Friday, April 14, 2006

Doctor Who - "Dalek"


In the world of science fiction, both in movies and on television, there are many icons that make a person automatically identify the show or movie that it or they appeared in. Darth Vader in Star Wars, Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet, The Klingons in Star Trek and so on. However, one of the best and one of the oldest are the most evil creatures in the Doctor Who Universe, the Daleks.

The Daleks are science fiction icons that when most people in the United States see them, a person usually says, " where have I seen them before?"

A photograph of the original Daleks.

The Daleks were created by writer Terry Nation and debuted in the second ever Doctor Who episode appropriately entitled The Daleks. Nation came up with the basic premise of the Dalek, however it was a staffer at the BBC that actually came up for the phyiscal design of the actual prop, where he only got paid his normal fee for producing. Nation, since he actually came up with the idea for the monsters, owned the rights so any ideas for the Daleks in the show had to either be written by or signed off by him. Nation was and is a great science fiction writer. Nation later in life would develop the groundbreaking scifi series in Britain, Blake's Seven and later cross the pond to produce Macgyver for ABC.

When Doctor Who was revived in 2005, the estate of Terry Nation was contacted to contract the appearance of the Daleks in the new series. However, it took a long time before the BBC and Terry Nation's estate came to a agreement for the Daleks to appear. The script for Dalek was changed many times due to uncertainity of the BBC in acquiring the rights.

Dalek opens with the Doctor and Rose landing in a muesum of a meglamaniac in the very near future. One of his acquisitions is a Dalek. The very last one. The Doctor and the Dalek share infomation that their respective races were destroyed during what is called The Great Time War. Rose inadvertantly causes the Dalek to become rengergized and the Dalek proceeds to start killing everyone in the bunker. The Dalek would eventually destroy itself after absorbing Rose's DNA which starts to mutate the Dalek creature inside.

This is a great story but the pacing of the episode is way too fast. The Dalek is revealed almost five minutes in the story. There is hardly anytime to build any tension between any of the characters. The exchange between the Doctor and the Dalek is priceless. The entire scene drips of the series history. The Dalek is only slightly redesigned for the new series. I believe this was one of the sticking points of the battle between the estate of Terry Nation and the BBC. Rumor has it that the BBC wanted to do a radical new design while Nation's estate did not. You cannot have Doctor Who without the Daleks so the old design was basically modified.

The New Daleks

Henry Van Statten was a great character. I wish he could have been made a recurring villain in the series. The character of Adam really did not have time to develop but joined the TARDIS crew nevertheless.

The entire episode borrowed heavily from the original episode from 1975 called Genesis of the Daleks. The bunker, the guards, the evil leader. Everything was there.

Another big reveal was the fact that the Dalek can now fly. Being a machine that rolled on the floor, all you had to do was find a flight of stairs and the Dalek was screwed. No longer. However, this was not the first time a Dalek could fly. The Seventh Doctor faced a Dalek who could transcend stairs in Rememberance of the Daleks. In the end, the Dalek creature who pilots the machine is shown and one cannot help to feel a sense of pity for the creature. The creature is reacting to the sunlight and stretches a slimy tentacle toward the sun.

Is this the end of the Daleks? Of course not. All you have to do is wait until the last episode. Oops! Sorry about that. The Daleks will be around as long as the Doctor is around. Lets hope that is for a long time.

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