludes before of course ? for example the Daisy song in Talons ? but here the song Heaven and Hell was used with a nice twist of dramatic irony as the lyrics " you put the devil in me" is a neat summary of the murky experiments going on beneath the new Empire State Building. It was of course marred by Martha's clumsy intrusion as the hapless Lazlo is spotted for the first time in his post-experimental state (though not recognised as Lazlo yet). No complaints either about the 1930's New York setting amidst the Depression ? the Daleks are operating against a backdrop of human poverty and misery where it seems reasonably plausible that the authorities would turn a blind eye to members of the Hooverville community disappearing rather regularly. More perhaps than any other story of the new era to date, this story would have sat quite nicely in the classic era : like a comfortable pair of slippers, here we have the return of runarounds in the sewers, occasionally dodgy make up, and performances best described as variable, though the American accents, distracting as they were, were not as atrocious as they could have been. Miranda Raison struggles to keep a straight face, and I don't blame her, as Tallulah discovers that her beloved Lazlo has been turned into a quasi pig man, complete with what appears to resemble two cigarette ends sticking up from his mouth. The revelation of Dalek Sec hybrid, kindly brought to us courtesy of the Radio Times before any of us had even viewed the episode, seemed to vaguely resemble the Jagaroth from City of Death ? but that's where the similarity ends as this two parter is certainly not in the same league of quality as its illustrious predecessor. Then there was the convenience of the discarded green embryonic jelly laying quite happily in the sewer passage, waiting patiently to be discovered by the Doctor. The climax to the first part required us to stretch our tolerance levels to unprecedented distances as after much wobbling, smoking and general struggle, Dalek Sec, who had absorbed Diagoras in an effective scene earlier, gives birth to a fully suited and booted hybrid who not only has retained a dodgy American accent but who it is clear, as the second part unfolds, is a damn sight more cuddly than either of his predecessors: let's face it, Dalek Sec was none other than the leader of the Cult of Skaro and as for Diagoras, he is portrayed as a nasty piece of work who bluntly tells his workforce that if they don't work they will be replaced ? end of. No compassion there. This hybrid is an inconsistent step too far and no wonder the remaining Daleks come to imagine his irrelevance ? liked that line. There were good bits other than the sing-song. Diagoras's conversation with the Dalek in the first episode as they look down on NYC; Solomon's execution, showing the Daleks at their ruthless best/worst and the Doctor's utterly horrified response; the nod to Frankenstein as the human/Dalek army awakens and the climatic shootout in the theatre which was a nice homage to the gangster movies of the era. Those Daleks have certainly got it worked out haven't they? No concept of worry and when the going gets tough, go for the old emergency temporal shift option. Works a treat. I used the word "risible" earlier and unfortunately I was distracted throughout with some of the bizarre scenes I encountered. In episode one it's raining cats and dogs ? or should that be pigs ? in Hooverville but no-one's getting wet; the Doctor tells Martha to ask the Dalek what's going on because he doesn't want to be noticed, yet seems to be in full view of the Dalek anyway as it addresses Martha; two Daleks gossip about Sec in the sewers, with one moving its eyestalk around to make sure no one's watching them ? they should have given one of them the great line from Allo Allo : listen very carefully! I shall say this only once! And then one of them nicks K9's "affirmative"! And one of the recently awakened army repeatedly asks the Dalek "why?" which reminded me of my five year old in one of her more mischievous moods. As for Tallulah's schmucks and much of the other dialogue she was given, don't go there. And the Doctor's Tommy Cooper turn: "thank you very much!" he utters quickly in classic Cooper style as he hands Martha the physic paper. As has been said, the new era is often a case of the triumph of style over substance (though I remain, with a few exceptions, broadly supportive of it) but this didn't even seem to have a lot of the former. Are we in a depression? It might break your heart, but the show must go on. Next week looks good anyway ? and Martha seems to be dressed differently. May yet achieve cult status alongside Love and Monsters, and for the good bits, a (very) generous 6/10.








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