Opinion no image

Published on April 29th, 2005 | by Christian Cawley

We are the Masters of Earth!

“Little green blobs in bonded polycarbide armour”

“If you’re supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don’t you try climbing after us? Bye bye!”

“I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years. I know also, that out of their evil, must come something good.”

“No one can withstand The Power of the Daleks!”

“Daleks conquer and destroy.”

“We are the Masters of Earth!”

For a comedy writer, Terry Nation always seemed to me a bit…humourless. So it’s probably just as well that he did the decent thing and started writing science fiction. However, I shall point out that Mr Nation’s estate has an extremely good lawyer, and as a disclaimer I’m honoured to point out that Mr Nation was a comedy genius who felt duty-bound to ensure the early years of an exciting children’s show called Doctor Who. His creation the Daleks are, as we all know, synonymous with Doctor Who. Like the Klingons to Kirk, Storm Troopers to Han Solo and on another level, like the Nazis were to the British, Daleks are a representation of everything that is evil, everything that should be stopped, and everything that we could all become.

Devastated by their own kind, forced to mutate and travel in these mini tanks, Daleks are completely Xenophobic. Daleks will kill anyone or thing they don’t understand, and convert any being they can find into their likeness. Entire planets have been subjugated for strategic reasons, and in the 22nd Century even the Earth will be another part of the vast galactic empire of the Daleks.

It has been written many times that Nation intended the Daleks as an allegory to Nazi Germany, a point reinforced in 1975’s Genesis of the Daleks. What is unusual in this is that the rest of the Western world at the time was making films with villains, often aliens, who were illustrations of Communism. In 1960s Britain, the fear of the Red Army and the Bomb were all very real; it would seem that so too was a terror which had been quashed a generation before. Could it be that “terror” is making a comeback?

Throughout Doctor Who’s televised history, the threat of the Daleks became increasingly impotent, as focus shifted from the terror themselves to their creator, Davros. They were, however, always more devious and cunning without their creator, setting traps across time for the Doctor and his companions on several occasions.

The Dalek fear factor has been developed within the Virgin novels and Big Finish plays. Particular to the Virgin Doctor Who adventures is the development of a coherent future timeline within the Doctor and his companions have adventures upon a background of galactic war between Earths’ Empire and the Daleks. While this timeline is drawn from previously shown events such as Frontier in Space, there is more than enough universe to play in while keeping the threat of the Daleks playing at the back of the Doctor’s, mind. There is probably a part of the Doctor that expects to find a Dalek at every turn – what if the Dalek he finds isn’t a Dalek…?

Raymond Cusick is the BBC staff designer who created the look of the Daleks from Terry Nations’ description. Would it be fair to say that Terry Nation couldn’t have designed such an iconic image? I think so. From a description of gliding ballerinas, Cusick gave us shuttlecocks with guns, lethal time and space travelling alien monsters, whose only weakness is an inability to climb staircases. Even when you look at that fact in-depth, it’s an irrelevant weakness. If a Dalek can destroy cities with one shot, then it’s not going to chase you upstairs, it’ll just leave the building and demolish it. But what now for the original Dalek design?

Rumour has it that two types of Dalek will appear in the new series, the traditional and a new, modern Dalek. Will we see the much fabled spider-Dalek? To me it seems a bit of an obvious creation, based on arachnid fear and a bit too derivative. To get the young viewers scared of Daleks once more, we may see an increase in the height of the Dalek and a new design based on that of the original, brought up-to-date.

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




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