|Production Code||Series One Episode Six|
|Dates||April 30, 2005|
With Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper,
Written by Russell T. Davis Directed by Keith Boak.
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Mal Young.
|Synopsis: An underground museum contains one living specimen. Can the impossible be true?|
Love and Hate; a Frightening Feeling by Mike Morris 9/5/05
It was difficult not to get excited by this story; we had seen the trailer, we’d heard the hype, we knew it was being directed by Joe Ahearne. We also knew, pretty much, that this story would be a rewrite of Jubilee, Robert Shearman’s fascinating but terribly undisciplined audio drama for Big Finish. While Jubilee was far too overcomplicated, its central premise - Dalek-as-Hannibal-Lecter - was chillingly realised. With Shearman being forced to slim his narrative down, maybe even being edited for a change - well, promising would be an understatement.
The result is a lean, dynamic version of the sprawling Jubilee, helped by the more naturalistic performances that television enables. It would be easy to turn this into a compare/contrast exercise here, which would be unfair and unrewarding - this new series feels completely divorced from what came before, so I find it perfectly acceptable to rework previous stories every now and then. Suffice it to say that this episode is not just the best of the series so far, it’s the best piece of television I have seen for years. Shorn of the need for any further plot (which a two-part story would require), this is an iconic collision of two beliefs, a sweatily tense yet thoughtful story of the victor and the victim, a modern-day parable that stands quite apart from anything we’ve seen. Already. this is being spoken of as the best Dalek story since Genesis; nonsense. This is the best Dalek story ever, by miles.
The fact that I had listened to Jubilee didn’t in any way detract from my enjoyment. A story such as this - essentially, a moral fable - doesn’t need to surprise an audience to work. In fact, it is deliberately predictable, just as Borges’ short stories run along well-signposted lines. We aren’t being thrilled by unexpected twists; we’re being gripped by the rightness of what we’re seeing, the clarity and simplicity with which the morals are being told. It’s this quality that makes the story important and epic; Doctor Who once produced a 12-part Dalek story, but this is the biggest of the lot.
Essentially, we have just four characters here; the Doctor, the Dalek, Rose and Van Statten. This shouldn’t be epic, one might think; not in the vast, bloated sense that, say, Lord of the Rings is epic. But these characters are far more than that; the are personifications of morality, they are icons as well as people. They represent far more than just themselves. The moving and beautiful conclusion says a lot about each and every person on this planet, showing the things that make us human achieving some form of resolution. So I’m going to discuss Dalek by discussing these four.
The Dalek: “If you can’t kill, then what are you good for, Dalek? What’s the point of you? You’re nothing.”
The Dalek is the easiest of the players to define. It is a personification of hate. Locked away in the dark, dormant until confronted with its adversary - it is strong and terrifying, yet ultimately a weak, pathetic creature that can’t do anything but destroy. The appearance of the Dalek is (and has always been) a part of this - it’s essentially impenetrable and powerful, something that can’t be damaged or hurt, but strip away that artificial strength and what’s left is sad and feeble.
The Doctor actually notes of it at one stage that it has all its emotions removed except hate. Daleks have usually been defined in more political terms, as fascists, and this is also nodded to (the Dalek is “the ultimate in racial cleansing”), but here it’s defined in a more primal way. The notion of racial hatred has usually been confused - understandably - with a hunger for power and conquest. Even in the first Dalek story this was the case; the Dalek’s desire to destroy the Thals was discussed in a number of ways (for power, for security, for resources, for survival, out of fear) but not in terms of sheer, rabid hatred. The only time this has really happened beforehand is in Resurrection of the Daleks, when it was something of a weakness tactically.
This is something new. Hatred isn’t just frenzied and senseless. Hate is clever; hate is cunning. This single Dalek is, quite simply, more frightening than four or five Daleks put together have been previously. The early scene when it tells Rose that it “welcomes death” is so convincing I thought it was dodgy scripting for a moment - certainly from Rose’s point of view, it sounds heartfelt - but when this turns out to be a ruse just to get her to touch it it’s chilling; this sort of manipulation of human emotions isn’t something we expect from creatures so emotionally stunted. It blackmails the Doctor by taunting him (“what good are emotions if you will not save the woman you love?”); it deliberately enables the Doctor to see it massacre the humans without breaking sweat; it goes from being helpless and chained-up to regenerated, lethal and knowing everything about Earth in less than sixty seconds. The scene that really hits home is where the Doctor asks the nearest town. “Salt Lake City,” says Van Statten. “Population?” “One million.” “All dead,” says the Doctor, and you believe him.
And the story does something quite remarkable, in that it makes us care for something so monstrous. When the Dalek asks Rose what the sun feels like, we catch a glimpse of what hatred does. It’s a life without anything to make it worthwhile; the Doctor’s early taunting is revealed to be completely true. The Dalek is destroyed because it starts to “feel so many ideas” - because it can’t accept the things we take for granted as part of what makes life wonderful. We can weep for a Dalek because of what this story so beautifully shows - that being confronted by raw hatred is terrifying, but nowhere near as terrifying as surrendering to it. That being killed by a Dalek is a fate infinitely better than being one.
Van Statten: “You just want to drag the stars down under tons of sand and dirt and label them. You’re about as far from the stars as you can get!”
And hand-in-hand with hatred is greed. Which is Van Statten’s purpose.
And greed, again, is something a bit more complex than wanting loads of stuff. It’s terrifically summed up in the film Wall Street, in fact; it’s linked with ego, with bravado, with machismo. It’s the sense of fulfilment that comes from Michael Douglas looking out over a sunset and thinking, “this is beautiful - and this is mine.” It’s quite different from, say, the Silas Marner-type miser, which is more masochistic and obsessive than actually possessive. No, this is the type of greed that (in Wall Street) will gain satisfaction from beating someone up in a park.
Van Statten’s first encounter with the Doctor (“smell the testosterone”) works along similar lines. In most respects Van Statten is bulletproof - he isn’t even bothered by the Doctor’s statement that “A Dalek is honest, it does what it was born to do. That creature down there is better than you.” He isn’t remotely concerned about morality, simply dominance. This is an Alpha Male of the first order.
And the Dalek won’t even talk to him.
And really, that’s all he wants; for this creature to acknowledge him. He tortures it, not out of sadism or nastiness, but simply so he can be its master and it will acknowledge him as such. The Dalek is the one thing Van Statten can’t own, the one challenge to his ego. It’s this simple action - silence - that shows just how small Van Statten’s concerns are, down here as the “king of his little world.” He’s overtly compared to Davros at one stage, and the comparisons go beyond some superficial echoes of Genesis (the bunker setting, the scientific research laboratories, Van Statten controlling the government and even the guard’s uniforms) to their basic desires - a fanatic desire to perpetuate themselves, as Tom put it.
And somehow, Van Statten is more repellent than any Dalek. His actions in keeping and using the Dalek (or anything else) suggests the way that greed preys upon and uses hate (or any emotion) for its own ends. And, as something amoral that uses the most primal of human emotion, it’s creatures like Van Statten that make hate possible. A handy contemporary example is the Tory party in the UK, jumping on immigration as a handy vote-winner; using insecurities and fear as a stepping-stone to power, and as a result there are now great waves of racial intolerance sweeping the country (hopefully, by the time this is posted, the wankers will have lost. Again). Greed making hate possible.
The Dalek can challenge Van Statten simply through its indomitable silence, and the Doctor’s furious speech is the first thing that really dents Van Statten in any way. The Doctor speaks to him with contempt - he becomes unquestionably the dominant figure, relegating Van Statten to the aforementioned Silas Marner figure who hides away in the dark, squirreling away trinkets.
Van Statten’s fate is perfect; not dramatic, not anything, just superseded by someone else. The bully becomes bullied, dumped back to the bottom of the ladder. Set beside a conflict so primal, Van Statten’s bases, technology, influence and power all become meaningless. As, indeed, is he.
The Doctor: “What about you then, Doctor? What are you turning into?”
The Dalek’s hate, right? And the Doctor is its adversary, its opposite. So; the Doctor is love.
Now that sounds gooey as soon as you say it. That’s the problem with the word love; it’s been, hijacked, made safe and toothless, turned into the sort of thing that can appear benignly in Hugh Grant movies. This isn’t the forgiving love that we’re being sold on a regular basis; this is the angry, furious version. This is the version that really can conquer all, just through blistering evangelical passion. This is the kind of thing that can make you irrational, the sort that drives people to obsession. This is dangerous. This is the love that people kill for.
The Doctor’s story is based on that old maxim; it’s a fine line between love and hate. From the start, this is a far darker territory than we’ve seen the Doctor venture into. Ever. His first meeting with the Dalek is something quite astonishing, behaviour that we would never describe as “Doctorish.” He revels in his foe’s helplessness and fear, laughing at it, taunting it with news of its destruction; “I saw it happen, I made it happen!” he yells with something close to glee. This a Doctor in a frenzy, a Doctor who will execute his foe not just cold-bloodedly but with joy. Check out his mocking delivery of “Oh, I heard your little signal, help me,” like a thirteen-year old bullying a kid.
Those who questioned EcclesDoc’s levity in previous stories may find this a pleasant surprise, but the joy of this portrayal is that it comes from nowhere and yet it’s almost expected. Complaints that Eccleston’s grinning comedy was forced ignored the fact that it was clearly supposed to be. Eccleston has brought a phenomenal intensity to his serious scenes and here, his performance is simply blistering, quite possibly one of the greatest performances we’ve ever seen in the role. He plays it maniacally, gripped by a fever that lets us know he’s barely even thinking. And just as love can convince us to do terrible things, the Doctor is plumbing depths that he’s barely touched. His decision to seal Rose in is, quite simply, terrifying. And that’s what love is, with its ability to make us hurt those nearest, sacrifice things that are important for something we see as greater. Love is terrifying. Love is cruel.
The closeness of the Doctor and the Dalek are flagged early on in the story, but they never cease to amaze. The Doctor’s spit-soaked rant at the Dalek (“Why don’t you just die?!”) is breathtaking, and the Dalek’s response - “You would make a good Dalek” - is a line that brings a sharp intake of breath from the viewer. And yet what’s the Doctor’s aim? To destroy evil. Just as it’s always been. Love will conquer all.
At the story’s conclusion we see the results of this unchecked passion; the Doctor as a gun-wielding angel of vengeance, approaching a creature to blast it to smithereens. A thing of terror. And yet, for all that, for all the danger and the descent towards the evil he despises, he remains vital and affirming. What’s the alternative? Van Statten and his sycophants? What motivates the Doctor is, ultimately, what motivates us all. The fact that this is a thing of danger is, well, it’s what makes life difficult. It’s what makes life important - but it’s something that we must always be wary of.
Rose: “It wasn’t your fault!”
And here’s Rose, the ordinary powerless human, the girl-next-door, the nobody. The person who saves them both, the person who resolves this struggle between love and hate; the conflict that began when the Doctor condemned the Dalek to death and threw the switch to kill it. “Have pity!” screams the Dalek as the Doctor looks on in black fury. “Why? You never did.”
Which is where Rose comes in. Rose is pity. Pity manipulated initially; pity that brings everything together. What was essentially a sideshow in Jubilee (Evelyn has a bit of a go at the Doctor, who says yeah you’re right and then gets on with it) becomes the main event.
So it’s Rose who begs that the Dalek not destroy a creature as loathsome as Van Statten, not out of concern for him but for the Dalek itself. It’s Rose who destroys the indestructible, just because - in that SF-metaphor way - her pity, which the Dalek thought it could use, turns out to be stronger than anyone could expect. It’s Rose that enables us to pity this creature, just because she believes that it has the power to feel things it never could.
And thanks to Rose we see the Dalek unmasked, and it’s a hell of a sight. Suddenly, this creature asks “What does it feel like?” and it’s a lump-in-the-throat moment. “I can feel so many ideas... this is not life, this is sickness,” the Dalek mutters. And suddenly, we see hatred as something so pitiful.
And not content with that, she turns and saves the Doctor too. The fury of love is saved by pity; the gun-wielding Doctor is suddenly an absurdity; on the edge of tears, he tries to express the inexpressible. “I couldn’t... it wasn’t...” it’s yet another scene that grabs the viewer by the gut and doesn’t let go. You want to find the best scene from the series so far? Pick a scene from this story at random and you’ll be close enough.
Robert Shearman’s wider career may be continuing an upward trajectory, one that will preclude him from contributing any more to this televised series for some time. For all that, his audio work and this single story marks him out as one of the finest writers in the history of Doctor Who. This is raw and emotional, something that’s even got national newspapers talking about metaphor and deeper themes. Quite right too. Millions of kids saw this in Britain, and they’ll remember it when they’re older; they’ll just recall this epic three-quarters of an hour battle between love and hate, between pity and greed, that’s so beautifully resolved. And that matters. For the first time in a long time, I’ve seen television that matters.
“Are you afraid, Rose Tyler?”I cried.
“So am I.”
Getting In Touch With His Feminine Side... by Adrian Loder 12/5/05
Thus far, in this new beginning (resumption?) of Doctor Who, I have found many moments of pleasure, a few of pure joy, and much to be impressed with. However, right alongside these things there have been qualms, as well. I don't think any of the episodes thus far have been bad, overall, indeed all have been a degree or two above average. However, with the exception of Aliens/WW3, none have really been truly impressive for more than 5 or so minutes at a time. Dalek manages to reverse this trend, largely thanks to the chilling update the title creature has received. This Dalek is more deadly than they have ever been and we finally get to see the sort of terrible carnage capable of being wrought by these creatures. Carnage that, in past stories, was largely incapable of full realisation due to budgetary and technological constraints.
So this is something new, and something good. We also have an interesting twist on the old Dalek mentality, and it is handled perfectly, with the Dalek responding just as I would have imagined. The new, 21st century Dalek is more than they were in the classic series, but this 'more' is entirely consistent with what we have come to learn of them throughout the years.
Other new things include further revelations about the Ninth Doctor, and what he's been up to in the years following the telemovie but preceding this new television begininng. Interesting background material but thus far insubstantial; I give this emerging background for Eccleston's Doctor a pass until it becomes more fleshed-out and we come to understand precisely what motivations it lends him, and why.
Some things that aren't new are this Doctor's quickness to seek lethal force against his enemies, Rose's continued ability to grasp and handle the situation better than he can, and the Doctor being made to look the fool - again. We also have more hints of more than Doctorly affection for Rose, and while it irks me somewhat - the Doctor's alienness has always seemed too much a barrier to this sort of thing - it is subtle, and being done tastefully. This raises an issue that has been bothering me for some time now, regarding this new series - taken as a whole, this Doctor is more like a human than he has ever been. His snap life-and-death judgements, his errors, the way his zeal gets the best of him, his misunderstanding of situations and emotions and intentions - more and more the series is playing out as a pair of humans travelling through time and space rather than a human and an alien.
This removes one of the most unique aspects of the show, and something I feel ought to preserved - the sense of 'other' that has always hung around the Doctor. He isn't like us, that's what makes him so effective in matching wits with the bad guys and in saving the day, that's what makes him unique, and what makes us care enough to watch - or, at least, that is how it is for me. If he is just going to be a glorified human in his behavior then what's the point? It becomes more like Sliders in a Police Box than something distinct of its own.
It has been suggested by others that this is Doctor Who for everyone, and that this is unequivocably a good thing. I'm no elitist, nor do I think the show should seek to make itself a carbon copy of its past glories. This is a new Doctor with new things to do and new writers to tell the stories, and I am content with having links to the past that identify it as part of something that went before - it need not be identical. However, the Doctor must be preserved as unique, somehow more than his traveling companions, whether it be in objectivity, intelligence, quick-wittedness, something. Every Doctor brought his own notions to the role, and every Doctor was different, yet they all shared certain fundamental characteristics. This Doctor is as much an alien from his past selves as he is from his human companion.
This isn't to say I don't like him - he isn't completely foreign from his past behavior - and he is the Doctor, therefore I do like him, despite the qualms. But to all those who would say that the desire for him to behave more like he has in the past is simply an absurd request for a return to what we watched as kids, I say this: every Doctor made the role his own, every Doctor was substantially different, but they were all still the Doctor. One need not carbon copy the past to still retain certain essences that have made up the character for thirty years.
As far as the show being for everyone - listen, I favor democracy, I think everyone should be heard, and that their likes and dislikes are important, but the fact is that, logically speaking, the broader an appeal you want something to have, the more bland and undistinguished it must become. Different people like different things, and these various likes and dislikes run counter to each other A unique characteristic of a show will by its very nature turn some people off simply becuase they aren't fond of that particular characteristic. You can think of people's preferences as a sort of filter - the more unique points, idiosyncracies or distinguishing aspects a show has, the more potential there is for viewers who don't care for them to turn off the show. To get it through all those preferences, these unique points must be filed down to nubs or even removed altogether so that they don't 'catch' on peoples' different likes and dislikes. What you get is either a hodgepodge of half-done aspects, or something filed down to complete blandness. A bland show can still be good - it just can't stand out. I don't think this new series is bad, nor do I think it has filed away all its quirks and unique bits. But I think that it would be dangerous to try and make it too broadly appealing, too much of a show for the everyman, as in doing so you consign it to sameness hell.
The Dalek's changes toward the end of this show are a good sign - instead of how most shows would have handled it, we instead see the Dalek in rejection, refusing to accept what has happened. Once again, the Doctor is corrected and chastised by Rose, but he still is shown to understand the change in the Dalek - and the Dalek's reaction to this - better than she does.
Overall, this is not a bad episode - the Dalek is truly menacing, there is a nice, interesting twist, the Doctor is mostly portrayed well, as are Rose, van Statten, and the other supporting cast, though I do have the qualms noted above regarding the Doctor and Rose. The show was well-plotted and maintained the suspense and excitement well, building a solid emotional response to the story. In the end, when the shows are, overall, as good as Dalek, I can look past what I don't like and see the good in the rest of the show, and so Dalek gets 8.5/10
EXTERMINATE by Joe Ford 19/5/05
Obviously wonderful and easily the most GOSH WOW ISN'T DOCTOR WHO THE BEST THING ON TELEVISION episode yet but, I don't know, I think I preferred World War Three. Maybe it was because I have heard the whole thing before, in the fantastic audio adventure Jubilee or maybe because for all the fabulous set pieces it was just another base under siege story. Please don't get me wrong, this was exciting, emotional, scary and funny and easily the best "production" of the show to date, it was great telly for sure but it just felt a little too mainstream to be truly Doctor Who. Whereas World War Three was outrageous and silly, this was all a bit normal for Doctor Who. Gosh, I bet I'm not making any friends, am I?
