Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Story 161 - Dalek

In which the TARDIS materialises in a bunker deep beneath the state of Utah, in 2012. It has been drawn here by a mysterious SOS signal.The Doctor and Rose find that the bunker has been turned into a museum of extra-terrestrial artefacts. There is a Slitheen arm, and the head of a Cyberman amongst the exhibits. An alarm is triggered and they are captured by guards. They are taken to meet the owner of the museum - Henry Van Statten. He is the world's richest man, with the power to topple Presidents, and he owns the internet. He is impressed with the Doctor's knowledge of alien objects, which beats his own expert - a young Englishman named Adam Mitchell. Van Statten has one living item in his museum, his pride and joy. He has employed a man named Simmons to get the "Metaltron" to speak by any means necessary. He has failed until now, so Van Statten decides to let the Doctor try. The Metaltron is said to have landed in the Ascension Islands back in the 1960's. Anyone who approached it was burnt to a crisp. The Doctor goes into the cage where the creature is chained up - and is shocked to discover that it is really a Dalek. Van Statten listens in as the Doctor's presence brings it to life. He hears how the Dalek should not exist - the Doctor had destroyed its entire race in a war. His own people had perished in the same conflict. The Doctor is pulled out when he tries to destroy the Dalek.

Van Statten realises he has another unique alien object to add to his collection - the Doctor. He subjects him to a torturous examination, and realises that he may be able to copyright some of the Doctor's biology. Rose forces Adam to take her to the cage, where she feels sorry for the Dalek as Simmons continues to torture it. After the Doctor left, it has refused to speak once more. Rose touches its casing, and there is a transfer of energy. Travellers in the TARDIS become imbued with Artron Energy, and this helps to regenerate the Dalek. It kills Simmons - crushing his skull with its sucker appendage. Its casing repairs itself, and it breaks free of its chains. It then starts to download the entire internet, as well as the power supply from the local area. Soon all the neighbouring states lose their power, absorbed by the Dalek. Van Statten is forced to release the Doctor so that he can help contain the creature. The Dalek soon breaks out into the bunker, exterminating everyone it encounters. It has a forcefield which eliminates bullets fired at it. Rose and Adam must get to the upper levels before they are sealed off by the Doctor - who cannot allow it to break out into the wider world.

Adam succeeds in getting out, but Rose is too late. The Doctor believes she has been killed, but the Dalek then contacts him. Rose is alive. She tells the Doctor that the Dalek has spared her, and it is changing. The Doctor realises that it has become infected by some of Rose's humanity. The Doctor opens the bunker door to let Rose out, then goes to Adam's workshop to find a weapon that will be effective against the Dalek. The creature tells Rose that it wants to see the sun. It blasts a hole in the ceiling, then opens its casing to reveal the tentacled mutant within. The Doctor arrives, ready to destroy it - but Rose refuses to let him to it. The Dalek has changed, and he is acting like the monster. The Doctor tells her that the Dalek cannot exist in this state. It asks to be destroyed, but cannot bring itself to kill itself. Rose must order it to do so. She agrees. The Dalek closes its casing, then the spheres detach from the skirt and circle around it - creating a vortex of energy. The Dalek vapourises.
Van Satten finds himself deposed by his aide, Diana Goddard, as payment for all the people who were killed by the Dalek. He will be left dumped by the side of the road somewhere with his memory wiped. Adam informs the Doctor and Rose that the bunker is about to be flooded with concrete. They decide to take him with them in the TARDIS.

Dalek was written by Rob Shearman, and was broadcast on 30th April, 2005. It is the only TV story to date to be commissioned from the author. It is the first Dalek story of the revived series, and introduces a new companion - Adam Mitchell, played by Bruno Langley (best known for a long-running role in Coronation Street).
It is the first story to be set in the USA for the new series - somewhere which will come to be visited often over the next decade.
The story takes as its starting point a Big Finish audio which Shearman had written - Jubilee - which also featured a lone Dalek being held prisoner and tortured, in this case in the Tower of London.
As plans for the 2005 series progressed, show-runner Russell T Davies found that it was expected that they would launch with a Dalek story. Senior figures at the BBC argued with him about this but he refused to allow it. The Daleks would detract from the introduction of the new companion, and the new Doctor. Better, said RTD, to hold the Daleks back until the midpoint. If the series was flagging, this would provide a second launch, or mid-season boost if things were going well.
The Daleks had become bit players in their own stories towards the end of the classic series, thanks to the introduction of the far more interesting character of Davros. RTD wanted to re-establish them as powerful adversaries in their own right, and so only wanted the one lone Dalek to feature. If this is what one could do, just wait until we get whole armies, he argued.

