Doctor Who 'Dalek' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

So far in the series we have only seen the return of one monster which were the autons in ‘Rose’, but that is about to change now as we head into the year 2012 in a museum of extra-terrestrial objects in Utah. This is the episode were we first encounter a Dalek.

Now this setup is excellent, it is our main heroes together with a couple of soldiers and executives in an underground museum – with a Dalek set out to kill them. It may sound like some kind of ‘Friday the 13th’ movie were the Dalek kill them off one by one but it is not like that at all. It is essentially just a showcase of what the Daleks can do and you need an episode like this in order for the new audience to understand why they are so dangerous. What really helps this premise too is that it is just one Dalek so we can truly see just how much damage one of them can do. If we were immediately introduced to a whole army of them then we may not be as threatened because we do not know what each of them are capable of. Now of course this episode is here to set up how big of a threat the Daleks are which helps out the tension in the finale two-parter immensely (a stroke of genius on Russell T Davies’ part).

This is the first and only episode written by Robert Shearman which is a shame because

this is an excellent screenplay in almost every aspect. The pacing is slow but never to the point where you feel it is dragging. Every scene is just as long as it needs to be in order to keep the audience’s attention. The dialogue is very sharp and the exposition is well delivered without feeling forced or contrived. I do wish Robert Shearman could one day return to the series but seeing as this episode came out over 10 years ago now, it does not feel very likely.

‘Dalek’ is also one of the best directed episodes of the season as it could almost pass for a
movie despite the TV limitations. Joe Ahearne (a regular for this season) makes this Dalek look truly terrifying with pretty much every shot of it being from a low angle. The eyestalk being a blue light makes its introduction in the dark very chilling even if you do not know what a Dalek is.

I know I have pretty much mentioned just how awesome Christopher Eccleston is in all my reviews of his episodes but I have to say it again, he is just excellent here. Delivering probably his greatest performance so far in the series (but not the best by the way). The scene where he talks to the Dalek through a monitor after it had just exterminated a whole room filled with guards is one of the best scenes of the entire season. Eccleston is able to show so many different emotions in the way he delivers his lines where he just flat out tells the Dalek to commit suicide. In fact all the scenes where the Doctor and the Dalek are talking are perfect. I will not talk much about Rose though as most of what she does heavily ties into my biggest problem which I will address next but just know that she is insufferable here.

There is however one surprisingly big problem with this episode though, the main message it is trying to convey is very weak and barely makes any sense. Basically what the message is, is that the Doctor will never stop trying to destroy the Dalek which introduces that he might become the very thing he is trying to kill. For a new viewer of the series it could work but for anyone who has seen an episode of the classic series with the Daleks you know that it is not just the Time War that made him hate the Daleks. The Daleks have done so much damage (destroying countless civilizations and even killing one of his companions). The Doctor knows the Daleks, he knows that they are driven completely by hate and is out to exterminate everything that is not Dalek. He has every single right imaginable to get rid of them completely but this episode paints him as the bad guy. Rose tells him “what about you Doctor? What the hell are you changing into?” when the Doctor tries to destroy it. This line just comes across as incredibly oblivious, she has no clue what the Daleks are capable of and has no right to talk to the Doctor this way but the episode still tries to make the audience side with her.

Out of the first six episodes it is definitely the strongest (and one of the best overall in the season). It is just a perfect showcase of why the Daleks are one of the best monsters in all of television while also telling a captivating story that may have a heavily flawed concept – is still great to watch and is one to remember. If you have not seen a single Dalek story then this is by far the best one to start out with. Exterminate, exterminate, exterminate.


- Lucas


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