7 Reasons Why the Daleks Can Never be Truly Scary Again
Guest contributor Daniel Reid believes the Daleks have had their time to cause genuine scares.
In recent years many attempts have been made to rekindle the horror that used to be thrust upon those who watched the Daleks in the bygone days of Doctor Who. I have since come to terms that I will never be truly frightened of the Daleks again. Unlike in Owen Davies’ previous article “Make the Daleks Scary Again” I believe that the Daleks can never achieve this and here are my reasons why.
Times have changed
The world has moved incredibly far in fifty years. For the Daleks this is a problem. The innocent world of the sixties is in contrast to the world of today. We have murder and crime on every channel, prime-time TV shows have zombies, and violent and scary video games are everywhere (I’m not complaining). Compared, Doctor Who comes out as a fluffy bunny in the park, just much more intelligent.
The Daleks are not suited in this present time to be scary. They were scary as they represented the horrors of the Nazis, now they are out of place. This could be rectified if you used them as social commentary about, say, immigration with their extreme xenophobic views. However, will that make them scary again? No.
The Tea Time Slot
The only way we can have scary Daleks is to have an after dark, post-watershed edition of Doctor Who because the amount you can get away with at seven o’clock on a Saturday evening is limited. You can’t have Daleks ripping people to shreds to turn them in to Daleks, or torturing them to the edge of death, which nowadays seems to be one of the few things Daleks could do to become scary.
Look at the aftermath of “The Waters of Mars”. Loads of people complained that was too scary for the time slot. If the Daleks managed to scare me now, it will show that Doctor Who would have gone beyond the limit for the time of day. They can’t be scary at 7pm.
Lack of Surprise
Every week we get another “Next Time” vignette telling us about the following episode. Now the problem with this is because the Daleks are so iconic. One Dalek lump, flash of bronze, or sink plunger and we know that they are going to show up yet again. I propose you not show any Daleks in any trailers for future episodes. If we know that the angry pepper pots are going to glide in next week, the moment of surprise is gone, and they then are no longer scary. A good way to scare is the moment of surprise.
I talked about desensitisation in the modern world. The writers of modern Doctor Who have shot themselves in the foot through overuse. In Classic Who, the Daleks were in a serial every 1.625 years, (16 serials in 26 years). While now it is only 0.8 years between stories, (including the 50th). It’s too much. We see them as the archetypal enemy of our two-hearted friend and the writers seem to think we need them in it as much as possible. I would prefer they appear about every three years so the Daleks become an event, not series filler. We see them more than double then we used to and now we’re too used to it. It’s a technique used to get people to get rid of their phobias, so why use the technique of desensitisation with the Daleks? In my mind the Daleks have been done to death.
P.S. I know some will say that the serials were much longer than the stories today, especially when the longest ever of twelve episodes was The Daleks’ Master Plan. However, you must remember that seasons were much longer. The first season was from November to September the next year. It was 42 episodes when now it 13, (or is it 12? I’m not sure with the stupid series splits and breaks).
The 2010 Redesign
Now, the 2010 redesign has been a contentious issue. Some people believe they have a bigger presence as they are larger and therefore more imposing and scary, while others have described them as Power Rangers etc. I believe that the bronze Daleks are more ominous and better in dark-lit situations, which helps with the fear factor. The new Paradigm lights up the room like the over-whitened dentures of Simon Cowell. The redesign has taken away any sense of fear I ever had for them. All I’m going to say is, have you noticed since the controversial change how the bronze Daleks are being used much more than the New Paradigm…? Just saying.
P.S. The coloured Daleks may not be scary, but the Human Dalek was just laugh-worthy.
It’s a bit unfair to put such a great writer as one of the causes why the Daleks are not scary, but I believe he was unfair to them. He made them mundane. I thought I would never see the day when a Dalek would ask, “Would you care for some tea?” For me, it was not fair to them. The Daleks are conquerors of the universe, not tea maids! Also, having them in the British Army and carrying tea trays made them seem even more like a laughingstock. Daleks should never be normalised or become mundane. Because I can’t forget it, I will never them see them as scary again.
Deus Ex Machina
On two occasions we’ve seen two massive Dalek armies, powerful enough to wipe out the cosmos, being completely annihilated by one human. Humans have been able to do this where the Doctor failed. It doesn’t make any sense and tarnishes any sense of them being a universal power with the capabilities of killing us all. It should be tougher and almost kill you to be able to destroy great Dalek empires, not just a click, swipe, or tap of your fingers on a conveniently placed button. As I know they can be this easily defeated I’m not scared of them.
What I wanted to show was that you can’t just expect us to swallow half-baked ideas using nostalgic monsters and expect us to love it. Look at the Weeping Angels, they are a newer monster created in the modern day with brilliant writing, which has elevated it to magnificent levels. Doctor Who is about the future too, not just the past.
Am I wrong? Can the Daleks be scary again?