Backstage at a musical revue, sassy chorus girls yell to Tallulah to quit pawing at her stagehand boyfriend so they can All That Jazz the audience. Tallulah’s a gangster-moll-accent ditz with heart. Laszlo wants to bring her home for Sunday dinner, and gives her white roses. Clearly he wants to rescue her from her hardscrabble burlesque life for a Somewhere That’s Green place in Jersey. So. Laszlo’s pretty much marked for death.
Someone zips by, snorting. “Tallulah?” calls Laszlo, and SHEESH, her “Ya big palooka!” speaking voice isn’t that bad! Nah, it’s a Pigman. Unlike our sweet Piggynaut from S1, he’s an attacking nogoodnik. Switch to the Doctor and Martha at the Statue of Liberty: Martha’s has to “yeah, yeah,” the Doctor, finding the date on a newspaper while he prepares to guess it, and cutting into his Roaring Twenties lecture with right, 1929, Wall Street crash. Doctor, Martha’s got A-levels and uni degrees aplenty, okay?
The “Hooverville Mystery Deepens” headline sends the Doctor and Martha to meet Solomon, de facto mayor of a Central Park shantytown. Like his biblical namesake, he’s fond of settling disputes by going halvsies. Theirs is an equal society: black, white, all starving. Solomon uses his Great War-gained wisdom to ensure his town’s denizens stick together and treat each other “like human beings.” Cue alien interference in 3, 2, 1…
At the nearly-finished Empire State Building (ESB), the foreman gives Diagoras a piece of his mind. Time to meet the new masters who want the building done tonight! Aaaand it’s Daleks! The Pigmen are their slaves, helping them with a “Final Experiment.” You know, I always wonder how the Daleks and other Overlord Aliens vet those traitorous human helpers or find alien minions. Is there a section of the want-ads I’m missing?
The Daleks need more bodies, so scene shift time. At Hooverville, Martha’s incredibly sympathetic to Solomon’s stories of suffering amid the disappearances, Diagoras recruits for New Meat, and SPIDER-MAN’s an eager-beaver Tennessee transplant looking for honest work! Yes, that’s Andrew Garfield aww-shucks-ma’am!-ing as Frank over there. The Doctor, Martha, Frank, and Solomon volunteer for dangerous sewer work.
Underground in the warren of tunnels, Frank makes eyes at Martha while Solomon says Diagoras rose unexpectedly from foreman to NYC bigwig. They find no tunnel problems, but a creepy luminescent green jellyfish!
Martha’s medical opinion is that it’s stanky-gross, and the Doctor’s a weirdo for scooping it up (I swear I thought he would lick it).
Diagoras conscripts workers to bolt panels to the ESB’s mast. At night they’ll likely freeze and fall, but the Daleks need a conductor. That sorted, Diagoras chats with a Dalek who admires his cut-throat drive to squash everyone (aww, they both learned to be even bigger jerks during their respective Great Wars!). His “rare ambition” makes him “think like a Dalek”; they reward that kind of loyalty with Final Experimenting!
Gosh, it sure was nice of the Cult of Skaro to recruit Diagoras by transmitting images into his mind. Yikes! That kind of answers the “I’m a Dalek; Ask Me How!” question. But still, is there an aptitude test you have to pass before the Daleks mind-beam you?). While the Pigmen restrain Diagoras (who’s like, “waaait, I don’t like where this is going all of a sudden!”), the Doctor and gang find a sad looking Pigman. While they offer help, a gang of scary Pigmen approach, snorting. “RUN!” the Doctor yells. Excellent advice, that!
We get a tunnel chase, the Sonic-Screwdrivering of a manhole, and Frank getting ankle-yanked to the Piggies while the Doctor shouts “Nooo!” There’s “nothing we can do,” Solomon says harshly. They’re in the same prop-room where Laszlo disappeared. What kind of prop-room comes equipped with a Piggy-Man accessible sewer entrance? “Hands in the air! And no funny business!” Tallulah calls out, training a gun on the gang.
“And I’m not stupid,” Tallulah says as she waves her gun around and points it at her head. “I know some guys are just pigs, but not my Laszlo.” Ahahaha! Aha. Ah. Pfftt, the gun’s only a prop, she tells the Doctor, who knows how to make nice with a classy broad like Tallulah. Why, you show her your alien jellyfish brain! Hoohah!
Solomon finds a radio so the Doctor can rig up “a crude little DNA scan for this beastie.” Solomon’s too sharp to buy the Doctor’s vague excuses about who he is, and he’s too decent to keep secret that fear kept him from going back to save Frank. It’s back to Hooverville for him, where he can really protect the others.
Tallulah explains she’d be replaced if she fussed over Laszlo disappearing. “Your heart might break, but the show goes on.” At least Martha’s got a good guy “with that hot potato in the sharp suit.” Hearing they’re not together, she sympathizes: “A musical theater type, huh? What a waste.” Tallulah advises to hold onto hope: though Laszlo’s gone, white roses appear on her dressing table every night.