What Rob Shearman has done (in my eyes at least) is taken all the humour out of Jubilee and kept all the serious bits and despite adding some depth to the situation with further mentions of the Time War has practically pasted the entire script into a televised episode. And to be frank, I think I preferred Jubilee. There was something wonderfully uncomfortable about that particular audio and not just because we get to sympathise with the Dalek captive but because the humour was out and out disgusting in places and mixed in with the horror and drama made for a delightfully macabre experience. Whereas Dalek the TV episode goes for spectacle and frights, which admittedly it does fabulously but with the humour all but absent, I was constantly feeling there was something missing. It was nowhere near as uncomfortable and thus only half as effective as it could have been. Although I know somebody who will be delighted with this episode, someone who despised the humour from Jubilee but enjoyed the central idea. He will be in heaven.
However some of the humour in Jubilee was overdone and embarrassing and losing a woman asking a Dalek to marry her was greatly appreciated. And when all is said and done, Rob Shearman is still Rob Shearman, which means the episode will still be powered by superb dialogue, strong emotions and clever twists. Dalek is all the best emotional bits from Jubilee strung together and that can be no bad thing. Considering how lightweight some of the series has been to this point, some meaty drama can be no bad thing.
And wowza Christopher Eccleston where have you been hiding in the first five episodes? This was a bravura performance from the lead man, unleashing previously unseen anger and bitterness that highlights a particularly ugly and racist side to his personality. I adore this sort of examination of the Doctor and this was one of the absolute best attempts, his sheer hatred and fear of the Dalek led to some thoroughly uncomfortable moments. We know how dangerous these metal bastards can be and technically we should be behind the Doctor all the way but by creating an unfamiliar bond between the creature and Rose we are forced into the discomforting position of wanting him to fail. And while the much celebrated "Do I have the right?" scene from Genesis of the Daleks is powerful in its own right I don't think any other Dalek story has convinced me that the Doctor is wrong in his beliefs and that the Dalek deserves to live. It ain't pretty but it makes for compulsive television.
I am so glad Nick Briggs was given a chance to star in the new series, the delights he has lavished on fans of the Daleks with his audio series are manifold and were easily enough to convince the creators of Doctor Who that he is the right man for the job. What he does here is phenomenal, actually managing to make us care for what is nothing but a homicidal killing machine. With his voice alone he conveys the Dalek's anger, despair, defeat and revenge. He makes it scary as shit in certain scenes and yet touching in others. Of course the creators of the actual Dalek machine deserve plaudits too, there has never been a Dalek this stylish before and several of its action scenes, particularly the amazingly cool moment where it swivels its body around to shoot more people, are gobsmacking. Everyone involved deserves a round of applause, they have managed to take this absurd-looking pot and make genuinely frightening. Certainly I was terrified when it rose into the air and turned the sprinkler system into electric hell.
Billie Piper is such a good performer, it breaks my heart to have to say this but I think Maggie Stables is a better actress and her relationship with the Dalek in Jubilee had more charge than Rose's with this Dalek. Rose and the Dalek hit all the right notes and more, they convincingly portray their (dare I say it) bond and bring you close to tears when she eventually tells it to commit suicide. The scene where Rose asks the Dalek what else it wants apart from killing is superb drama. But Maggie played the Evelyn as though she was thoroughly terrified of the creature whilst she was understanding it which made for far more edgy scenes whereas Rose clearly cares for the Dalek which guts some of the tension. Plus I couldn't really take the sunlight scene as well as others have, there was something a bit too twee about it (well this is set in America!) reaching out its tentacle into the sunlight. Of course Dalek only had half the time Jubilee had to get inside its characters' heads and I think it still deserves kudos for doing something with a bit more depth than most mainstream sci-fi shows would dare or indeed have the ability to do. This is far, far from the unbearable sugariness of Star Trek the Next Generation's I, Borg which similarly humanised one of its biggest baddies. At least Dalek got to kill over two hundred people and sucker someone death for a laugh!
There was definite step up in production values and direction too, which help to give this episode a filmic quality. The news of Joe Ahearne directing Doctor Who got a lot of fans excited as he has been the perpetrator of some fantastic telly in the past and this was like all his best work put together. The pace of this story never lets up and there is a genuine sense of danger. The POV Dalek scenes were giddily dramatic and added a lot of weight to the interrogation scenes. Some of the shots were painfully violent and all the better for it, the kids must have been terrified of this one. The cameras never stop moving and there is a pleasing mixture of complex long shots and intimate closeups. This is the work of a man who understands telly; the build up to the Dalek's escape is nail bitingly tense. Murray Gold once again provides fine accompanying music; I loved the heavy vocals as the Dalek rampages through the complex. And the lighting and special effects were flawless, conveying danger and spectacle in equal measure.
Performances never falter but nobody tops the work done by Eccleston and Piper and more than ever you can feel their bond. The Doctor's violent reaction after he shuts her in with the Dalek and thinks it has killed her made me sit up and gasp, clearly he has more complex feelings for this woman than we ever dared to think. And his heartbreaking reaction when she asks what he has become, pointing a gun at her because she standing between him and the Dalek, shock at how ashamed he feels proves he really does care what she thinks of him. Equally Rose's painful "I wouldn't have missed it for the world" when she thinks she is going to die speaks volumes.
Riveting drama then, and easily the most sit-up-and-pay-attention episode yet. I would not be surprised if Dalek won the best episode of the season poll as it clearly is oozing with talent. Maybe the humour of Jubilee would have poisoned such a dramatic episode but at the end of the day I will probably stick on the audio rather than watch the episode in the future.
Dalek Conquers and Destroys! by Andrew Feryok 26/5/05
DOCTOR - The Daleks have failed! Why don't you finish the job and make the Daleks extinct; Rid the universe of your filth. Why don't you just DIE!!!Now that's what I call a Dalek story! Gone are the robotic tin cans taking orders from the ranting Davros. This is the scheming, manipulating, evil Daleks of old, and is quite possibly the first story in the season that I would seriously consider for the title of 'classic'(and not just because it has Daleks). This story is extremely well executed in direction, writing, characterisation, acting, special effects, and music. Everything just clicks in this story to produce a stunning production. Mike Morris does an excellent analysis of this story, examining the characters, their roles, and their symbolism. My review is going to sound like a bunch of fanboy rantings compared to that analysis. But here goes the ranting anyway...
DALEK - You would make a good Dalek.
I have made note of many enjoyable scenes or dialogue which have popped up in the last several stories, but this week's episode is just filled to the brim with them. I was fortunate not to have listened to Jubilee, which this story is supposed to have been based on, so I came into this story pretty fresh. There are so many good scenes that it's hard to pick out which ones I enjoyed most. Probably the ones that stick with me most were the Doctor's initial confrontation with the Dalek in the cell, his moment of sacrifice with Rose followed by his "You are about as far from the stars as you can get" speech to Van Statten. And of course, there's the scene I quoted above when the Doctor tries to talk the Dalek into committing suicide, only to be faced with the fact that he's becoming more and more like the Daleks through his own hatred of them. It's amazing to see just how much rage the Doctor has had pent up towards the Daleks in this story. He's both frightened to death of the Dalek, and yet delights in spewing hatred towards it. In fact, in that one scene in which he screams to the Daleks "Why don't you just DIE" he is literally foaming at the mouth in sheer anger and mallace, to which the Dalek simply responds "You would make an excellent Dalek" which brings about a look of sheer terror and horror on the Doctor's face.
Rose also fairs extremely well in this story. I was aware that she was responsible for freeing the Dalek, and it seems only right considering she hasn't encountered them the way the Doctor has before and hence doesn't realize how much danger she is in. And Rose continues to prove herself a formidable opponent to the Doctor's plans. She is the only one who tries to see the good in the Dalek and it is this that ultimately destroys it since it cannot handle the emotions she has given it and which it is feeling from her. As with the Gelth, Rose does not agree with the Doctor's handling of the situation. But unlike her confronation with him over the Gelth, she is not willing to stand down and this time it is she that makes him confront a new kind of morality, one that he seemingly lost towards his later confrontations with the Daleks when he resigned himself to the fact that the Daleks must die after the Fourth Doctor spared them.
Van Statten is another interesting character in the story. Although his claim to "own the internet" is a bit ludicrous, his greed and machoism was perfect. This is the type of man who would be ruthless enough to capture a Dalek and try to torture it into speaking. And yet despite all his confidence and bravado, he suffers the greatest fall of all the characters as he begins to realise the terror he's unleashed, and yet even then, he's only concerned about saving his own skin and not his soldiers who are 'expendable'. His final confrontation with the Dalek is excellent as he is essentially reduced to a jibbering idiot begging for forgiveness before a creature that knows no forgiveness. After all, we all know what happened to Davros when he asked for pity...
Overall, very good! This gets a solid 10/10 and I only hope they invite Robert Shearman and Joe Ahearne back for the second season since they, and everyone involved, did a splendid job with the story.
Doctor Who and the Mysterious Editor! The excellent trailer featurs alien windows opening to reveal people's brains, the Doctor claiming something is wrong, a mysterious man who calls himself the Editor, and skeletons, skeletons, skeletons! This looks like it is going to be one story that will be sending the kids behind the sofa. The identity and the role of Editor very much intrigues me. Can't wait to see it!
A Review by Kevin Hardy 31/5/05
I started watching Doctor Who when Tom Baker started. I was 4 years old. I stopped watching not long after he left, 12 years old (Time-Flight finished me off !). I have caught some Davison/C.Baker/McCoy repeats since then. I always regarded Genesis, Pyramids and Talons as the high water-mark of Who (with a special mention for The Mind Robber).
The new series I had hopes for, but not high ones. Rose was good. End Of The World I enjoyed. The Unquiet Dead was excellent. Aliens Of London and World War Three were good entertainment, with reservations. So far the new series was fine, but not great.
Then came Dalek. This story I found to be superb. I only wish they had called it "Metaltron" and kept the presence of a Dalek secret (although I know the BBC publicity people would never allow that!) I had not heard the audio drama Jubilee, so had absolutely no idea of what was to come. Here we had all that makes Doctor Who great.
A worthy enemy: How wonderful to see a Dalek kick ass in a way its ancestors never did. The writer must have looked at every Dalek weakness and joke and decided to counter them once and for all. A single Dalek more deadly, cunning and downright smart than any Dalek army we have ever seen. Davros would have been proud.
A DARK Doctor: Who was more frightening, the Dalek or the Doctor? Eccleston has been funny and weird so far... The "Salt Lake City" exchange was chilling. Good writing and top marks for a (dare I say) fantastic dramatic performance from Christopher Eccleston.
A companion you could identify with: Cards on the table. I hated the idea of Billie Piper in Doctor Who. I was wrong, she has won me over. I like the idea that the companion often makes a mistake which leads to disaster, a disaster that only the Doctor can rectify. Yet I also feel that Rose is only doing what we would all do in a similar situation.
The ending has been criticised as not being good for the image of the Daleks. I thought it was just right, the Dalek was placed in a very unusual predicament. For me it didn't diminish the Daleks at all.
Not only one of the great Doctor Who stories, but also a great 45 minutes of pure TV entertainment. And finally my two nieces (5 years old and 7 years old) are now fanatical Dalek fans so at the late age of 35 I get to buy Dalek toys all over again. How great is that?
An instant classic by Michael Hickerson 5/8/05
Doctor Who fans will argue until the end of time which of the gallery of rogues, villains and monsters in the second greatest adversary the Doctor has faced in his 27 seasons on television. But make no mistake... there is just one monster that over the years can generate a level of excitement, anticipation and make all of our geeky hearts skip a beat when we hear the name mentioned.
I will admit when I first heard Doctor Who was coming back, I was excited but a bit disappointed that, at the time, the series couldn't retain the rights to use the Doctor's most popular adversaries in the new show. Finally, the news broke that the owner of the Dalek copyright had relented, thus paving the way for the metal monsters to return to the small screen. And I admit... as absolutely pumped, excited and twittering with anticipation as I was about the new series and the first episode, the prospect of the sixth episode was on that sent me into orbit with anticipation.
It was the sixth episode that would feature the return of the Daleks in all their glory.
I have to admit, this tidbit along with the preview from last week had me doing cartwheels. See, it was the original Dalek story back in the 60s that saw Doctor Who come into its own. It was the Daleks who saved the show, made it a pop culture icon and ensured it had the long run that I enjoyed so much. And while I've been pleased with the new series so far (even after last week's disappointment with World War III), I still felt as if the series was finding itself and hadn't really come into its own.
This week, the new Doctor Who came into its own with Dalek.
For 45 minutes, I was on the edge of my seat, totally immersed in what was happening, loving every second of what we saw on screen. I've not been this blissfully into a new Doctor Who story since the first time I saw Curse of Fenric.
For all the anticipation I had coming into Dalek part of me was prepared to be disappointed. To not like the show.
I shouldn't have worried.
Dalek not only met every expectation I had, it blew away my pre-conceived notions of how good the new Doctor Who can and should be. It's set a new standard for excellence for this show and it's rocketed into my top ten of all-time great Doctor Who stories, among the likes of Curse of Fenric and The Caves of Androzani.
Yes, it was just that good.
Robert Shearman. I first became aware of Shearman when a friend gave me a copy of his audio story The Chimes of Midnight and said I had to listen to it. I did and was suitably impressed. Shearman had a great grasp of just what made Doctor Who, Doctor Who. But he also knew how to combine the past strengths of the show with the current conventions to tell some great stories. I feared he'd be a one hit wonder, but as I heard more from him, I liked more and more what I heard.
When I heard he was writing for the new series, I was delighted. When I heard he was doing the Dalek story, I was even more delighted. If there was one person who could pay homage to the past while bringing the Daleks into the modern age, it was Shearman. And he did.
The Daleks are back to their old manipulative selves. If anything, this story felt like a modern retelling of the two Troughton Dalek stories. In those, we saw the Daleks as manipulative and treacherous. They weren't just evil killing machines running about shouting "Exterminate!" and killing everything in sight. They were cunning, ruthless and would do whatever it took to win the day. And we got that here with the Dalek that is held by Jason Van Statten in his underground bunker. Watching the Dalek manipulate Rose by playing on her sympathy for it in order to regain its strength was great. Then after it's escaped and has Rose in its sight, the Dalek allows the Doctor to think she's been killed in order to manipulate him into allowing it to go free when it holds her prisoner. (The taunting of him for caring about Rose was a great moment).
Also, along the lines of the classic 60s story The Evil of the Daleks we see the Dalek become infected by the human factor and begin to act out of character. The new found emotions it finds are in conflict with its main programming of seek, locate and destroy all life forms that are different. And in the end, the Dalek is forced to destroy itself because it's become less genetically pure due to using Rose's DNA to reactive itself. Stunning all of it.
As a Who fan, it's hard to think of feeling any sympathy for a Dalek. Or to even understand it a bit more. But yet Shearman's script pulls it off with style to spare. We come to see the Dalek not just as a killing machine but we also understand why it does what it does. We don't forgive it, but in the end, we understand the choice that must be made.
And yet in all of this, Shearman avoids the de-fanging of the Daleks too much. I was worried that we might get an "I, Borg" like story in which the audience is made to feel a lot of sympathy for a previously heartless, ruthless monster that was presented on screens. And while we did understand a bit more about what makes a Dalek a Dalek, I didn't ever feel like Shearman was trying to make them cute, cuddly and better understood. Yes, it was sad when the Dalek was destroyed, but because of the fact that it felt it had to destroy itself for being unpure. The conflict within it was great... from a brutal killing machine to one that realizes it is the last of its race and the universe just might be better off without it. That all resonated and worked well.
And visually, it was nice to see the new modern Daleks get to be full 360 action mode, go up stairs and open the hatch to reveal the mutant inside. This is exactly the right way to take advantage of the new modern effects.
All that alone would have been almost enough. But there was more.
Just as the series comes into its own, Christopher Eccleston comes into his own as the Doctor in this story. He's been good up to this point, but he kicks it into a whole near gear here. When the Doctor first encounters the Dalek in the bunker, we see terror and fear in him. This is countered moments later when the Dalek reveals it has no power to weapons, leading to the Doctor taunting it, teasing it and berating it. Over the course of the episode, we see the Doctor run the gamut from being grilled by Van Statten for information on the Dalek to his anger and hatred at the Dalek, as well as his insistence that it must be destroyed. The scene with the Doctor and the Dalek trading barbs that ends with the Dalek saying the Doctor would make a good Dalek was chilling.
It also brings up the question, Has the Doctor become little better than his greatest enemies? Has he walked too far on the dark side and now become what he so long fought to stop?
We get some confirmation of a lot of things. The Time War was fought by the Time Lords and the Daleks. Both sides are now gone. The Doctor was somehow responsible for this. We know from Remembrance of the Daleks that the Doctor destroyed Skaro. (Thankfully we don't have to deal with the retcon of John Peel here... I can blissfully pretend it never happened!) And we get the confirmation that the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. (Though you have to wonder if the Master is still skulking about the universe and if he'd count as a Time Lord any more between his stealing the source of Traken to keep alive and his encounter with the Cheetah people.)
All of the show worked. Every last second of it. I was hooked, glued to the TV for 45 minutes and sorry when it ended... because I wanted more and I wanted it now.
And I haven't even gone into how great the supporting cast was. Van Statten was well realized. He reminded me a bit of some a Professor Stahlman from Inferno... a character who can't see beyond his own vanity and agenda to the overall picture until it's far too late. And Anna-Louise Plowman as Goddard was a nice touch as well. And we even got a new companion in Adam. I admit we got to see just enough of him to interest me and make me smile that he chose to go aboard the TARDIS.
So, I guess you can say I loved this episode. And I did. It's everything that the new Doctor Who should be and more. It's easily one of the top ten episodes of the entire show's run and it joins the ranks of Curse of Fenric and Caves of Androzani as one of the true greats of Doctor Who.
Dalek Downer! by Ron Mallett 13/8/05
Australian fans were able to watch the return of the Daleks to TV this Saturday night - or at least something approximating one of them. The imaginatively titled story Dalek by Rob Shearman went on to prove that we are in fact not watching Doctor Who at all, but what I have christened, "Whoenders".
