A controversial opinion I know, but hear me out on this. Ask anyone online and they will tell you that Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks is one of the worst Doctor Who stories ever made whilst Human Nature/Family of Blood is universally regarded as one of the greatest Doctor Who stories ever made.
Personally I just don’t understand this? I hate to say this but I think a lot of it is received wisdom among fandom. Something gets a reputation for being great and lots of people will tend to go along with it and say its the best and overlook any of its faults. Similarly if it becomes received wisdom that something is bad then everybody will tend to focus on its faults and make out its worse than it actually is.
I feel this definitely applies to Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks and Human Nature/Family of Blood. A lot of the things that people slate the Dalek two parter for is not only true for Human Nature but to a far greater extent.
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks is the best Dalek story or a classic. Its okay it has some great ideas some bad ones, but overall its a far, far, far better story in my opinion than Human Nature/Family of Blood.
Neither story is deserving of the reputation it has and hopefully you will see that here as I run through the reason the reviled Dalek two parter is better than the sappy love story with Scarecrows.
1/ People slate Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks for its scientific inaccuracy.
One of the most common criticisms you will see online of the Dalek story is the way that radiation appears in the form of lightening at the end of the story.
Obviously this is nonsense, but really it doesn’t bother me that much. It would hardly be the first time that Doctor Who got something like that glaringly wrong would it?
Take a look at the Silurians. Its riddled with scientific inaccuracies. The Silurians themselves are inaccurate. Everyone knows that they couldn’t have come from the Silurian era, which was long before the age of the Dinosaurs which the Silurians obviously came from as they have pet Dinosaurs. In The Sea Devils they do try and rectify it by calling them Eocines. Only problem is that would mean they come from long after the age of the reptiles. The Silurians should be called Mezozics if anything.
As long as the stories are okay I don’t mind the odd scientific fault. Its science fiction after all.
However in Human Nature/Family of Blood the Doctor suddenly gains magic powers!
He is suddenly able to trap people in mirrors, turn them into scarecrows, and create unbreakable chains?
Why does this not bother fans but radiation as lightening in Daleks in Manhattan does?
Seriously people being trapped in mirrors with no explanation at all is fine, but a minor scientific goof is unacceptable?
The ending of Family of Blood bugs me because it turns the Doctor into a wizard. He might as well get magic powers in that story in fact he does!
Also I think tossing someone into a dying star would destroy them rather than trap them forever. Also how would tying someone up in unbreakable chains keep them alive forever anyway?
All that would happen is that they would die of starvation. Also remember the family were dying anyway. So how did these chains keep him alive forever? Unless they were enchanted chains there is no explanation that makes sense.
Bottom line is I find it extremely hypocritical when I see the Dalek story get ripped apart for not being right about radiation when the story everyone loves turns the Doctor in a bloody wizard who can trap people in mirrors, wrap them in magic chains that keep them alive forever and can toss people into dying stars that don’t kill them?
2/ People slate Daleks in Manhattan for having ridiculous monster. The Pig Men!
Now I agree that the Pig Men do look stupid, however in all fairness I think they are just a classic case of a reasonable idea let down by poor effects. They idea of Daleks creating human animal hybrids to serve as a slave labor force is fine, and the Pig men at least do have a certain B movie charm about them.
The Scarecrows however are a poor idea and poorly realized. To start with how scared are you going to be of a bag of straw? Seriously at least a homicidal pig man with tusks bearing down on you might be a cause for concern, but something made of straw. I’d just take it apart. How is it gonna apply any force to my neck to choke me?
Also its stupid the way there are hundreds of them. There is like one scarecrow normally in one giant field. So how the hell are there hundreds at once? Also why do they all look alike too? What did each farmer design their scarecrow exactly the same way?
Also how is that shooting them with bullets is enough to kill them, but putting your hand through one of them earlier did nothing?
The Scarecrows not only look stupid (whenever I see them shovel after people I just laugh) but they are a ridiculous idea too.
3/ People slate Daleks in Manhattan for making the Doctor unlikable
Now you will often see people criticize Evolution of the Daleks because it has the Doctor willingly hand over several humans for the Daleks to use in their experiments.