While Solomon rallies the Hooverville residents to take up arms to protect themselves because no one else will, the freezing workers atop the ESB affix those Dalek-y plates. “We need your flesh,” the Daleks tell Diagoras, who whimpers while the Daleks debate each other over whether this Final Experiment violates the Dalek imperative to stay pure.
“If we are supreme, why are we not victorious?” Dalek Sec asks, declaring the Cult of Skaro exists to imagine new approaches to survival. “Purity has brought us to extinction,” he insists, and just as others have made sacrifices (we see some Daleks with their plates missing, donated for the Dalek Conductor cause), he’ll sacrifice himself. “Now, join with me,” he shrieks, engulfing Diagoras with his noodley appendage!
Ever been on the stage, Tallulah asks Martha? “Oh, a little bit,” Martha says modestly. “You know, Shakespeare.” “How dull is that?” Tallulah laughs, taking Martha backstage to watch the revue. “Artificial,” the Doctor realizes as he scans the green jellyfish. “Whoever this is, oh, you’re clever!” Sometimes I worry about Ten and the lure clever contraptions and machinations have for him.
Tallulah busts out her, “You Put the Devil in Me!” number. When Martha spots Pigman!Laszlo, she tries to sneak toward him behind the Devil Dancers, but instead causes a slapstick scene. Backstage, the jellyfish’s genetic type shows its origin planet: Skaro. Tallulah tries to shoo Martha offstage, but Martha points out Laszlo. Tallulah screams in fright; Martha gives chase to find out the Piggy Mystery Laszlo harbors!
Martha hightails it to the sewer-access prop-room, where she’s promptly abducted. Wait, this is #2 for her; how many times did Rose get kidnapped by contrast? When the Doctor runs to find Martha, Tallulah follows. “You’re not safe down here,” he objects. “Then that’s my problem,” Tallulah snaps, because she’s one tough cookie!
Martha finds Frank; they hug in their group of captives. The Doctor yanks Tallulah back from a Dalek shadow; he covers her mouth while they hide from the Dalek. “No, no, no, no,” the Doctor moans as he realizes for certain the Daleks are Behind All This. It’s more his catchphrase than Allons-y right now.
“It’s not just metal, it’s alive,” the Doctor explains the Dalek. “Does it look like I’m kidding?” he scolds Tallulah when she laughs. Uh, if it’s not a human, that implies it’s from outer space, Tallulah deduces, getting logic skills to go with her street savvy! “Yet again, that’s a no with the kidding,” she realizes when the Doctor goes all serious on her.
The Daleks shriek when Dalek Sec starts fading, but Sec yells they must, “Evolve, evolve!” You know, you think you know Daleks, and then this. In the sewers, Pigman!Laszlo hides his face, explaining the “masters” needed slaves to steal people. They made him a monster, but he escaped before they got his mind. Good show, Laszlo! I mean, who escapes from the Daleks, huh? You do! *bops Laszlo on the nose*
While Tallulah tearfully realizes this Pigman is her Laszlo, Martha answers what the eff is going on: “I’ve got a nasty feeling we’re being kept in the larder.” Ugh. “Do what it says,” she urges the other captives. “Just obey.” The Daleks adore this, calling her wise before they shout, “Report!” at one another about these “strong specimens” and the Dalekanium and Conductor in place for the Final Experiment.
From their hiding place, Laszlo explains the Daleks are scanning prisoners to separate them into Low and High Intelligence groups. The Low get turned into Pigmen. “That’s not fair,” Tallulah says, loyal to the last, because Laszo’s the smartest guy she ever dated. Martha’s scanned, and of course found to be superior.
She, Frank, and others are dragged to the transgenic laboratory while Laszlo insists Tallulah run from the danger.
The Doctor sneaks into the High Intelligence group, as he should. Martha’s incredibly relieved to see him. “Yeah, well, you can kiss me later,” he says, and really now, Doctor? “You too, Frank, if you want,” he adds to Andrew Garfield, because maybe the Doctor’s a Strong Stagehand and a Musical Theater kind of guy, if you know what I mean!
While Tallulah gets lost in the sewers, the Doctor and the rest hear that Dalek Sec’s in the “final stage of evolution.” “Prepare for birth!” another Dalek barks. The Doctor pushes Martha to ask what’s going on (he doesn’t want to get noticed yet; save the theatrical reveal for later, I agree!). “Report!” Martha shouts at them — ah, she’s so good! She knows nothing about Daleks, but she’s already got the lingo and approach to them down.
One Dalek declares Martha will bear witness to the continuance of Daleks, “a life outside the shell.” “The Children of Skaro must walk again,” he intones. Dalek Sec’s casings open and a creature unfolds himself from the armor. It’s like a squiddy brain with one eye atop Diagoras’s suit, with scaly water monster hands to round it off! “I am a human Dalek. I am your future,” it declares ominously, and that’s it for part one of this arc!
Awhoo aheee phwahooo ahoo! Man, I hope I don’t dream of Pigmen tonight. D: Join me tomorrow as I recap part two, “Evolution of the Daleks!”