Yes we have witnessed the very first SNAD (Sensitive New Age Dalek) that doesn't really want to kill, just get a bit of sun. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny. Was anyone really at all surprised at what the Doctor found chained up in the bunker in the dark? Last weeks promo and the opening title was probably a big clue! The story is in fact a rehash of Rob Shearman's Big Finish audio story, Jubilee featuring Colin Baker and Maggie Stables. But that isn't the only story that has been cannibalised is it? The concept of alien technology being warehoused and exploited for profit and power was explored in the novel Business Unusual by Gary Russell. Also the idea of introducing a human factor into a Dalek was originally explored in the season five adventure (classic series) The Evil of the Daleks. If it hadn't been placed on TV it probably would have been slammed as bad fan fiction.
In order to pitch the show to the shallow Big Brother generation, personal interrelationships were once again a primary focus. And that wasn't at all reserved to the interaction between Doctor and companion, but companion and Dalek! Cringeful exchanges such as: "At least I have met a human who wasn't afraid" and "You would make a good Dalek" had me personally pulling by shirt over my head in embarrassment. At last we have discovered what Terry Nation's estate were so upset about. I'd be outraged to see the story published online, let alone broadcast internationally so that it will no doubt be considered canon by the easily suggestible.
The "original" content of the plot - although very little - did push the barriers of credibility so far that only six year olds with a unhealthy grasp of the laws of physics could have been convinced by it. The idea that just touching the Dalek casing could allow it to regenerate itself is ridiculous and so is it being able to regenerate the metal that constituted its armour. The character, van Statten, (the latest cliched megalomaniac who doesn't realise the threat until it's too late) was appallingly conceived and realised. The only truly realistic moment was when he was heard deliberating over who was going to be the next American President. Although in real life we know that the conversation would probably take place between Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch!
There were the odd good points. Eccleston continues to improve as the Doctor and did well to exhibit a more homicidal side to his Doctor's personality. There were the occasional moments of humour including the hilarious "hairdryer" incident! Furthermore the redesigned Dalek was truly impressive. The "elevation" and "Dalek suicide scenes" were visually superb. I'm sorry though, the sucker still looks like a sink plunger. The entire exercise was well-directed by Joe Ahearne. Murray Gold's incidental music complemented the script very well.
So what went wrong? The problem with this story has been fundamental to the entire series and is a two-part one. The emphasis is on relationships and not science-fiction adventure. Even the story titles betray this: instead of something traditional like "Attack of the Autons" we got Rose, instead of "Invasion of the Daleks" we are to get Parting of the Ways. Valuable minutes are wasted by interaction that is aimed at people who enjoy Neighbours. The second part of the problem is the format. So much has to be squeezed into 45 minutes. In Dalek for instance the Doctor goes from being tied up and tortured to being fully dressed and into the action again in less than 10 seconds. Now I realise that it is just artistic compression of time but it jars. In the old days he would have been restrained for at least half-an episode. Also there would have been time to have a rational explanation for the way the Dalek breaks free and is repaired. The blame for at least the first part of this catastrophe has to be laid at the hands of Executive Producer, Russell T. Davies himself.
We can at least look forward to having a companion with a realistic personality and the great Simon Pegg in the next episode...
Reaches the parts old Who couldn't... by Thomas Cookson 31/10/05
I remember vividly the first time I watched Dalek, how involved I was and how dark coloured and sensory and disturbing it all was. And I remember standing up and giving applause literally at the end of it. And the more I rewatched it, the better it got.
The portrayal of the Doctor throughout the old and new series has sometimes veered from the trustworthy center of him whenever issues of death and the need for using violence arises. The First Doctor and the Sixth had been known to abuse our trust by being the only Doctors who have ever physically maltreated their companions. The Second and Seventh have been known to treat the innocent as expendable in their crusade against evil in episodes like Remembrance of the Daleks, Evil of the Daleks (leading the humanised Daleks to their destruction) and Tomb of the Cybermen (booby-trapping the eponymous Tomb for future archaeologists). The Third and the Fifth on the other hand have veered to the other side of the coin in their peace-loving and sometimes naive nature, which does compromise our trust as their reluctance to use violence makes them an inactive and poor protector of innocents. Overall it is the Fourth Doctor who is perhaps the most trustworthy Doctor.
This episode plays on the darker Doctor in a very heavy way. The Doctor has often become something of the anti-Doctor when he is up against the Daleks. In fact his violent behaviour here is not so different to his behaviour in Power of the Daleks. To introduce a new audience to the Doctor's conflict with the Daleks, it was perhaps necessary to involve the destruction of Gallifrey in order to give the Doctor's cavalier homicidal attitude something more immediately sympathetic behind his motives.
I also like the way they reminded us early on of the Doctor's gentle nature when he caresses the alien musical instrument and it plays that lovely cosmic homesick blues melody (reminiscent of some of the melancholy music of the show's early black and white days) that seems to characterise the Doctor's sadness without saying it out loud. It seems that the writer Rob Shearman carefully made it so that every scene counted.
The story in many ways feels like it was inspired by a dream - the Alien Museum with Cybermen heads and a harmless but screaming Dalek feels like a very subverted view of a Doctor Who exhibition, and the point where the Dalek comes alive is the climax where it becomes a nightmare (and in that, making the appearance of the Dalek a surprise despite the title actually works).
Then suddenly the nightmare seems to fold and it becomes not the Doctor's nightmare, but the Dalek's nightmare, with the Doctor as the sub-human monster tormentor abusing his power over the helpless survivor. The Doctor goes mad before our eyes, spewing a dangerous hatred that knows no bounds. The Doctor/Dalek confrontation is like no other in the old series - for one thing the directing is up-close and in-your-face as the Doctor rants and fills the Dalek's vision and ears with his bile, his nose barely an inch from the eye stick- deliberately, pushing the boundaries of his ancient fear, saying cruel and sadistic things he has never said before with frenetic confidence. The Doctor doesn't win with dialogue like he used to, he doesn't even try, he simply throws the switch.
We remain unsympathetic to the Doctor's hatred for most of the episode- any potential sympathies to his trauma over the Time War is largely overshadowed by his cruelty and volatility. And so we find ourselves rooting the Dalek on for the first time as it dispatches its sadistic torturer Simmons and blasts the guards who held it captive. The defining moment comes when DeMaggio claims an advantage on the stairwell and tries to bargain with the Dalek "I accept that we imprisoned you, and maybe that was wrong, but people have died." And in making the Dalek as a victim of torture - an allegory to the Guantanamo Bay events - it creates the idea that violence and killing is the only escape, the only way to let the world know what was done behind closed doors.
Van Statten was truly despicable, and the more I watch him, the more I love to hate him. His chauvinism and arrogance, his complete disaffection to the suffering and the dying. In typically obnoxious fashion he breaks into this dialogue between the Doctor and the Dalek - their private little war which in a way demands to be treated privately. Van Statten thinks of himself as entitled to dialogue with the Dalek - but in a strange way, only the Doctor has the Dalek's 'respect' for want of a better word. The Dalek respects its old foe and perhaps secretly the Doctor respects the Dalek for its intelligence, for being a worthy and resillient adversary, and is perhaps grateful for a second fight of it - perhaps has an inner grin when the Dalek decodes the lock or explains its way of regenerating itself- glad that the stakes are raised yet again and he can finally define himself once more against his enemy and the challenge it presents.
I must say that I was initially disappointed that the Time War was a past event. I knew that the Daleks had been behind the destruction of Gallifrey, as well as the Nestene and Gelth homeworlds, and this initially upped the suspense, because it seemed like the Dalek Empire was more powerful than ever, busting planets in its relentless wake - that the war was still ongoing and that the adventures we'd seen so far were merely a retreat for the Doctor into the safety zones - which are easy enough to find if you're a time traveller, a bit of needed leave before having to finally fight the Daleks again.
So it seemed terrible news that the Time War had ended off screen and that there was in-fact no more Dalek Empire. But to compensate, this episode offered a small scale recreation of the Time War- the battle of equal forces, the psychological effects of the war relayed in big colours.
Whilst the Dalek's respect for the Doctor perhaps gives way to a need, it is unable to deal with the loneliness and the lost purpose of being the last of its kind. After all the Doctor is the only one on Earth who understands Dalek ways. We can sometimes wonder about the Doctor's ability and willingness to achieve a detente with his enemies, and like to think that if a killer changed its ways and asked the Doctor for help, he'd give it as long as he didn't suspect he was being fooled. But he is given the perfect oppurtunity to order the Dalek to stand down and stop its campaign of extermination and conquest. But the begging Dalek clutching at his feet fills him with too much revulsion and he spits back "Kill yourself! Why don't you just die!" and things get so much more dangerous because the Doctor has made it so volatile now.
In so many ways this is one episode which makes me slightly more angry than before at how the Daleks were frequently treated in the old series, belittling their supposed invincible power. In fact, I think overall the only stories to treat them with this level of respect were The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Power of the Daleks, Genesis and Resurrection.
