Thoughts on Doctor Who: Dalek

Just the one, mind. Wouldn’t want to get greedy.

My trek… no, wait… wrong series… my journey through time (yes, that’s definitely better) through Doctor Who continues after the disapppointment that was World War Three, with the first appearance in the new series of a classic villain. Or at least that’s what the title would suggest.

As is traditional, a little spoiler space just in case you haven’t yet seen Dalek. Also, a series I’d actually watch more of:

  • We open in a museum. Or at least a corridor, which is very Who.
  • It’s set in 2012! That’s the future! Or it was for Rose, but now it’s the past. This time stuff gets tricky fast.
  • Argh! A Slitheen arm! Move the camera away before it farts again!
  • A classic Mondasian Cyberman. Still a better design than the new ones. You know I’m right.
  • Eccleston looks genuinely pained at the prospect of an alien crying for help. It’s nicely done setting up what’s to come. But first…
  • Roll the credits!
  • Bad Wolf One descending — and just about the first time the series arc is broadly name dropped. I appreciate the subtlety.
  • Henry Van Statten is a bad guy, but he’s almost a comedy-level villain, which isn’t quite tonally right. He’s like a goateed Vince McMahon, but without the chairshots.
  • An alien screams. This is well done, because while we suspect what it is, we don’t yet know. It creates sympathy, and cheaply given it’s just a camera overlay.
  • The Doctor grabs the alien ocarina. With a little luck, he’s going to travel through time!
  • No, wait, he can already do that, right?
  • “Mr Van Statten owns the Internet. “
  • “Nobody owns the Internet.”
  • Hmm. Nobody show this episode to Mark Zuckerberg, OK?
  • Metaltron is a rubbish, rubbish name. Not even an 80s cartoon series worthy name. I’m going right off Van Statten.
  • It’s 2012, and there’s nary an iPhone to be seen. Not very realistic, is it?
  • It’s a Dalek! Of course it is, and Christopher’s reaction is SPOT ON. Even for a Dalek in bondage, which this one is. Maybe Daleks are into that kind of thing?
  • The laugh once the Doctor realises the Dalek is powerless is equal parts bullying and ecstatic. He’s angry, he’s elated, and the speech is brilliant.
  • “They’re never gonna come! Your race is dead. You all burned—all of you. Ten million ships on fire. The entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second.”
  • “You lie!”
  • “I watched it happen. I MADE it happen.”
  • This, right here, is the first truly brilliant moment of  the new series.
  • “And the coward survived”
  • Ooh, bitchy, that Dalek.
  • I can’t keep typing. This scene is SO good. I just have to watch.
  • And then the Doctor goes full villain, and tries to exterminate the Dalek. He’s right, of course, because he knows the Dalek, but nobody else does.
  • The Dalek giving the silent treatment to Van Statten is pretty nice too.
  • Rose teases Adam about getting out into the stars, “seeing it for real“. Quite the flirt, that lass. She meant the stars, right? Sure she did…
  • I would say that Rose and Adam need to get a room, but, well, they’re IN A ROOM. And I guess the BBC does have to keep this at least PG rated.
  • Has anyone actually called a Dalek a pepperpot in the series before? I get the feeling that with their views on racial purity, they might not like that.
  • The twist of putting Rose (who doesn’t know any better) into the position of questioning why the Dalek is being tortured is brilliant.
  • Shirtless Christopher — if you like that kind of thing. Not exactly sure why the body scan should hurt him. Or why he needs to be shirtless.
  • “A Dalek is honest.”
  • Now I’m imagining a Dalek version of Open All Hours. Who wouldn’t watch that?
“Ex..ex..ex..terminate G-G-G-Granville!”
  • Rose tries to talk to the Dalek, and it plays her like a fiddle. Best Dalek actor in a series 2005 award material, right here. You totally get Rose’s motivation, and at the same time why she’s wrong. Lovely stuff.
  • Rose touches the Dalek, and it gets all excited. Well, not in THAT way. More in a kill-all-the-humans way.
  • The Sucker kill is a bit of a downer after that.
  • “Release me if you want to live” — the Doctor goes all Terminator on Van Statten.
  • A lock that doesn’t shut down after failed attempts is a lousy lock. The Dalek deserves to get out.
  • Now, the Dalek starts to escape, slowly and deliberately. It’s ominous and menacing all by itself, and this, ultimately is what makes this episode SO good. Just one Dalek, just one small area and it’s an insanely capable threat.
  • “That Dalek just absorbed the entire Internet”
  • Well, the porn alone should keep it busy for a while, not to mention all the Doctor Who fanfic.
  • This is a corridor chase, but a fantastically paced one. The Dalek is in no hurry. These inferior beings cannot harm it. Not even if as they die, they’re revealed to be Skeleton Man.
  • “Give guns to the technicians, lawyers, everyone” — it’s super rare to see the Doctor advocating for firearms. I mean, I guess he is in the USA and all, but again, this puts the seriousness of the Dalek threat into perspective.
