Evolution Of The Daleks
When you get right down to it, Daleks are pretty predictable. Anyone who's seen Genesis Of The Daleks will know that the hybrid's days were numbered from the moment it stepped out of its shell, and there's no way that one of them wasn't going to survive to be fought another day. Given this, there was a horrible moment at the beginning where I thought that this episode was going to be a major slip up after last week's excellent first episode, especially as Tennant lapsed back into his Mr Gumby impersonation at times. Fortunately, Evolution Of The Daleks is, all in all, a worthy second episode.
It was a shame that Solomon had to die so early in the episode as I really liked that character, and the Dalek's reaction to him was so inevitable I could say its lines ahead of it. On the whole though I liked the characters (Tellulah's annoying, and yet, sort of...not) and I'm glad they defied the traditional “cover up the evidence” ending of historicals and allowed Laszlo to live. The dialogue between the hybrid and the Doctor is interesting for both characters, although the Daleks are a little less interesting when that self aware: I find them more compelling when they're just pathetic, helpless creatures hamstrung by genetic hatred imposed on them against their will.
But on the whole, the Daleks have rarely been better than this two parter. Look at their portrayal in Resurrection or Remembrance: all they do is slide about, shriek “exterminate” and couldn't hit a barn door. This though sees them back at their Whitaker-written best, ruthless monsters, unconcerned about committing an entire species to genocide. I'm glad the new series hasn't wimped out with them yet (I wouldn't put it past them), although it does feel a bit contrived sometimes how they're constantly brought back (“that was the last Dalek in existence...oh no wait, there's another one”). Nonetheless, the Daleks are the science-fiction monster and no amount of generic Funnyforheadians that Star Trek can throw at us will ever change that.
It's not perfect: Martha's line of “what are you then, a Dalek”? (or whatever it was) to the Doctor feels a bit sledgehammery; the Doctor can now shrug off a lightning blast with no ill effects whatsoever, and the Daleks have a Powerpoint presentation to explain their plan in full Time And The Rani style. But with its good dialogue, interesting characters and clever false ending, this remains a strong episode and a very strong two-parter.
This episode: ****