In “Victory of the Daleks” we see the Eleventh Doctor face off against his oldest enemies for the first time, and lose his cool just as comprehensively as his Ninth incarnation did under similar circumstances. We also get to see the Daleks enact a plan based more on stealth and cunning than their usual merciless and brutal schemes. And witness a previously unseen bromance between the Doctor and Winston Churchill, one of England’s most beloved and iconic leaders.
All that, plus Spitfires in space. Here are some things to keep an eye out for, the next time you watch:
Steven Moffat’s brief to Mark Gatiss for this episode was simply “Churchill and the Daleks.” He had taken his children to the cabinet war rooms, from which Churchill had lead the Allied forces during World War II, and their reaction led him to suggest another visit to wartime London, but this time with fewer gas masks.
Mark later admitted in an interview with DigitalSpy that he’d written a lengthy backstory for Churchill and the Doctor, that they had known each other for a long time, but which was cut from the final script:
“Well, in a scene we’ve lost [in the final cut], he sort of explains that he’s known Churchill throughout Churchill’s life — when he was a young man fighting in the Sudan, and he went to his memorial service — so it’s that idea of rather than one single meeting with a famous figure they actually have a kind of relationship. It goes right back to Jon Pertwee saying, ‘I said to Napoleon: Boney, I said…’ I like the idea that it isn’t just a one-off thing, you have an ongoing friendship with people like Churchill.”
Speaking of Jon Pertwee, Mark Gatiss’s first draft of the script was written before Matt Smith was cast as the Doctor, so he wrote with an idealized Doctor-type character in mind, that Steven Moffat felt sounded rather like the Third Doctor. This was because the common view was that the next Doctor after David Tennant would be played by an older actor. Once Matt had been cast, Mark’s second draft came after binge-watching anything he’d been in before to get an idea of how he spoke and moved.
The placing of this episode as the third in the season was an intentional nod to the British historical Doctor Who stories “The Unquiet Dead,” “Tooth and Claw” and “The Shakespeare Code,” all of which appeared third in their respective seasons as a way of putting the Doctor in surroundings the audience would find relatively familiar. And of course this also works for Amy, who finds common ground with the very Scottish Bracewell:
There’s a neat parallel in setting the story in the Second World War, as one of the things Terry Nation had done when developing the original Daleks in 1963, just over 20 years after the time in which this story was set, was to base their uncompromising and hate-filled mentality on the Nazis.
Although not mentioned in the script, each of the new paradigm Daleks was given a specific role in accordance with the color of their outer armor. The orange Dalek was designated Scientist, blue is Strategist, red is Drone, white is Supreme and yellow is Eternal. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss later admitted to Doctor Who Confidential that they weren’t entirely sure what that last designation might mean, “but it sounds cool.”
The voice of the Spitfire pilot is provided by Mark Gatiss, but according to an interview with SFX, no one is quite sure how he got the part: “When we were filming last summer someone came up to me and said, ‘Is it true you’re going to play the voice of the Spitfire pilot?’ And I said, ‘No…’ The next day two people approached me and said, ‘Oh, that’s clever – are you doing a cameo as the Spitfire pilot?’ And I said, ‘No…’ And then a few weeks ago Andy Pryor, the casting director, emailed me and said, ‘I understand you want to play the Spitfire pilot…’ I emailed him back and said, ‘No! But I will if you want me to!'”
When Amy catches Winston pinching the TARDIS key, she cries out, “Oi, Churchill!” in a manner that is very reminiscent of these hugely popular adverts on British TV for a car insurance company. It is hard not to conclude this was done on purpose:
The New Paradigm Daleks are taller than the ones that terrorized the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. This was a practical decision, partly taken so that the eyestalk — which was previously at eye level with Billie Piper — would allow the new Daleks to eyeball Karen Gillan. They also were designed to have blades on their armor, but these were left off, partly for cost reasons. They also had that deliberate bulge at the back, which was intended to hold extra weapons.
The line “I am your soldier” was inserted with a deliberate pause on the ‘S’ of “soldier” because it deliberately echoes “I am your servant,” a claim made by the Daleks in the Second Doctor story “The Power of the Daleks.” Mark Gatiss wanted to give a momentary thrill to die-hard Whovians who would recognize the similarity. The plot of the two stories, which shows the Daleks in far sneakier light than they usually appear, are also intentionally similar.
It’s certainly true that Winston Churchill was fond of the acronym KBO, which stands for “keep buggering on.” However, his female typists were more familiar with a more gentlemanly version, KPO, which stood for “keep plodding on.” It’s a matter of common legend that he would not only start the day saying one of the two acronyms — dependent on company — but that he would end every phone call with one or other of them too.
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