Doctor Who: Dalek   Rewatch 
July 30, 2014 5:11 AM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

The Doctor and Rose follow a distress signal and end up in Utah, in the far flung future year of 2012. They find themselves in a museum of sorts full of alien artefacts. This is the private collection of a very rich and powerful man called Henry Van Statten. The only living part of his collection is an alien he calls The Metaltron, but is in fact, A DALEK! The doctor is terribly cross that a Dalek has survived the Time War. He tries to destroy the Dalek, but it escapes after using Rose's DNA and presumably time travel energy (Blinovitch Limitation Energy) and kills it's way through the base. Eventually the stolen DNA causes it to mutate into a creature which feels emotions other than hate, and after basking in sunlight, it finally self destructs.

    This Episode Features:
  • The return of the Daleks (well, one Dalek) to the newly rebooted show.
  • A quick no nonsense rebuttal of the "Stairs stop Daleks" Nonsense.
      Previous examples of Daleks Flying:
    • The Remembrance of The Daleks (7th Doctor - 1988) The last on screen appearance of the Daleks prior to this episode.
    • Revelation of the Daleks (6th Doctor - 1985) They would then fly in EVERY subsequent Dalek story (until Victory of the Daleks in 2010).
    • The Chase (1st Doctor - 1965) Strongly implied rather than explicitly shown.

  • A new companion, Adam, who I'm sure will be with us for a long time, the first male companion since Turlough.

  • A Cyberman head from 4th Doctor episode Revenge of the Cybermen (Not the Invasion as is referenced on the plaque below it).

  • BAD WOLF - Van Statten's Helicopter has the call sign Bad Wolf One, but neither the Doctor nor Rose hear it.


Trivia:
Originally the BBC couldn't secure the rights to the Daleks, which, weirdly belong to the estate of Terry Nation rather than to the BBC, the Nation estate felt that the BBC had licensed them out too much. So the Dalek was replaced by a childlike alien who kills for pleasure, this eventually evolved into the Toclafane.

By 2012, the Battle of Canary Wharf, where millions of Daleks fought an army of Cybermen over the skies of London, had become known as the Battle of Torchwood, a publicly known event cited in news broadcasts (Fear Her) so you would expect people to know what a Dalek was. (but of course for Timey-Wimey reasons that hasn't happened yet)
posted by Just this guy, y'know (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
The few people I've introduced the new Doctor Who series to were unfamiliar with the history of the Daleks, and I think that lessened the impact of this episode for them. This review of the episode includes a decent summary of what they are, and provides additional context for the horror, dread and fear The Doctor shows during the episode.
First introduced in 1963 by the second serial of the show, appropriately titled The Daleks, these evil pepperpots catapulted Dr. Who into fame. In this verion of Dalek history, the Dalek planet of Skaro was once home to two races – the peaceful and scientifically adanved Kaleds/Dals and the warlike Thals. After a terrible nuclear war between the races, the Dals were mutated and became the insane, Nazi-metaphor Daleks. These Daleks were more or less confined to their city because the motive power for their shells was electricity that had be conducted via metal walkways.

The Thals were protected from mutation by radiation by (what else?) anti-radiation drugs. The Daleks, upon finding that these drugs would kill themselves, planned to use a neutron bomb to increase the radiation in Skaro’s atmosphere. But the TARDIS crew convinces the Thals to fight against the Daleks and by the end of the serial, the Daleks were seemingly wiped out when their power source was destroyed.

However, the popularity of the Daleks ensured the survival of at least a token few. They appeared again in 1964’s story The Dalek Invasion of Earth and continued to appear with increasing frequency as the years went on. Because of their rather goofy design (they really do look like giant salt shakers with a toilet plunger attached), the apparent ease that The Doctor came to defeat them, and these facts combined with their apparent inability to manage stairs caused the Daleks to suffer through an identity crisis by the time the 1988 Remembrance of the Daleks came around (even though they were pretty badass in that story). To put it bluntly: the Daleks were no longer menacing. What the series needed – if they were going to continue to have the Daleks as The Doctor’s great foe – was something to breath new life and threat into the metal-clad mutants.


Also, I suspect it won't remain online for long, but someone has uploaded all of Season One to Google Drive, where it can be streamed in a browser.
posted by zarq at 6:46 AM on July 30, 2014


Rewatching this is bittersweet. It's terrific and Robert Shearman wrote a terrific episode. But he's also vowed never to wrote for Who again.

Initially, this was rumored to be because of a falling out with Davies. But Shearman later said it wasn't Davies at all, it was the constraints and hassles of writing for sci-fi TV: the rewrites on rewrites; the budget limitations and the changes that necessitates; the practically arbitrary changes the network adds; having what you felt like was your standalone your work rewritten by other people for series continuity. He just hated all of that and prefers to stick to novels.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:58 AM on July 30, 2014


I actually think the episode works terrifically as an introduction to the Daleks. They're ridiculous little pepper pots with plungers. But the terror the Doctor demonstrates--that feeling of OH SHIT, IT'S ONE OF THEM!--really gives you a sense of how scary they can actually be.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:02 AM on July 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


This episode is a fantastic reintroduction for the Daleks. Sadly, they are never as good as this Dalek is in this episode in the rest of the show. I love how unstoppable the Dalek is in this episode. It also gives us a great insight into who the Doctor is, and allows Rose to see him in a new light.

