Dalek

DVD NTSC
Region 1
13-episode
box set

DVD PAL
Region 2
13-episode
box set
DVD PAL
Region 2
3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 165, starring Christopher Eccleston)
  • written by Robert Shearman
  • directed by Joe Ahearne
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: The TARDIS lands in an underground museum of alien technology in Utah, 2012, and its rich owner, Mr. van Statten, believes he can double the number of captured live aliens by adding the Doctor to his collection. But this Doctor harbours some dark secrets from his recent past, which are about to catch up with him, and Rose has no idea how deeply she is involved....

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by Nicholas Briggs (Dalek voice), Bruno Langley (Adam), writer Robert Shearman, and effects supervisor Dave Houghton.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Dalek (11 min.), with Briggs, Shearman, Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose),
    Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator), executive producer Russell T. Davies, producer Phil Collinson, production designer Edward Thomas,
    composer Murray Gold, and creature effects designer Neill Gorton.
  • "On Set with Billie Piper" video diary entry
  • "Designing Doctor Who" production design segment
  • trailer

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)


The return of a classic Doctor Who villain in the new shorter story format results in a fairly solid but predictable adventure with fewer worthy surprises and developments than it deserved.

Entrances

The police box makes a decent showing in this adventure, but its visual throbbing during materialization seems a bit much. Why mess with the traditional dissolve? Nothing of the interior appears this time, but if it's going to be the new 2005 design, I don't really miss it.

The Doctor and Rose make themselves easily known to viewers, and quickly identify the setting and get about exploring it. Excellent. Sadly, this is now the fifth story in a row that has failed to take us beyond Earth's orbit. Although the Utah 2012 setting is preferable to the constant landings in England, (and nicely populated by actors who don't need to fake their North American accents), it's really not enough to satisfy the building craving to explore an alien landscape.

The story is fairly well crafted with respect to giving the human characters some good interaction, and lots of meaty emotional scenes. Nicholas Briggs has been busy making his name famous in Doctor Who fan circles for years; he now takes to the television version of the show to prove that he knows exactly how a Dalek voice should be performed no matter what the circumstance. Very nice! The unveiling of each new element of the script is also perfectly paced and hits the appropriate atmosphere each time like a bull's-eye. But the plot and substance from which this is drawn take too many liberties to remain believable.


Backstory Blunder

The bombshell footnote from The End of the World (story no. 162) is expanded into a full-blown backstory of major import to this story's narrative, and its flaws are compounded. With this particular twist, why bother? You know it won't be long before another writer either reverses it, or correctly realizes that this backstory can't be exactly what it is presented to be. The details of what I'm talking about are in the In-depth Analysis version of this review.

And so it feels like we're just going through the motions with this ultimately inconsequential story arc, and that it isn't worth the amount of emotional investment that the characters are clumsily thrusting into it. It also feels as if we've missed a more exciting story during Doctor Who's 15-year absence from TV that would have set all this backstory up.


Magic and Superpowers

The new improved design of the Dalek makes him chunkier than his predecessors; the added hard-edges and rivets make his armour look like it was produced more primitively than before. However, Daleks are now as ridiculously magical as the 2005 sonic screwdriver; they've developed super powers.

The plot hinges on the most ludicrous of the lot, and falls apart if you stop to think about it. I'll save the details of that huge spoiler for the In-depth Analysis version of this review, but suffice it to say that as far-fetched as the technical method of this superpower is, even more boggling is why the Daleks ever developed it and deployed it in the field.

One improvement that does work, which many people might not have thought of, is the improved dexterity of the sucker arm. Very nice use of computer graphics - this could easily appear to be an ability that Daleks have had all along, and we simply hadn't seen it yet. Nice!

Going up the stairs - we've had that before in 1988. We probably could have used a little less emphasis and screen time on that one, although it's still a good idea to put it in somewhere.

There is clearly an attempt to create drama and tension out of the scenes of the Dalek and his adversaries countering each other's strategies, but because magic is ruling many abilities on both sides, and it's not clear who can really do what, the tension is far less than it could be.

The BBC now has no problems doing the special effects to make the Dalek menacing. The laser beams are top notch, and still manage to tastefully throw their targets into a negative image to maintain continuity with the earliest Dalek stories.


Anyway, as 2005 stories go, "Dalek" is not bad. In fact, it's probably essential for understanding the greater 2005 season story arc, and manages to pull many good punches beside its misfired ones. But it still has a significant way to go before it could be considered a great Doctor Who story.



This story has become available on DVD:
DVD NTSC Region 1
13-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
13-episode box set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
3-episode volume
U.K. format

Note: The 13-episode box sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The 3-episode volumes only feature the plain episodes.


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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Long Game"



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