Why Daleks Are Still the Supreme Beings
Guest contributor James Macaronas on why the Daleks are still the top monster after almost 50 years.
There has been quite a bit of discussion about the Daleks in recent years – and sadly, a fair amount of it is negative. Whether it is their re-design, or their over/mis-use in the RTD era, the Dalek invasion of the public imagination is starting to fall apart a little, prey to competition like the Weeping Angels or the Silence. It’s time to set things straight!
The Daleks have been there from the start. They are Doctor Who’s first alien villain – and they are spectacularly good at their job. Their chilling electronic voices, their totally alien design (cyclopean, legless, metallic – and the hemispheres!) and vicious agenda all contribute to the aura of menace they exude. And, as mentioned before, they are the first. It’s as much the Daleks’ 50th Anniversary, as it is the programme’s. They have battled every incarnation of the Doctor, and are arguably the programme’s most famous monster.
Dalek stories have been some of Doctor Who’s best. ‘The Daleks’ and ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ elevated the Daleks to top villain, and featured some very impressive visuals (Dalek rising from the water anyone?) ‘The Dalek’s Master-plan’ was epic in its scale and showed how dangerous and cunning the Daleks could be. The two Second Doctor Dalek stories were chilling explorations of human nature and Dalek ideology (“Why do human beings kill other human beings?”) The 3rd Doctor Dalek tales brought their warmongering to a forefront. ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ takes the fascism of the Dalek story to a whole new level, and contains several of the most confronting scenes in Doctor Who. Davros also appeared, and would appear many more times. And then there’s ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’, a fitting 25 year celebration of Doctor Who as well as the Daleks.
The revival series has continued to take the Daleks to new heights, with Robert Shearman’s seminal ‘Dalek’ exploring the psychology of a lone Dalek and finally making the manipulator arm (a.k.a: sink plunger) terrifying. ‘Doomsday’ pitted them against the Cybermen (finally!) and they almost destroyed the universe (again) in ‘Stolen Earth/Journey’s End’.
Some have jeered at the Dalek redesign in ‘Victory of the Daleks’, but apart from a slight change in shape, they are still formidable opponents – and much more imposing/tank-like. And colour is always somewhere on a Dalek (just because the RTD Daleks had none), whether in the black and white episodes of the classic series (which is why no-one noticed) in the comics, or in the superb Dalek films of the late sixties.
Most recently, ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ had some great moments (“Doc-tor, doc-tor”), and featured a twist which should play out interestingly in future stories. I only hope past encounters will be remembered.
With their 50th Anniversary approaching, let’s remember the Daleks. You can make the usual jokes about sink plungers, dustbins, inability to climb stairs (although they’ve been doing that since the 70s), and you can mention that they’re falling behind in the monster polls, but let’s really see them for what they are. The first ever monster. The cruel, cunning, scheming xenophobes. The terrifying soldiers from a distant planet. The survivors of countless wars. The destroyers, the exterminators.
They can survive anything, they can kill in any number of horrific ways, they have created some of the most terrifying weapons in the Whoniverse and, perhaps most importantly of all, they don’t blink. Bring it on Angels – the “Daleks are the supreme beings!”