Before I write any more of this review, I need to remind everyone of this: Rob Shearman wrote this episode. Yes, THE Rob Shearman. That guy who wrote two of the best Doctor Who audios ever recorded for Big Finish; Jubilee and The Chimes of Midnight. They are dirt cheap on the Big Finish website. Go buy them and listen right now. Trust me. Now, where was I? Ah yes, Dalek. Dalek was actually based off the superlative radio play, Jubilee, but re-written for the new TV show. In the TV episode, Nine and Rose find themselves in Utah in a big museum where SURPRISE the first appearance of the New Who Dalek appears… but with a twist. PS: This is the first bunker-in-lock-down-as-everyone-dies episode of New Who.
Maureen: I love that the episode opens in 2012 like 2012 was far, far in the future (well, I guess it kinda was back then). I love that we’re inside a museum in Utah, but am a little sad Moffat didn’t riff on this in Series 6 with the cast’s real visit to Utah and the USA or with one of River’s Series 5 or 6 jaunts to an archaeological museum. But hush, Maureen. This is the RTD era review re-watch. Stop jumping ahead damn it! Anyway, nice nods to the Cybermen, The Slitheen and the wreck of the Rosaleen in the episode’s opening number and hello bad American accents and Julia Stiles look-a-like. Though Rose, maybe don’t tell the menacing soldiers that The Doctor is an alien IN AN ALIEN MUSEUM.
Ben: It’s all very mysterious. As Rose observes, if someone’s collecting aliens, the Doctor would make an excellent specimen. It’s not the best opening we’ve seen, but it’s definitely up there.
Maureen: Aside from the irritating first ten minutes where Rose is either mocking Adam for being a bit of an egoist or is actually making goggle eyes at him (though I did laugh when she said ‘blimey, you can smell the testosterone’), she does most of the heavy lifting in what becomes a very emotional episode. This story is one of the first of New Who to really explore what the companion can do for The Doctor’s psyche. Rose is human; she thinks like a human, empathizes like a human, and most importantly of all, she has no preconceived notions of alien races beyond the ones she’s already met to judge them.
Dalek: I am in pain. They tortured me, but still they fear me. Do you fear me?
Ben: Yes, Rose gets to do some proper companion work this episode in what proves to be a nice change of pace. Rose, naive as she is, knows nothing of the awesome danger even one Dalek represents, and does what she can to provide comfort and protection to a dying alien, inadvertently giving the Dalek newfound strength. But this new strength comes at a cost – humanity – turning this last surviving Dalek into something new, something with emotions. It is Rose’s DNA which saves the Utah base and everyone in it. Rose’s bleeding heart (shown in previous episodes) finally pays off.
Maureen: I loved Billie Piper’s acting in this episode. The scene where she winces as the soldiers shoot The Dalek was a nice touch. Also, back in the day, I genuinely thought Rose was a goner, Adric style. It felt nice to be surprised by Doctor Who again, and so early into the new show.
Ben: Ultimately, the end of the episode sees the Dalek turn to Rose to provide orders, the one person it has formed a connection with, begging her to order it to kill itself. I see Rose’s role in this episode as to show the best of humanity in the face of the unknown, and she does so powerfully.
Dalek: You have given me life. What else have you given me?
Ben: Just like Billie, Chris gets to do some heavy lifting in this episode. But first, he must show off a bit. This episode can really be summed up as a battle of the egos, initially it’s the Doctor’s ego doing battle with Van Statten’s. But really, all of the named characters in this episode seem to be talking with their egos at one point or another.
Maureen: I love the flashes of manic, zestful Nine (before that facade comes crushing down later in the episode) seen especially when he shows Van Statten how to play an alien instrument. I also like the mad man with a box moment below (just before all hell breaks lose):
Soldier: You just stumble in…
Nine: That about sums me up.
Ben: Gratuitous shirtless Doctor scene aside, things start to get interesting when the Doctor is locked into the room with the Dalek. The way Nine says ‘fantastic’ with such anger on his face is a side of the Doctor we haven’t seen before. This is the Doctor fresh from the destruction of the Time War. We get some good history here too, learning the Doctor played a pivotal role in the Time War, bringing about the destruction of both the Daleks and the Time Lords. And as the Dalek points out, the two of them have lot in common, both being the last of their kind.
