Remembrance of the Daleks (1988)
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This is a four-part serial, first broadcast between 5th and 26th October 1988. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the seventh Doctor and Ace travel back to London in 1963 where they find two Dalek factions competing for possession of the hand of Omega, an ancient weapon left there by the first Doctor. They join Group Captain Gilmore and his men in a bid to save the earth and the universe.
Some good things about this serial:
- the pacing. The story keeps moving without a dull moment
- there are lots of good action scenes and excellent explosions
- good sets and nice location work
- Ace is used well in this story
- the little girl is nicely creepy
- the cafe scene gives us a excellent performance from McCoy, showing us how good he could be in a quiet and pensive mode
- the funeral at the end shows us that people's deaths matter, something that's easy to forget in an action story
Mixed feelings about:
- the visual effects. The Dalek shuttle landing on the playground is terrific; the hand of Omega flying through space, Ace's enhanced baseball bat and the jelly-baby gun that the Doctor uses on the Daleks are awful
- the anti-racism message which, though commendable, might have been more subtle
The not so good bits - and beware, some spoilers ahead:
- since this is the first serial with the seventh Doctor that I'm reviewing and I might as well bring it up here: the 'look ma, I've got 3D-animation software now' title sequence
- Group Captain Gilmore's gullibility. He seems willing to accept anyone - including the Doctor and Ace, and later Ratcliffe and his merry band of turncoat neo-Nazis - as part of the team without ever asking questions
- the groupies. In this story the Doctor acquires three temporary companions: the Group Captain, professor Rachel Jensen and a blond girl named Alison. Rachel and Alison do little besides following either Gilmore or the Doctor around, and even at the rare occasions when they do allow the two of them out of their sight they do nothing that has any impact on the plot
- the Dalek chasing the Doctor at the end of part one. It seems so impressed with its ability to climb a flight of stairs that it forgets to kill the Doctor once it's reached the top
- the incidental score. Some of it is OK, but a lot is just plain wrong - like the up-beat elevator music that accompanies Ace being chased by three Daleks at the end of part two. The composer, while technically competent, seems tone-deaf to anything like mood or atmosphere
- the design of the imperial Dalek, which gives us a nice saltshaker to go with the rank-and-file Dalek pepper pots
- the black Dalek being talked to death by the Doctor. It's wobbling in place, like it needs to pee but is too polite to interrupt, and subsequently explodes - the message possibly being that even a Dalek can't ignore a call of nature forever
In this story, there are a number of references to the history of Doctor Who:
- much of the action takes place at the same junk yard where two teachers found the Tardis in the very first Doctor Who episode 'An unearthly child'. Coal Hill school is were the first Doctor's granddaughter Susan, the unearthly child of the title, went to school
- in 'Remembrance of the Daleks' Ace finds a book about the French revolution in one of the classrooms. In 'An unearthly child' one of the teachers lends Susan a book about the French revolution
- in 'Remembrance of the Daleks' Ace is baffled by pre-decimal British money, as is Susan in 'An unearthly child'
- Group Captain Gilmore and professor Jensen are clearly based on earlier companions Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Liz Shaw
The puzzling bits - with some spoilers:
- why did the first Doctor leave the hand of Omega on earth?
- if the ghetto-blaster being found by 1963 earthlings causes risks that even the Daleks aren't willing to take, why does the Doctor allow Ace to bring it in the first place?
- why did Ratcliffe and his racist friends agree to help the Daleks? They want to protect their own against foreigners entering the country, but they're OK with aliens setting up shop around the corner?
- why didn't the Doctor just tell the Hand of Omega to set course for Skaro and destroy the planet, rather than programming it, waiting for the Daleks to capture it and then tricking Davros into using it?
Not a great story, but pretty entertaining.
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