Tony kicks a half dozen Dalek stories in the baubles.
The Daleks are a force in and of themselves – they have a place in British and science-fiction culture that means if you announce they’re going to be in a story, more people generally tune in to watch them. That has led to some Dalek stories that have been strangers to logic, made more or less to give the ratings a goose and ensure people kept watching. Let’s take a look at some of the least credible master plans from over fifty years of pepperpot magic.
1. Asylum of the Daleks
There are some good elements about this story, most notably the nano-cloud that turns anything non-Dalek into a Dalek agent, and the early arrival of Clara in a performance by Jenna Coleman that shone. But there’s so much wrong with the fundamental principles on which it’s based that it screams ‘Dalek story just for the sake of it!’
The Parliament of the Daleks is a thing so singularly wrong-headed you know it was created just to a) be The Something of the Daleks, and b) get as many different kinds of Daleks in a single scene as possible. Since when have the Daleks had any notions of democracy, which you need to call something a parliament? Reinforcing this point, when have they had anything as appallingly elected as a Prime Minister? We’ve had various power struggles in Dalek-kind throughout the Daleks’ history, but never have they appeared anything but autocratic. Yes, there’s a vaguely satirical theme in that the Nazis-In-A-Tin-Can were suddenly operating not through the power of screaming and obedience but by at least the sham of parliamentary democracy, but it’s such a history-damaging conceit it needs punching in the eye-stalk. The idea of a Dalek concept of beauty? Mmmm…yeah, OK, Nazi artists, yadda yadda yadda, but the rationale for the Asylum’s existence is desperately thin, especially when you consider the Daleks have kept their most demented and battle-scarred operatives alive on this planet because of the ‘beauty of their hatred’ – and yet the whole premise of the story is that they’re now prepared to blow them to smithereens.
Definitely a case of ‘My vision is impaired!’
2. Victory of the Daleks
Right…so…let me get this straight. The Daleks are so weakened and crippled they are desperate. They find a Progenitor Device, a lifeline to prime Dalek DNA – but they’re so degraded in their Dalekness the damned thing won’t open for them. What to do, what to do…
How about building a super-sophisticated human android that believes it’s a human but is really a massive planet-killing bomb (because, why not?), and getting it to introduce you to Winston Churchill as a kind of all-purpose service-robot with an offensive capability that can pick the Luftwaffe out of the sky above London. That way, what’s absolutely bound to happen is that the Doctor, arch-enemy of the Daleks, will happen along, be affronted when you pretend not to know what he’s talking about, and call you a Dalek. That’ll be enough to open the Progenitor Device…somehow…because the testimony of the last Time Lord in the universe is somehow more valuable to a Dalek device than the pleading of the last, exhausted Daleks. And then, when the Device is activated, it can create things that look almost entirely unlike Daleks while still technically being Daleks, which can then destroy you for your weakened, ineffectual Dalekness.
Yyyyyeah. Great plan.
3. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
Oh boy. The issue with The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang is that is exists purely and simply so that kids with a big action figure collection can smash them all together. New Who has been prone to this from at least Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, when the Cyber-Dalek smackdown was finally seen on-screen (and believe me, it nearly made it into this list), but there’s something inherently mindless and unscripted about the Daleks joining together with ‘everyone else the Doctor’s crossed paths with, ever’ to stop the Doctor creating cracks in the universe. It’s just so very much not their style that it becomes inherently ridiculous and loosens any threat in the Pandorica Alliance. We know the Autons had a point (such as it was), swanning about as Roman soldiers, but what exactly are the Daleks supposed to bring to the occasion? Nothing, except the fact that they’re Daleks, and so can’t be left out of such a fanboy exercise.
4. Resurrection of the Daleks
It’s not all about the New Who disconnect with any sense of logic. Back in 1984, consummate publicity-hound John Nathan-Turner sought to give Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor a kickass final season, and it was notably strange that he’d never had the rite of passage that was facing up to Skaro’s finest. Resurrection of the Daleks was announced, and moody, ominous photos were shot of the somehow darker, more imposing Daleks in the pre-redevelopment London Docklands. There’s actually plenty to love about Resurrection – Maurie Colbourne as Lytton, Rula Lenska doing as Styles what Liza Goddard had so signally failed to do as Kari in Terminus, justifying her casting with a great, cynical performance, the arrival of Terry Molloy as the second truly definitive Davros, and the speeches written for him by Eric Saward. Even the Daleks here are, in themselves, excellent – cunning, cynical, vicious and strategic. All good then?
Well, yes, until you realise what the actual Dalek plot is. Create unstable duplicates of people, and send them scuttling off to infiltrate and overthrow their governments, installing Dalek puppet regimes in their place. While also faffing about with the Movellan virus, which they need Davros to cure for them – really? They can’t genetically re-engineer themselves? We can almost do that now, just thirty years later. These creatures have time travel capabilities, for god’s sake… Oh, and there’s some hokum about procuring the Doctor as a peace offering to Davros, so he won’t be cross with them or immediately try to topple their command structure. It’s a lot of good Dalek action, slung around a spine which at no point stands up. Watch it by all means. Just never, ever, think about it.
5. Daleks In Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks
Daleks with Human Envy.
Think about that for a second. The Cult of Skaro winds up in 1930s New York, and cook up a plan to turn humans into walking Daleks. These creatures born of a need to be racially pure are about to infuse the Dalek genetic code into human beings, because in some way they ‘envy’ the human capacity to survive and endure.
This is batty enough before we get Dalek Sec and his Dalek-Human Hybrid moment and his subsequent unDalek ideas which eventually get him killed as having strayed too far from the Dalek core principles.
Again, the original idea that was supposed to make sense to these Daleks is that they were going to create Human Daleks.
No. Just worlds and worlds of no.
6. Destiny of the Daleks
Destiny of the Daleks has lots to recommend it – Lalla Ward’s first outing as Romana, dialogue by Douglas Adams, the Movellans - the most Disco robots in the cosmos, and their spinning teacup spaceship. What it doesn’t have is the sense it was born with, bless it. The Daleks are fighting a war against an implacable foe they can’t beat. So they start digging on their home planet to find their creator – who, surely Dalek racial memory would remind them, they shot stone dead not long after they were initially created. Or, alternatively, they know they didn’t, and they’ve just left him in the innards of the bunker all these centuries while they’ve been giving the universe a kicking. But somehow…they’ve forgotten where they put him. Yyyyeah, way to be lords of the universe there, ya special Dalek snowflakes. It’s also deeply inconsistent, in that the Daleks and Davros both claim the idea of personal sacrifice is the senseless folly of emotionless beings…only for the Daleks, about ten minutes later, to go screaming about the surface of Skaro loaded up with explosives on a suicide mission to stop the Movellan ship from leaving. Plenty to recommend it as a happy couple of hours of Who, but very possibly, given Tom Baker’s gag about ‘If you’re supposed to be the rulers of the universe, why don’t you try climbing after us, hmm?’ Destiny of the Daleks is the Daleks’ lowest ebb in Classic Who. Certainly, in terms of there being even the vaguest scintilla of logic to the story, Destiny comes up empty-suckered.
Dishonourable Mention: Into The Dalek. An arc-serving Fantastic Voyage rip-off that needs a follow-up if it’s ever to amount to anything interesting, pushed into Series 8 simply so there could be a Dalek story in Peter Capaldi’s first run.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk