Aired 28 April 2007
‘Evolution of the Daleks’ carries on the story put forth in ‘Daleks of Manhattan,’ putting a unique spin on the typical Dalek storyline but ultimately falling apart under some questionable choices and plot points.
The part of the story that works surprisingly well is the Dalek-human hybrid Sec and his evolving perspective. Sec is never portrayed as a godlike or even saintlike being, but it’s interesting that he comes up with a peaceful plan that would have worked, only to be spurned by the Doctor and his innate fury. One of the Doctor’s go-to tactics is to offer invading aliens another chance through relocation to another planet, and here it’s Sec who pleads for that offer, not wanting to be a burden or threat to humanity. Sec remains reasonable throughout and is able to answer every question and insult the Doctor throws his way, providing a fascinating foil for the Doctor. Eric Loren does exceedingly well as Sec, able to express a great deal of emotion through the makeup and, while it’s not quite as effective when Sec talks about gaining a human capacity for warlike behaviour, the innocent reactions to new emotions and the sense of clarity and sanity he gains from the absorbed Mr Diagoras is superb.
Sec remains optimistic to the end, and that proves his ultimate undoing as his fellow Cultists are unable to comprehend and share in his newfound revelations. He’s the first Dalek that has broken free of Davros’s genetically-imbued insanity since the race’s creation by all accounts, and it’s heartbreaking to see the Doctor’s firm black and white viewpoint crumble when Sec tells the Doctor that the deaths of the Hooverville residents were wrong. And so the Doctor, acting against his better judgment, allows himself to hope that there is genuinely a sliver of true humanity within Sec and that the transformation process can work for the better. This despite the fact that the Daleks have recently cost him his previous incarnation, his entire race, and even Rose.
David Tennant is quite good throughout here, portraying the most sustained feeling of rage his Tenth Doctor has yet. The horror of what he has experienced comes through perfectly, and it’s telling when he tells Dalek Caan that he will not preside over another genocide.
Unfortunately, the negative aspects of this tale far surpass these positives, beginning with how early on and pointlessly the immensely interesting character of Solomon is killed off. Additionally, given the the Daleks are programmed to consider any other species as inferior, it doesn’t make sense that the other Cult members would consider going along with Sec’s plan for as long as they did, Sec being an authority figure or not. None of it rings true to the Dalek’s mantra, and the secretive conversations amongst the other Cult members does little to assuage this.
Even within the confines of the story itself, too many elements come off as unbelievable or jokey. The fact that the human Dalek army somehow attained some of the Doctor’s Time Lord DNA during the gamma strike is never sufficiently explained, showing up as a convenient plot twist when needed. Likewise, the reason that the Daleks were experimenting with pig creatures is insufficiently dealt with, and the costuming and makeup of both the pig hybrids and the Dalek hybrid looks a bit underwhelming at times. Those facts alongside a Doctor who is still treating Martha indifferently and apparently has a death wish make for an underwhelming conclusion to a story that has a lot of very strong points underlying it. New York, for all of its splendour, just does not quite fit with what the Daleks are trying to do, and the inclusion of Hooverville- even as the sight of a big battle and with its historical significance- ultimately fails to improve the tale.