How to Fix – Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks

Welcome to the latest article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises, in this case I will be focusing on a specific New Series Dalek two-parter in a similar fashion to my previous installment. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

The divisive Series 3 two-parter Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks took some truly great sci-fi concepts and executed them in the style of a B-Movie. The episode is infamous for several reasons – the song-and-dance routine, the strangely phallic face of the Human-Dalek Hybrid, and the premature destruction of three-quarters of the Cult of Skaro. Considering that their last appearance had been in Series 2’s Doomsday, an episode that was not only hard-hitting emotionally but also featured the first instance of individual Daleks escaping at the end, presumably to get revenge on the Doctor at a later date. Overall, Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks had a lot to live up to and, despite its potential, it just didn’t stand up to previous Dalek stories in the revival. So, to begin:

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Do more with the concept of the ‘Cult of Skaro’, and the character of Dalek Sec

By far the most interesting aspect of this two-parter is the individual Daleks themselves, and tragically the episode does little to capitalize on their uniqueness as characters. The concept of having a secret order of specific Daleks that have the adaptability and intelligence to scheme beyond the capacity of an ordinary Dalek is interesting enough, but to have this small number of Daleks used as antagonists throughout multiple seasons is an even more interesting idea. For one, it would eliminate the problem that the early NuWho series’ had with Daleks apparently finding more and more inconceivable ways of surviving the Time War, as having a tiny number of survivors reappear as recurring villains is better than having to come up with a different excuse as to why Daleks are around each series. Unfortunately, Evolution of the Daleks in particular does away with this concept a little too early, killing three out of the four Cult members in their second story.

Admittedly, the character arc for Dalek Sec in this story is spectacular, and the execution is fairly effective as well (apart from the phallic protrusions on the Hybrid’s chin, but the less said about that the better). Having Sec sacrifice himself at the end to save the Doctor illustrates just how far a bit of Human DNA can go in rehabilitating a Dalek, even one as committed to the cause as Sec, and his hybridization and subsequent struggle with gaining human emotions is both an interesting concept for a Dalek story and a great spanner to throw into the works of the hierarchy of the Cult. The problem is that, upon killing Sec, Evolution of the Daleks disposes of Daleks Thay and Jast as well, in a pointless firefight that ultimately solves nothing, when realistically these two Daleks should have escaped with Dalek Caan as their characters had barely been developed when they were unceremoniously killed off.

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Do more with the supporting characters

Although Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks constantly reminds the audience that it is set in New York, with the presence of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Hooverville serving to ground the audience in both the location and the time period, unfortunately the supporting cast of this episode are given strangely little to do in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, the only real purpose that Martha, Tallulah, Lazlo and Frank serve in the final episode is discovering the the Daleks have attached Dalekanium to the Empire State Building, and this discovery is ultimately pointless as the Doctor fails to remove it in time anyway. Daleks In Manhattan manages to give its supporting cast a little more to do, but overall following the death of Solomon the Doctor assumes all the main narrative roles in this story, which is odd considering usually Dalek stories rely primarily on the companion to figure things out whilst the Doctor strikes up an ideological debate with his foes.

Unfortunately, at the crucial point at which this might have been useful, the Doctor totally fails to engage with the potential of the Dalek Sec Hybrid. It should be noted that, upon the death of the Hybrid, it is truly unclear whether or not the Doctor actually trusted him at all – he does refer to Sec as ‘the cleverest Dalek ever’, but in typical fashion the Tenth Doctor seems to be totally indifferent to the destruction of this opportunity to recreate the Dalek race from the ground up, instead being seemingly more focused on berating the Daleks for their lack of foresight rather than genuinely grieving the reformed Sec.