Death to the Daleks sees a Dalek destroyed by a bunch of peasants with sticks, Planet and Remembrance sees the Daleks reduced to canon fodder in worrying numbers. Here a single Dalek manages to wade through hundreds of soldiers and thousands of bullets and remain unscratched, it remains physically and psychologically robust. The quick reply to the Doctor's taunt - "You would make a good Dalek!" - is brilliant, not just because of the Doctor's reaction, but because it says a lot about Dalek's alien psychology - that even when indecisive with the absence of orders, a Dalek does not become self-doubting or confused, it does not have self-esteem issues due to being so reviled and does not become scared by someone's intention to kill it when the power is not within their hands, and it remains able to make unclouded quick and sharp, fact-based observations and voice them - basicaly you cannot mind-f*** a Dalek. Which is one reason why I think the worst humiliation of a Dalek was that clumsy, mumbling Dalek, "erm"ing every other systems readout in The Chase.
So with the angry passion, up close direction, and mind games of this caliber, the episode seems to be able to touch the many parts that old Doctor Who couldn't reach. Another is the proliferation of imagery in the episode - the Doctor coming to the Cyberman head and his face being reflected over it, the Dalek being covered in sprinkler-water and appearing as though it is crying. The talk of the man who touched the Dalek and burst into flames, the Doctor talking of ships on fire and the Dalek later setting off the fire alarm - it is so much more sensory than the old series - you can smell the action, the heat, the electricity, the rust, the death. There's also the Doctor placing his fingers on the capinet setting off the alarm - how physical touch represents chaos and anarchy, pre-figuring how Rose touching the Dalek would release it, and in turn how Rose touching the baby of herself in Father's Day would accelerate the paradox and in turn how the Empty Child transforms all who touch him.
It makes me think back and wonder if the series has ever really used this kind of imagery and metaphor before, which it occasionally has - talking about Darwinian evolution over a soup dinner (primordial soup- geddit) in Ghost Light, the fog in Horror of Fang Rock representing the blind ignorance of the Victorian characters in it, the close up of the Dalek in Genesis of the Daleks as it delivers its monologue of its divine right to rule, with the organs in the air, making the Dalek upper section resemble a cathedral of some kind - like Paddy's Wigwam - as it delivers a sermon from hell.
But I'm digressing. The scene where the Doctor believes that Rose has died really convinced me - in a way it was the only point where Jackie's "Ten Seconds" goodbye scene at the end of World War Three seemed to pay off - the fear that it meant that maybe Rose could never come back. Of course this moment became devalued very quickly by Russell's incessant revisiting of Jackie and Mickey as though we need to be told repeatedly that Rose's leaving has consequences for those left behind.
But this episode continued to delight. I love the fact that the Doctor, given a second chance lets Rose go - defying any common Hollywood cinematic notions of 'sacrifices for a greater good' that are simply espouted for us to get a kick out of. I love the fact that the story waits until the final confrontation to allow us to sympathise with the Doctor and appreciate all that he has lost, and at least manages to finally regain his integrity, and his compassion shines like a birthscream as he quietly gives his sincere sympathies to the mutating Dalek.
Rose of course represents the common people who feel we've never had it so good and never had such an open-minded and positive outlook as we do today. She encourages Gwyneth in The Unquiet Dead to be a bit more liberated and extrovert, like modern women. She assumes if women think the same way as her, they'll be happy - with the idea of thinking the same way as her, being an initially innocent idea for sharing confidence. But even Gwyneth's telepathic abilities, which allow her to understand our modern world, do not encourage Gwyneth to be anything less than shocked, appalled and frightened of our modern world. In the same way here, Rose assumes that a Dalek learning human compassions can only be a good thing, not realising that the Dalek is mentally incapable of dealing with our indecisiveness, our complexed opinions and morals, our depression. For me that was very psychologically inspired.
I also loved how the Doctor/companion split over the Daleks was a complete reversal to the famous scene in Genesis between the Doctor and Sarah.
If I have to pick at some faults or niggles that bothered me, I'd have to say I was okay with the stereotypical American characters but the contrived flirting between Adam and Rose really took the biscuit, to say nothing of Bruno Langley's bad acting ruining an otherwise perfect cast-list (especially since a perfect cast list is rare enough in Doctor Who), and Adam's tendency to use dumbed down dialogue unbecoming of a gifted 'genius', like "It's just a big metal eye-thing" I'm not convinced that Rose could dissuade the angry, tortured Dalek from killing Van Statten, based simply on it becoming humanised - let's face it, most humans would have killed him. Furthermore, I absolutely detested the blatantly petty bickering between Rose "Oh please bring Adam with us" and the Doctor "I'm not having some pretty boy into the TARDIS" (which unfortunately is damn near word for word what he said) which ends with the Doctor relenting, making the scene pointless. A damn shame because it nearly killed the serious overtones of the episode, crucifying a great bitter final line like "I'm the only one left - I 'win'! How about that eh?"
But that aside this is near enough my favourite episode of the new series and incidentally I think it makes a cracking companion piece to Genesis.
"You would make a good Dalek" by Damon Didcott 7/4/06
I always get the feeling from others that Dalek is a story I should love, whereas all I can actually say is I like it. It didn't feel quite 'classic' when I watched it at the time, and seeing it again now confirms that in my eyes. I had to sit down and have a serious think about why this should be when so many others rave about it.
Then I realised it was Van Statten. Just how ludicrous is this man and this situation? Just 6 years into the future and here we have a man that apparently owns the entire Internet (could you do something about the pop-up ads, Henry?), has the technology to have someone's memory completely wiped and also have them quietly disappear from public records without anyone noticing, has his own private army and massive base-cum-museum, and can have the President of the United States removed from power whenever he feels like it. He can even pick who the successor is going to be, voters and media be damned. Silly? Wait, there's more. Despite the formidable business acumen and shrewd mind all this lot must've taken to amass (it's hardy the kind of stuff you'd just inherit from a rich dad after all), as soon as there's a crisis then of course he reverts into Panicky Whiny Man with terrible judgement and no leadership whatsoever.
I'm searching around for some kind of realistic thread to cling on to here, but he's basically pure cartoon-character through and through. And to top it off this man, this virtual Emperor of the Earth with every single resource and contact at his fingertips, is ousted from this position of power and his base filled in with cement "as if it never existed" within the space of about an hour due to the Dalek's attack. Not exactly a shining textbook of crisis management, is it? His aide informs him that "200 personnel" are dead. Your average team of lawyers would laugh in the face of this problem and Van Statten would come out smelling of roses. Just for one example, Van Statten wasn't the one that inadvertently allowed it to regenerate and set it free after all, was he? M'lud, may I call a Miss Rose Tyler to the stand? It's such a convenient pat ending.
It's funny... I can perfectly accept some guy with a cardboard-and-glitter outfit and a silly hat as the Lord High President of Whatever Planet because he's an alien in an alien culture and world where things could well be different. But when you're dealing with humans in human society, especially a society just 6 years removed from the current one in this case, ahhh, that's trickier. There's a certain extra level of effort needed to make an interesting and believable bad guy, which Dalek just doesn't bother with.
Would it really have hurt so much to just have the guy as a very rich private collector rather than all this ruling-the-world-in-my-spare-time moonshine? And yes, I know Van Statten is hardly the only paper-thin characterisation of a powerful businessman/ruler to appear in Doctor Who, but then it annoys me in those stories as well as this one. And he's no easily-sidelined minor villain here either. He's got a lot of scenes and dialogue, pushing and shoving his way into equal airtime as the Doctor and the Dalek and therefore deserves to be evaluated on the same level as them. And he falls totally flat. When he's on the screen, I want him to be off it. He's an unbelievable character, in an unbelievable situation, with an unbelievable fate. Bah!
Blimey, that's some good rant building up there. It might well seem a mountain out of a molehill, but it's like having the Doctor face off against the Cybermen in a bouncy castle. You still get Doctor vs. Cyberman, but the setting is so stupid that it detracts from the drama. Mind you, doesn't sound like a bad idea now I think about it...
Having verbally ripped this 'third wheel' to shreds, what about the other two wheels? Thankfully, they are the reason why I still think this story is a good one.
This is one of the best stories for Eccleston's Ninth Doctor. He's in his element here, launching himself full-bore into the intensity and anger and hate, not afraid to make the Doctor look bad to make a point. He rails against the Dalek and its whole reason for existence, his despair and horror and bitterness about the events of the Time War. There's some serious repressed emotion and anger here (and some of it not so repressed) at what happened both there and in all the Doctor's previous encounters with the Daleks, and it makes him much more willing to shoot first and not even bother to ask questions later. His first scene with the Dalek in the cell is especially a treat, the real hub of the plot and Eccleston gives it his all, ranting and raving at the Dalek yet often with this haunted hollow expression crossing his face as he relieves the Time War's outcome, the war that left him with some serious mental scars. It's a great showcase for the darker side of the Ninth Doctor.
Rose is cast in the form of his conscience, her ignorance about what the Daleks have done and are truly capable of doing allowing her to nonetheless see the individual rather than the Dalek race in general. And in doing so, she's able to save the Doctor from something he'll regret. Unfortunately the whole romance subplot with Adam is a lot less convincing, with Adam himself coming across like Adric-lite in conception. I certainly appreciate the plot twist of having him abandoned as a companion almost immediately, partly due to the novelty but also due to the guy just never seeming to fit in. The Doctor clearly doesn't like him either.