Thing is it is explicitly stated that the human beings minds have been wiped and that there is no way to return them to who they were.
Thus the humans are effectively dead.
Whether or not the humans can be restored is the first thing that the Doctor asks Dalek Sec and when he finds out that they can’t only then does he agree to help Sec.
Now you might find the Doctors actions a little bit iffy. After all the people whose bodies were used in the experiment’s families will have no idea what happened to them however I still think his actions can be justified at the same time.
Here the Doctor has a chance to change the Dalek race. The Daleks are the most advanced race in the universe, but unfortunately they are also the most ruthless. Sec however has found a way to harness Dalek intelligence but with human compassion and empathy. Why wouldn’t the Doctor want to help him? Think of what a benevolent Dalek race could accomplish.
Also would the Doctor not always if there was another way, rather help a species than drive it to extinction?
Finally what the Doctor is doing here it could be argued is better for the people being used in the experiments too. If he doesn’t agree to help Sec then their bodies will just simply rot down in the caverns beneath the Empire State Building.
However the Doctor is now giving them a second chance at life as even more intelligent creatures. Thus whilst his actions might seem somewhat callous he is actually working towards a greater good.
It wouldn’t be the first time that the Doctor has done something unethical for a greater good. In Rememberance of the Daleks he wiped the Dalek race from existence and destroyed an entire planet!
I might add in The Unquiet Dead the Doctor is willing to let the Gelth inhabit the corpses of the recently deceased as well in order to save them yet no one has a problem with that?
Still people slate Evolution of the Daleks because apparently the Doctor goes to far. At the same people praise Human Nature/Family of Blood for how dark it makes the Doctors character.
Ironically I find Human Nature/Family of Blood’s take on a dark Doctor to be far worse. Unlike Evolution of the Daleks there is no justification for his heinous actions.
He tortures aliens for no reason other than sadistic cruelty. Its not comparable to what he does to Borusa. With Borusa there is no other way to stop him and he doesn’t so much inflict it upon Borusa, just lets him wander into himself.
With the Family however he actually goes out of his way to torture them. Since when is the Doctor a torturer? Anybody listened to Masters of War? Its an audio story set in an alternate canon where the Doctor is played by David Warner.
Warner’s Doctor refuses to allow the Daleks to torture one of their captives. The alien that the Daleks wish to torture is a brutal monster that wishes to exterminate the Thals. Its so evil that the Doctor, The Daleks and the Thals have teamed up to stop it! The Doctor however still refuses to allow the Daleks to torture the alien and comes up with a way of making it talk without causing it any pain whatsoever.
What a shame that a What if audio story gets the Doctors character right more than one in the actual show. Warners Doctor seems more like the Doctor in that moment than the petty little sadist that the Tenth Doctor is at the climax of The Family of Blood.
Also the criticisms people level at Evolution of the Daleks apply to The Family of Blood too.
The people the family of blood possesseds’ relatives are not going to know what happened to them. The little girl who became the host of Daughter of Mine will never know what became of their little girl. They will never have a chance to bury her and will spend the rest of their life wondering if she is dead or not.
And why so that the Doctor can torture a child alien? Its not like Evolution of the Daleks where you could at least say that the Doctor is helping to redeem his worst enemies and making sure the people’s minds weren’t wiped for nothing.
In The Family of Blood the Doctor is not letting people bury their relatives or friends just so he can be a sadist.
Also I might add that the Doctor doesn’t even bother to check if the humans the aliens have taken over are still alive. They told Martha earlier that they weren’t but we never saw Martha tell him that and unlike in Evolution of the Daleks we don’t see him enquire about it.
So for all the Doctor knows those people could still be alive!
Finally I find this story also makes the Doctors human self John Smith into a complete cretin too. John Smith remember is meant to be created from the Doctor. He represents what the Doctor would be if he was a human and he is awful.
He is a racist who treats Martha like dirt, he also falls in love with a racist bitch Joan. And to top it all off he is okay with children being beaten over the most minor of things.
Now I know that John Smith is just meant to be a man of his time, but since when is the Doctor meant to be someone who just goes along with what everyone else thinks. That was the point of the character he fled from Gallifrey because he couldn’t stand the injustices and corruption of their society. In The Deadly Assassin we see how he is fed up of their nonsense.
