Doctor Who – Series 1 – Dalek, Written by Robert Shearman
As I said about the previous episodes, the farting aliens severed my interest in this whole series. I didn’t watch for several weeks, but I found myself thinking about it. Has that ever happened to you?
One time, I had been watching this stupid gymnastic show, just ’cause I was working hard on my master’s and needed a mind vacation. After a few episodes, I decided it was too stupid to watch, so I quit. But I kept thinking about the storyline and the characters, and I went back and finished it.
That’s what happened here.
I started to watch the next episode, Dalek, almost not liking myself for getting back into it. Rose “Straight As” Tyler and the Doctor respond to an SOS from something in an underground museum in Utah. They find a Slitheen’s arm (that Rose identifies like it’s nothing. You go, girl.) The Doctor approaches an earlier iteration of a Cyberman, nice nod to the earlier doctors. (Turns out, the show does this all the time, and I love it.)
They have just started to look around when they are converged on by security guards who take them to the leader. (Hee – he’s an alien. Take me to your leader – geddit?)
Credits. The inside of a green and red intestine.
A helicopter (“Bad Wolf One”) lands on a nearby platform, and the leader emerges, briskly handles business with his sycophants and gets to work. He’s planning on visiting his “little pet” and, on intercom, asks an assistant, Simmons, if it’s talking yet. Our perspective shifts and the audience is inside something, watching Simmons work on us through a blue filter. There is an abrasive screech in the background. It’s not talking, Simmons reports, it’s screaming.
Rose and the Doctor are taken by the guards to meet the leader – Henry van Statton (HVS from now on). He and the Doctor get to know each other, measuring themselves in a contest about who is more intelligent. Just to make it clear, HVS is a smarmy creepy-ass jerk. “Blimey, you can smell the testosterone.” Rose narrates for us. HVS gloats about his pet, a “living specimen,” the Metaltron, and the Doctor dares him to see it. HVS tells another assistant, a young buck, to entertain Rose while he shows off for the Doctor. HVS directs the Doctor into the “cage,” locks the door behind him and watches on a television with the other crowding around. Our perspective shifts to see the Doctor approach and talk to “the pet.”
“I’ve come to help; I’m the Doctor.”
At this, several small lights come on in the dark, and we hear a metallic voice pronounce: “Doc-tor.”
The Doctor recognizes the screech and is horrified. “Impossible.”
“THE Doctor?” The lights demand in the metallic scratch of a voice. The overhead lights come up, and we see, what looks like an upside down trash can with white lights sticking out of its dome like antlers and a blue capped… periscope, for lack of a better word. It also has two other appendages – a plunger and a whisk, basically. It begins to yell, “Exterminate! Exterminate!” and it waves the whisk around.
The Doctor has a visceral reaction and runs for the door, demanding to be let out. HVS and assistants are watching everything on the screen where HVS is so happy that his pet is talking that he won’t let anyone move; the Doctor is trapped.
“You are an enemy of the Daleks, you must be destroyed!” Screeches the trash can, the Dalek, still waving it’s whisk. The Doctor is truly scared here until he realizes that its whisk (a laser gun) is unable to fire.
The Doctor smiles at this. “It’s not working.”
The Dalek looks down at his whisk while trying to fire, confused. The Doctor is laughing maniacally at this.
“Fantastic! Fantastic! Look at you, the great space dustbin – how does it feel?” He rushes towards the Dalek as it tries to scoot back. The Dalek tells the Doctor to get back, but he charges close up to the Dalek’s blue tipped pariscope that acts as an eye.
“What for? What are you going to do to me?” His jaw is set in an epression of hate as he circles the Dalek, surveying it. “If you can’t kill, then what are you good for? What’s the point of you? You’re nothing! What the hell are you here for?”
“I am waiting for orders. I am a soldier-I was bred to receive orders.” The Dalek says robotically.
“Well, you’re never gonna get any. Not ever.” The Doctor taunts. “They’re never gonna come! Your race is dead! They all burned, all of you. 10 million ships on fire. The entire Dalek race wiped out in one second.”
“You lie!” The Dalek cried.
