First Broadcast April 30th, 2008 @ 7.00pm (8.63m viewers)
As a part of Russell T Davies’ clever structuring, the return of the Daleks to Doctor Who provided a neat publicity boost during the middle of the season. It was a difficult task, however, to reinvigorate the Skarosian pepper-pots as a credible and menacing force to a new audience unfamiliar with their Nazi ideologies that would have struck a nerve with viewers in the 1960’s. However, the inspiration for this episode would be found in a story already told by Big Finish productions, ‘Jubilee’. Central to both tales is a single Dalek, vulnerable and pained. The episode neatly reminded viewers at home that inside the recognisable Dalek casing was an organic creature, something which later stories in the programme’s original run often overlooked.
Introduced in this story was the update on the original, iconic design which still continues ten years later. The copper and bronze colour scheme was a deviation from styles which had been seen before but fitted the more powerful machined look of the new Daleks. For the first time, the creatures do look like the mobile tanks which was the intention of their creator, making them a formidable and intimidating physical force. In addition to the visual dominance of the new prop, the way in which the actors perform opposite it cemented the Daleks into the affections of viewers once again.
The casting of experienced and powerful actor Christopher Eccleston in the lead role proves to be a smart move in this episode, particularly during the scenes of the Doctor in the cage with the restrained and powerless Dalek. Despite the obvious difficulties of acting with an inanimate prop, Ecclestone is simply sublime, conveying fear and rage at the Doctor’s greatest enemy in some of the most powerful scenes ever performed with the monsters. This episode paints in some of the backstory of the Time War where everyone lost, explaining the Doctor’s pain from the weight of responsibility for his actions. He shows an additional side of himself, a vengeful warrior who has nothing but resentment for his oldest enemy.
Crucial to the success of Doctor Who in 1963 was the popularity of the Daleks and equally important in the show’s revival was how well a modern audience could connect with the monsters. During the wilderness years, the Daleks had remained recognisable but jokes about an inability to go up stairs continued to haunt despite having been disproved in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’. This episode seeks to quash those jokes once again and Rob Shearman admitted the scene of elevation was the first which he wrote just to get it out of the way.
The desire to make the Daleks a credible force once again was achieved flawlessly. The modern audience now perceived the Daleks as dangerous machines, with a vulnerable organic creature inside and a single Dalek capable of exterminating the entire inhabitants of Salt Lake City just to start with. More importantly, the Doctor feared them, haunted by the destruction they had wrecked in the Time War and even more terrifyingly, the terrible actions they would trigger in the Doctor, things he never thought he would be capable of.
The Doctor – Christopher Eccleston
Rose Tyler – Billie Piper
Henry van Statten – Corey Johnson
Adam Mitchell – Bruno Langley
Goddard – Anna-Louise Plowman
Polkowski – Steven Beckingham
Dalek Voice – Nicholas Briggs
Simmons – Nigel Whitmey
De Maggio – Jana Carpenter
Commander – Joe Montana
Bywater – John Schwab
Director – Joe Ahearne
Writer – Robert Shearman
Producer – Phil Collinson
Also First Aired On This Day…
- The Gunfighters : A Holiday for the Doctor
- Doctor Who Confidential : The Daleks
- Day of the Moon
- Doctor Who Confidential : Breaking the Silence