Thus the human Doctor would be the same regardless of whenever he was born. He would be someone who stood out from the rest, someone who didn’t allow children to be beaten or people to be treated as inferiors just because of the color of their skin or gender.
Overall this story butchers the character of the Doctor turning him into a racist and a sadist. Why it doesn’t bother Who fans but the Doctor helping Sec does I’ll never understand.
4/ People Slate Daleks in Manhattan for its setting being pointless
Again this is another criticism I see online of this story that its setting is pointless. I disagree however I think that its setting is fitting for the story. The Daleks at this point are at their most desperate. They are lost, nearing the end of their time and even beginning to question their whole purpose in life.
Thus yes the depression era seems like quite a good place to set the story as it matches how the Daleks themselves are at that point. Also as the people are more desperate it allows the Daleks to exploit them too as is the case with Mr Diagoras.
This is one of the things I like most about the story is that everyone from the Daleks to the likes of Tallulah all feel lost and hopeless to some extent.
Once again however in Human Nature/Family of Blood this criticism is far more apt.
The setting in this story is not only pointless, but actually a huge plot hole too.
The Doctor is on the run from killer aliens and he is going to turn himself into a human and thus render himself completely defenceless if the aliens find him. Sure all he needs to do is open a watch, but if this watch goes missing (which it does) he is fucked.
So where does he choose to land. He has all of time and space remember. He could go to the year five billion. A time when mankind is easily able to defend itself and Martha wont get any racial abuse. Instead he decides to go to early 20th century where not only will Martha have to endure racist and misogynistic abuse, but the humans will have no way of defending themselves.
The Doctor looks like a complete moron for landing in 1912. It makes no sense for him to land at that point in time. The only reason he does is so that they can exploit the tragedy of the war for scenes that are supposed to tug at the heart strings.
Call me cynical but to me that’s all those scenes in Family of Blood about the war are there for. They make no point about the first world war other than “wasn’t it bad?”
Ironically Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks has more of a point to make about the great depression. We see how certain people thrive in desperate times like Mr Diagoras because they only look out for number 1. They are willing to do anything to get by, stab anyone in the back, exploit people who are desperate and keep whatever wealth they have for themselves. Others like Solomon meanwhile however who are willing to share and do all they can to make sure everyone is treated equally struggle more for those very reasons. This is even reflected in the Daleks themselves as we see how Sec tries to convince the Daleks to treat others equally and struggles to do so. Both stories present a very bleak image, but ultimately present us with some hope as both Solomon and Dalek Sec are presented as the way forward, good men who have to struggle in the face of overwhelming odds.
Family of Blood however like I said is just “War is bad”. It just shows us big scenes from the first world war to get us to cry and it does, simply because the first world war was a horrible event. That doesn’t mean that the story is moving itself. Anyone could show us something horrible from the past and make us upset. Unless you have something to say about it or unless there is a reason for setting the story in that time then to me its just sentimentality porn and that’s all Family of Blood is.
It has no reason to be set in that period of human history, in fact its a huge plot hole that it is, and it certainly has no point to make about the horrors of the first world war.
Yet among fandom Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks gets slated for its setting, whilst Human Nature/Family of Blood is praised for its?
5/ Daleks in Manhattan often gets slated for its ridiculous villains
Dalek Sec is often a source of ridicule among Who fandom. In all fairness he does look a bit silly. He looks like he has oily penises attached to his head. Still its not like Doctor Who has ever had a silly looking monster that’s let down a story is it?
Whilst Sec may have a stupid appearance he is a far more well rounded character than any of the villains in Human Nature/Family of Blood.
Sec is a great character. He is the reverse Davros. He is the Daleks one chance for redemption in all of eternity. There have been other Daleks that have inherited human qualities or seen the error of their ways, however these Daleks have never before or after Sec been capable of helping them.
The Metaltron was too disgusted at itself it destroyed itself. The 2nd Doctors humanized Daleks, Rusty, Dalek Caan and the Oswin Dalek meanwhile saw the Daleks as truly evil and tried to exterminate them.
