The absurd decision to make the most legendary villian in Doctor Who multicoloured ridiculed the Daleks. Throughout the last few years the killing machines from Skaro have not been used to their full potential, but is it just a blip, or have they slipped from being the scariest villian in Doctor Who?
Even people that are not fans of Doctor Who could probably identify a Dalek. They are up there with Darth Vader and Voldemort in terms of famous bad guys. An integral part of the show since their first appearance in 1963, it has always been said that they make children hide behind the sofa. But do they still have that aura that makes them so terrifying? When the show was rebooted in 2005, we first saw a Dalek in an episode aptly named “Dalek”, in series one. It was ruthless, it was menacing and it actually exterminated several people on screen. This was the perfect way to reintroduce them back to a new audience. Their new gold casing looked stunning and already they had retained their status as the Doctor’s arch enemy. Christopher Eccleston’s performance in that episode was one of his best. To see the Doctor so scared of one single Dalek really showed how he hated them, and how dangerous he knew it could be. The episode is yet to be topped in terms of a Dalek episode. For the rest of Davies’ tenure as head writer, the Daleks remained pretty scary, but nothing in comparison to that first episode.
Since Steven Moffat took over as head writer, one of his biggest failings has been his use of the Daleks. They appeared in his third episode in charge of the show, written by Mark Gatiss, and what a mess he made of that. “Victory of the Daleks” introduced the Paradigm Daleks, Daleks that were now multicoloured. They had always been neutrally and conservatively designed, white, grey, black and gold throughout the show and that added to how fearsome they appeared. It’s baffling that someone, almost definitely Steven Moffat thought making these insane killing machines yellow and orange was a good idea. They looked absolutely ridiculous. Added to that, they acted pretty ridiculously too. They were outwitted by a jammie dodger. Yes a simple biscuit fooled the Daleks into believing that they were about to be defeated. The whole episode was an insult to the Daleks and their proud history within the show.
Steven Moffat has tried to be creative in his usage of the Daleks. “Asylum of the Daleks” was a good concept, a whole planet of insane Daleks and Daleks that were surplus to requirements was a brilliant idea. But it was executed so poorly. Why did they forget who the Doctor was? It was another factor that just added to them losing what made them so scary. When they were at their peak they seemed invincible, physically impregnable and mentally so sharp, they were the perfect enemy. But forgetting the Doctor? It made them seem foolish and vulnerable. “Into the Dalek” was another imaginative yet anticlimactic story. The Doctor and a team being shrunk and entering the Dalek to try and repair him was another good concept. The episode itself was just messy though and it seemed to get lost in itself. It did nothing to help the Daleks and again, allowing the Doctor, its greatest enemy try to repair him made the Dalek seem dim and not at the mental standard a Dalek should be. To sum up the Daleks in Moffat’s era is quite easy. They’ve gone from the most feared species in the universe to a laughing stock. They have exterminated hardly anyone on screen and they’ve been so much less threatening. Even the Doctor has acted more calmly around them, seemingly less concerned at what they’re up to when they appear. I wouldn’t say all is lost for the Daleks. Hopefully Chris Chibnall will write a few stories where they go back to being all conquering invincible murderers again. However, if they continue the way they’ve been going for the last few series, then maybe it is time for the Daleks to be consigned to the show’s history.
There is a rather strange rule, meaning if the Daleks fail to appear in a series then the show loses the rights to them. This may have contributed as to why they’ve been used so regularly but it’s not really an excuse as to why they’ve been so poorly handled. The cameo that a Dalek made in “The Wedding of River Song” shows that they could easily take a long break from being the main villains while the BBC and the show keeps the rights to them. A hiatus of at least two or three series would make their return more impactful and help them regain their legendary status as the greatest villains in the show’s history.