Film and TV

Doctor Who: It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Dalek World

Briefly: Now, I get paid to watch Doctor Who. Suck it, real work! Also, check out my musical tributes to the Daleks.

It's been almost a full year since the season finale of series 6, and having watched the entirety of the rebooted series on Netflix over the last several months, even these last few weeks having to wait for Matt Smith's return were sheer agony. That's even taking into account that while series 6 had some of the best Doctor Who work of all, such as "the Doctor's Wife," it also had some of the worst.

Still, it's the Doctor, and the show wasted no time dropping us right into an amazing adventure that sees the Doctor, Rory and Amy Pond gunned down by a new type of Dalek that disguises itself as humans. In general that's kind of a science fiction cop-out, merely a means of saving the budget on more creature effects by using regular actors. Here, though, it's an utterly necessary stroke of genius and you certainly can't blame the budget because...whoa.

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We open on Skaro, the legendary original planet where Davros first created the Daleks and where they met their defeat at the hands of the First Doctor along with Ian, Barbara and his granddaughter Susan. (Be sure to pick up the re-released novelization of this adventure, Doctor Who and the Daleks, by David Whitaker and with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, for maximum enjoyment.)

We only get the briefest look at the planet, and it actually eerily resembles the ruined Earth the Daleks inhabited in the Eternity Clock, but the landscape is dominated by a massive statue of a Dalek where a human/Dalek posing as a mother searching for her daughter in a Dalek prison camp manages to contact the Doctor to ask his help. He realizes it's a trap, but not in time to avoid capture.

Meanwhile, in present-day England, Amy Pond is now a model, and is served divorce papers by Rory on a shoot. No explanation is initially given, but both are kidnapped by the Daleks to meet with the Doctor.

What follows is one of the greatest scenes in all of Doctor Who history, and perhaps the best interaction between the Doctor and his longtime enemies since the Ninth Doctor confronted the last survivor of the Time War Daleks and came dangerously close to becoming one, psychologically if not physically, himself.

The Daleks explain that they need the Doctor. A spaceship has crashed into the prison planet that the Daleks use to house the most criminally deranged members of their race, Daleks so full of violent hatred or so mentally damaged that they are of no use. The Dalek Prime Minister fears that the spaceship might be used as a way to escape, and no Dalek is brave enough to travel to the planet himself and turn off the force field that surrounds it. That's why they turn to the only other thing they fear.

What makes this scene so incredible, so mind-numbingly brilliant, is the way it drops subtle clues about the place the Doctor now holds in the minds of the Daleks. He has for all intents and purposes become their Satan, their Ragnarok, their Antichrist. He has a mythology all his own, whispered names and bizarre rituals. (The constant presence of companions is why the Daleks kidnap Amy and Rory. It's part of the legend.)

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner