So, to continue the analogy, was the first of this Doctor Who game of two halves full of goals galore? Or a no-score bore? The story so far . . .
Having been to Multiple New York five billion years in the future, The TARDIS has landed in 1930 New York, where The Doctor and Martha Jones discover an America in the throes of The Depression. They visit Hooverville, a camp in Central Park, where impoverished inhabitants are forced to live.
Unbeknown to The Doctor, he's not the only alien in the city - The Cult Of Skaro, with the assistance of Dalek Sec's Emergency Temporal Shift, have escaped being sucked into the void at the end of their last encounter with The Doctor, and those last four Daleks in the Universe have plans for the human race and the under-construction Empire State Building.
They have enlisted the help of a local high flyer, Mr Diagoras, who has been "recruiting" residents of Hooverville for Dalek experiments under the pretext of working in the sewers. The Doctor and Martha join the latest work party, and discover terrifying Pig Men lurking in the depths - as well as remnants of what appears to be an alien lifeform.
Escaping to the surface, The Doctor, Martha and the leader of the Hooverville camp, Soloman, encounter a local showgirl, Tallulah, who explains her boyfriend, Lazlo, has disappeared.
To The Doctor's horror, research on his discovery in the sewers reveals that it's of Dalek origin - but he has a more-pressing concern. Martha has gone missing (again) and he believes she has been taken back to the sewers. He and Tallulah head down there in pursuit, where they discover Lazlo, his face disfigured into pig-like form by the Daleks.
Martha has been captured by the Daleks and, while The Doctor watches from the background, the Daleks reveal the secret of their "final experiment" to her - Dalek Sec has absorbed Diagoras inside its casing, and created a human Dalek hybrid. Their plan is to evolve into a new species . . .
Sounds like a goalscoring feast to me!
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, as I have this whole series so far. Four episodes in, and I've found Series 3 has stepped up considerably on the previous two series, as the production team gain more confidence and experience.
I'm a fan of the two-episode format. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways in Series 1 and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit and Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday in Series 2 are widely regarded by Doctor Who fans as the pick of their respective seasons, and the fact that these were longer stories is no coincidence. At the "old-style" four parts, the story has much more time to breathe and affords the writer space for improved characterisation. It would always be five two-parters and three single-parters for me. Possibly, some viewers are now accustomed to the faster pace of single episodes, and find two-parters slow by comparison but not me.
Script Editor and Doctor Who writing debutant Helen Raynor (doubtless with assistance from her mentor, Russell T Davies) delivered a fine script, with good background work and some promising ideas, notably the human Dalek, of course. The Pig Men - although why they were actually in that form is a curiosity (file in the writers' prerogative box) - were horrible-looking things. Kudos to the prosthetic team!
The Daleks were great here. Excellently voiced by Nick Briggs as always, seeing the individual Daleks with personality (of sorts) and interacting with each other as opposed to simply the "I obey" and "Exterminate" mantra, gives them an added dimension. Doctor Who moves up a level when the Daleks are around. And that was the case here, without them even engaging our eponymous hero. Loved the idea of the human Dalek, and it was superbly realised - a really great, dramatic cliffhanger, right up there with the end to Army Of Ghosts. And the Dalek Sec prosthetic was another triumph.
More marvellous work from The Mill, too, with the absorption of Diagoras into Dalek Sec's casing and converting Cardiff into New York, and Murray Gold's show tune was great fun and a welcome spot of light relief. James Strong, who did such a sterling job on The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit is a good director at the helm. He really has the knack of making a TV series look anything but.
The performances (because that's what they look like) of the extras and sometimes the supporting cast is a slight negative in many Doctor Who stories, I find, and some of the back-up and the accents did leave room for improvement. Hugh Quarshie was pleasing as Soloman, though and Miranda Raison was great as Tallulah (three els and an aitch). Obviously introduced as a lighter character to contrast the bleakness of the Daleks' plan, her Phantom Of The Sewers love story with Lazlo is another nice addition which couldn't really have been expanded upon in a single-episode story.
There was also a brief reminder of the background one-sided love story between The Doctor and Martha, in her exchange with Tallulah (amusing that she observed that The Doctor's liking of musical theatre meant he must be gay The Doctor's aside to himself that "(the Daleks) always survive, while he loses everything (he has)" shows his hostility towards his bete noir will never diminish - and that his loneliness has not been eased by Martha's presence. His feelings towards her are much more in keeping with the classic series Doctors' aloofness. This may change later in the series, but there's little sign of it so far. I've come to take Freema Agyeman and David Tennant's excellence as read this series. The latter has this role absolutely nailed with last year under his belt. He is going to be very difficult to replace when the time comes. Eight and a half out of 10 so far.