The Daleks are back! Revisiting 2005’s ‘Dalek’
Guest contributor Dan Peters takes a trip back to when it where it all (re)started.
Many of you will already know that the Doctor’s oldest adversaries, the Daleks, are set to make their (almost annual) return in Series 9 in just days, and by the looks of things, there’s going to be a lot of them! So it felt like the right time to go back to where it all (re)started, and share my views on their first appearance of the revival, ‘2005’s ‘Dalek’, written by Robert Shearman, who for some reason hasn’t been back since (BRING HIM BACK!). If you haven’t seen the episode yet, (and you are in the minority), I advise you to catch up before the start of the new series.
Before 2005, the Daleks were already a massive part of British culture and even if you didn’t watch Doctor Who, you knew about them and their link with the show. It was pretty much a given that they would be brought back in the first series of the revival, and the media were quick to make a big deal about their return and new bronze redesign. By the time ‘Dalek’ aired in 2005, we had been to modern day earth, the far future and the distant past. All the main bases covered, so this was the perfect time to bring the metal pepper pots back.
Picking up on a signal, the plot sees the 9th Doctor and Rose arrive at a bunker in Utah 2012. There they meet a millionaire Collector Henry Van Statten, who is in ownership of an ‘unknown’ creature, that turns out to be a damaged Dalek that appears to have survived the time war. Rose activates it by touch and it shows its true colours (I don’t mean grey and blue! Sorry very geeky!).
From here the episode is basically a base under siege story. One Dalek, desperate to survive, is shown to do a lot of damage. What Shearman does so well here is to put the Dalek in many situations where the audience would think it would fail, e.g.; the sprinklers would electrocute it, it wouldn’t be able to get up a flight of stairs, and proves them wrong (which, if you had watched ‘Remembrance of the Daleks you would know they can already, come on people!). It shows those new to the show, a generation of kids and adults who hadn’t seen the older stuff, how ruthless and efficient the Daleks can be, setting that impression for the episodes to come. The effects throughout are great and credit has to be given to Nick Briggs who has done such a great job of bringing them live by voicing them over the past 10 years.
The best bits in this episode for me are when the Doctor confronts the Dalek:
The Doctor: If you want orders, follow this one: Kill yourself.
Dalek: The Daleks must survive!
The Doctor: The Daleks have failed! Now why don’t you finish the job and make the Daleks extinct?! Rid the universe of your filth! Why don’t you just die?!
Dalek: You would make a good Dalek.
I also like the way Shearman shows that the Dalek is slowly gaining more human emotions. He’s the last of his kind and is in pain from the way he has been treated. This is also touched upon in 2007’s ‘Daleks in Manhattan’/‘Evolution of the Daleks’ and 2014’s ‘Into the Dalek’ which has many clear parallels to this story. They both contain Daleks that are locked up and gaining human feelings .The main difference I feel why ‘Dalek’ is much better. On normal occasions, they are shown to have no concept of feeling and emotions, something that I feel make them such good adversaries and the main reason behind why they keep on coming back, featuring in 26ish TV stories! (I hope I haven’t started a debate!)
Although the episode is a great Dalek showcase, in essence this story is as much about the Doctor, how he has changed through fighting in the time war, and the similarities (although he wouldn’t like to admit it), between him and the Dalek. When the Doctor is wielding a gun willing to kill it, it’s Rose who shows him that his actions are wrong. Rose made the Dalek more human and as we slowly find out, the Doctor too.
The Doctor: Rose did more than regenerate you. You’ve absorbed her DNA. You’re mutating.
Dalek: Into what?
The Doctor: Something new. I’m sorry.
Rose: Isn’t that better?
The Doctor: Not for a Dalek.
By the end, the Dalek basically commits suicide because it is not pure enough to be efficient. This is deep stuff. Looking back on Robert Shearman’s tale, I feel it was brave for that first series. Emotionally it showed the Daleks clearer than any other episode had done before or since. It’s not much fun, and I feel it does sometimes miss some comedy, but now and again ‘Who’ really benefits from stories like this. Since its broadcast the Daleks have grown in popularity, appearing almost every series since, being on a huge amount of merchandise and have even showing up in an online game!
It is certainly up there with the best Dalek episodes. It was dark, complex and contained inner messages about morals, loneliness and discrimination. Oh yeah, and that Adam guy got a trip on the TARDIS! It perfectly introduced the Daleks for a new generation and set the benchmark for all stories that they’ve appeared in since.
Thanks for reading, but now I want to know what you think! What are your favourite ‘Dalek’ moments? Are you looking forward to their return in Series 9? Tell me in the comments section below.