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Rework the Dalek’s plan so that it makes sense

Clearly whoever scripted this episode had no idea how genetics actually work, or how DNA and life relate to each other in the real world. As many fans will already know, Doctor Who has always been about suspending disbelief for the sake of narrative enjoyment, but in the case of Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks this actually hurts the story as the suspension of disbelief is simply unnecessary. The Daleks would surely have the know-how  to create Human-Dalek hybrids even with primitive technology, but the logic of ’emptying’ human bodies to be ‘filled’ with Dalek DNA is about the stupidest way of presenting this concept. Why not just have the Daleks growing the new Hybrid soldiers in tanks, and requiring the lightning strike to bring them to life? Or, heck, just have the lightning strike be there to power their Emergency Temporal Shift to escape to the future – the Daleks could have just revisited the concept of Robomen and indoctrinated Humans into doing their bidding rather than using the seemingly redundant Pig Slaves.

Overall, most of what makes Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks is the mishandling of the Daleks themselves as the main villain – it would be easy to tweak this story to save the Cult of Skaro storyline whilst still keeping its emotional impact, and circumventing some of the stranger concepts in favor of more familiar Dalek concepts would make this story more popular with Dalek fans.

So those were my thoughts on how to fix Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like and you can follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook, and for more content like this have a look at the Read More section down below. Thanks for reading!

 

How to Fix – Attack of the Clones

Welcome to the first article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

To introduce my new series, I will be focusing on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, a film that is considered by many to be among the worst of the Star Wars franchise alongside The Phantom Menace and (dare I say it?) The Last Jedi. This film is probably the Star Wars Prequel film that I have seen the most, and I adored it as a child, but it is not without its flaws. Some of the fixes here will also involve small alterations to The Phantom Menace, which I have purposely skipped as to attempt to correct the huge amount of plot holes in that film would require an entire rewrite of the script. So without further ado, lets start with the most obvious fix to Attack of the Clones:

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Change the Backstory of the film so that it is easier to Understand

A major criticism levied against the Prequels is the excessive use of political dialogue, particularly considering the film is supposed to be for children. This could work if it was done well, and in a way that was simple enough for children to at least grasp the basics whilst also not boring adults who don’t have a clue what the characters are talking about half of the time. Attack of the Clones commits the cardinal sin of having a tonne of political dialogue that not only has no preliminary explanation whatsoever, but also crosses in the realms of the ridiculous even from a political standpoint.

For a start, the film should make it clear who the main villain is from the beginning. Rather than hiding the reveal of Dooku until the very end, the film should demonstrate who Dooku is and why he is a threat as soon as possible in more than just dialogue between the Jedi and Senator Amidala. Realistically, Dooku should have been in The Phantom Menace as a member of the Jedi Council, that way we’d at least have a face to put to the name when we’re watching Attack of the Clones, and would also serve to demonstrate that not even the wisest and most powerful of the Jedi can resist the lure of the Dark Side entirely.

From the similar vein, the mysterious ‘Sifo Dyas’ should have at least made an appearance. Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about Dyas as if we, the audience, are already aware of his existence – we are never given any explanation as to who Dyas was, when and how he died, why he would want to order the Clone army, and how he paid for it. We must assume that he was somehow a puppet for Sidious, and apparently in an earlier draft of the film ‘Sifo Dyas’ was a disguise that Sidious used to order the clones himself. Ultimately, the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace should have had both Dooku and Sifo Dyas as members in order for the backstory of Attack of the Clones to make sense, and the political dialogue should have been reduced or altered. On that point:

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Expand the role of  Padmé Amidala

For the prequel trilogy’s leading lady, Padmé Amidala is woefully underused and blatantly one-dimensional. To her credit, Natalie Portman does her best with the material, but she was essentially wasted on this character. The next step in fixing Attack of the Clones should therefore be to expand Padmé’s role and make her more important to the story outside of being the future mother of Anakin’s children. After her  monochromatic persona of Queen Amidala fell away in the final act of The Phantom Menace, Padmé proved herself to be quite an interesting character, capable of maintaining her deception to the extent that she fools the Jedi and still finding the time to befriend young Anakin, making her the most engaging character in The Phantom Menace, although that’s not saying much. In Attack of the Clones, however, her motives are less clear, and therein lies the problem.

