(It's been over two months since AoL/WWIII, eep.)
What I wrote before rewatching
What I thought at the time: Oh wow. More of the manipulative Jubilee-Dalek stuff would have been even better, but wow. I can see why Rose stopped the Doctor but I kinda don't think she should've. I couldn't for the life of me understand the people who thought that the Dalek killed itself to stop itself from doing any more harm, rather than because it was becoming un-Daleky.
What I think now: To be totally honest, mostly I desperately want to know the details of what happened behind the scenes such that Rob Shearman was apparently very unhappy with the end product. [NB: Apparently this isn't at all true.] It's another one that's got a tiny bit that's become fixated on by fandom ("the woman you loooooove"). And I kinda have issues related to Adam but they're really because of the next ep.
- The design/effects/etc. work is absolutely gorgeous throughout. The TARDIS materialising in the half-lit museum at the very beginning is haunting, fading in and out of reality brilliantly. The alien artifacts are generally very funky, particularly the musical instrument thing.
- The dialogue. In particular, almost all the two-hander scenes sparkle and fizz, the most obvious being the Dalek's meetings with the Doctor and Rose, but the bit between the Doctor and van Statten and Rose's first chat with Adam also work very well. I suspect this is Shearman's radio/theatre-y background coming to the fore. (Given that the key Rose/Dalek bit is one of the few things that does survive from Jubilee I feel fairly safe in saying this: I do think the Jubilee version is marginally better, but mostly because "Eeeeveelyn Smyyyyyyythe" is a much better name from the point of view of Nick Briggs getting his teeth into screeching it.)
- Eccleston's acting. He nails the post-Time-War thing here, completely, and sells it brilliantly. I said last time that I don't really have much fannish chemistry with him most of the time, but here, oh GOD. Fantastic.</horrendously obvious thing to say>
- The episode does do brilliant work in re-establishing the Daleks as a threat through its "even a lone Dalek is deadly" thing, particularly the manipulativeness (though I will get to the unintended consequences of that later). But the expunging of jokes from the popular consciousness with the plunger thing (which is a bit silly) and "EL-E-VATE!" (yes, Remembrance got there first, but the canon stairs joke from Destiny -- one of the few Adamsisms I'd happily do without in S17 -- stuck harder) is also very welcome.
- The characterisation of Adam here as a bit of an opportunist works very well: it's subtle but there. It's actually better here than in the next episode where that's supposed to be a major point.
- Oh, let's not beat around the bush, it's AWESOME.
- The Bad Wolf reference is really very shoehorned in this time, in a way that doesn't make any sense in light of the eventual explanation. I may be biased by my preferred fanon on what Bad Wolf is/how it works, but even in the simplest terms if it's a message to Rose that she never hears then what's the point?
- The strength of Eccleston's acting here drags the rest of the cast up when they're in scenes with him (again the two handers work well), but shows them up quite badly when they've not got him to spark off. Billie's got some good moments, but overall is not at her best. Bruno Langley isn't great, but he's not awful. But Anna-Louise Plowman as Goddard and Corey Johnson as van Statten both have some really cringey bits. The pedeconference at the beginning is supposed to sell van Statten, but it really, really doesn't.
- In the light of the series as a whole, this episode has some unintended consequences that break things quite badly. It's unfair to blame them on the episode itself, but ... I'm going to anyway.
- The Dalek lies and manipulates left, right and centre. It's wonderful writing, wonderfully performed, and Rob Shearman and Nick Briggs deserve major kudos for the whole thing, as do the people responsible for the little movements of the Dalek that also help sell it. Unfortunately, some people seem to take some of the Dalek's pronouncements at face value. It's just like the Joker in The Dark Knight. I overheard an actual RL conversation shortly after that film in which the people talking had picked the made-up Joker origin story that appealed best to them and argued that it excused his actions. They were arguing vociferously over which story was the true one. This was a group of five or so people and not one of them pointed out the obvious answer. Some people's woobie fixations go far too far. (I suppose we should be thankful that only the extreme end of hentai fandom might be tempted to want to fuck the Dalek, I suppose.)
- More generally, the episode posits a way in which Daleks can be redeemed (if only to the point of committing suicide -- now, personally, I hold with the interpretation that the Dalek side of the Dalek kills itself because of the presence of the human side, rather than the other way round, but it does seem to be deliberately left open) and indeed it's compatible with ancient old school canon, what with the "human factor" Daleks in Evil. (And Caan redeems himself in Journey's End, after a fashion.) The problem for the wider series is exactly the same as the one Buffy had once it established that vampires could be redeemed: is it morally defensible for the Doctor/Buffy and friends to kill the canon fodder Daleks/vampires, once we know that they're not doomed to be pure evil forever? It's format-breaking to say "no" (particularly in new Who, where a finale's not a finale unless there are BILLIONS of the metallic death dealing things), but disquieting at best to say "yes". The Doctor's clearly coming from a bad place of anger and vengeance at the end there, but in the context it is hard to argue unambiguously that he is wrong in wanting to kill the Dalek, but that's the message we seem to be getting. Rose's "What are you turning into?" is not the right response. OK, she's only met the one Dalek and it has made friends with her (and the Doctor's completely typical withholding-of-important-information leaves her without the understanding of the context) but we're only saved from the consequences of Rose stopping the Doctor killing it because it decides to commit suicide. If it had done a quick "Exterminate! ZZAP" on the two of them instead, we're all doomed. It's a huge punt to take, and it's exactly the same one Nine takes again in Parting, but we'll get to my issues with that when we get there (suffice to say, I've been called a genocidal maniac on the meme recently for expressing the desire for Nine to push the button).