Friday, 5 July 2013

Rooksburg Reviews: Dalek

Doctor Who s1e06: Dalek

In a subterranean museum in Utah lies a vast collection of alien artifacts- the pride of which is sending a distress call that the Doctor receives.  What is this prized artifact?  Well the title of the episode may give a clue, it's a Dalek- the Doctor's most hated enemy.
Straight away we see the main flaw in this episode; the fact that it tries to build suspense despite the title already giving the big reveal.  Aside from this relatively minor flaw (it's not even noticeable so long as you avoid the 'next time' trailer and aren't paying attention to the title when it comes on screen), this is a pretty decent episode, though I would say it would be better suited later on with slight script changes.  The purpose of the new series was to introduce Doctor Who to a new audience, and as such it should be assumed that some of this audience may not have heard of the Daleks.  If their first experience is this episode, I would be quite disappointed.  It shows that Daleks are nigh-unstoppable ruthless killing machines, but that they also have a sensitive side (albeit caused by some 'biomass extrapolation', but still).  I'm also not happy with 'levitate' and found it a bit cheap, but I suppose they needed to address the problem of stairs at some point.

The theme of this story is to hold a mirror to the Doctor.  Previously we have seen him take a relaxed view to what goes on around him, only getting involved if he absolutely has to- but this time he's involved due to personal hate and fear, not entirely unlike a Dalek's motivations.  Due to this, this episode is quite an important one for the series as it shows the first time the Doctor's really been torn up by his actions in the Time War, which some have speculated we haven't seen the full ramifications of until this year's 50th anniversary special.

Regarding the supporting characters... oh dear.  Poor Americans, they just can't catch a break from us Brits-
The trolls have taken over the internet.
we have a view of Americans that depicts them as loud, greedy, ignorant, gun-toting, cowardly people that have a condescending view of the British; and this episode reinforces every single one of those stereotypes without any redeeming features.  We have the museum's owner, and owner of the internet, Henry van Statten who displays a tenacious single-mindedness to ensuring the Dalek doesn't get damaged, even when it's killing his entire staff- until the point where his own life is in danger at which point he'll stop at nothing to save his own skin.  We also have Diana Goddard, who is van Statten's right-hand woman (after his former assistant disagreed with his ambition to become president) and immediately betrays him to take his place when all is safe.  Another significant member of van Statten's staff, Simmons, takes delight in torturing the Dalek, even taunting it when it's fully operational.  The final American is a guard who disregards the Doctor's advice in dealing with the Dalek (concentrate on the eye-stalk) and goes for a brute force approach only to be killed within seconds.  To highlight how loathsome these Americans are, we have an Englishman working with them- Adam Mitchell- who is constantly belittled and mocked, and demonstrated to be a generally much nicer person than the Americans.  He also serves to show how heartless Rose is, as within seconds of meeting him, she starts flirting with him; again, completely forgetting about Mickey.  A vague attempt is made to show Rose's compassionate side, but it doesn't really work when she's being sympathetic towards the most feared being in the whole universe.

First Impression:  Pretty good, but aren't Daleks meant to be terrifying?  Yet a single human can cause them to question their own existence?  Sounds a bit lame...
In Retrospect:  Still pretty good, wish we'd seen a Dalek story before this though just so we'd know how terrifying these creatures are supposed to be.  Unfortunately, this won't be the only time RTD attempts to make the Daleks 'sympathetic' villains...

Also, this episode features a topless Christopher Ecclestone, which I'm sure is good enough reason for some of the female fans to watch it (and probably some male fans too).

Next Time:  The Long Game.

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