Sec was the only one who embraced his humanity but actually believed that the Daleks were capable of changing and deserved a second chance.
There will never be another like him he is their once chance to in the Doctors words be lead out of the darkness that Davros dragged them into and they end up killing him for no reason.
Sec shows how truly beyond reason and hope they are. Even when it would be obvious to any remotely intelligent creatures that Sec’s plan was the only way they could survive the Daleks still cling to this ridiculous notion of conquering other races.
The Daleks themselves are brilliant in this story too. We see a combination of what makes them scary in both old and new who. We see how only a few of them are able to slaughter hundreds of people, but we also see a more sneaky manipulative side such as in their dealings with Diagoras. The story also captures their ruthlessness and unbelievable arrogance too.
Diagoras himself is also a good villain. A slimy , self server who came from an impoverished background, but who vows to never be in that position again at the expense of others.
I also love the way Diagoras fulfills the role of the devious human who works alongside the Daleks for his own ends only to usually be betrayed by them.
This was a feature of Classic Who Dalek stories that sadly has not been present in New Who apart from this story.
In The Daleks Masterplan we have Mavic Chen, In The Power of the Daleks its Lesterson and Bragen, in The Evil of the Daleks we have Maxtible and Waterfield, in Day of the Daleks we have the controller, in Frontier in Space the Master, in Death to the Daleks we have Galloway, in Genesis and many other classic who stories its Davros and in Resurrection we have Lytton whilst in Rememberance we have Mr Radcliff.
With Diagoras Evolution of the Daleks revives this wonderful trait of Dalek stories, and my only real problem with Diagoras is that he is not in it long enough. I wish more New Who Dalek stories would give us a Chen, Controller, DIagoras type character for the Daleks to play off of.
Stories like Doomsday, Asylum of the Daleks whilst brilliant feel as though they are lacking something without these types of characters.
Thus as you can see the villains in Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks are somewhat fleshed out and quite interesting in spite of Sec silly looking penis head.
The titular antagonists in Family of Blood meanwhile are just boring one note monsters. Seriously what is there that is even remotely interesting about them? They do have a motivation to steal the Doctors life, but there is no real reason for them to be as evil as they are. Why after they get what they want are they still going to kill John Smith? Why do they just kill people who have nothing to do with it and thus give the Doctor a warning that they are coming?
They are just cardboard cutout evil villains who laugh and snigger and kill children and puppies for the sake of it. I’d take Diagoras or Dalek Caan over them any day.
6/ Daleks in Manhattan gets slated for being unoriginal
People will often say that Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks is an inferior remake of Evil of the Daleks. Its true that there are some similarities between the two stories. Both feature Daleks attempting to humanize themselves as they have come to believe that human beings in some ways are superior. Human beings always despite their alien intelligence triumph over them. Both are also Dalek stories set in the past and both also feature the apparent end of the Daleks too.
However still I think that Evolution of the Daleks is able to put quite a new spin on the old idea of Daleks becoming humanized.
One could argue that The Parting of the Ways emulates Revelation of the Daleks just as much as both revolve around humans being turned into Daleks.
Human Nature/Family of Blood meanwhile are in my opinion gigantic cliches. How many times have we seen that plot. A non human hero loses his powers and becomes human and falls in love with a woman and is happy he can finally live out a normal life with here. But oh no! Baddies show up and want to take over the world. What is he gonna do he has to choose between doing the right thing and living his happy life. Que “What the world needs now is a shining hero” speech from somebody. Either the woman he loves, a bystander or worst of all a child.
This is basically the plot of Superman 2 and the Angel episode “I Will Remember You” This story has been done to death a billion times and to be honest its always really cheesy and rubbish whenever they do do it. Superman 2 is the exception, but even then those bits are the worst in the movie to me.
Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks may borrow some elements from previous Dalek stories, but Human Nature/Family of Blood is to me a cheesy cliche.
As you can see a lot of the most common criticisms of the Dalek two parter not only apply to, but are actually more true of Human Nature/Family of Blood. Personally I think that its really just down to received wisdom that both stories have the reputations that they do.
Daleks in Manhatten/Evolution of the Daleks certainly is not even close to being one of the worst Doctor Who stories as far as I’m concerned.