Saturday 20 February 2010


I am not a big fan of the new series, but I have watched a number of them.

In my opinion the story Dalek is a very mixed bag. In parts excellent, in other parts rather weak.

The main purpose of this story is to introduce Daleks to a generation that has never seen them before and to reintroduce them to generations that have grown rather too familiar with them. In that it succeeds very admirably.

The new Dalek design is fantastic- the glowing eye stalk, the vicious sucker arm, the bronze armour and its fully rotational turret. My only complaint about the visual aspect is that we get a full-frontal view of the organic Dalek inside. The brief glimpse of a slimy tentacled thing that we got in The Daleks was far more effective.

However, even better than the visual revamp is the action of the Daleks. At times the old Daleks were just little tanks being ordered around by Davros. This single Dalek is highly intelligent, it learns, it adapts to its situation and it manipulates. It manipulates the Doctor and it manipulates Rose. The scene where the Dalek wipes out an entire platoon of soldiers by electrifying the sprinkler spray is incredible. We are really made to believe that the Dalek, this one lone Dalek is an unstoppable killing machine.

The Dalek is helpless and imprisoned, the last of its kind. The Doctor challenges its very reason to exist- if a killing machine cannot kill, what is it good for? It may as well die.

Of course, it does not stay helpless and here we have a bit of a problem. It regains its power simply from Rose's touch. Somehow the 'biomass of a time traveller' is all it needs to recover. I don't find this very convincing. Even worse, one touch from Rose is enough for the creature to start 'mutating' and to experience human feelings. Just a little touch? We are back in the realm of dodgy sci-fi misconceptions of mutation and evolution.

Just as the story gives us a terrifying glimpse of the sheer killing capacity and rtuthless intelligence of Daleks, it decides to humanize them and make them an object of pity. This smacks of the kind of sentimentality that we get in Star Trek.

Eccleston puts in a stunning performance as the Doctor. His tension with Van Statten is great, but he shows real darkness in his dealings with the Dalek. Seeing his old enemy brings out his more violent and harsher side. His awareness of the destructive power of the Dalek gives him the conviction necessary to sacrifice Rose. There is the sense that the Doctor has had to become more Dalek-like in order to face and defeat his enemies.

Piper also puts in a great perforance as Rose. Her pity for the Dalek is inspiring, yet the knowing viewer cannot help doubting the power of her love to truly change the Dalek. I particularly liked her initial reaction to the Dalek. She sees it as a poor, lost creature. The fact is that Daleks do look rather cute and a little lovable and seeing Rose's pity for the pepperpot brings this out.

I have mixed feelings on the Van Statten character. It is a bit much to expect us to believe that this man in the near future wields such power that he owns the internet secretly, can depose American presidents at whim and decide their successors, has unlimited access to alien technology and can mind wipe anyone he chooses with the full complicity of the American authorities. Doctor Who has a great tradition of rich and powerful villains. They are an important part of the show's ethos, but this one is just a bit too much. Can't he just be some rich and powerful collector? And if he can get away with mind wiping people, why go to the trouble? Would it not be more convenient to just put a bullet in the back of people who are fired, or bump them off 'accidently'? Nevertheless, although not quite convincing as a three-dimensional character, he is deeply interesting. The Doctor's line about burying the stars exposes his shallowness.

I do object to the extent to which the Doctor and Rose are portrayed as lovers. The new series places just too much emphasis on the relationship between the Doctor and his companions. It takes away far too much of the Doctor's essential alienness.

While on sexual subjects, the line about 'canoodling and spooning' was quite inappropriate in a children's show.

The Time War concept is introduced in this story and is worthy of some comment. The Time War enables the writers to sever the link with the Doctor's Gallifreyan past and remove the need for stories set on Gallifrey. Wisely, the writers do not attempt to recreate the war on screen but leave it to our imagination. My problem with this concept is that it means the Daleks no longer exist as a race in the 21st century. This entails that somehow every Dalek story set after this point never happened (which actually means most of them). This poses a some obvious continuity problems. For instance if the Dalek invasion never took place, why is Susan not still in the TARDIS? Why is the Doctor's own past not threatened by such an incredible change to history. On a more personal level, I think this is unkind to fans. We love the old stories and the implication they may never have happened under the new Doctor Who mythos is like a slap in the face. RT Davis thinks he can just erase continuity because it is a time travel show, but this is too easy. It is not even clear if history can be changed in the Doctor Who mythos. The first Doctor seemed pretty convinced that it could not.


  1. Actually, it doesn't contradict every Dalek story after this one. This Dalek fell through time, and crashed sometime in the 21st Century. It's been established the Daleks can time-travel. Um, I hate to contradict, but Doctor Who has already contradicted itself. Time can be changed, as demonstrated by almost every Doctor Who story (Jon Pertwee helping UNIT, the 4th Doctor sent to destroy the Daleks, the Seventh Doctor fighting off an invasion of other-dimension knights). Still, great review, and I'm glad to see you enjoyed at least one Dalek story of the 2005 resurrection.

    1. You are correct. Contrary to what I said here, this story can fit established Dalek history. The Dalek came from the future, from after the Daleks were wiped out.

      Yet oddly, the Doctor talks as though no Daleks exist in history any more. It is possible that RT Davies intended the Daleks to have been wiped from history like the Time Lords.