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First UK Transmission Date (BBC1)Scheduled TXViewers
30th April 200519:008.63m

Cast: Cast: Bruno Langley (Adam Mitchell), Corey Johnson (Henry), Anna-Louise Plowman (Diana), Steven Beckingham (Polkowski), John Schwab (Bywater), Jana Carpenter (DiMaggio), Nigel Whitmey (Simmons), Joe Montana (Commander), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voice)

Writer: Robert Shearman, Director: Joe Ahearne

Doctor Who - Dalek - Van Statten's MuseumVan Statten's Museum in DalekRose, Doctor, Cyberman headCyberman headBad Wolf One
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Synopsis: - When the TARDIS lands in a subterranean museum in 2012, the Doctor becomes one of the exhibits. And when another prize specimen turns out to be his archenemy, he realises they're both in the same boat. The mechanised monster has been majestically refurbished, and has some new tricks hidden under its beefed-up carapace.

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'Dalek' Background and Summary: - It had been sixteen years since a Dalek last graced the small screen and hype surrounding this episode was huge. The Radio Times for the week featured a special gatefold cover with the Daleks inside and out, newspapers were full of stories from the set and the broadcast media had a plethora of interviews and bits featuring Daleks. The leaked photographs from months earlier and demonstrated that the Dalek looked good and the snippets from previous Doctor Who Confidential episodes had shown it had slick movement but the question remained as to the quality of the story.

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Rob Shearman's credentials were never in doubt as he had delivered arguably the best scripts of the entire Big Finish range and it was heartening to know that one of those scripts was a Dalek story. What came as a surprise to many fans was just how much of this story was lifted directly from Shearman's audio story Jubilee which featured a chained up Dalek, the last remnant of a great war, lacking in orders or direction, refusing to speak to its captors who resorted to torture elicit a response, and the creature only responding only to the Doctor's female companion. It was later confirmed that Russell T Davies had specifically commissioned Dalek as a screen adaptation of Jubilee.

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The most significant footnote in the production of this episode was the fact that the Dalek very nearly didn't feature at all. Having written his screen adaptation and redrafted it several times, negotiations with the Terry Nation estate broke down and the captured alien had to be reinvented. Shearmen kept the same basic premise but was forced to change the motivations, dialogue and action sequences. Of the eighty scenes in the 5th draft, only six were retained for the 6th draft. Fortunately, the rights issues were resolved and the Dalek version of the script was reinstated.

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The episode was, in many ways, the most faithful Doctor Who episode of the new series so far because it fulfilled so many expectations of the classic Doctor Who format. It opened with the TARDIS having been drawn off course and the Doctor and his companion uncertain what to expect from their new surroundings. It then developed with the Doctor and companion being captured at gunpoint and taken for the ubiquitous interrogation as to their intentions. The classic template then continues with the Doctor becoming separated from his companion who forms her own relationship with a supporting character whilst the Doctor himself is imprisoned. The conclusion to the formula is, of course, that the Doctor wins his captors trust through his expertise and charisma and naturally saves the day. One of the many strengths of Dalek is that it retains all the tried-and-tested elements without coming across as tired or clichéd. What's more it doesn't eventually follow the normal pattern and it subverts expectations through the fascinating role-reversal between the Dalek and the Doctor.

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Dalek is a masterful piece of television which works on levels too multitudinous to cover here. The most obvious theme is loneliness and isolation - the Dalek is alone in its cage, and both it and the Doctor are alone in the universe, whilst all of the protagonists are trapped in the underground museum. Furthermore the Dalek mutant's isolation in its own machine cultivates in it wanting to feel the sunlight on its skin, and touch is an important facet of the solitude motif - The Doctor's touching of the Cyberman cabinet starts the story going, the Doctor instructs Van Statten how the alien music instrument needs a gentle touch to work, and the Doctor notes that he won't touch the 'Metaltron', but when Rose does touch the Dalek it causes it to regenerate.

