Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

VerityEpisode27-300The Doctor and his companions aren’t the only ones who’ve been around for 50 years this month. Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Lynne as we detour into the realm of villainy and discuss the dreaded Daleks! Dalekmania hit hard in the 60s, inspiring toys, films, more toys, and even a song! Listen in as we Verities talk about all these things and more. Which stories are the most definitive Dalek stories? Which are our favorites? Are the Dalek movies worth checking out? “Tune in” and see!


Also covered:

Dalek links:
Dr. Who and the Daleks
Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
“I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas with a Dalek”
Rifftrax: Dr. Who and the Daleks

Bonus links:
Neil Gaiman writing a new Doctor Who E-Book
Erik Stadnik from Various Podcasts
Chip from Two-minute Time Lord
Graeme from Reality Bomb
Messing with Sasquatch

Download or listen now (runtime 1:05:10) 

Comments on: "Verity! Episode 27 – Pepper-Pot Party" (35)

  1. Love the podcast. A really fun listen and I’m a guy! A Doctor Who fan that just so happens to be differently genital-ed.

    On the Daleks? Yes I agree. Not scary at all for me. Not even when I was a kid. More creepy in a way that is embarrassing to me. The Daleks press my handicapped button. I know, I know….. Physically challenged people deserve all the loving kindness that I can muster, and I do sympathize with them completely, I was in a wheelchair for a while after a motorcycle accident.

    Still, that uneasy feeling rises up whenever I see a person with serious ALS like Stephen Hawking or spinal bifida or hydrocephalus. My Dad got throat cancer from cigarettes and he had to talk through this box that made him sound like a robot. It all gives me this chill at the back of my neck…. Like staring at a bad car accident and you can’t look away….. Same feeling. Davros and his Daleks give me that same emotional response. Especially after seeing the organic part underneath the metal shell. This nasty little, angry, deformed mutation…… And Davros is super pissed off too. AND he is basically in a wheelchair. Plus he’s got that face… That voice…… One arm…. One robot eye….. Those teeth.


  2. Laurissy said:

    First of all team dalek ftw. (Proud owner of dalek oven glove) I know it’s a cliche but the daleks are my favourite doctor who villains and this is embarassing but I even liked daleks in manhattan and evolution of the daleks and I am still willing to defend it up to a point. I don’t know why I love the daleks so much but they bring out my inner geek. I mean the first thing that got me properly enraged at anything in doctor who was the dalek redesign in victory of the daleks. I think a part of it is I did grow up with Doctor Who. Doctor Who came back when I was 12 so I grew up with the show and in my mind the daleks were just the antithesis of the doctor. They’d killed his people in the time war. They always consistently bought out the worst in him in a way the cybermen didn’t. He was afraid of the cybermen sure I’ll give the cybermen that much but they didn’t bring up the pure negativitity in the Doctor that the daleks did. This is definately a consistent thing in the new series in dalek he tries to torture the dalek to death, In the parting of the ways they show that the doctor is a coward, a good person but a coward he can’t live with the death of earth so he’d let the daleks continue. In journey’s end the daleks show him that he’s guilty of turning his companions into warriors. In victory of the daleks the doctor’s prejudice caused the daleks to reborn and almost caused the destruction of london. Even in the end of time an episode they weren’t in they caused the timelords to go so insane that they were willing to end the war with everyone dead rather than accept defeat. I think that’s what makes the daleks scary. The cybermen take everything human away from you and turn you into monsters. The daleks use your humanity or timelordity in the doctor’s case and they still turn you into monsters but your soul is still in intact. That to me is far more scary it also makes his victory over them sweeter because the doctor hasn’t just defeated the daleks but his own darker nature.

    Now I never hid behind the sofa but in fairness the only thing I’ve ever seen that has is jurrassic park.I guess I find the psychology of the daleks almost more scary than the daleks themselves but I think the design and the voice do say a lot about the psychology behind them. One really good look at dalek psychology is prisoner of the daleks which is a tenth doctor novel set during the specials and it really dives into the psychology of the daleks what makes them tick and how they don’t just kill you, they break you down and kill you in the most painful way possible. I am even going to put the amazon link here, I’m not getting paid to endorse this I just think it’s that great it’s worth reading at least once Of course I listened to it which is a good choice Nicholas Briggs does a killer Tennant impersonation and also cool dalek voice. No one will ever convince me that this is not cannon if something that comes up later that contradicts it even if it’s on the tv series. I don’t care this novel is cannon and I love it.

