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October 9, 2015

Doctor Who: Dalek

by Richard Keller, posted Apr 15th 2006 12:33AM

The Ninth Doctor on Sci-Fi Channel(S01E06) All right, let's get this out of the way so we can proceed with the review. Here we go . . .

I didn't like Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor. Call it blasphemy, call it satanical, but I just didn't get the vibe with Baker as I did with some of the other doctors such as Jon Pertwee (third Doctor), Peter Davison (fifth Doctor) and Sylvester McCoy (seventh Doctor). Maybe it was the scarf.

Having said that, I am really enjoying these new Dr. Who adventures that are appearing on the Sci-Fi Channel while their normal Friday night schedule is taking a hiatus. To paraphrase... it's not your father's (or grandfather's) Dr. Who. While there are some occasional cheesy aliens and special effects, this version of the show is definitely the one of the most slickly produced in the series' 43-year history.

This week, we revisit an old enemy of the Doctor's: Daleks. Well, actually just one that was collected by an American millionaire, Henry Van Staten. The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston, who is the ninth Doctor and not the one in the current series appearing in the UK) and his companion Rose (former teenage popstar Billie Piper) visit the year 2012 where they land in Van Staten's museum to see the Dalek and, in a cameo appearance, the head of a Cyberman.

It turns out that the Daleks are robots with organic bodies inside and that they experience pain. It also turns out that the Doctor and the Dalek have one thing in common; they are both the last of their kind. This leads to a mano-a-mano battle between the two, where the Dalek pretty much shoots everyone down and shows a bit of Matrix-esque abilities as it sees enemy bullets in slow motion and absorbs them.

The Dalek is shown in a different light for this version of the series. It's unsure of what to do since none of its race no longer exists. The Doctor has one suggestion for it: kill itself. The Dalek has other plans though as he is now contaminated with the touch of Rose on his metal skin. He can no longer exterminate; all he wants is its freedom. In an interesting turn of events, the Dalek opens up its shell to Rose and reveals its organic self. In the end it does kill itself in order to avoid the mutation that it is going through.

I actually felt sympathy for the Dalek in this episode as it made the decision to kill itself; whoever wrote the sequence between him, the Doctor and Rose did a very good job at showing the Dalek's pain. In general this episode was very emotional, as the Doctor showed his anger and fear when meeting the Dalek and his sadness when he thought he had lost Rose.

This version of the Doctor is, well, cool. He's not like some of the other Doctors (like, for example, sixth Doctor Colin Baker). He dresses well, he's glib, and he has the right amount of cheekiness and logic in him. I also like Rose. There have been plenty of companions that have done nothing but whine every time the Doctor began another adventure. Rose is different; she comes from South London (I guess that's a rough and tumble part of the city), she's young, and she is ready to go on the adventures (as she had nothing really keeping her at home before that). I look forward to future episodes.

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The writer who gets the (well deserved) credit for making us care for a Dalek is Rob Shearman, who's had extensive experience writing for the British stage (working with Alan Ayckbourn and Francis Ford Coppola). He also wrote a number of audio plays for Big Finish Productions, who were among the folks who kept the Doctor Who torch lit during its "wilderness years" off the television. The episode "Dalek" is loosely based on a story Shearman wrote for Colin Baker's Doctor for Big Finish it impressed head writer Russell T. Davies enough that he commissioned him to adapt it for television. A similar transformation is happening this season, with Big Finish's "origins of the Cybermen" story Spare Parts being even more loosely adapted for this year's Cybermen extravaganza.

April 18 2006 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have to disagree with your opinion of the Tom Baker. To me, he is the standard by which all the Doctors are compared. Of course, I may be a little biased. I discovered Doctor Who on public television during the height of the Baker years. I've seen some of the earlier episodes, and I will agree with you that Jon Pertwee was one of the better early Doctors, but I never liked Peter Davison or Sylvester McCoy -- far too campy for my tastes. Christopher Eccleston, on the other hand, is a joy to watch, and last night's episode was one of the best so far. Instead of just painting the Daleks as the intergalactic version of al Quaeda, it takes a good look at what drives this human/machine hybrid to kill. The final scene with the Doctor, Rose, and the Dalek was damned good and damned emotional. Like Ron Moore with Battlestar Galactica, Russell Davies has re-imagined Doctor Who for the 21st century and done an excellent job. Granted, there are still some of those campy moments, but overall this is a much more dramatic Doctor, and I think that has a lot to do with Christopher Eccleston. It will be interesting to see how this changes with Davd Tennant, also a great actor, but who seems a bit more on the campy side.

April 15 2006 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this new Doctor Who...I wish we could see the second series, too, instead of having to wait until next year. I'm glad to have him back in any form, but he has been updated perfectly from what I've seen so far on SciFi. I thought the way they made the Daleks rise up the stairs with Sylvester McCoy was cool, so I expect so much more when I get home next week and look at my tape from Friday's airing. I have to say though I did love the cruelty of Colin Baker's Doctor when Davros got his hand blown off and the Doctor said "Shake"!

April 15 2006 at 9:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Next series starts on the BBC tonight - Can't wait!!!

April 15 2006 at 5:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's "Doctor Who". To call it "Dr. Who" would be sacrilegious!

April 15 2006 at 5:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael Heumann

You don't like Tom Baker?! That IS blasphemy! Frankly, I think Baker and Christopher Eccleston have one key element in common: their smiles. They both smiled through just about every situation, far more than any of the other Doctors. It's the smile that keeps me coming back, for some odd reason--it's like a devilish delight in the fact that, no matter what horrible things might have just happened or might about to happen, they don't care because they've seen it all and they are just enjoying the ride.

April 15 2006 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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