“I watched it happen; I MADE it happen!” The Doctor growls, glaring in close to the blue eye for emphasis.
“You destroyed us?” The Dalek asked, and finally the Doctor is arrested. He looks away and says, quieter. “I had no choice.” At this, we see the Doctor walk away and the Dalek is small and blurry over his shoulder.
The Dalek asks about the Time Lords and the Doctor answers. “Dead. They burned with you. The end of the last great Time War. Everyone Lost.”
After a beat of silence, the Dalek taunts. “And the coward survived.”
The Doctor smiles mockingly. “Oooh, and I got your little signal. ‘Help me, poor little thing.'” His face falls again. “But there’s no one else coming ’cause there’s no one else left.”
“I am alone in the universe.” Chokes out the Dalek as his eye piece lowers along with the music. That was a neat effect.
“Yup.” Says the Doctor, immensely satisfied, and then his smile falls.
“So are you.” Points out the Dalek. “We are the same.”
“We’re not the same, I’m not…” The Doctor whips around to face the Dalek, and then his voice falls off, realizing something, “No, wait, you’re right. Maybe we are! Yeah, okay. You’ve got a point. ‘Cause I know what to do. I know what should happen. I know that you deserve – exterminate!” With that, he throws a switch that electrocutes the Dalek, who screams helplessly in that metallic screech. “Pity! Pity!” The Doctor surveys the Dalek, face light up from the electric current, body poised for attack. “Why should I? You never did!” He is getting revenge right here, sweet revenge.
In the outer room, HVR and Co are watching this whole thing and get the Doctor out before he destroys Dalek. When HVR is unable to make it talk again, he gives Simmons permission to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Phew. That was intense. That was amazing. It’s even better because the Dalek is a machine, it has no face, no expressions, just an annoying voice. And we (the audience) feel both repulsed by and pity for it. Amazing. And so many things going on with the Doctor! Fear, rage, sadness, melancholy, cruelty… So well done.
Meanwhile, Young Buck is showing off to Rose in the alien collection room and his theories that the universe is so big and teeming with life. This sort of thing has probably gotten him some action in the past, and Rose spares his pride and goes along with it, calling herself “gobsmacked.” Then she points out that he sits in a room in Utah and catalogs it. “Best job in the world.” He says, but she challenges him to actually see it happen, out there. He said it would be cool but it would never happen “in our lifetimes.” Mild flirting ensues. Boring sub-plot next to what we just witnessed. Young Buck brags that he’s a genius, and prove it, he patches into the computer system to see what’s happening with the Dalek. They see it being tortured, which is Bad News for Young Buck’s flirting plan because if there’s one thing Rose can’t stand, its injustice. She rushes to intervene.
We cut to the Doctor explaining Daleks to HVS: that every emotion was genetically engineered and removed from the Dalek, except hate. HVS is practically salivating at the prospect of genetic engineering, and it dawns on him that the Doctor is, like the Dalek, the only one of his kind in existence. Which means he needs to be exploited.
Cut to a cavern similar to where the Dalek was held, where the Doctor’s naked torso is being chained in the middle of the room. HVS uses a painful scan of the Doctor’s body to to determine his operating system and is gleeful at a dual coronary system. In his joy, he shows his hand as a mere scavenger of alien technology rather than a true scientist.
“You know what a Dalek is, Van Statton?” The Doctor asks. “A Dalek is honest. It does what it was born to do for the survival of it’s species. That creature is better than you.”
“In that case,” HVS says coldly, “I’ll be true to my nature and continue.” HVS recommences torturing the Doctor, even over his insistence that the Dalek is dangerous.
How interesting. Now the Doctor and the Dalek are being treated exactly the same way. In a way, they are in the same boat.
Young Buck takes Rose to the Dalek’s holding cell, and she approaches it. She tries to talk to it and asks if it’s in pain. There is no answer. She introduces herself and said she’s got a friend who might be able to help.
“Yes.” The Dalek croaks. “Yes, I am in pain. They torture me but still they fear me. Do you fear me?”