The re-imagination of the Dalek is tremendous. Almost all of the original look is kept while giving it more of an industrial nuts 'n' rivets look, adding a lot to the feeling of the Dalek being like a war tank. The new gadgets of the spinning middle section and heat shield work well and look good, convincing as upgrades made by the Dalek race, and they even manage to make the sink plunger a lot more useful than before. The blue light from the eyestalk is also stark and quite creepy, another neat idea. The regenerative capability certainly comes out of left field but I can let that slide, it makes for a great moment when Rose accidentally gives it the means to escape. Nick Briggs provides the voice to commendable effect, playing off Eccleston particularly well and making the Dalek ruthlessly murderous yet ultimately pitiable. The script works hard at making this single Dalek capable of taking on an army and winning, and succeeds. Got to smile at the line about how it "absorbed the Internet" though... given all the pop-ups, porn and viruses the poor thing would've been packed with, it could've been forgiven for whizzing about in a circle screaming "I can't stand the confusion in my miiiiiiiiind!!"
Joe Ahearne does a good job as the director, keeping the camera moving about well while making sure the action remains nice and clear. Murray Gold's music is pretty good on the action scenes, but he does seem to pour on more syrup than necessary when it comes to the emotional bits, the death of the Dalek in particular. The 'soap opera' emotional subplots in New Who have attracted criticism but after re-watching all of it I think it's mainly Murray over-egging it on the music at these points that really overdoes it. The Cyberhead cameo is a cute touch, as is the Slitheen arm, and (so long as you haven't seen the trailer) the first full reveal of the Dalek as it screams at the Doctor is breathtakingly cool.
So, in conclusion?
It would be easy to give them a free pass when it comes to Van Statten and just wow at the Doctor and Dalek snarling at each other, but Henry really does grate with me. I also find it tips over a bit too far into sentimentality when the end of the Dalek arrives, feebly waving his little tentacles at the sunlight while Murray grasps for every violin (and heartstring) available. It knocked me too far, from 'feeling sad' into 'feeling manipulated into feeling sad', something I couldn't say for the better-written Father's Day as an example. I also think it ends up getting trumped a fair bit by the later Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways, which features much, much more Dalek action while also providing decent emotional impetus in the Emperor Dalek's verbal battles with the Doctor and the pretty chilling realisation of those Daleks being driven into religious insanity. That's just as spooky as a Dalek with part-human DNA, maybe more so.
But I don't want to end this review on a downer, especially when I still say this is most definitely a good story and well worth your time. It revitalizes the Daleks and gives us more insight into the Time War. You get powerful confrontations, some real shading of the Doctor's character, nifty action scenes and an all-singing all-dancing Dalek taking on an army by itself. It'll entertain you and give you something to think about, and you can't say fairer than that.
Rating - 7/10 (GOOD)
A Review by Finn Clark 19/4/06
There were lots of things I loved about the Eccleston season, among them the "Next Episode" trailers. At their best they liquified my brain and reduced me to a pile of quivering anticipation, as with the one after Rose which teased us with The End of the World. I'd like to discuss the reasons why Dalek is far more thrilling and primal as a trailer than a complete episode.
The thing about the Daleks is that they're Doctor Who's ultimate evil. They're hate-filled murder machines who live for extermination. That's their reputation... but you can't rely on reputation alone. You have to show it. After some thought I've decided that I don't have a problem with Dalek's script, but I'm not completely happy with the direction. Oddly the flashy production values are a hindrance. The production team are having a little too much fun with their CGI-assisted Dalek. They linger on their money shots. The battle scenes are languid instead of brutal. If you're going to show a Dalek single-handedly slaughtering a small army, make it a bloodbath! Admittedly its first murder is funny and the death of the girl on the stairs is chilling, but overall I'd have liked to see more sadistic direction. On rewatching the battle scenes became an exercise in suspense, of all things. They keep you waiting for the death.
I'm not even sure that the Dalek itself was well shot. Daleks don't look great in long shot or in extreme close-up, especially with the busy redesign. Three-quarter shots are best, preferably low-angle to make them look big and bulky. Nevertheless Russell T. Davies & co. deserve praise for resurrecting the Daleks and resisting the urge to modernise them beyond recognition. (Who remembers the designs for the series that would have spun off from McGann's 1996 TVM?) These Daleks exemplify the kind of simple visual design that Eccleston's season seemed to be aiming for throughout and I admire that.
Admittedly the new Dalek abilities are cool. A bullet-dissolving forcefield, swivelling body sections, skirt ball destruction, flight and a comedy use for the sucker arm... The industrial look and the servo noises when it moves are fun too. The only thing I disliked was Nick Briggs's voice for it. I often couldn't hear the dialogue! The worst example is, "Are you rightened, Rose Tyler?" which had me rewinding the DVD and playing it again. Yes, there should be an F in there.
However when it came to the Daleks, the 2005 season got one important thing right: characterisation. Daleks aren't robots. On the contrary they're arrogant, bloody-minded and mentally unbalanced. Look at the swaggering, almost sadistic way this one takes its time about killing the soldiers, which may even be also why it follows Rose and Adam up the stairs instead of zipping straight up the stairwell. As the Doctor says, "It wants us to watch." Both of this season's Dalek stories even turned their racism and psychological problems into plot points! For me, that's worth a lot.
No less importantly, this was Eccleston's first episode with an imposing foe, death on all sides and hardly a single joke. We knew from the previous week's trailer that things would get bloody. I may find the episode lacking on a Neanderthal "Ug want fight" level, but I can't pretend that it doesn't raise the stakes. Rob Shearman and Christopher Eccleston both go to great lengths to scare us with the possibilities if the Dalek gets loose.
It's a big episode for both Eccleston and Piper, who knock it out of the park. The guest characters are fine if you're not sensitive about American accents, but it's the Dalek who really matters. As for the ending with Adam, that shocked me even on rewatching. It's so unexpected, especially after years and years in the novels where you practically had to drive a stake through the editor's heart to get certain characters out of the TARDIS. That was fun. I like being surprised. Interestingly Adam is portrayed from the beginning as being out of step with Rose and the Doctor, for example thinking it's funny that when he was eight he nearly started World War Three.
I enjoyed little things. For once an SF character doesn't get underneath a slowly closing bulkhead! Even more surprisingly, the Dalek's not just spouting cliches with its accusations of "We are the same" and "You would make a good Dalek". You get it all the time. The villain tells the hero that he's just like him and we're supposed to gasp at the profundity of this daring moral statement. However in this case the Dalek has a point. Both it and the Doctor are the sole survivors of their respective sides of the Time War and neither of them can handle the knowledge. "They're all dead." "Why do we survive?"
This story has memorably been called "Dalek porn", but I'm not sure I agree. "Dalek wank" might be more accurate, given that the production team are having way too much fun in a way that doesn't necessarily involve the audience. "Dalek porn" for me would let rip with buckets of blood as the Daleks tore the universe a new arsehole. (Hmmm. Not the most delicate imagery to use alongside the word "porn".) This episode might have disappointed people who just wanted to see Daleks being the ultimate villains. This one wasn't even a baddie, except in an involuntary genetically-programmed way.
However on an emotional level it's impressive. It makes you feel sorry for a Dalek, which is quite an achievement. I'd have had more fun with a more lowbrow story, but I think it was important that we got something like this by this point in the season. In addition it satisfies an important criteria: "Some people will adore it." No one wants Doctor Who that's merely okay... well, BBC Books excepted, but that's a whole other rant. Such a show would have curled up and died, unwatched and unmourned. No, we want a show that's always interesting and occasionally brilliant, except that everyone will be citing different episodes in that latter category. Dalek may not be my idea of the ultimate Dalek story, but it wasn't trying to be. It knows what it wants to achieve and it sets about the task with confidence and not a little flair.
A Review by Joseph Gillis 12/9/07
After the first five episodes with good plots, this came and wiped just about every episode of the revived series out of the park. This episode had the potential to be one of the best episodes of Doctor Who and, in my opinion, only The Dalek Invasion of Earth and Earthshock actually beat it.
This episode, as the title suggests, reintroduces the Dalek(s) to the series, but this time, only one is here. The new Daleks look very sleek and good and I'm glad they did that - if they changed the design at all, it just wouldn't be the Daleks. This Dalek's character introduces a new level of sympathy for these killing machines, and I just couldn't help but fell sorry for the Dalek who absorbed the Human Factor (yes, I'm gonna call it that).
All of the actors shine here, so I may be a while talking about them, leaving the best till last. Rose is great this series, and this episode may be her finest performance as she comes to sympathise with the Dalek. Corey Johnson did well as Henry van Statten, making him a dangerous buisness megalomaniac and still bringing a more human aspect. Bruno Langley was good as Adam Mitchell in this episode, which is more than can be said for The Long Game, as he was really stupid in the next episode. The one who truly stole the show was Christopher Eccleston, yet again. His humour was taken aside in this episode for a new level of seriousness and it really did well in establishing his version of the Doctor.
Also, I really liked the Cyberman cameo at the beginning, as it gave us a hint of what was to come in one of the better episodes of Series Two. It was also nice to see the old-school Cyberman helmet again, and it looked really good.
Overall, it's the best episode of the revived Doctor Who ever and easily one of the best 5 episodes of the entire program!
A Review by Brian May 6/3/11
The return of the Daleks for the new series of Doctor Who seems such an obvious move, but it almost didn't happen during negotiations with Terry Nation's estate. Thankfully it did, for it would have been unthinkable not to have at least one adventure featuring the monsters synonymous with the programme almost from day one.