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The subtleties of the story are as enjoyable as the action sequences and the story works hard to debunk everything laughable about the Daleks. The sucker-arm is shown to be deadly, bullets are disintegrated by a force-field, the creature makes intelligent decisions about how to kill most impressively and, naturally, stairs are no longer a problem. These great elements, plus the very traditional path the story took, were a joy to behold. Fans of Doctor Who had long become bored with the rehashing of old Dalek conquer-and-destroy storylines and the lone-Dalek premise reworked from Jubilee was a breath of fresh air. The turn the story took as the Dalek came to terms with foreign DNA changing how it feels was fascinating to those who had seen or read endless stories about merciless Daleks. This success was reflected in a fan poll of 2600 votes, where an incredible 94% of people rated it "good" or "excellent" (and of those 76% said "excellent") with only 2.3% disliking it. Curiously though, it was for those very reasons of originality that it wasn't quite such a hit with the general public. Viewers on the whole had an expectation to see the Daleks as they had been in their heyday - en mass, exterminating and showing no feelings - certainly seeing this supposedly evil childhood nightmare struggling with its emotions and desiring the sunlight came as a shock to some and, despite great reviews in everything from The Guardian to The People, the audience's reaction was on the whole not entirely favourable.

The overnight viewing figures of 7.83m were a considerable improvement on the previous two weeks' figures. Furthermore it was the most-watched British TV programme on its day and had a 42.73% audience share. Needless to say it well beat its ITV rival Celebrity Wrestling.

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In summary, Dalek cannot be seen as anything other than a triumph. It is perhaps narrow-minded to dismiss the opinion from some quarters that the emotional Dalek was a bad idea but, nevertheless it is important to look beyond the personal tastes of those who were looking for a clichéd Dalek story and who - lets face it - would have complained had they got one. Dalek succeeds on every level. It's superbly written, brilliantly acted, well directed and lavishly realised. As Doctor Who goes, it is virtually faultless.

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Classic Series Influences and References:

  • The Space Museum contained many alien artifacts including a Dalek
  • The Dalek is sending out a distress signal picked up by the TARDIS. It is established in Planet of the Daleks that Daleks send out a distress signal when their casing is tampered with.
  • The Cyberman's head on display is labeled as having been "recovered from underground sewer ... London ... 1975" which is a direct reference to The Invasion, (although the head shown is of the style seen in Revenge of the Cyberman) Image Link
  • Davros is referred to as the evil genius who created the Daleks, although he is not mentioned by name
  • The line of the guard "What you gonna do, sucker me to death?" is taken almost exactly from a line in an Abslom Daak: Dalek Killer comic strip run in Doctor Who Magazine
  • The scene in which Rose, Adam and a soldier look down upon the Dalek, assuming it can't climb the stairs is a debunking of the infamous scene from Destiny of the Daleks were the Doctor taunts the Dalek. It similarly copies the popularly overlooked scene in which a Dalek follows the Doctor up the basement stairs in Remembrance of the Daleks.
  • Caves of Androzani also featured a powerful businessman who was deposed by his female assistant
  • Van Statted reveals he has the cure for the common cold under wraps which was mentioned in The Ark to have been discovered in the late 20th century.
  • The Doctor being confronted by the Dalek shrieking "exterminate", only to discover its weapon is immobilised strongly echoes Death to the Daleks.
  • The sound effect of the Dalek weapon is a combination of the sound used in Genesis of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks.

Buy the Complete First Series

This is an absolutely must for anyone who remotely enjoyed the new series of Doctor Who. Unlikely the previous individual releases of episodes, the box set has extras coming out of its ears. And whereas some box sets just have extras on the final disc, this brilliant package has a selection of extras on each disk, plus the entire set of Doctor Who confidential (cut down) on another disk.

Nothing much needs saying about the episodes themselves but commentaries on certain episodes are almost worth the price alone. The commentaries of Rose, The Unquiet Dead and Dalek are of particular note and the video diaries of certain members of the team are very interesting and fun. The TARDIS container is a nice package and overall, believe me this set of DVDs is well worth the asking price, or probably more!


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