    I was a bit disappointed you didn’t talk more about the Hartnell dalek stories especially the first two considering they are the cause of dalekmania but I know you guys have limited time. I personally think the daleks and dalek invasion of earth are excellent doctor who episodes and it’s fun looking at them and seeing what bits of them got dropped and how the dalek creation was almost distilled into what we think of as a dalek now. There’s one great bit in the daleks where they realise there isn’t a cure for them and they will be forever monsters. It’s great it’s the closest you’ll ever get to feeling sorry for a dalek. Of course this is completely retconned later on but it’s interesting to see it. I also believe that the reason the dalek caught on is that cliffhanger with the dalek in shadow and Jacqueline Hill really selling us the pure terror of seeing a dalek with that blood curdling scream. Barbara Wright makes the daleks scary. Also you think hitting a dalek with a baseball bat is cool. How about running one over in a truck. Also tricking the daleks with historical trivia. God I love Barbara. So Barbara is the most awesome companion and the daleks are the most awesome villains and that will never change.

    I want to nominate the sensorites for in defence of mainly because it was the first doctor who dvd I bought that I was disappointed by. Also it would be nice to rewatch it with a more positive spin. You know since I still have the DVD which I bought when it first came out at top price.

  3. I think we need more of a back story for Davros. Maybe he was born physically challenged? A real smart kid when he was young, but he had to get around in a motorized wheelchair, and he faced a lot of negativity and bullying by his peers because of it.

    Right now Davros is just pure, simple, evil. I think a dash of complexity and a big dollop of pathos added to his character it would make the concept of Davros and his Daleks a whole lot more interesting.

    • baticeer said:

      I think Big Finish has a short spin-off series about exactly this called “I, Davros”. (I haven’t heard it myself, but I know at least one person who speaks very highly of it, so you might be interested.)

  4. baticeer said:

    Things I learned from Verity this week: how to pronounce “woobie.”

    I am Team Dalek forever! Honestly, I think one of the things I like about Daleks is similar to something that I like about Doctor Who as a whole. Daleks can be really menacing and disturbing (if not necessarily hide-behind-the-sofa scary) in some stories and then they can be a fairly generic enemy in others and then they can be kind of a weird comedy campy totally not frightening enemy in yet more stories. I don’t think any of the other recurring villains in Doctor Who can actually be in all of those different genres and not have it … diminish them, if that’s the right word? Like, The Chase is total nonsense and you are supposed to point and laugh at the Daleks and it is wonderful, and then you can sit down and watch something like Dalek and it’s kind of brutally good in a way that is totally not tainted by the fact that you were laughing at a Dalek with a speech impediment just a little bit earlier. (I love The Chase so much!)
    I also think Cybermen never actually live up to their full potential as enemies but that is perhaps a discussion for a future Cyberman-focused episode!

    I think Troughton has the definitive and best Dalek stories but I might be biased because I tend to think Troughton has the definitive and best everything! I think for my favorite Dalek story I really do have to go with The Power of the Daleks because while I enjoy the fun campy Dalek nonsense type of story, I also like it when Daleks are genuinely menacing.
    IMO the best moment in Power is when one of the human characters from the colony orders the Dalek he’s commanding to kill another person who was formerly working with him and the Dalek hesitates. So he orders it again, yelling at it. And it goes along with his orders and exterminates the other man. And then it pauses and says in its weird Dalek voice “WHY DO HU-MAN BE-INGS KILL O-THER HU-MAN BE-INGS?” (and he doesn’t answer) Because it doesn’t actually understand. Even though the Daleks are willing to deceive and slaughter totally without mercy for the perpetuation of their race there are some evil acts that humans perpetuate on themselves and even Daleks can’t comprehend because for them what is important is only the species. It’s so good.
    (omg, one day all the episodes of Power of the Daleks will be found and then tons of people will watch it and rave about how amazing it is and I will feel vindicated in how much I love it, just the same way this happened with Enemy of the World. this is what I believe in my hopeful heart.)

