Ood Cast Guide #12: Daleks

Surely the greatest of all the Doctor’s foes.  Best-known horrors in the universe.   The first villainous creature from Who to get itself snapped by Lord Snowdon for a postage stamp, get its own movie deal, get voted as better than both Godzilla and Gollum in the same poll and to have a small, wheeled library stool named after it.  Also, of course, the first Doctor Who characters to find a regular position both on a condiments tray and in a plumber’s van.

Created by Davros to be the final and greatest weapon of the brutal Skaro civil war, the Daleks soon grew a little too big for their shiny metallic boots and disobeyed their creator.  Essentially weapon-wielding toddlers in over-sized walking frames constantly throwing paddies, they are mutated Kaleds (one of the humanoid native races of Skaro), which – depending on which particular part of the mythos you catch – are a sort of green-ish gooey blob with several legs, a kind of glass vial with something crammed into it or even an one-eyed leggy octopus in a sheltered motorised scooter.

But these tin squid cases have been an all-conquering, ruthless force in interplanetary warfare for more generations than you’ve had cups of tea (which, incidentally, they’re pretty nifty at serving to military leaders).  Devoid of emotions other than hatred, Daleks are efficient, authoritarian and determined to achieve complete conformity – by wiping out every non-dalek lifeform, race and species.    But occasionally they show some fear – and although that used to be when they came across a spiral staircase, later it happened when they were confronted by an angry, gun-toting female.

Over the millennia, Dalek life has been beset and divided by civil wars – initially between the Thal and Kaleds (or was that the Dals and the Thals), Imperial Daleks and Renegade Daleks, and later on with the Dalek version of Scientology – the Cult of Skaro…  But most recently we saw a new generation being created when Dalek DNA was accidently mixed with a packet of Smarties.

They have been defeated by the Doctor on numerous occasions, using various methods – including turning pacifist Thals into genocidal bludlusting Dalek killers, but much more commonly, using something to blow them up… volcanic explosions, self-destruct devices, straightforward bombs and the Hand of Omega have all been used the destroy dalek ships, and on at least one occasion, the building they were in was blown up to stop their attempts at conquest.

There’s little to distinguish between Daleks – they share speech patterns, tones and voices as well as thought processes and instincts… and not one has thought to embellish the catchphrase they first uttered on screen in 1963: “Exterminate”.  That’s a little lazy, right?

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Essentials:

First appearance: “The Daleks” [AKA “The Mutants”/ “The Survivors”] (1963)

Best story: Genesis of the Daleks (1976).  Or maybe “The Daleks” (1963)

Most inexplicable appearance: The Five Doctors (1983)

Favourite invention: Escalators

Weaknesses: Eyes on rather easy to snap off/cover up stalks.  Other than that, a bomb clearly seems to do the trick.

Comments 7

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  2. I fear in the reboot, along with the cybermen they have been over-played and as a consequence lost some of their menace. Shame we couldn’t have a modern iconic monster.

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    I’m afraid I agree with you. Not sure about the other Oodcasters, but the two Tenth Doctor finales they were involved in (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday and The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End) only worked because of other things – the Daleks were so over-used there that they looked like a swarm of insects rather than a threat.

    One of the reasons I enjoyed Victory of the Daleks more than some (even with the garish colour schemes), was because the Daleks were small in number and were intelligently used. And because there was a Dalek ship. For me, it was a more traditional, proper Dalek story with a ship to blow up…

  4. Funny, I wrote a little editorial about the future of the Daleks on my blog just yesterday.
    I hope you won’t think it’s too obnoxious if I re-post it here.

    The iDaleks
    There has been a lot said on the subject of the new paradigm Daleks, a lot of it negative.
    Their introductory story, “Victory” wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t really firing on all eight cylinders either.
    Many people have complained about the new design, but I think that they’ve been redesigned in a very clever way, from the inside out.
    The Daleks have always had a huge problem from a story telling point of view, they’re too hateful, too well armed, too numerous and too intelligent to lose against the Doctor.
    Daleks are supposedly these super smart homogeneous hate machines with total intolerance for other living things, but you can’t just have them glide into a room and exterminate everyone without some threats and dialog first. It’s not a great way to tell a story.
    The writers have always had to deal with this problem, had to concoct some reason or another why the Daleks aren’t acting like their nature dictates that they should, exterminating first and asking questions later (if at all).
    There are quite a few ways around this narrative problem, some of them brilliant, but they’ve pretty much all been done before in the long history of Doctor Who, and with repetition they’ll seem more contrived every time.
    Enter the iDalek-
    Now instead of one race of identical killing machines, we have five distinct Dalek types; A Drone (red), a strategist (blue), a scientist (orange), a mysterious Eternal Dalek (yellow) and a Supreme Dalek (white).
    I’ve heard plenty of people dismiss this as an artless attempt to sell more toys.
    I really don’t see it that way. It seems to me like it’s literally a new paradigm, a whole new way of thinking about the Daleks.
    Now for the first time they can have conflicting opinions and debates among themselves and realistically be unsure of which course of action to take, instead of constantly failing in the same way over and over again like a villain from the 60’s Batman TV show.
    Maybe the scientist Dalek is against exterminating the Doctor because he wants to question him about time travel, maybe the strategist Dalek is against exterminating the Doctor because he wants him to be free to rally their enemies and bring them out of hiding.
    All of a sudden the Daleks can have differing opinions and therefore much more complicated goals and motivations, not to mention, dialog amongst themselves more in depth than “I Obey!”
    If they sell a few extra toys, that’s great too. From what I remember of playing as a child, it’s a lot like story telling. Let’s not forget Mr. Moffat’s in the same line of work.

    D

  5. Excellent article, Chris A. And good points in your post, Draculasaurus. Gold stars all around.

    No one’s mentioned the best thing about Mark Gatiss’ series 5 Dalek episode: it restores the classic Who naming convention with regard to Dalek stories. “Victory of the Daleks” sounds like something straight out of the Pertwee era. For all its faults (and there are a few; I’ll let the recent RFS commentary make the case for me), this is a very good thing for Nu-Who.

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    No, you’re right, I didn’t mention the naming thing in the article – but I agree with you too… Dalek was a fine exception, but other than that, its far better with the classic naming form I think – so thanks for bringing it up! I only avoided it because it’s a sort-of guide to the creatures rather than the stories.

    Oh, and D – great stuff. I completely take your point – its not the colouring I had a problem with, and the codes do seem to add a really interesting new element to them as an enemy. So I’m pro that. I don’t particularly like the new shape though: they look (if possible) slight more unwieldy than the predecessors, and if they’re thinking of using the old battleships, they have a bit of door widening to be getting on with!

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