Doctor Who: Dalek

Rose: 'It wasn't your fault. Remember that, okay? It wasn't your fault. And you know what? I wouldn't have missed it for the world.'

Rob Shearman did an interesting thing this week. Using Rose as the show's moral compass, he managed to elicit sympathy for the Dalek, whilst making the Doctor look like the bad guy. That's some pretty cool writing. When the Doctor saw the imprisoned Dalek, all he could see was a creature devoid of pity and compassion—a monster, fueled by hatred and the need to conquer and dominate all who stand in opposition to the Daleks. Yes, the Doctor hates the Daleks, but what makes his hatred different from theirs is that it's based on experience. It's personal. He doesn't hate them purely for the sake of it, he hates them because he knows what they're capable of.

Things, however, were not as they seemed. By absorbing Rose's DNA, Van Statten's Dalek became contaminated with humanity. It started to feel things it'd never felt before, and became overwhelmed by these new found emotions and thoughts. Fear prevented it from exterminating Rose, and in the end, devoid of its life's purpose and the leadership and proximity of other Daleks, its sole desire was to die. The question then became: how should the Doctor now view this 'mutant' Dalek? Before, the Daleks were inherently evil—they thought nothing of killing the innocent, and thus there was no basis for mercy. But this Dalek was different. It was aware of its own predicament and was able to sense its own helplessness. Is it possible that, given time, it may even have felt remorse?

Rose saw the Dalek's slowly developing humanity and responded as any human would—with compassion. The Doctor, however, has suffered such terrible losses at the hands of the Daleks, that he'd lost all perspective. His reaction was 100 percent understandable—in fact, it was perfectly human. Luckily, when Rose drew his attention to what she saw in him ('It's changing. What about you Doctor? What are you changing into?'), the Doctor quickly came to his senses. He saw what he'd become—essentially the thing that he the hates most ('You would make a good Dalek').

The Daleks themselves have never looked so good. I've been critical in past weeks of the visual effects (why, I have no idea—the special effects in the old series were a hundred times worse), but there were no such complaints tonight. The Dalek 'look' is essentially the same—there's been no radical redesign—but they do look better. For a start, they're more robust. They also have an all over metallic brass finish, a glowing eyepiece, and seemingly bigger ear wotsits (forgive me if I'm getting too technical). But their screeching, electronic wail remains intact—and it still sounds awesome!

I can't speak highly enough of the acting in tonight's episode. Eccleston was superb. We always knew he could do to the serious stuff—he's made a career of it—but tonight he truly showed us a Doctor still smarting from the effects of Time War. The Doctor's anger was palpable and it's easy to understand why: he's lost everything he ever had! It just goes to show that, despite the Doctor's superiority in many areas, his emotional make-up is still essentially human.

Billie was also excellent. Rose had been devilishly cocky from the get-go, and has embraced time travel in a surprisingly grown-up fashion. Yes, she's been all girly glee and giggles at times—but along with that youthful exuberance, there's been the adult realisation that time travel is a serious business. It's not like going on holiday. They travel through time for a reason, and are often exposed to grave personal dangers. When she said to the Doctor, 'It wasn't your fault. I wouldn't have missed it for the world,' we can see just how far she's come. In one sentence she both absolved the Doctor of any future guilt and sent out the bold message: no regrets! For Rose, it's all been worth it.

Another hint too this week that there's a more romantic relationship developing between the Doctor and Rose. Even an emotionally stunted Dalek could sense the Doctor's love for Rose ('What use are emotions if you won't save the woman you love?'). I wonder when the Doctor and Rose will cotton on?

Other Thoughts:

—Bearing in mind the episode was set in 2012, why didn't Van Statten know what a Dalek was? The Daleks attacked earth circa 2009 in the episode 'Journey's End'.

—There's an urban myth that the Daleks look like pepper pots because that's what Raymond Cusick based them on. However, in his own words....
'When I had to come up with the Dalek I went to lunch will Bill and I remember sketching out my design for it on a napkin. I explained to him how it was intended to move and to demonstrate this I slid the pepper pot across the table. Or it might have been the salt pot – I’m not sure! That is where the mistaken belief that I based the Dalek on a pepper pot probably comes from. I never did, I just used it to demonstrate what I wanted to do.'
—I thought the 'what are you going to do, sucker me to death?' comment was amusing. When Classic Who was running on British television, much derision was aimed at the Dalek's plunger-like appendage. I guess we should think twice about laughing now. The advent of CGI has turned a laughable protrusion into a deadly weapon.