    You are correct about Daleks’ Master Plan being intended as a backdoor pilot, I believe. There was going to be a Terry Nation created spin-off about the Daleks and the Space Security Service, and Jean Marsh was supposed to reprise her role as Sara Kingdom (!) with other characters she worked with being her brother and an android. So it sounds like it could have been freakin’ amazing except for the part where it was written by Terry Nation so, maybe not. But Big Finish adapted the written first 2 episodes of this spin-off because Big Finish is the hero of getting things that were never made to audio. It’s the bonus on their Lost Stories Second Doctor box set.

    Speaking of Big Finish, since you mentioned the Eighth Doctor not having a TV Dalek story, I wanted to put in a word about the audio Terror Firma. It has Eight and Charley and C’rizz with Daleks and Davros and it’s really really good, especially if you’re a Davros fan (which I tend not to be, so that might tell you something). It’s not my favorite Dalek story or even my favorite one on audio (that would be Jubilee) but if anyone wants to see how the Eighth Doctor faces up against Davros then I highly recommend it. It’s definitely better than either Time otD (the first audio Dalek story with the Eighth Doctor) or the two 8 + Dalek novels (War otD / Legacy otD).

    I’m not sure if my suggestions would be good for “defend it” episodes because the stories that I hate tend to be stories that the rest of fandom loves (Tomb of the bloody Cybermen, I’m looking at you, grumble grumble). But I thought about it and came up with a least favorite that I at least don’t hear lots of praise for (if not outright hate; I don’t really hear anything about it). So Verity if you can convince me that The Reign of Terror is good you would be miracle workers. But that’s just my suggestion.

    • Elvisomar said:

      I don’t intent either to confirm or deny that Master Plan was a sort of back-door Dalek series pilot, but… I can enthusiastically confirm and recommend that the front-door script—being developed for an American television series—was made as a Big Finish audio adventure called The Destroyers starring Jean Marsh (script adapted for audio by guess who… hint: his name rhymes with tickle-less prigs). It’s in that box set with Prison in Space (an un-produced Dick Sharples treatment found decades later in Frazer Hines garage, and then adapted by Simon Guerrier), and also some fun “bonus” interview material.

    • I’m sorry, did you say that Tomb of the Cybermen is a fan favourite? OMG, I’m clearly not a real fan… I thought it was AWFUL. I only watched it recently; it was the first Troughton story I’ve ever watched, and it may well be the last… (although there were occasional glimpses of the lovely relationship between the Doctor and Jamie that I’ve heard so much about, and I would love to see more of that…)

      So, Baticeer, since we agree on Tomb of the Cybermen, I’m willing to check out your Dalek recommendations. Even though I’m usually more of a Cyberman fan than a Dalek one…

      • baticeer said:

        I never understood why it was so appreciated personally. I like the interaction between the regular characters and there are some nice moments, but I think the plot is nonsensical and the one-off characters are boring. It’s also quite racist even by the standards of that time I think. I wouldn’t say I *hate* it but it’s definitely not one of my favorites and I probably have extra dislike for it just based on annoyance that so many people talk it up as a classic (silly as that may be). *Not A Real Fan OMG high five* 😉 I hope it’s not the last you watch! Every Doctor has one or two awful stories and unless you came away from it like “Oh, I hated that BECAUSE of the Doctor’s character” I think you should give him another try.

        If you’re a newcomer to the Second Doctor I’d probably recommend you watch a few more serials that exist before you try Power of the Daleks because it’s all missing. Although it is his first story so it can of course be an excellent first one to experience, it just depends on what your tolerance for recons is…. maybe if you’re a fan of the Cybermen I would recommend The Invasion as another Troughton Cyberman story that I like better than Tomb (although fair warning it is very long and they don’t show up until well into the plot).

  5. baticeer said:

    Ooh I know I wrote a really long comment already but I thought of a couple other things I forgot to say! (I guess I just have a lot of feelings about Daleks.)

    One is that “I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek” is the BEST THING EVER CREATED. I make a point of listening to it a lot around Christmastime. And also at many other points in my life because it is WONDERFUL. Second is that I have not yet seen the Cushing / Dalek movies but I think this podcast pushed me over the edge and I have been convinced that I need to pick them up as soon as possible.

    And finally I wanted to mention the TV21 Dalek comic strips. These were written at the height of Dalekmania and they kind of embody it. They’re very bright and colorful and very 60s campy, and they are a series entirely without the Doctor and all about the Daleks going around and invading planets and fighting off invasions from other alien empires (including their greatest rivals, the terrifying… Mechanoids!). After two of these strips were reprinted in the recent DWM Dalek “bookazine” I went and tracked down the rest on the internets and I really enjoyed reading them. I would love to see them collected and reprinted in a nice graphic novel sometime. Although I wouldn’t know personally, I think these are pretty strong in the cultural consciousness of older fans who were children during the height of Dalekmania. I’ve read (though I haven’t listened to it yet) that Big Finish’s series “Dalek Empire” is consciously based on these stories except that it focuses more on a human resistance force against the Daleks and naturally has less of a for-kids tone.

    So my question that I wanted to maybe pose for any of you (or commenters) who might have experienced these somewhat obscure spin-offs of the big universe of Doctor Who (or anything similar to them) is what do you think of Daleks in non-Doctor Who stories? If they’re not facing off against the Doctor are they still as fun to watch(/read/hear/etc) or does he have to be there taking them out to add the interest for you. Just a thought that I had and maybe someone has something to say about it.

    • Laurissy said:

      Yeah about the dalek spin off with Sara Kingdom. I have a hard time believing that if she wouldn’t accept being a companion then she was hardly going to accepting headlining a series. I’ve always assumed that if this did happen that they would have had to recast Sara Kingdom maybe hire an american to appeal to american audiences. I have no idea. I am curious how far Nation actually got casting and writing this. I mean I know there was a pilot of some sort because big finish released it as a lost story. I’ve never listened to it so maybe it works. As I said in my own dalek post what makes the daleks interesting is how they bring out the evil in good people espcially the doctor. So the daleks on their own I can’t really see working but in fairness I’ve never read the tv21 comics so maybe I could be converted into liking them. I’ve heard nothing but good things.

      PS I know you might not want to hear this but I love tomb of the cybermen maybe it’s just the novelty of actually being able to see Patrick Troughton rather than listen to him and I just find the scene with him and Victoria is adorable. For me that’s the best second doctor moment ever. Feel free to disagree.

      • baticeer said:

        Well there was a fully written script that Big Finish worked from, so that was how far along the project was. Good point about Jean Marsh. I wonder if anyone has ever asked her that. It would have been pretty cool to see that series for real. I wonder how well it would have gone over in America.

        It’s funny because I agree with you that Daleks are the most effective villains when they’re bringing out the evil in others… but there was something I found really appealing about that comic. Maybe it was just the art, which is really pretty and full of primary colors and Daleks zooming around in space and blowing things up, combined with the campy/kitschy factor.

        Oh, that is a good little scene, for sure! I just don’t like the rest of Tomb very much haha.

      • I don’t think it’s true that Jean Marsh ‘wouldn’t accept being a companion’ – the interview I saw had her simply saying she didn’t see Sara as being one because it wasn’t what she was hired for.

        Without wanting to second guess her career, I am certain that any actor offered a lead role in a series would consider it more enticing than being the assistant/juvenile support, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she had been willing to give the Nation series a go. But you are probably right that they wouldn’t have blinked twice about recasting the role.

      • laurissy said:

        Now what I heard on one of the interview she did was that taking a regular role would be like working at a bank. Then again she did upstairs downstairs for a number of years. So I guess she wasn’t completely opposed to committing to something long term. I have to admit I doubt Jean Marsh was even contacted about appearing in this but I’ve never seen an interview with Jean Marsh confirming this. In fairness though if Terry Nation had this idea for a tv series why didn’t he just have her survive at the end of daleks master plan. It would have been interesting dealing with the fall out of Mavic Chen’s death. The daleks still being out there. It seems like it could have been such a good lead in. Then again I can’t help but be a litlle resentful because it’s one of the reasons we don’t have daleks masterplan, power of the daleks and evil of the daleks, because if Terry Nation hadn’t come up with this idea, BBC worldwide would have been able to sell those serials and we might still have them. I don’t know maybe I could be a little less resentful if Terry Nation had managed to get something of the ground and we’d have a cool 60’s show with Sara Kingdom kicking ass but as it stands the whole destroyers thing doesn’t seem to have been thought through enough and it sure as hell doesn’t make up for the loss of 3 classic serials. Then again even if Nation hadn’t had this idea these episodes might still be missing and who knows maybe they’ll turn up. (Franticallly touching wood)