However, it was not always certain that Terry Nation's estate would allow the use of the Daleks. The BBC antagonised them by assuming that they could use them without asking (and paying) for them. Shearman was asked to come up with a Dalek-free alternative story-line featuring a new monster idea from RTD. These would be the Toclafane - homicidal spherical robots that actually contained the human race from the far future. Once it was finally agreed that the Daleks could be used, the Toclafane went into the ideas pending tray for use later on...
The Dalek design stays loyal to the original one by Ray Cusick. Back in the 1990's, when The Movie and the aborted Dark Dimensions were being planned, intentions had been to radically redesign them - creating "Spider-Daleks" for instance.
The new bronze Daleks are more heavily armoured than before, with thick plating and big rivets. New additions are the bullet-melting forcefield, plus the rotating mid-section that allows the Dalek to shoot 360 degrees. A use for the skirt balls is finally produced - they detach and can act as a self destruct mechanism.
We also get the new casing opening - the front neck section opening out instead of the dome raising like a lid. The decision is also taken to show the Dalek mutant right from the first story. It is a tentacled brain, with one eye, though we can see where another eye has been.

The new operators no longer need three hands, as John Scott Martin used to say. The dome and lights are now operated by remote control. From this point on, the Daleks will be voiced by just one artists - Nick Briggs - who had been voicing Daleks on audio for a number of years.
The main guest artist is Corey Johnson, as Van Statten. Goddard is Anna-Louise Plowman, and Simmons is Nigel Whitmey. If Briggs is the new Roy Skelton / Peter Hawkins, then Barnaby Edwards is the new John Scott Martin, as principal Dalek wrangler.
Story Arc elements:

  • Bad Wolf - the call sign for Van Statten's helicopter, heard as it lands at the beginning of the story.
  • The Time War. We finally get some detail about this. The war was fought between the Time Lords and the Daleks, and the Doctor is suffering from survivor's guilt as he wiped out both sides to bring the conflict to an end.
  • Artron Energy. First mentioned in the classic series, this will feature significantly in a number of stories to come.
  • Daleks - a whole new chronology for the Daleks is launched, generally self-contained from the stories of the classic era.

Overall, one of the best Dalek stories ever. Minimal cast - just the Dalek and the Doctor battling it out between them. Lots of great new attributes for the Dalek - though sadly not carried through to other stories all of them. Best performance by far from Eccleston, as we get to see just what the War has done to the Doctor. As for the ending - who would have thought they would ever shed a tear for a Dalek?
Things you might like to know:
  • Shearman jokingly called his non-Dalek scripts "The Absence of the Daleks".
  • An earlier version of the script had Van Statten's wife instead of the Goddard character, and the Adam character would have been his son.
  • Christopher Eccleston is seen to spittle at the mouth when raging at the Dalek. Director Joe Ahearne offered to re-film this, but it was felt to be in keeping with the performance.
  • Jubilee gets referenced in the name of the pizza delivery company that Adam Mitchell uses. The same company will deliver to the Torchwood team in Cardiff Bay, seemingly on a daily basis.
  • The script mentions the Dalek arriving in the Ascension Islands. There is only one Ascension Island, singular.
  • Other geographical problems arise from Van Statten's map of the USA. Some of the New England states appear to have merged together, and part of Michigan is gone altogether.
  • RTD showed the designers a Dapol toy Dalek before they started to make the new casing - to show how not to do it. He wanted to get back to the original Ray Cusick size and shape. The design had become corrupted over the years - especially in the 1980's when they became taller and thinner. Mike Tucker led the team that built the new casing. A fan's 1960's version was used as the template, from which moulds were taken. Two Daleks were built - the wrecked one, and the shiny regenerated version.
  • If you thought that Ray Cusick would have been pleased, you would be mistaken, unfortunately. He did not like the rivets, claiming they looked man-made, when a Dalek should not look like it was made by people.
  • A lot of filming for this story took place in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. It was only when they got to the location that they found out that the Dalek was almost too big to fit through the doorway at the foot of the stairwell. It scraped through - just.
  • Our first sighting of the Cybermen in the new series, though they won't make a proper appearance for another year, when they will be an alternative universe lot. This is clearly proof that the Mondasian ones are still around. The head is clearly one from Revenge of the Cybermen - note the tubing on the handles. However, the display says that it was found in the sewers of London - implying it is supposed to be one from The Invasion.
  • The 2012 date for this story will cause problems before the next series is done and dusted. How can Van Statten not know what his Metaltron is, if Daleks are going to be flying around London in 2007, then invading the whole planet in 2009?
  • The Dalek does the fan-pleasing thing of e-le-va-ting up the stairs when taunted by Adam - and shutting up the critics who persisted with the old Dalek / stairs joke even though it was quashed back in 1988. Why, though, does it not simply shoot him?
  • Adam claims there is a flight from Utah to London. There isn't one - at least direct. You can fly from Salt Lake City to Paris direct. Don't ever think this blog never imparts useful information.
  • Dalek was broadcast in the week of the General Election in the UK. It was given a special Radio Times cover - a recreation of the classic scene (not actually seen) in The Dalek Invasion of Earth 41 years earlier. It has subsequently been voted the best RT cover of all time. There was a feeble attempt to best this when the New Paradigm were unveiled, coinciding with the 2010 election. Rubbish Daleks, rubbish government.

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