So, how exactly should it have been done? Well, we could have had Rampage of the Daleks, or Invasion of the Daleks, or Davros Rants and Schemes While the Daleks Invade and Rampage. But instead we have just one of them. A lone soldier, cut off from its squad, a helpless prisoner tortured by its captor. We have a succinct, unambiguous title: Dalek. The basic idea is not original, but this doesn't matter much for the occasion. Robert Shearman has adapted his own audio play, Jubilee, although this is far simpler. Jubilee also has a Dalek being held prisoner by humans, but ventures into realms of complexity and weirdness typical of the author, suitable for the niche market that is Big Finish but not a BBC1 timeslot and a show still reinventing itself. The Dalek presence had been announced before airing, so no shocks or surprises, a very smart move on the part of Russell T. Davies to allow for as much publicity as possible.
And it all works wonderfully.
The Dalek looks and sounds fantastic. Thankfully, the original iconic design has been adhered to and Nicholas Briggs deserves his place as their voice of the 21st century. Joe Ahearne's direction is exquisite, the first time I can really say this about the 2005 series so far. The previous stories were professionally helmed but at best perfunctory; nowhere did we see the flair of a Camfield, Maloney or Harper, who all worked wonders with a lot less time and money. Ahearne is the first of the new series directors who can join this honour roll. He gives the story a very cinematic look and the Dalek imagery is spectacular, from the initial point-of-view shots, the amazing revelation of the creature in chains (for some reason there's something very disturbing about this), and the excellent camera movements as it follows the freed creature through the complex - and it doesn't need to be shot from a low-angle to make it frightening! I'm even willing to forgive the in-jokes about pepperpots, stair-climbing, aiming for the eyepiece and especially the plunger jibe; death-by-sucker is actually quite gruesome.
A Dalek has never been what you could call a proper character, but that all changes here, and it's a key one at that, sharing centre stage with the Doctor as more of the Davies vision for the programme is unveiled. We learn more about the Time War. (I'm not going to delve into issues of continuity and canonicity, especially when it comes to Stephen Cole's EDA Future War story arc. Some of the well-versed die-hard Who fans may be disappointed - Daleks v. Time Lords is rather simplistic - but, once again, the more intricate scenarios need to be played down for a more broad target audience.) The Doctor and the Dalek are ostensibly the sole survivors of the War, both the last of their kind. The Doctor has been changed by his experience, and it's possible he's still standing due to less than honourable means; when the Dalek calls him a coward, he quickly changes the subject.
I like this take on the programme's hero, suggesting a darker side similar to Andrew Cartmel in the 1980s. If this were a novel it would be prefaced with Nietzsche's abyss quotation, a la Kate Orman; the way the Doctor taunts the captive Dalek is a great case in point, backed up by the reactions of both his companion and his enemy. The former asks what he is changing into, while the latter delivers a killer line: "You would make a good Dalek." This dynamic is terrific, reminiscent and worthy of David Whitaker's two efforts. The Doctor states that a Dalek is honest: its exterminating rampage once free is simply the creature being true to its nature, while humanity shows itself to be most inhuman. The viewer is challenged, almost provoked, into feeling sympathy for the Dalek, especially as it's tortured. Then there's its identity crisis which culminates brilliantly as it is offered the chance to become something else; through its interaction with Rose it is tempted with pity and compassion. But ultimately it rejects them, as should be the case, for Terry Nation's original vision of them has to be kept faithful to.
I've been full of praise for Christopher Eccleston from the beginning, and I have no cause to change tack here. In Dalek he perfects the balance between fear and righteous anger, keeping the humour to an appropriate minimum. Billie Piper is similarly excellent and I've already commented on Nicholas Briggs. However, the main problem facing the story is that because of the focus on these three individuals, all the other characters are ignored; not badly acted per se (except for Anna-Louise Plowman as Goddard; the quirky way she's pitching her performance just doesn't work) but fairly caricatured. And I wasn't too happy on seeing Adam step into the TARDIS at the end. Do we really need another Adric, no matter how updated he is?
But these quibbles aside, this is a great episode. Dalek reintroduces one of the programme's icons in a stylish and intelligent way, continuing a run of high quality stories. 9/10
What use are emotions if you will not save the woman you love? by Evan Weston 2/5/13
Think about this for a second. This was the sixth episode of New Who ever broadcast. The show was still in its infancy; it certainly wasn't the cultural phenomenon that it is today. People still thought of Doctor Who as a niche "geek" show rather than something everyone can enjoy. There is no reason that Dalek should be anything more than just good. Instead, it's the best episode of new Doctor Who created by anyone, ever.
Yes, I said it. I will not once in this retrospective praise an episode more than I am about to praise Dalek. Unless you want to nitpick at an extreme level, it's flawless. Powerful, scary, touching, inventive, tragic, all in one. The credit for all this goes primarily to three men: Robert Shearman, Joe Ahearne, and Christopher Eccleston.
Shearman's script is insanely good. Like, too good to be true. When I was trying to choose a title for the review, it took me well over 20 minutes to select a quote, because there are so many good ones. But it's not just the lines that are superb; the plot is ingenious. The action never leaves the bunker, and it's a great twist on the base-under-siege story, in that the base is under siege from the inside. It's paced perfectly, too. About 15 minutes are spent setting up the Dalek mythology and getting everyone ready for its inevitable breakout. Then it happens (and not how you'd expect), and the tension mounts as the Dalek climbs higher and higher in the base. Then the third act kicks off with the emotional bulkhead scene - not something I thought I'd ever write - and the finale is absolutely wonderful.
And the plotting carries over with the emotion. Sometimes in Davies Who, it feels like the character moments are separate from the plot, and they just sort of happen. Here, everything is tied directly into the storyline, and it's better for it. It's the best Doctor-Rose story ever, for one. The Doctor, normally cool and confident, goes insane when he sees the Dalek, and his hatred begins to morph him into a monster. Only someone as pure as Rose could stop him from killing the monster, and you can actually pinpoint the moment the Doctor falls in love with her. "Oh, Rose," he says, and you know exactly what he means.
Shearman's brilliant story is only augmented by the equally brilliant direction of Joe Ahearne. I should have praised Euros Lyn back in my The End of the World review, because he's a good director and he deserves credit, but Ahearne takes him to school in Dalek. The mood is set so perfectly through tight close-ups, slow zooms and a general feel of intimacy. These characters are stuck together throughout the episode, and the direction conveys that wonderfully. Ahearne and cinematographer Ernie Vincze also do a phenomenal job making the Dalek scary. The close-ups of the eyestalk are a nice nod to the terrifying HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the shots of the Dalek spinning around methodically and killing its prey are paced with extreme precision, showing just how meticulous the monster is. In fact, all the action scenes are great, particularly the scene where the Dalek kills over a dozen guards with just three shots.
I've said in the past that Christopher Eccleston is my favorite Doctor. He won that title with this episode. This is a career-defining performance from Eccleston, and probably the darkest the Doctor character goes until The Waters of Mars, at least. The Ninth Doctor has been teetering on the edge of morality throughout the series, and the Dalek takes him straight back to the Time War, in which, let's remember, he kills pretty much everyone. His shouting match with the Dalek in the cage is genuinely frightening, and his "Why don't you just die?!" over the intercom drops him right over the edge. "Lock and load," he says as he grabs a big alien gun, and for the first time in the show's history, you believe he's going to do it. Eccleston's sensational range sells every aspect of the Doctor's arc here, especially in the climactic sequence on Level One.
There is a name I forgot to mention in my introduction, and that's Nicholas Briggs. He's the voice behind the Daleks throughout the new series and, with the exception of the Series 1 finale, Dalek is the highlight of Briggs' career. He uses both a high and low register for the character, somehow jamming tons of emotion into monotone. Speaking of which, how great of a villain is the Dalek? The Davies era has a lot of really good villains, but there aren't many this good. The Dalek-as-Hannibal Lecter storyline works tremendously. This Dalek is probably the scariest of his race ever to appear on television, and he's just one soldier. The fact that he has an arc - yes, a Dalek with a character arc, and a pretty good one at that - makes it all the more compelling. The creature's transformation from pure killing machine to sympathetic victim is beautiful, and all the more shocking considering the character's identity in British pop culture. It doesn't hurt that the Dalek gets the best lines in the episode. "I am alone in the universe. So are you," "You would make a good Dalek," "This is not life, this is sickness," "Are you frightened, Rose Tyler? So am I." Briggs delivers these and more wonderfully, and creates arguably the best villain in the show's entire history.
There's plenty more I could praise here. Billie Piper is excellent as Rose, representing the good in all of us that shines through quite literally at the end of the story. Corey Johnson is solid as secondary villain Henry van Statten, who certainly earns his fate but is overshadowed by the tremendous Dalek. The production design is top-notch: the bunker is utterly believable and the Dalek itself looks fantastic in its new series form.
This has been my longest review so far, and I could go on twice as long about what an achievement this is. Dalek is the best new Doctor Who episode of all time, and though I haven't seen all the Classics, I haven't come across one yet that's as good as this. Furthermore, Dalek is one of the best single episodes of television ever. Packing tons of relevant emotional arcs and a terrific story into a heartbreaking, enrapturing, thrilling 45 minutes, Dalek takes Doctor Who to heights never seen before or since. Fantastic.