        Surprised at all the chase love here. I may have to give it a second chance. I watched it once and god the daleks are idiots and it goes completely against my theory of the daleks bring out the worst in the doctor motif. I guess I like to see them as a malfunctioning group of daleks at the end of the time war in a last ditch attempt to end the time war. They decide to kill the first doctor but they have serious brain damage form all the time war wackiness. not gonna lie love the time war. Not sure if that makes sense in terms of continuity but seriously these daleks are defeated by a carnival ride. I do remember there were some good bits so maybe I should give it another chance.

  6. Oh come on, not one of you Verities even mentioned the possibility of naming Hartnell the definitive Dalek Doctor? The Dalek stories of his era were not only amazing, but they were incredibly varied, showing all kinds of sides and forming the iconic image & reputation that they have today.

    Also, while Hartnell had a LOT of stories, his era is far more defined by the Daleks than any other – and most importantly with Ian, Barbara, Susan and Steven, we got the experience of his human companions also facing off against the Daleks multiple times and reacting with the true dread based on past experiences (thus increasing the sense of scale and dread) – something we didn’t get again until Sarah Jane.

    Pretty much every Dalek story exists in its own bubble, without much in the way of a coherent time line, but with the Hartnell Years we got pure space opera escalation, with the Daleks as a threat on an alien world, then invading Earth, then directly pursuing the Doctor, then expanding as a threat across the galaxy with the threat of conquering all time. Everything after that was bound to be an anti-climax!

    Genesis is a great story but it’s not the be-all and end-all of Dalek narratives, and part of the reason it works so well is because it is building on the legacy of these very early Dalek stories.

    Having made my stirring defence I am going to admit that my very favourite Dalek story is The Chase, shut up. Closely followed by Masterplan. But I hold all four close to my heart. My favourite non-Hartnell Dalek story is Day of the Daleks simply for its absolute cleverness and because I think it’s the only other Dalek story that really taps in to the ‘futuristic space opera’ potential of them as a galactic threat.

    Also a major shout out for Big Finish who have done some spectacular work with the Daleks over the years, giving them amazing story after amazing story. Colin Baker in particular has had some great face-offs against Davros (the story called simply ‘Davros’ is heartwrenching and hilarious, Robert Shearman’s Jubilee is excellent, the bodyswap glory of Curse of Davros is hilariawesome) and if you mention Daleks, Susan and Lucie Miller to me in the same sentence I might start crying.

    • Ray Adamson said:

      There is a school of thought that the Doctors’ major nemesis is really The Master but not for me.Never.It’s all about The Daleks and largely because of the scale of the storytelling of those early adventures defining them as Tansy points out so effectively.I think you’re completely entitled to take a bow Tansy.I don’t really like The Master inviting obvious comparisons between The Doctor and Sherlock or how the concept of that particular character is dependent on making Doctor Who less unique.I’m never bored by The Daleks and their relentless attempts to prove their supremacy,scheme,enslave and exterminate.I kind of like it,when their stories accentuate that they still have individual ambitions and personality beyond Galactic domination and racial superiority and that some Daleks are smarter than others.I really like The Chase as well,because of the premise of the hunt through Time and Space and how it’s the first story to concentrate on The Daleks directly attacking The Doctor and his friends because he’s a real threat.It’s much better than it’s reputation suggests.I’m already aware of unofficial rumours regarding a planned two part Dalek story written by a new writer for the next Doctor.Which is interesting speculation as you’d expect it must be somebody pretty accomplished to be writing a two part Dalek story.

      • I think it depends on the Doctor – the Master was certainly more significant to 3 & 5 than the Daleks were. But if we’re talking in absolutes, then there is no comparison. Only 7 of our 11 so far have faced a Master, 4 of them only in a single adventure.

        The Daleks also work as a nemesis metaphorically – it’s not just that they are a violent plague on the universe, and that their attitude to life is anathema to the Doctor’s own (whereas he and the Master are honestly one butterfly wingbeat away from turning into each other) but also that they represent all the other stuff in the universe that he has to stop.