In The Phantom Menace Padmé‘s role boiled down to essentially saving her planet – her motives were always clear, and even when she takes the time to dress up as a maid and follow Qui-Gon Jinn into a junk shop it definitely gives the impression that she is curious and wants to learn more about the world that they have found themselves stranded on, whilst also keeping an eye on the clearly drunk Jedi Master. In Attack of the Clones, however, Padmé bounces between roles and seemingly allows all of the major decisions regarding where she goes and what she does to be decided by other characters, be it the Jedi, Anakin, her Security Chief, and even Palpatine. Padmé should certainly have taken the reigns more, perhaps in the sense that she is the one who decides to leave Coruscant and visit other planets, perhaps with Anakin in tow. As far as the politics is concerned, it gets even more dire.

We know from the text in the opening crawl of the film that Padmé is opposed to the creation of a Republic Army, but this position is never once challenged even as the Clone War erupts around her. In the opening scene of the film, Padmé should witness a Separatist attack on an innocent planet that leads to the destruction of her ship, having kills her bodyguards die in a clear Separatist raid rather than a political assassination. This would challenge Padmé‘s view of the idea of an Army and might create some conflict down the line that was woefully absent, and might explain why she ends up falling for Anakin – after seeing all of her capable guards slaughtered, perhaps spending time with Anakin on missions and learning more about how the Jedi benevolently resolve disputes would appeal to her. But this brings us to the next major point:

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Completely change Anakin’s character

We all know that the guy who was destined to become Darth Vader was essentially portrayed in the Prequel Trilogy as a whiny, stroppy brat who hated not getting his own way, moaned incessantly about every tiny problem in his life and switched between any degree of cringey or creepy when chatting up his future wife. But it didn’t have to be this way, if you think about it. After all, Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about Anakin in A New Hope as if he was a great and noble Jedi, as well as a ‘good friend’, and wouldn’t it be far more tragic if a level-headed and by-the-books Jedi Knight fell to the dark side as opposed to a stroppy teen with anger issues?

This would also greatly improve the on-screen romance between Anakin and Padmé. After all, nobody on planet Earth has ever been fooled by the pathetic excuse for a romance that we see in Attack of the Clones, mostly because Anakin is such a monumental arse that it seems totally impossible that Padmé would ever fall for him, even if her mind was being manipulated by the Dark Side or whatever the expanded universe material has conjured up to explain away this point.

Whilst it may seem that at this point the film would be completely different after these changes, it would still be possible to implement these changes whilst keeping the ideas that we see in the finished film. Ultimately, even if the actual story of the film was exactly the same, it would still be a monumental improvement to expand Padmé‘s role and change Anakin’s character to fit the story better, and it would also lend more credibility to Old Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. The other scenes in Attack of the Clones are actually quite good, especially the parts with Obi-Wan as he attempts to unravel the thinly-veiled mysteries of the Clone troopers. The final and most pressing issue with Attack of the Clones can be fixed with one final amendment, and that is:

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Show why the Separatists are doing what they are doing

One of the main reasons why the politics in Attack of the Clones falls flat is that we are only given one side of the story, namely, the Republic side. There are moments in the film in which we hear Separatists talking, like the scene in which Obi-Wan eavesdrops on Dooku’s council discussing tactics, but we are never given tangible explanations as to why the Republic is splintering – surely if the Separatists leaving the Republic is central to the political dialogue in the film, we should at least have an idea as to why this is the case? Are we expected to believe that the vague ‘trade disputes’ mentioned in The Phantom Menace, a film set ten years before this one, are to blame? I don’t think so.

By effectively conveying to the audience the motives of the main villains, the film opens the door for possible fan debate over the morality of each faction – after all, the Republic stands for democracy and peace but is also equatable to modern-day ‘mega-states’, the epitome of centralised government, an idea that does not appeal to everyone in this day and age. Likewise, we could learn more about the methods of each faction – the Separatists use droids in combat rather than living people, so could this be twisted to imply that they want to reduce loss of Separatist life? Star Wars is certainly a franchise of clear-cut heroes and villains, but for a trilogy that leans more heavily on political dialogue and storytelling, perhaps this would have been a better direction to take things.

So they were my thoughts on how to ‘fix’ Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like either here on on Facebook, and if you have any points to add on how Attack of the Clones could be improved, be sure to leave them down in the comments. Thanks for reading!