Thirteen Faces

Commentary and analysis of Doctor Who. by Huw Buchtmann

May 12

The Three Ideas Behind Daleks

To be a great Doctor Who monster, the creature should have two traits. Firstly, they should be easily to imitate (such as Cybermen clunking their feet on the ground, Judoon saying “Jo fo so bo co”, and Ice Warriors hissing and rolling their head). Secondly, they should be an extreme version of humanity. Doctor Who is a fantastical series, but there still needs to be a connection with the audience. Having the monster as an extreme of humanity allows the Doctor to help characters conquer their worst sides (see “Remembrance of the Daleks” for a great example).

Daleks are great monsters for kids to imitate, with robotic plungers and cries of exterminate. They are humanity’s anger and humanity’s fear of the other taken to the extreme. They are the oft-called Nazis on a galactic scale. They are what we fear we will become. 

Daleks operate at their best when the story use three concepts, being that Daleks believe that:

  1. Only Daleks are pure. 
  2. Anger and hatred will conquer all. 
  3. Through relentless war, there will only be the Daleks. 

The best Dalek stories reflect this. In “The Evil of the Daleks”, changing Dalek purity brings civil war and triggers the Daleks’ collapse. In “Remembrance of the Daleks”, a civil war of purity is waged between Dalek factions. In “The Parting of the Ways”, the Emperor and his Daleks seeth with anger and hatred, relentlessly killing humans on Satellite Five and on Earth. 

Conversely, when Daleks become mere robots, they are at their worst. In “Destiny of the Daleks”, they are logical, emotionless robots in a hopeless and dull war with the logical, emotionless Movellans. “Revelation of the Daleks” has the Daleks as mere servants, illustrating that this great story is really Davros’s. 

The ultimate Dalek is relentless, shaking with anger, and sure that it is the only race worth surviving. Daleks will conquer and destroy.