  • Old school Doctor Who fans knew that the Dalek wouldn’t be fussed by some simple stairs.
I still hold out hope for an Ace cameo in the new series. Or even a return as a full companion.
  • Still, it’s a nice surprise for those who didn’t realise that it could simply EL-EV-ATE up the stairwell.
  • More corridor running. Must be cold down there, because Rose doesn’t appear to be sweating.
  • Not much is happpening while they wait for the Dalek, but that just raises the tension. This episode is superb, and I say that having watched it many, many times since its first broadcast.
  • “It was looking right at me”
  • Well, you did touch the Dalek in a special place, Rose.
  • The Dalek again works because it doesn’t have to do ANYTHING. It can just wait out the grunts firing at it, and then slaughter them all. Even Murray Gold’s trademark slightly-too-loud music works well in context.
  • The Sprinkler-System-And-Death-Bolt solution is a bit Rube Goldberg, but I’ll allow it, because the Dalek is a cruel pepperpot.
  • “You’re gonna get Rusty”
  • Wet Dalek. There’s probably somebody in the universe into that kind of thing.
  • “You would make a good Dalek” — a fabulous callback (and forward) not only to classic scenes like the Genesis one.
This new Doctor is a little more willing to commit genocide.
  • But also to the Time War, about which (at this point) we knew very little.
  • Rose is still running. This is simple and cheap TV, but it works for tension.
  • The Doctor is the one who closes the bulkheads. If Rose doesn’t make it, it’s on him.
  • Jackie is going to be pissed. And not in the usual Thursday night pub conga way.
  • Rose didn’t make it. Van Statten isn’t going to make a very good companion.
  • Also, Billie Piper’s best (and most convincing) scene yet.
  • Honestly, first time I watched this, I honestly did think that they’d killed her. Christopher’s outrage here is palpable, and suddenly Van Statten isn’t quite so cartoonish either. Mind you, he has a top shelf actor to work off.
  • Rose is, of course, alive. But the Dalek, you see, has a bit of a crush.
  • OK, actually, it’s empathy, because Rose touched it in a special place.
  • “I AM CONTAMINATED!”
  • Bit of Dalek penicillin down the eyestalk should sort that right out, and don’t go messing around with those common shop girls. Now, all we need is a Doctor…
  • Although, knowing what he knows, why does the Doctor release the Dalek? Isn’t he dooming the human race for the sake of Rose?
  • Oh, right, Jackie. Yeah, I wouldn’t cross her either.
  • “Broken. Broken. Hairdryer.
  • The Doctor finds a BFG. It’s totally out of character, but it suits this story.
  • A Dalek who won’t kill isn’t an entirely new idea for Who, mind you, all the way back to Troughton’s humanised Daleks.
  • “I want… Freedom”
  • And now I want the Dalek version of Braveheart.
  • “Ye can take our plungers, but you’ll never take our FREEEEDOM!”
  • See, they’ve even got the kilt shape ready!
  • OK, back to the serious action. And a reminder (not that Rose knows this yet) that the Dalek contains a mutated Kaled within it.
  • So it opens up to a pretty decent practical effect. So much better than last week’s Slitheen.
  • Then again the Myrka is better than the Slitheen
Only just, but it is.
  • Rose has to talk the Doctor down, which serves nicely to remind us of what the Doctor has lost, and how alien he is. He would, indeed, make a fine Dalek in this moment.
  • “I can feel so many ideas”
  • Well, downloading all of the Internet was always going to be confusing.
  • The Dalek refuses to change, but it needs orders to kill itself. Not entirely sure why Rose does so.
  • Still, it’s oddly melancholic to see the Dalek self destruct. And downright weird for it to do so via the Dalek bumps flying off.
  • Van Statten gets his just desserts with a mind wipe. This is silly, though — I mean, if you mindwiped Zuckerberg, he might not know himself, but he’s a pretty recognisable dude. I mean, earlier in the episode everyone was meant to know who he was. Somebody would recognise him!
  • Adam joins the Tardis crew via the traditional surprise method, and it’s time to wrap up the episode!

Final Thoughts:

Van Statten is a silly villain, but he can’t take away from how very good this episode is.

I’m going to go further than this, and say that this is the best Dalek story of the new series.

Spoiler alert: They turn up again, but they’re never as threatening as this one single Dalek is. Scaling them up in numbers doesn’t make them worse — in many ways it dilutes the threat.

Also, what an amazing change from World War Three. And with that in mind, it’s time to…

Rank the episodes of Series 1

  1. Dalek
  2. Rose
  3. The Unquiet Dead
  4. The End of the World
  5. Aliens of London
  6. World War 3

No surprises there. This is Doctor Who at its very best, old series or new.

Next time: To the future, via both Spaced AND Black Books!

Simon Pegg would later jump ship to an inferior US Sci-Fi series.

Lead image: BBC

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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