        The Chase is wonderful – it’s one of those great stories like The Keys of Marinus that actually plays to the strength of the serial format, with every episode feeling like a different adventure. It’s also a story that is built on the tensions of the Doctor’s inability to steer the TARDIS, something that is only true in 60’s Who – the TARDIS is unreliable in the future but in these stories there is absolutely no way to choose a destination EVER, which means that the Chase has a frantic tension to it, brought home by the shocking scene where Vicki is left behind, and of course the gorgeous coming home story for Ian and Barbara.

  7. My first Dalek episode, by chance, was either Destiny of the Daleks, or a bit of (as per Tansy) of The Chase. I didn’t see Genesis for a long while until the 4th Doctor “started again” on my local PBS

    • I think Genesis works a lot better with as much Dalek baggage as possible – I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to a new viewer to start out with! any of the Hartnell stories, or Day of the Daleks, would all be much more fun introductions despite all being much longer.

  8. I was all about to come here and make the case for William Hartnell as the Daleks’ definitive Doctor, but Tansy beat me to it. But I do have to mention that, while I typically find the Daleks more cute than scary, there are two Dalek stories that I think are absolutely terrifying. Those stories are “The Daleks” and “Dalek Invasion of Earth.” The first time I saw both of these was my initial attempt to watch as much of Classic Who in order as I could and what scared me was not how menacing the Daleks themselves were, but how the Doctor and his companions reacted to them. Because they were scared, I was scared. That’s something I really love about that first Team TARDIS – they always made you believe that the danger was real. As long as the four main actors could believably sell the intense peril and danger of the story, I could totally buy into it – even though I’d already had been through New Series and kind of thought the Daleks were really goofy. I think the scariest Dalek moment for me was in “The Daleks” and Ian gets shot by a Dalek. My immediate reaction was “NOOOO! How could you kill one of the main characters???” but then it turns out that he’d just been paralyzed temporarily. Still, it freaked me out.

    Even in “The Chase” (which is a bit more on the farcical side, but I still completely adore it), I never, ever, ever think that the Doctor and his companions do not take the Dalek threat 100% seriously – but the difference is that they’ve encountered the Daleks before and better know how to fight them (to highly entertaining results, I might add). It’s a tribute to those early stories that those performances stand up even all these years later to a more cynical and scrutinizing audience (I cannot overstate how much I love the Hartnell-era stories – I’m kind of an anomaly in that regard).

    On the subject of the potential for an almighty uproar from fandom re: the Peter Cushing Dalek films – the other thing to remember is that there wasn’t a way to rewatch the original televised serials that those films were based on when they were first released. The fans couldn’t really go over these stories with the proverbial microscope and fine-tooth comb (other than if you were one of those intrepid viewers that recorded the audio off the television). If you missed those episodes on the initial broadcast, you were out of luck. So, I figure that might be a reason for the movies’ box office success – it was probably the first time that people got to see those stories since they were on TV. You really couldn’t do the same thing today, though. I think it was Kat who compared it to taking a David Tennant episode and remaking it for the big screen. The howls of protest would be deafening if anyone even seriously suggested it.

    • Your point about the reaction of the main cast is an important one! This is why I get cranky when people dismiss companions as ‘screamers’ – the fear reaction is almost always on the shoulders of the actors playing companions, because the Doctor is only allowed to lose his cool occasionally. And while the Chase has its silly parts, those are NEVER when the Doctor/companions and the Daleks are on screen at the same time – they always treat the threat as if it’s genuinely terrifying though you’re right that this particular TARDIS team got very good at dealing with the Daleks and helping others do the same.

      It would be hilarious if the story they made into a movie was Human Nature – which already of course was rewritten from one Doctor to another. You can bet the majority of howls would be at the lack of Tennant, not the lack of fictional McCoy!

  9. I don’t remember where I first heard it, but wasn’t there at least speculation that one reason the BBC had difficulty obtaining use of the Daleks for the new series was their (unauthorized) use in Looney Tunes: Back in Action? I don’t know how much of that is true and how much is internet urban legend, but I like to think it’s absolute fact and that maybe Steve Martin sent Terry Nation’s estate a nice fruit basket in apology.

