Thursday, April 26, 2007


Over the past few days, I've been reading about the universe of Doctor Who and, in particular, the Daleks.

The Daleks are, by far, the most recognizable aspect of the Doctor Who mythos aside from the TARDIS and Tom Baker's scarf. But who are the Daleks really and why do they resemble giant salt shakers?

It all started back on December 21, 1963—four days before Christmas—when the second story arc aired. This story arc consisted of seven chapters encompassing one story called The Daleks. The First Doctor (William Hartnell, pictured below) and his companions (Ian, Barbera, and the Doctor's granddaughter, Susan) visited the planet Skaro and soon encountered the Daleks in their already-familiar form.

As we follow this adventure, we learn that the Daleks were originally known as the indigenous humanoid Dal people and shared the planet with the Thal people (supposedly non-humanoid in origin). Five hundred years before the Doctor's visit, the Dals and the Thals engaged in a genocidal nuclear war. The resultant radiation mutated the survivors of both sides with the Dals now physically dependent on artificial means to survive (i.e., their casings) and the Thals now physically perfect humanoids (a bit of a twist on H.G. Wells' The Time Machine). The Doctor and his companions thwart the Daleks' plan of total extermination of the Thals before taking off to parts unknown.

This span of seven, weekly episodes catapulted Doctor Who into popularity and the BBC answered fan inquiries with another Dalek story the following year—The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The Doctor and his companions arrive on Earth sometime in the 22nd century only to find Daleks running the place! In this story, we learn that the events of The Daleks take place a million years in the future. We run into our first bit of inconsistency here:

If the Dal/Thal War takes place 999,500 years in the future, why are the Daleks in casings?

For the record. this question has never been satisfactorily answered aside from the occasional bit of fan speculation ranging from time travel by the Daleks to a mistake on the Doctor's part. In any case, the Doctor and his companions thwart the evil plan of removing the Earth's core and replacing it with an engine in order to fly the planet around space (I swear I'm not making this up).
With allegedly no Daleks left at the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, how could they come back to be a major pain in the Doctor's posterior? The answer was to have them attempt to beat the Doctor at his own game—time travel. Toward the end of Season Two, the six-part story The Chase aired with the Doctor and his companions (plus Vicki, a girl found in the story immediately following The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but minus Susan who stayed behind on 22nd-century Earth after the Daleks were stopped) finding Daleks on an alien planet and being chased through time. This chase ultimately ends on an Earth colony world where the colonists' robots duke it out with the Daleks. Ian and Barbera use the Dalek time machine to return to the 20th century where it's destroyed immediately.

The First Doctor's final encounter with the Daleks came in the 12-part (13 if you count the preview episode Mission to the Unknown) story arc The Daleks' Master Plan, which aired in Season Three and was the longest story featuring William Hartnell. This story involved the Doctor and his companions Steven (a stowaway from The Chase) and Katarina (a girl from ancient Troy encountered in the story just prior to this one, replacing Vicki who stayed in Troy) desperate attempts to stop the Daleks' plan of constructing the Time Destructor, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, at the dawn of the 41st century.

So for all of you counting at home, the First Doctor encountered our favorite free-wheeling would-be exterminators on four separate occasions, the most out of any incarnation of the Time Lord so far. Incidentally, the First Doctor would meet his demise by another race of cyborgs—the Cybermen—and regenerate into the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton, pictured right). We'll delve into his Dalek encounters tomorrow.


smacky said...

Awesome post! Have you seen the big screen version of that first meeting, called "Dr. Who and the Daleks" with Peter Cushing? Bold colors.

I recently watched Genesis of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks, with doctors 4 and 7, respectively. Looking forward to your thoughts.

De said...

I meant to mention Dr. Who and the Daleks since it was heavily inspired by The Dalek Invasion of Earth. I still haven't seen it but I'm told it's pretty cool despite not being part of the canon.

I'll probably get to the stories you mentioned sometime next week, especially Genesis since it involves a ginormous retcon.

Siskoid said...

Don't confuse the films though. Doctor Who and the Daleks is basically a remake of The Daleks, and Dalek Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is a remake of The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

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