Cable for One – Doctor Who – 3-04

As you may have noticed, I’m running a bit late with this week’s column. You can blame that on a combination of stifling heat and the excellence of The Simpsons Movie. If you’re a fan (even a lapsed one) of The Simpsons, then the movie is well worth your time. It’s not perfect, it’s got pretty much everything you would want in a Simpsons movie. I can’t give this heat an endorsement though; it’s best to be avoided if at all possible.

Goofy looking aliens seemed to be a major theme with “Daleks in Manhattan.” First we had the pig-like creatures, which were basically just a rehash of the pig-like creature from “Aliens of London.” The only real difference between the two is that in “Aliens of London,” aliens took a pig and altered it to look like an alien, whereas in “Daleks in Manhattan” the Daleks took humans and modified them to look like pig-aliens. It worked in the first instance, but here it just came off as lame.

Then there was the whole Dalek-human hybrid issue. This isn’t the first time that Dalek and human DNA has intermingled, the Emperor created an entire army of Daleks by sifting through countless human remains back in “Bad Wolf.” Once again though, there it worked pretty well; the Daleks still hated all things non-Dalek so they even had some self-loathing going on. But the Dalek-human hybrid not only looks silly (despite the vaguely Cthulian design), it seems very out of character for the Daleks, no matter how desperate they may have been.

I’ll hold off on judging the utility of the human-Dalek hybrids until next week’s episode when we’ll have a better idea as to how they differ from the standard Dalek. But I’m guessing that no matter what these hybrid Daleks will be one off creations and that whenever the Daleks make their next appearance (hopefully not for another season or two), it’ll be in their traditional form.

Outside of the Daleks and the pig aliens, there wasn’t really anything memorable going on this episode. There were just a lot of typical Who characters having lots of typical Who adventures. I don’t think there was a single surprise to be had throughout the episode. It wasn’t bad, per se, just very by-the-numbers. Apart from the Daleks merging with humans, there was pretty much nothing here that hasn’t been seen before.

Underscoring the blandness of this week’s episode, there’s a Doctor Who audio play that takes place in New York in roughly the same time period. The audio play parodies the gumshoe detective story, makes a decent use of Orson Wells’ broadcast of War of the Worlds, and in general just has a lot of fun with the era. “Daleks in Manhattan”, on the other hand, feels like it is just going through the motions. It could be set in pretty much any city, during pretty much any era with only a few minor changes to the plot.

As predictable and unexciting as this week’s episode was, it did leave a little hope for next week. It’s unclear exactly what the Daleks hope to gain from merging with humans, and exactly what they are doing with the Empire State Building. Presumably they’re either A) turning it into a giant space ship, or B) into some kind of human to Dalek transference device (which would explain the claim that the human Dalek was “our future). There’s even the slim possibility it’s neither of those things. So at least there’s something to speculate about in regards to next week.

And really, that’s all there is to say about “Daleks in Manhattan;” a bit silly and rather bland but at least it could possibly lead to something interesting next week. Of course, given that its going to have the same setting and the same cast of forgettable characters, that possibility isn’t a strong one.

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