—Some may have recognised the actress playing Diana Goddard as New Zealand born actress Anna-Louise Plowman. She's previously appeared in both Stargate SG-1 and BBC medical drama Holby City.

—Van Statten's helicopter call sign was 'Bad Wolf One'.

Billie says...

Now, see, this is where my Doctor Who-deprived childhood comes into play. I was never frightened by a Dalek when I was six, so they really don't do anything for me. Yes, mutated killer humanoid trapped in the body of a powerful machine, definitely a scary concept. But for me, that's the Borg.

That said, let's face it: if they did the new Who without Daleks, the fans would most likely be up in arms. And starting with one lonely, tortured Dalek was a lot more new-viewer-friendly than scads of pepperpots flying through the sky. Plus, they gave Christopher Eccleston a great opportunity to show off his considerable acting talents, as we saw the Doctor and the Dalek as sole survivors of their races,and two sides of the same coin. The Daleks did terrible things. The Doctor was ready to do terrible things to a helpless Dalek. Is there a difference? Well, sure. But still -- yes, we got it.

Rose the experienced time and space traveler, made a serious mistake, and hundreds died. (Not that it was her fault; she wasn't torturing a Dalek in the basement.)

Bad American accents. Oh, well. They went with the bad American stereotypes.

Quotes:

Doctor: "The stuff of nightmares, reduced to an exhibit. I'm getting old."

Van Statten: "I'll tell you how they got in. In tru-da-window. In tru-da-windows... that was funny!" (Really? Oh yes... I get it now... haha).

Van Statten: "She's English too. Hey, little Lord Fauntleroy. I got you a girlfriend."

Adam: "Spacecraft, aliens, visitors to Earth. They really exist."
Rose: (unimpressed) "That's amazing."
Adam: "I know it sounds incredible, but I honestly believe the whole universe is teeming with life."
Rose: "I'm gobsmacked, yeah."

Soldier: "What are you gonna do? Sucker me to death?"
(Dalek suckers him to death.)

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

Doctor: "Rose? Did you make it?"
Rose: "Sorry, I was a bit slow."
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

7 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Back in 2005 I was as giddy as a school boy on a sugar binge that Daleks were back on the telly after all these years. Daleks!

Now fast forward to 2009 and I’ll be happy to side the back of screeching pepper pots once and for all. This is still a great episode but the Daleks have been so overused lately that its appeal is somewhat diminished.

Still love the Cyberman cameo, though

shawnlunn2002 said...

See I was never scared of the Daleks either as a child but I get why they've become the signature villain from the series.

This was an exceptional episode from the series, good for Christopher Eccleston and a nice dabate with the Doctor and a lone Dalek for moral high ground.

Rose made an error but one I think a lot of people might have in her situation given her (at the time)lack of knowledge on the Daleks.

Adam's pretty but you can tell that the Doctor doesn't him around.

Rob Shearman said...

Oh, thanks for the kind review, Paul! It was a fun episode to write, and I'm always delighted when people remember it. (It seems a long time ago now, and nearly two Doctors old!)

I get asked a lot about why Van Statten in 2012 doesn't remember the Daleks from 2009. My answer is that, of course, it hasn't happened yet! We're in a privileged position, watching Doctor Who from the point of view of a time traveller, where we can see that the chronology of history isn't in the straight line we might think! It's the same reason that earlier in that year we don't just write off the Gelth invasion in Dickens-era Cardiff in 'The Unquiet Dead', because we know from the contemporary setting of 'Rose' that it must have failed - the Dickens adventure takes place *after* Rose's first meeting with the Doctor, just as it also takes place before! And the same thing is true when the ninth Doctor meets a Dalek both after and before the tenth Doctor meets Davros.

Confusing though, innit? :)

Billie Doux said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Mr. Shearman. This is the first time a writer from an episode we've critiqued has commented (that we know of, anyway) and I'm kind of doing a big woo-hooing sound right now that you can't hear through cyberspace.

And you're right -- time travel *is* confusing. I'm still digesting the Lost finale that ran last night. Your comment does help it make more sense.

Paul Kelly said...

Thanks for the response Rob. You can't get much better than an explanation from the man himself. Much appreciated. And really great episode. Please write more!

Paul

Anonymous said...

How cool was it to have a writers opinion? Very cool and I hope more writers of episodes might turn up here. Really good review of course. This was one of my favourite episodes.
Anna

dragon_of_celts said...

Best of all of New Who, even up to today, in my opinion. Except for the author apparently not understanding what "extrapolate" means (I think he meant "extract"?)...