Dalek must have been the most eagerly anticipated episode of the new Doctor Who series after the Rose. It faced an uphill battle. The Dalek’s carry with them huge expectations, they are also a substantial liability. By taking the Dalek’s out of their usual environment and emphasizing just how dangerous a single Dalek can be they handled this superbly.
In order to make Daleks work for the new Doctor Who, the writers had to find a way to not only re-imagine them for a modern audience, but also to push them beyond their ham-fisted stereotype. We all know that the Daleks are “Nazis”. We know they come in and scream “Exterminate” but they have always lacked depth. In fact the Dalek story generally regarded as the best, Genesis of the Daleks, introduced a spokesperson for the Daleks precisely because of their limitations.
So with all that to work against, how did Dalek fair? Remarkably well actually. For a starter, the story was not just fast paced but genuinely tense in places. There were some emotional scenes as well and the time taken in earlier episodes to establish the close relationship between Rose and the Doctor really paid off here.
Visually this episode was wonderful. Past Doctor Who directors would love to have been able to do with the Daleks what they did here. This solitary, damaged (and insane) Dalek was powerful, unstoppable and scary. The scene where it levitates off the floor and electrocutes everyone in the room was breathtaking.
Not content with rehabilitating the Daleks, this story actually draws parallels between the Doctor and his arch-enemies. Once upon a time the Doctor refused to destroy the Daleks because he didn’t have the right. That was several regenerations ago. Since then he has destroyed their planet, they have destroyed his race and he apparently attempted genocide. At one point the Dalek remarks that the Doctor would make a good Dalek. It’s a shocking statement, and yet, it rings true.
The episode is not perfect mind you. Doctor Who has always had more than its share of technobabble and dubious science, but I think the notion of “absorbing the metabolism of a time traveler” to restore a Dalek may just take the cake. And we’d better not touch the notion of plugging into the electricity grid and sucking down all the information on the internet.
Over all though I think this is the strongest episode of what has been an impressive Doctor Who season so far and the teaser for the next week looks very interesting too.Eoghann Irving is amongst other things the creator and Editor of Solar Flare. He has a life long interest in all forms of science fiction and fantasy and a pressing need to share this interest with anyone who will listen. Find out more at his personal website eoghann.com..