Maureen: The Doctor’s similarity to a Dalek is a meaty concept to explore; so meaty, it’s been explored not once but three times (Jubilee, Dalek and Into the Dalek).
Nine: I watched it happen. I made it happen.
Dalek: You destroyed us?
Nine: I had no choice.
Dalek: And what of the Time Lords?
Nine: Dead. They burned with you.
Dalek: We are the same.
Nine: Why don’t you just die?
Dalek: You would make a good Dalek.
These exchanges show us a dangerous Doctor, one unhinged by grief and madness. Without a companion like Rose, he is unstuck, just as amoral and as corrupt as the aliens he battles against.
Ben: You really get an idea of the sheer scope of emotions this Dalek makes the Doctor feel, from sheer terror to blind rage. At the end of the episode we see the Doctor break down. Rose physically blocks his final desperate attempt to destroy the Dalek, and he makes the heartbreaking admission that he has nothing left, other than meting out destruction to his last surviving nemesis. His people all gone, all he has is rage. Enter Rose.
Nine: Get out of the way! Get out of the way!
Rose: He’s not the one aiming the gun at me.
Alien of the Week
Maureen: One of the many things I love about this episode is that it shows us all of the reasons why Daleks are scary, evil villains, whilst exploring the concept of a Dalek in a new way, a way that makes us even a little sorry for the one in the episode. The Dalek gains power from Rose and uses it for ill, killing soldiers one by one, including the female soldier who dies bravely trying to protect Adam and Rose. But at the same time, the Dalek is a mirror of The Doctor; the last of his kind, confused and lost, unsure of its purpose.
Dalek: My function is to kill! What am I? What am I?
Nine: They’re all dead.
Dalek: Why do we survive?
Ben: What an introduction to an old favourite! What Van Statten dubs the Metaltron and Adam a Pepperpot ends up being none other than a Dalek! The last Dalek, no less. It’s been through Hell on Earth, and now it’s powerless and alone. It’s first encounter with the Doctor gives us excellent lore and character building. We get the history of the Time War, of the Doctor’s part in ending the War, and a good characterisation of your standard Dalek, obsessed with destroying anything that isn’t Dalek.
Initially, I felt sorry for the Dalek. Not having seen it’s capabilities for destruction, all I’d seen is it being tortured by the Doctor, then comforted by Rose as it accepts it’s approaching death. But then the killing starts, and that’s all thrown out the window. The Dalek brings down the power for a large chunk of America, downloads the entire internet (Inkashlings aside: I thought of the Jen internet episode from IT Crowd at that moment and couldn’t help a small snicker), kills all the men thrown at it, and you think maybe the Doctor was right to try and destroy it while he could. But then, the episode changes direction one more time. The Dalek has been corrupted by Rose, unable to kill. It wonders how the sunlight feels and yearns for freedom, and then opens it’s metal casing to expose the true Dalek inside, because it wanted to feel the sunlight! In the end, being able to feel was too much, and it choose death over the curse of living as a Dalek with emotions.
Dalek: This is not life. This is sickness. I shall not be like you. Order my destruction. Obey. Obey. Obey.
Maureen: And what an unexpected pin-up scene we end the episode on; Rose standing next to The Dalek, not in fear, but in sympathy as it commits suicide.
Maureen: There’s so much to this episode. We’ve barely talked about Van Statten and his base, and the way the episode shows humanity’s darkest side (torturing aliens to find out about them) in stark juxtaposition to Rose’s actions (there’s a reason for this. Namely, I think this episode is much more interesting when it leaves the bad American accents behind and focuses on the Rose/Doctor/Dalek trio). The opening and ending of the episode felt a lot less interesting than the episode’s heart. I’m giving this 8/10 inky stars, mainly because I’ve listened to Jubilee and think it handled the concept better than Dalek, having more time to explore the human evil element in a more fascinating parallel world. Also, Evelyn Smythe. The Donna Noble of Big Finish. But with more awesome.
Ben: I found this a difficult episode to review, there was a lot of really emotional moments to explore and discuss. Mostly I’m hoping I did it justice. But, I still have to score it. If it weren’t for the terrible Americans, this episode would be a clear 10/10, but as it stands I’m giving it a 9/10.