The Dalek lowers its head, it’s periscope, really, but the effect is the same. “I am dying. I welcome death but I am glad… before I die… I met a human… who was not afraid.”
“Isn’t there anything I can do?” Rose asks.
“My race is dead.” Dalek says, “I shall die alone.” Oh, this is heartbreaking here, and Rose is almost in tears. She reaches out her hand and before Young Buck can stop her, she has touched the Dalek. She pulls it away immediately, but the damage is done and we can see a golden print of her hand on the Dalek.
“Genetic material.” It says, gaining strength. “Extrapolate initiate cellular reconstruction.” Its voice is rising in pitch and speed. It breaks out of it’s chains and uses it’s plunger arm to kill the assistant that tortured him. The Young Buck sends out an emergency page through the whole compound to handle this, which the Doctor, still in chains, hears. He raises his tired head, eyes blue, and haggardly says, “Release me if you want to live.”
HVS does, and the Doctor goes to work to find a way to stop it, unsuccessfully. As they’re fumbling for a solution, the Dalek smashes the camera that is watching them, drains the power supply from half the country to fix itself and download the internet. It is rejuvenated. “The Daleks survive in me.” Then shoots other utility systems down.
There are guards converging on the Dalek and attempting to take it down, but it has a force field around it that obliterates bullets, and it can rotate it’s body 360 degrees to shoot anything. HVS’ men can’t come close to it. The Doctor’s like ‘see what we’re dealing with, here?’ But HVS wants to keep it alive. He tells the Doctor that the Dalek must be willing to negotiate, to reason to a solution. The Doctor again tried to disabuse him of this belief.
“If it gets out, it’ll kill every living being. Why? Because it honestly believes they should die. Anything different is wrong.”
In the background, we see dozens of HVS’ security guards in a stand-off with the Dalek. It shoots off the sprinkler system and then electrocutes everyone in the room. It stands there (not rusting, incidentally) looking at the carnage, waiting for the next wave of an enemy. HVS finally concedes that perhaps a new strategy should be tried and decide to seal the Dalek to a certain part of the compound. Unfortunately, it’s the part of the compound that Rose is in.
The Dalek appears on the screen and demands to speak to the Doctor. It informs him that it was able to regenerate because it extrapolated the biomass of a time traveler and then by scanning the internet, it has learned that there are no more Daleks, and will therefore get no more orders. “I will follow the main Dalek order: to destroy.”
“What for? What’s the point?” The Doctor demands. “Don’t you see, it’s all gone. Everything you were, everything you stood for.”
“Then what should I do?” the Dalek asks. (This is amazing. Its asking it’s enemy for orders. So the urge to kill is not stronger than the urge to follow orders.)
“Alright then, if you want orders, follow this one. Kill yourself.” The Doctor challenges.
“The Daleks must survive!”
“The Daleks have failed! Why don’t you finish the job and make the Daleks extinct, rid the universe of your filth!” Eccleston is literally and figuratively spitting these words out. “Why don’t you just die!?”
After a few seconds of silence the machine croaks: “You would make a good Dalek.” The screen goes blank.
The merciful becomes the merciless. That is amazing. The Doctor and the Dalek are so eerily similar in so many ways, and this last line reveals how much. They’re both warriors. A Dalek is intentionally programmed to hate. The Doctor has good sense, but is so blinded by hate that he can’t even speak normally. Given the similarities we’ve seen, does some part of the Doctor hate himself being like this warrior, being so like something that killed his people and his home? And Christopher Eccleston is… just, wow. Yes and yes.
HVS and Co seal the vaults and the Doctor is trying, unsuccessfully, to help Rose to get out in time. She’s trapped behind the door with the Dalek. The Doctor realizes that he’s lost something precious to him (because of both hate and fear) and he looks stricken.
“It wasn’t your fault, remember that.” She assures him. “And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” Ugh, what a trite phrase.
View of the Doctor as he hears. “Exterminate!” Then sound of a laser beam. He yanks off his earpiece and mutters to himself. “I killed her.”
HVS apologized quietly.
The Doctor turned on him all righteous anger and said, “I swore to protect her! I could have killed that Dalek and you stopped me!”
“It was the prize of my collection!” HVS sputters.
“Your collection!” the Doctor growls. “What is worth it? Worth all of those men’s deaths, worth Rose?”
But Rose isn’t dead, we learn in the next shot. The Dalek can’t kill Rose because he used part of her genetic material to regenerate. (Rose showed him compassion, and that’s the one thing that can deviate it from what it is trained to do: kill. Interesting.) Standing in the hallway, she yells at him for killing all those people.
“They’re all dead because of you!”
“They’re dead because of us.” The Dalek corrects her, indicating that since Rose inadvertently helped him regenerate, she is complicit in their deaths. (Would she be?)
The Dalek starts to feel overwhelmed as it realizes that it is feeling emotions that it didn’t expect, like fear and confusion, things it has never experienced before. “I am contaminated.” Contaminated by emotions. The thing that keeps it from being human. (Well, that and knees.)
The Dalek goes back to the screen to negotiate for the vault to be opened. “What use are emotions if you will not save the woman you love?”
The Doctor is convicted and tells HVS to open the bulkhead. “I killed her once. I can’t do it again.” His love overcomes his hate. Amazing.
The Dalek comes off the elevator and faces HVS. It demands to know why he turtured it, and HVS at first says that he just wanted to help it, then admits he just wanted it to talk. “Then hear me talk now.” The Dalek growls. “Exterminate.”
Before it blasts HVS, Rose rushes over to it and tries to talk it down. “You don’t have to do this! You can do something else! What do you want?”
“I want freedom.” The Dalek admits softly. The Dalek and Rose go to an upper level of the compound and the Dalek blasts a hole in the roof to feel the sunlight. The middle section of the trash can opens and reveals an octopus-like brain with one eye. That is a Dalek. That’s it.
The Doctor, with a gun, finds them and yells at Rose to get out of the way. “The Daleks destroyed my home, my people!” (Yeah, but didn’t the Doctor do the same to the Dalek?)
Rose points out that the Dalek changing and give him the same challenge. “What about you, Doctor? What the hell are you changing into?”
He lowers the gun, guiltily. His voice is breaking, panicky as he chokes out “I couldn’t… <falters> I wasn’t… <desperate for redemption> Oh Rose. They’re all dead.” The Doctor looks more lost and broken than we’ve ever seen him.
The Dalek’s metal voice interrupts them. “Why did we survive?” The mortal enemies stand and face each other, old and tired after a lifetime of fighting.
“I don’t know.” The Doctor says.
“I am the last of the Daleks.” It says.
The Doctor pointed out, “You not even that. Rose did more than regenerate you. You’ve absorbed her DNA. You’re mutating.” He doesn’t say this part with any particular venom, in contrast to his earlier talk with the Dalek.
“Into what?” Dalek asks.
“Something new. I’m sorry.” The Doctor apologizes. (For something he can’t control, for something he would possibly even be okay with.)
The Dalek finally asks Rose for orders. “Order me to die. This is not life, this is sickness. I shall not be like you. Order my destruction!” (I wonder why he asked Rose and not the Doctor? Because she gave him new life?) She orders it so, and the Dalek says it’s frightened. It closes itself off, rises off the ground, and explodes.
As the Doctor and Rose are walking back to the TARDIS, she asks if it’s the end of it – the Time War. He answers. “I’m the only one left. I win. How about that.” (So that’s a yes?) Right before they leave, Young Buck finds them and talks about not having a job anymore. Rose talks the Doctor into letting him travel with them.
Verdit: Wow – So this is what everyone’s talking about. I am so bought in. Everybody shut up and go home, because I’m watching Doctor Who.
2 thoughts on “The Daleks Got Me! (Back)”
Thanks so much for the kind words about That Dalek Story I Once Wrote! Makes me very happy it’s still out there, finding a new audience. Your blog is clever and funny – and not merely because you said some nice stuff about my work. 🙂 I look forward to reading more! Rob x
Oh, Robert, you made my day! Thank YOU for your kind words. I’m glad a fellow Whovian appreciates my recaps of the eps!