Dalek by Robert Shearman
This is it. What Who fans were waiting for. For many people (including me) this episode was the first time we’d seen a Dalek in action, and it didn’t disappoint.
The plot? The Tardis materialises in an underground bunker in Utah, run by Billionaire Henry van Statten, a collector of alien artifacts who possesses one living specimen…a Dalek. He captures the Doctor once he learns of his alien origins, only for the Dalek to escape containment (memorably using its sucker to kill its torturer) and absorb enough energy to fully repair itself. As the humans weapons are useless against the Dalek (its force field melts them before they can impact it) Van Statten reluctantly releases the Doctor to stop it before it wipes out everyone in the bunker.
Eccleston has never been better. His fury at the fact a Dalek managed to survive the time war, his regret when he speaks of him ending the war, his pure terror at the thought of the Dalek escaping – all of it is wonderful. We also learn here that it was the Doctor himself who ended the Time War by destroying both the Daleks and the Time Lords, explaining the deep guilt and regret his character feels. When Eccleston screams at the Dalek ‘Why don’t you just DIE!’ we see an emotion the Doctor rarely exhibits: pure, utter hatred. It’s a powerful theme for Eccleston to work with and he succeeds admirably. The scene where the Doctor attempts to kill the (temporarily) defenceless Dalek in its cell is also arguably the darkest we ever see the Ninth Doctor.
The Dalek itself is great, its cleverness (using water to electrocute several guards at once) and its cunning (duping Rose into touching it by evoking her sympathy) show itself to be more than merely a thoughtless killing machine and hence raise it above the majority of Doctor Who monsters. You can see why the Daleks are iconic. The Dalek mutating because of its DNA being spliced with Rose’s causes it to become more emotional, to question itself – the Dalek becomes a character in its own right – always the sign of a very, very good monster.
Rose has some good moments too because of the connection she inadvertently gains with the Dalek, and the scene where she chastises the Doctor for pointing a gun at the immobilised Dalek highlights her characters strong moral code. The supporting cast all give their best but the episode isn’t really about them, the only one that stands out is Adam, Van Statten’s assistant who catalogues the alien artifacts, who forms a friendship (although he clearly wants more) with Rose, to the extent that the Doctor (reluctantly) allows Rose to bring him on board at the end of the adventure.
Overall a great episode and the Daleks finest hour, to the extent no Dalek story in modern who has yet surpassed this one.
Rating: 5 out of 5!
Next Time: The Doctor, Rose and Adam travel to the year 100,000, where they encounter a sinister news company and some awful scripting from Russell T. Davies…