Daleks conquer and destroy in the new animation from the Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious team! But with the new Dalek Golden Emperor win fans’ hearts?
The Daleks are here! The long awaited animated Doctor Who spin-off DALEKS! has finally premiered on YouTube. And it is, in a word, glorious. And it’s a story which wears its influences very much on its manipulator arm. It’s a love letter from Time Lord Victorious’ supreme commander, James Goss, to the classic 1960s Daleks comics. Not only with the design of the Dalek Emperor, in his snazzy golden armour and magnificent head. But also through how it positively revels in every extermination and screeching threat. Blogtor Who would be hard pressed to call the Daleks the heroes of The Archive of Islos, exactly. But it’s clear we’re here to watch the Daleks do their thing as only they can. They may not be heroes. But they’re definitely stars.
We also get more interplay between the different Daleks than we generally get these days. As with those TV Century 21 comic strips, there’s a lot of debating and scheming going on. And both Goss and regular Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs do fantastic work in giving the various mutants distinct personalities. There’s the stern, controlling Emperor, frequently incredulous that anyone would dare defy it. There’s the wheezy, ancient Strategist, representing the manipulative side of Dalek nature. And then there’s the shouty Executioner, a twitchy henchman who responds murderously to any perceived slight against his golden boss.
This is DALEKS!, not Doctor Who, so the Dalek invasion of Islos is a one sided affair
Given its brief ten minute runtime, it’s just as well dive right into the plot. We kick off with the Dalek invasion of Islos already in progress. Taking a standard policy of genocide first, ask questions later, their initial assault is devastating before they even issue any demands. And when the ultimatum comes, what they want is access to the Archive of Islos – one of the greatest repositories of knowledge in the galaxy. As the Chief Archivian points out with surprising sass, they could have just tried applying for a membership card.
Since this is a story where the Doctor is nowhere to be seen, it’s no spoiler to say Islos lies in ruins at the Daleks’ fenders by the end of the episode, the Daleks seemingly triumphant. But then, in the best tradition of both Doctor Who and the Daleks comic strip we end of a sudden cliffhanger. Perhaps the Daleks really have bitten off more than they can chew this time?
The uneven animation style means beautifully composited shots sit side-by-side with more crudely rendered action
Ever since the first trailer announced DALEKS! to the world, a lot of the reaction has centred on the animation style. And, ultimately, the biggest surprise is how uneven it is. Some of the shots in The Archive of Islos are absolutely gorgeous. In particular, anything set about the Dalek Emperor’s command deck looks beautiful and almost at the quality you’d expect of a big screen CG movie. But when those scenes are intercut with Daleks zooming between the skyscrapers of Islos, the explosions and fires looking like something from the days when Lara Croft wore a conical bra, it results in aesthetic whiplash. In retrospect, the trailer focusing so much on those assault scenes might have created a false impression, even if they are packed with action.
For those who’ve been following Time Lord Victorious, the subtle links to the overall epic are there to see. But DALEKS! also stands alone
Meanwhile, the budget saving decision to keep all organic characters firmly off screen depends on a little goodwill from the audience. But with such fan-pleasing dialogue and performances, that goodwill is more than earned. And certainly the Archivian robots, with their design recalling Box from Logan’s Run and LED powered lipgloss, are a winning design that takes a limitation and turns it into a virtue. And certainly, bearing in mind that this is free content for a YouTube channel, it would require a real failure of perspective to complain about it only looking fantastic most of the time.
For the moment, Time Lord Victorious sits far in the background of DALEKS! We do know from other elements already released that the Archive of Islos held rare secrets about the Kotturuh. And that the Dalek Emperor is acting based on an recovered message of warning from an ancient Dalek Drone. While we also know that it’s events in DALEKS! that ultimately led the Emperor to seek out the Tenth Doctor’s help. But we still don’t know exactly what the Emperor is looking for in the Archive. Or how it will lead them back to the Dark Times. But we do know we can expect more intrigue along the way.
More Dalek action is coming our way next week, as Time Lord Victorious continues…
Episode Two of DALEKS!, Sentinel of the Fifth Galaxy, will be out on YouTube next week. But subscribers to the official Doctor Who newsletter will get access early. What is on the other side of the portal? And what does it want with the Daleks? All will be revealed…
Meanwhile, you can keep track of everything tying into Time Lord Victorious, what’s out next, and all of Blogtor Who’s reviews of the adventure so far on our Time Lord Victorious Master List page.