Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Time-travel is a tricky business.

Back in the UK last year, I was browsing through the science-fiction magazines in W H Smith, when I read that the Daleks would be appearing in the planned new series of Doctor Who. However a month or so later I read that there’d been some dispute with the rights-holders, so they now wouldn’t be appearing. Then a month or so after that, just before I came to New Zealand, I read that, yes, they would in fact be appearing after all. Or did I read that after my flight here? The thing was that, due to shipping delays, most of the science-fiction magazines on sale here in New Zealand were 3 months out of date. So was this story old news, or new new news?


This all worked in my favour of course, as I really didn’t want to know in advance. If the Daleks were going to unexpectedly show up at the end of an episode, say maybe episode one, then I wanted to be as surprised about it as the characters.

Of course, Doctor Who has a history of spoiling these surprise returns itself, with givaway episode-titles like “Planet Of The Daleks”, “Destiny Of The Daleks” and “Unexpected Return of the Daleks At The End Of Episode One: Episode #1.”

So, what do you reckon this is going to be about?

(Star Trek fans don’t have this problem. They get insomnia-curingly allegorical titles like “Lessons” “Masks” and “Ethics.”)

Anyway, having given away this big twist of the episode in advance, ('Metaltron' would have been so much cooler) the script then had to, conversely, invest time in explaining an unmade back-story.

The Daleks had fought a huge “Time War” against the Doctor’s race, and both sides had been wiped-out. This Dalek had survived by accidentally falling through some sort of a time-hole to early-21st century Earth, where it had spent the last few years incarcerated, and unable to receive any further orders from its dead superiors.

Surely less hassle to have said this Dalek was left-over from their last appearance in 1988’s Remembrance Of The Daleks. (set in 1963) It can even fly just like those Daleks could. There seems however to be a general presumption among fans that the new series mustn’t refer much to the original series, for fear of distancing new viewers. So what we got instead was a sequel to a story that no-one had seen.

How exactly is that better?

Apart from that, great Cyberhead, a few minor plot-holes, terrific soul-searching stuff from the Doctor, and generally an all-round good watch – I enjoyed this.

Best of all was the sheer amount of thought that had gone into re-realising the show’s most popular race. This one Dalek looked the same as the originals, but could fly, think, download the entire internet in seconds and was utterly lethal. This Dalek was unquestionably the sort of loyal revamp that I had been hoping for.

Well, for the first 35 minutes anyway.

For the last 10, let me go back to my earlier Star Trek comparison.

So on Star Trek, who are the baddies?

It always used to be the Klingons, until around about Star Trek V – The Final Frontier (1989) when they started to become the good guys as well. Yes, by Star Trek: The Next Generation some of them were even serving on the Enterprise. So the writers invented a new race of alien baddies called the Ferengi, but again it wasn’t long before we got episodes about good Ferengi joining Starfleet. (Hey – they’re not so different from us y’know. Why, underneath, they’re just as human as we are.) After that it was the Borg, until they couldn’t resist writing “good Borg” episodes, notably one of them joining the regular cast of Star Trek: Voyager. Then it was Species 8472, and guess how long they stayed thoroughly evil for? Oo - maybe a year. (Photon-torpedo the lot of them I say)

Anyway, turning all nice is what happened to the Daleks tonight, complete with sad moving suicide ending.

Not the best introduction to them for new viewers. The BBC even got complaints about there being too much violence... to the Dalek. (see here)

(Maybe they actually complained about too much violins...)

Memo to self – the Daleks can now all be defeated by simply touching their casing so that they absorb your DNA and develop a conscience.

Handy. Let’s hope they remember this next time.

7 ¾ out of 10.

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