A lot of this episode has been built on reconstituted video product – grab bags full of war film references and clichés and a sprinkling of Star Wars visual effects (there's a fair bit of Star Wars about this series...). The young woman crying over her lover who “didn't make it back”, whose name I didn't catch – she's not there for the companion to talk to and empathise with, as would have happened in previous years, she's just there as a cipher, a bit of recycled war film imagery. The air raid warden is pure Ealing comedy.
Perhaps we shouldn't expect the Blitz to get any special treatment from Who – DW's historical stories are generally adventures in the Pop Culture Historical Experience rather than in history itself (from The Next Doctor's urchin-eriffic trawl through a hyper-Dickensian vision of Victorian London at Christmas, all the way back to Billy Hartnell meeting Marco Polo in China or witnessing the gunfight at the OK Corral). Winston Churchill's role in this story therefore isn't to be the centre of a fascinating examination of his end-justifies-the-means morality (would he really collaborate with the Daleks, if he knew what they really were?), but simply to be a historical celebrity. On the one hand this is a shame and a waste; on the other, it's just what the series does.
Incidentally, a quick Internet search reveals that “If Hitler invaded Hell, I'd give the Devil a favourable reference” is indeed (or nearly enough) a quote from Churchill himself. Sounded like it might have been. So, more surprisingly, is “Keep buggering on”.
The focus of the episode is quite definitely on the Daleks. If I had to guess at the mission statement for Victory of the Daleks in its entirety, it'd be “introduce the new-look Daleks”, with the World War Two material and the fun stuff with the “Ironsides” serving tea strictly incidental. But pretty much all they do, once introduced, is line up for the big Christmas shopping fashion shoot and then scarper. Admittedly there's not time for much more after the build-up, and that didn't feel particularly drawn out either – as I've said, it's a pacy episode. But it's a pretty shameless way of plugging your new spin-off merchandise.
There's really nothing I can say about the new Dalek design, because it's all been said already. Power Rangers, air fresheners, council recycling bins – I think the only epithet I haven't seen used is giant kulfi. I did briefly wonder if they might launch into a barbershop
Nice and roomy for the operators, mind you. They can probably stand up inside those things.
I have three major gripes about the plot. Gripe number one: The Dalek “progenitor device”. So the Jotun-Daleks create a load of these and spread them across time and space, presumably as insurance against the Time War. The old series dealt once or twice with the idea that even Daleks created by Davros himself might not be considered “pure Daleks” as he just couldn't stop tinkering with them, and obviously during the Time War this happened again. The Jotun-Daleks seem to have anticipated this. But rather than give the progenitor device sufficiently vague parameters that it would respond to a modified Dalek, they instead set it so that it can only be activated if the Doctor is around to independently confirm the operator's identity. This is just asking for trouble. In fact, it's not clear why they wouldn't just set the things to aim for a planet and go off wherever they landed, spawning new-old Daleks all over the place. Or at least, wherever there's a dry ice machine, some disco lighting and the doors from the set of Stars in Their Eyes.
Gripe number two: Stopping the bomb from exploding by persuading it that it's human (or at least encouraging it to indulge in human feelings). In itself this isn't an absolute no-no – it's quite a DW thing to do, and a very New Who thing to do – but it needed some sort of explanation. Just a line or two of technobabble would have covered it, really. Just having the situation resolve itself that way with no set-up at all didn't feel very satisfying. Also, the Doctor had better be very sure that bomb's not going to start up again.
Gripe number three: Somehow, in the space of ten exegetic minutes, we go from Prof Bracewell telling Churchill about his “gravity bubble” idea to a dogfight in space. So that's: establish the plan and work out what materials are needed; have the materials delivered to the war bunker; actually construct the “gravity bubble” machinery; transport the machinery to an airfield, either with Bracewell (in which case add more time for him to return to the war bunker) or an assistant (in which case add more time for Bracewell to explain everything to him); fit it to a handful of Spitfires; find some pilots who haven't already been sent up against the incoming air raid and brief them, possibly allowing extra time for the pilots to laugh/freak out/refuse to listen to any more of this bally nonsense about space-Hun; get them from the ground into low Earth orbit; and wait for them to locate and arrive at the Dalek ship. All in ten minutes. My disbelief has just reached the Earth's core. It's probably as well that the episode didn't go into this in any detail, as the montage hasn't been cut that could take the job on.
But ultimately, it's all balanced out for me by the cracking “For Victory!” Dalek propaganda poster and the whole business with the Dalek offering tea. Yes, Matt Smith's very good again; so is Karen Gillan, although she didn't seem to get that much to do; Ian McNeice and Bill Paterson are great as Churchill and Bracewell. Yes, the thumbnail sketch glimpses of war-torn London we see are well realised. But it's the Dalek joke scenes that win me round. So this episode gets a steady 5 out of 10.
And oh look, a crack in space and time again. Just in case we'd forgotten.