Written by Ben Aaronovitch
Directed by Andrew Morgan
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series that has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a “Tardis” which is disguised as a British Police booth.
A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In this episode, he is portrayed by Sylvester McCoy. He was the last Doctor in the original run of the series. Here he is accompanied by Ace (portrayed by Sophie Aldred), a rebellious British teenager from the 1980s.
To begin the 25th season of the series, it returns to where it all began – literally. The Doctor has traveled to Britain in the year 1963 to retrieve a Gallifreyan artifact he once left behind. The only problem is that he is not the only one after it – the Daleks have arrived here as well. Specifically, the first Dalek the Doctor sees is a grey Dalek. This causes some consternation on the part of the Doctor.
It would seem there are now two factions of Daleks all battling not only for the Hand of Omega – the artifact left behind by the Doctor in that first episode all those years prior – but each other as well. This also brings back another important figure in the history of the Daleks…
Let me get what I didn’t like about Remembrance of the Daleks out of the way first. While the story was designed to be a tribute to the longevity of the show and tie into the first episode, it does a great disservice along the way by having such a loose end hanging out there for 25 years with this all-important device just sitting around London waiting for someone or something to detect it. If it were left behind accidentally, why wouldn’t the Doctor have headed back there for it as soon as possible? If it was done deliberately, wouldn’t he have been more diligent about masking it in a way that it couldn’t be so easily detected by his enemies?
This also leads to the fact that there are many plot points that are tied to past episodes of the show and make Remembrance of the Daleks totally confusing for people who haven’t been fans of the show and have seen most of the Dalek-related stories through the years.
I’m also not too sure how I feel about Sylvester McCoy’s portrayal of the Doctor. This was the first storyline I have seen him in, and I kept feeling like I couldn’t take him seriously; almost as if it were a clown in the role. Some of this surely had to do with the way he was outfitted, but as for his presence, he misses the mark. I grew up on the episodes with Tom Baker and those descended to near campiness near the end of his run, yet I still don’t know if I can take McCoy’s version of the Doctor seriously.
The jury is also still out on the character of Ace for me. At first, my thoughts were “You’ve got to be kidding.” But as Remembrance of the Daleks wore on she grew on me quite a bit. At first, she comes off as looking and acting in a very stereotypical manner. Somewhere along the line during the story arc, she rises above the weak characterization. Perhaps it was her interaction with the character of Mike Smith and where that whole story ended up that helped. It could also have been watching her go postal on a Dalek with a super-charged baseball bat.
That’s not to say Remembrance of the Daleks is all bad. The story is good, if a bit involved. The pace of the episode is excellent as there always seems to be a twist coming up without making it too frantic. There are enough supporting characters that are very strong to make up for problems with the main cast. Simon Williams as Captain Gilmore and Pamela Salem as Rachel are particularly strong.
The effects are fine for the time and are about what I expect from Doctor Who. Only in the latest incarnation have they become what I would term “good” and here they are still campy and cheesy, but quite endearing as well. Some of the exterior shots are a bit on the rough side. Not only does it look like the Daleks are having difficulty moving through the streets and alleys, but it seems the camera is having difficulty as well as it seems to shake and tilt unexpectedly.
The music has always been a hallmark of the show, and here it’s been updated to what was evolving in clubs during the period. The theme music has a decidedly techno sound to it.
Remembrance of the Daleks is something for fans of the series who already have a lot invested in it. I think it could have been better, but I’m not sorry I watched it. It’s just a story arc that I don’t feel I need to see again. Anyone interested in the series will want to view it, especially if they are interested in all of the Dalek-related stories.
• Commentary with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred
• Extended and Deleted Scenes
• BBC Trailers