Is Rose wrong to pity the Dalek here? The Doctor's approach up until now has always been to have mercy on his opponents, give them other options, but here he has no such qualms (we shall see the change in his attitude even by the end of this season).
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:13 AM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love pretty much everything about this episode – it's the one that really sold me on NuWho – but Eccleston pulls off the Doctor's pathological hatred of the Daleks particularly well. It makes a great contrast with his approach to alien menaces before and after, especially in the WWII episodes.

(Also, "Broken... broken... hair dryer...")
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:01 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you're a connessiur of "Brits trying to do American accents with hilarious results" like me, this episode is a bottle of 1978 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline.

The gold standard, the 1811 Château d'Yquem of wonky American accents, remains Patterson Joseph's bizarro turn in Jeckyll.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:13 AM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Holy crap yes. Paterson Joseph seems to have based his American accent in Jekyll on Foghorn Leghorn and old-time minstrelsy. It's breathtakingly awful to behold.

I'd like to see Paterson Joseph's American accent from Jekyll and Dick Van Dyke's British accent from Mary Poppins get into some kind of steel cage match.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:50 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


The weird thing is I think that NewWho went too far in making the Dalecks unstoppable overpowered menaces. It makes it seem less likely that the Doctor would have survived his previous encounters with them.
posted by happyroach at 9:57 AM on July 30, 2014


But the terror the Doctor demonstrates--that feeling of OH SHIT, IT'S ONE OF THEM!--really gives you a sense of how scary they can actually be.

And it's terrifically acted by Eccleston; one of my favorite moments in the entire run.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:58 AM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Supposedly he had a really nasty flu when they shot that scene, though I don't see any citations online about that other than dudes like me saying "supposedly he had a really nasty flu when they shot that scene".
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:39 PM on July 30, 2014


I started with NuWho (went back to catch up on the first series, lost steam watching them all* about halfway through the Fourth Doctor's tenure) and this was my introduction to the Daleks. I thought it was a good story but didn't feel that sense of terror I'd hoped for based on the stories I'd heard. Still I'd agree that most of their stories since (and most of the ones I've seen before) don't really compare to this one.

I'm curious what will be done with them in Series 8, as Moffat's been--rightly, I think--reluctant to use them much. (On that, at least, we agree; on many other things, not so much.)

*Well, all the extant ones on DVD, anyway.
posted by johnofjack at 2:09 PM on July 30, 2014


I knew by osmosis before ever watching the show that the Daleks were the Doctor's worst enemies, meant to be intimidating despite their ridiculous pepperpot appearance, but Dalek was my first real exposure to them and I was immediately sold on the power of Eccleston's performance. As others have said, they've never been as scary since. While I'm okay with the next couple of Dalek stories thereafter (i.e. the first two season finales), when one Dalek is so terrifying it paradoxically makes an army of millions of Daleks seem cartoonish.

Rewatching this is bittersweet. It's terrific and Robert Shearman wrote a terrific episode. But he's also vowed never to wrote for Who again... He just hated all of that and prefers to stick to novels.

Huh. Reading answers to fan questions on his tumblr gave me the impression that he'd be interested but that current producers prefer writers with more TV experience, but perhaps he was being diplomatic or I misattributed something another writer said to him.

Anyway, "Dalek" is his only TV Who, but he's written a number of the Big Finish audio dramas (one of which, "Jubilee," was adapted into this episode). So far I've only listened to the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard ones -- Chimes of Midnight (standalone Edwardian horror) and Scherzo (not so standalone, kind of an... aural romance? with handholding? stuff???) -- and found both to be excellent (and slightly traumatizing).
posted by bettafish at 2:42 PM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sadly, I don't have a link on the explanation for Shearman's absence from Who that I heard, as it was something I heard during a panel at the Chicago Tardis convention. In retrospect, that's enough that I should have presented that with a grain of salt. Still, they made a convincing case.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:53 PM on July 30, 2014


This was the episode that sold me on the series when I first started watching it. The conclusion is extremely dumb, but the single Dalek wreaking havoc and the Doctor's fear is very powerful. This was also my introduction to Daleks, and I thought it worked great as such. I only knew them as comical-looking robots, but this episode made them seem formidable.

I didn't know the writer also scripted Chines of Midnight. That's probably my single favorite audio drama.
posted by painquale at 9:02 AM on July 31, 2014


I actually think the episode works terrifically as an introduction to the Daleks. They're ridiculous little pepper pots with plungers. But the terror the Doctor demonstrates--that feeling of OH SHIT, IT'S ONE OF THEM!--really gives you a sense of how scary they can actually be.

Yes! As others have said here, Eccleston sells it in a way that made me afraid of the Daleks, too. I think they are a complicated enemy, difficult to motivate or execute well, and they suffer from overuse, but this episode is Daleks done right.
posted by gauche at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


The thing I liked most was the the call-back to the Fourth Doctor scoffing at the Dalek not being able to follow him up a shaft.

I loved Rose at the end. "What are you changing into?"

Ian A.T.: “If you're a connessiur of "Brits trying to do American accents with hilarious results" like me, this episode is a bottle of 1978 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline.”
For the record, Anna-Louise Plowman, who plays van Statten's assistant Goddard, is a Kiwi, but then I've been super into her ever since she played Osiris on SG-1.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:09 PM on August 5, 2014


I've just realised that I put far too much info in this episode (and the next one actually) above the fold. Probably not important for a couple of episodes of eccleston who, but I will have to not do that next time.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:37 AM on August 6, 2014


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