Nicholas Briggs

Doctor Who (2005) s03e04 – Daleks in Manhattan

So… Nicholas Briggs does do the Dalek voices in this episode. He’s been doing all of them, which is weird because the Dalek voices this episode are terrible and so… I figured it was other actors.

But no.

It’s Briggs.

And he’s terrible.

I was waiting for the Daleks to show up—they’re trying to take over 1930 Manhattan, using the Empire State Building’s construction to do something. It’s not particularly interesting, mostly because even with the potentially interesting setting, the episode plays more like a college stage production, where British actors get to try out their American accents while acting in front of green screens.

Including future Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, who plays a Tennessee(!) youth who encounters the Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha (Freema Agyeman) as they hang out in Hooverville to solve disappearances among the Depression-ravaged residents. Hugh Quarshie plays Black king of melting pot Hooverville, which seems a little… I mean, it seems like it needs to come with citations if they’re going to do it. Because otherwise it seems like it’s painting in some inclusivity where there wasn’t any.

But then there’s not many bars Helen Raynor’s script clears. It’s a fairly bad script. Like, jarring, getting worse as it goes along. The Dalek dialogue seems like it’s just not written with the right ear (in addition to whatever’s going on with Briggs).

The episode introduces another female interest for Tennant—showgirl Miranda Raison, who sounds as New Yawk as Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk gets. So after having all this momentum with Agyeman and Tennant as a team, the episode keeps them together but gives Agyeman a lot less to do.

It’s disappointing. Though the episode looks like it was shot on a camcorder—maybe because there are so many period sets? Like, bigger the production, worse the video “stock”? So it always looks disappointing. Then it just disappoints overall.

The show’s quickly run out of goodwill with the Dalek episodes. They’ve gone from being a gem of a trope to a trope’s trope.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e06 – Dalek

Okay, this one requires some disclaimers. First, when I watched the last episode and saw the preview of this one, I thought it looked terrible. Like, rolling my eyes terrible. Second, I was visually familiar with the Daleks from growing up in the eighties and whatever. I thought they were silly and decidedly not cool.

Having now seen Dalek, I can confirm they are decidedly not silly as well as not cool. They’re also a terrifying, phenomenal alien villain race. And astonishingly bad-ass. The episode’s great—going into Christopher Eccleston’s hatred of the Daleks when unexpectedly confronted by one while Billie Piper’s got sympathy for the alien, so there’s a lot of great character development and so on—but it’s also got a series of amazing action sequences with the Dalek. Even on the reduced budget (director Joe Ahearne does a fantastic job, with the same director of photography, Ernest Vincze, who’s light the worst episodes now doing fine), the Dalek attacking soldier after soldier and person after person… it’s also horrifying. So good.

The entire episode. So good. Robert Shearman’s script is outstanding, finding just the right balances with the Dalek stuff–including humor—and stays strong all the way to the finish.

Eccleston and Piper get thrown off course at the start, finding themselves six years in the future—2012—and in a sort of museum of alien objects. American businessman Corey Johnson—imagine a macho version of Mark Zuckerberg, but filtered through 2006 Steve Ballmer–it’s not entirely successful but it’s interesting while it’s not successful and then once Johnson’s working against his own survival, it’s awesome so it’s all fine.

The “it’s all fine” elements include Anna-Louise Plowman not being able to keep her American accent—new Piper love interest Bruno Langley gets to play a Brit even though it’s set in Utah. The show doesn’t seem to have Piper’s romantic life figured—she’s got zero chemistry with Langley and roll her eyes whenever Eccleston jokes with her about it. But it doesn’t matter because once Piper runs into the Dalek, it just gets great.

There are optics to Piper replacing brown-skinned former boyfriend with nerdy White guy Langley but Piper was so chemistry-free with the last one and even more so with Langley… if it was intentional, it was a fail.

Anyway. So good. Eccleston’s amazing, Piper’s great… Nicholas Briggs is awesome as the Dalek.

Dalek aims high and succeeds over and over. Just fantastic stuff.

Writer Shearman, director Ahearne, Eccleston, Piper, Briggs, they do some superior work here.

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