Into The Dalek: A Recipe for Success

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Guest contributor Francis Milan serves up the ingredients for a Dalektable episode.


“The soufflé isn’t the soufflé. The soufflé is the recipe…”

Ah, it’s that time again – time to crack open Ellie Oswald’s Big Book of Philosophy and Baking as we delve through 50 years of Dalek timestream to produce a delicious new episode. In the second installment of the series, the Twelfth Doctor comes face-to-face with the notorious metal meanies for the very first time. Haven’t we been here before? Yes, whenever there’s been Doctor Who, there’s been Daleks. You’d think the endless conflict between Doctor and Dalek would be quite a tired format by now… But oh, have the years proved us wrong!

In my previous feature, I discussed how in a recipe, time after time, the same bunch of ingredients is used, but to a completely different – and often very delicious – effect. Yes, this was an article about Doctor Who; don’t adjust your sets just yet. The individual bits and bobs which formed the Dalek stories of yesteryear can be used again to make an altogether different story. Bring on the list of ingredients!

  • A splash of The Parting of the Ways
  • The yolk of Revelation of the Daleks
  • A swig of Day of the Daleks
  • Two pinches of Dalek
  • 200 grams of Genesis of the Daleks
  • Three cups of Remembrance of the Daleks
  • A dollop of The Daleks

Quite a Dalektable dish, eh? Eh? Now, let’s look at a run-down of what I think the Ultimate Dalek Episode would contain…

The Sense of Impending Doom
like The Parting of the Ways

parting-of-the-ways-lynda-deathIt’s a dark, bitter 200,100 night. The scattering of humans on Satellite 5 face an onslaught of metallic demons from the pits of hell, with nowhere to escape to but the infernal vacuum of space. They have no choice but to await their dreadful fate… Now this is how you do a Dalek story! The sheer terror of falling victim to the Daleks isn’t always quite so significant in Dalek episodes, which can seem poorly-judged and unrealistic. The Daleks are everybody’s worst nightmare – and we should gain an insight into that over the course of the story.

Body Horror
like Revelation of the Daleks

Revelation-of-the-Daleks-humanSo, moving on from the terror of death, the Daleks should also be able to evoke a sense of horror. At heart, the Daleks are truly horrific creatures – degenerate mutations fused into an electronic control centre, locked away inside metal casing for their entire lives. Revelation of the Daleks had it all – gore, shocking diseases and gruesome experiments, which epitomised the pain the Daleks are keen to hide. It also shows how their evil schemes reflect on others in seriously grisly ways. These repulsive concepts were unusual for Doctor Who at the time, but are very welcome to return to today’s Dalek stories.

like Day of the Daleks

pertwee-day-dalekThere’s something uniquely exhilarating about the first time our new Doctor comes face-to-face with his deadliest foes. It’s the moment we properly rediscover what this man is made of – there’s nothing more Doctor-defining than being locked in battle with the Daleks. In Day of the Daleks, the Pertwee Doctor seems little threat to the Daleks until they discover his true identity, recalling their dangerous history with him. It heightens the drama, proving a very exciting revelation.

Emotional Core
like Dalek

rose-touches-dalek-doctor-who-2005Although ostensibly the Daleks are fairly unemotional creatures, an insight into their mental state can carry a lot of emotional weight. In Dalek, the Van Statten’s “Metaltron” learned human emotion when combining Rose’s DNA with its own, which ultimately drove it to suicide. While such heavy concept aren’t always appropriate Dalek stories, it is very effective when used sparingly.

An Expansion of Mythos
like Genesis of the Daleks

genesis-of-the-daleks-dvdThe history of the Daleks is rich, vivid and often very grim – quite suited to the legendary metal foes. When this past is addressed, or better – expanded upon – it can reflect in inventive ways onto the story. The prime example of this is in Genesis of the Daleks, where we learn of Davros and the dark civil war which led to his creations. Not only did this serve the story at hand, but it greatly broadened our understanding of the Daleks from that story on, which enhanced the experience forever.

Something Original
like Remembrance of the Daleks

mccoy-ace-specials-weapons-dalekRemembrance of the Daleks introduced us to what was, and still is, the coolest thing to happen to the Daleks since… Well, since the Daleks themselves. Yes, this was the Special Weapons Dalek – a furious, unhinged and completely ballistic Dalek war veteran sealed inside tough battle armour, with the power to launch a single, extraordinarily powerful energy beam from its blaster. It’s always fun when the Daleks introduce something new – take, as another example, the Puppets from Asylum of the Daleks.

The Brains Save the Day
like The Daleks

the-daleks-63The Daleks (or The Mutants, if you stopped watching in the sixties) is a fine example of when the Doctor defeats his enemies skilfully, without requiring much luck. With knowledge, deception and quick-thinking, the Doctor saved the day for the Thals being terrorised by the Dalek city. He identified the Daleks’ key vulnerability: their dependence on static electricity. Endings like these are always the most satisfactory, as they epitomise the man the Doctor is. He’s the cleverest man in the universe – he doesn’t need to rely on good luck.

Yummy! Isn’t it great when another delicious recipe comes together? While no Dalek story should be expected to deliver on every aspect (imagine what kind of gory, gritty, emotional, high-budget and insanely clever episode we could make with that list of ingredients!), I am confident that the genius of Phil Ford and Steven Moffat will deliver plenty of these points and more besides. Welcome back, Daleks! It’s been a long eight months without you…