“Dalek” – Review: Redux

Dalek: “I demand orders.”
The Doctor: “Well they’re never gonna come. Your race is dead. You all burned, all of you. Ten million ships on fire. The entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second.”
Dalek: “You lie.”
The Doctor: “I watched it happen. I made it happen.”
Dalek: “You destroyed us?”
The Doctor: “I had no other choice.”
Dalek: “And what of the Time Lords?”
The Doctor: “Dead. They burnt with you. The end of the last great Time War. Everyone lost.”

Dalek

Six days in, and I’m sticking with it. This retrospective series continues with a look back at episode six of the first series, “Dalek”, and it’s no big surprise who makes their reappearance in this one. However, it was not always going to be the case. As soon as the jubilation around the announcement of the commissioning had died down, one of the first questions asked was “Are the Daleks coming back?”, the production team wanted the answer to be in the affirmative but there was an obstacle. The rights to the Daleks were held, not by the BBC, but, by the Terry Nation estate and there was a huge amount of negotiation and behind the scenes shenanigans about the use of the famous pepperpots. It reached the point where news came out of BBC Wales that they had not secured the rights after all and a new monster would be used in the story in place of the Dalek.

Quite what this episode would have turned out to be like without the Skaro mutants, perhaps we’ll never know, but in the recently released Classic DVD “The Green Death: Special Edition” there is a documentary in the excellent ongoing series, Forever Doctor, in which Jane Tranter and RTD discuss the decision to bring back the Daleks in a mid-season story rather than up front in Episode One. Also, something interesting that is revealed is that Russell T Davies went on to recycle the alternative design and ideas they had in mind here, for the Series Three tale with the Toclafane. Writer Robert Shearman, who had based his idea for the episode “Dalek”, on the Big Finish audio drama “Jubilee”, probably had the worst phone call of his life when he was told he’d have the re-write the thing from scratch. Thankfully, the situation was finally resolved and we finally got to see one of my favourite ever episodes of Doctor Who.

The story revealed to us that the Time War, that had been mentioned in a number of previous stories, had been fought between the Time Lords and the Daleks, both races had been destroyed and (allegedly) only the Doctor and this Dalek had survived. This lead to some truly memorable scenes as the two foes faced off against one another but it might have been the Rose/Dalek story of sympathy, betrayal and redemption that stole the show. This cemented in my mind the fact that the Doctor and his companion now shared a genuine equality in the show’s narrative. The Doctor’s attempts to destroy the Dalek were thwarted and eventually it was Rose’s compassion for the mutating Dalek creature that had been infected with her own DNA, that persuaded the Doctor of the error of his ways. This fallibility in the Doctor was thoroughly endearing.

It was perhaps the script that was most memorable, for including a wonderful succession of goosebump-inducing, quotable lines. Again, I have heard criticism of the show that the scripts deliberately throw out these memorable missives at the expense of believable dialogue, but how can you argue with some of these: Rose (following some banter between van Statten and the Doctor: “Blimey, you can smell the testosterone”; (The Doctor in the dark of the cage, and two lights flick on), the Dalek’s simple first word: “Doc – tor?”; the Technician in  the cage (with a self-fulfilling prophecy) “What are you gonna do? Sucker me to death?”; Dalek (at the foot of the stairs) “El – e – vate!”; Dalek (over the intercom taunting the Doctor) “You would make a good Dalek”; Doctor (shouting) “Why don’t you just die?”. If you’re anything like me, just reading those again takes me right back to the 30th April 2005, and then beyond to those childhood moments behind the proverbial sofa.

The whole event surrounding the broadcast of the episode, the television and radio trails and so on, created a slice of Dalekmania not seen since the sixties. Despite the general election in the UK taking place in the same week, the return of the Daleks received a more prominent position on the front of the Radio Times, in a near unprecedented second cover for the series. The feedback, viewing figures and fan reception was hugely positive and may be it was this episode, more than any other, that guaranteed the success of this Doctor Who. Hard to fault… and I even liked Adam although for the life of me I don’t know why they let him join the TARDIS crew!

Highlight: “Doc-Tor!”

Lowlight: Hard to find one

Talking Point: Does this make Adam an official companion?

Demon’s Run Rating: 17 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 30th April 2005

Marathon Status: 6/120ths

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