    • Regarding the scariness of the Daleks, I came to Doctor Who as an adult, and don’t find them particularly scary. (Although the first time I saw the First Doctor serial The Daleks, I do admit to being totally creeped out in a retrospect kind of way, knowing all that was to come with them.) The Weeping Angels to me are much scarier, or the Empty Child, as they play on real fears. With a Dalek, the obvious threat is extermination, which is relatively quick, and to me far less frightening than being trapped in the past.
      My kids came to Doctor Who at age 3, but also aren’t terribly scared of them. And they have the plush talking Daleks, which of course makes them even less intimidating. They are more afraid of the baddies that look scary or gross to them (yeti, wirrn, Sutekh)

  10. Elvisomar said:

    Regarding the main question, I don’t think Genesis of the Daleks is a cop-out choice. My reason for picking it is multi-fold: I am pretty sure it was the very first episode of Doctor Who I ever saw when I was a very young man, late on a Friday night in the 1970s. I didn’t understand the show for a very, very long time, but I was hooked almost immediately. Genesis of the Daleks also gives us a very thorough version of the origin of the Daleks, and also gives us Davros filled with madness.

    Somebody mentioned “Jubilee” from Big Finish, which is where the Eccleston adventure “Dalek” came from. Both are excellent stories, to be sure.

    I think Davros has been much overused since he was introduced. I’ve not listened to the Big Finish “I, Davros” series, but I did listen to the Big Finish Sixth Doctor adventure “Davros” which was excellent, and gave us a lot of the Davros backstory.

    When all is said and done, I almost always enjoy Dalek stories, but since my youth, and until this day, the Cybermen are what I get most excited about and they hit my fear button more readily, as well.

  11. I think you raised a good point about the difference between children’s and adults’ experiences of Doctor Who monsters & villians. I do remember being scared of the Daleks as a child (and yes, I hid behind the sofa), but not as scared as I was of the green bubblewrap taking over people in Ark in Space (even once I could recognise it as bubblewrap, I was still scared!). Yet I don’t have any childhood memories of particular fear of the Cybermen.

    But, as an adult I find the Cybermen more “intellectually scary”, if I can put it like that. I fear them for what they turn people into. (This is probably why I found the green bubblewrap scary too). The Daleks will just kill you. So if I’m on a team, it’s Team Cybermen.

    In the new series, though, I have found for me the most scary monsters/villians are usually one-offs or new to the show. In the early days, if it was written by Steven Moffat, it gave me actual nightmares (!) – The Empty Child, Blink, Silence in the Library… these are some of my absolute favourite episodes, but all of them terrified me, and the first made me wake up in the night screaming! (In my defence, I was heavily pregnant and probably sleep-deprived, and the idea of an evil “empty” child was probably way more scary to a first-time mother than to the average person…) I recently re-watched The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and I literally had to skip through the scariest bits. And I haven’t been game enough to re-watch Blink, even though I love it 🙂

    I think that both the Daleks and the Cybermen can suffer from overuse and being diminished every time they are defeated by the Doctor. So it is good to have new monsters to mix it up. Having said that, I am the proud owner of a Dalek colour-changing mug – because it wouldn’t be Doctor Who without the Daleks.

    P.S. It sounds to me like the Dalek movies might be good for frivolous Christmas holiday viewing… I’m putting them on my wishlist.

    P.P.S. In our house, we refer to the “skittle Daleks” as the “iMac Daleks”, since they appear to come in the same range of cheerful colours as the original iMacs…

  12. The US equivalent of the Daleks was the Sleestaks of “Land of the Lost” from the late 1970s: a villain race that scared kids a lot back then, and no one understands it now.

    Thanks for mentioning “Dalekmania”, a hidden gem in Netflix. I had been watching “Doctor Who” on Netflix for quite a while before I stumbled upon this by mistake. I would venture that most who have come to enjoy “Doctor Who” through Netflix don’t even know “Dalekmania” is on there.

    Favourite Dalek? As in individual? Caan. Love the inflection and modulation in the voice. And I find his character interesting.

  13. jezbez said:

    I came to the classic series aged 0 (32 now) as my mum’s a Whovian and used her old VHSs of Pertwee and Tom Baker to keep me amused. From that point to the present I have NEVER found the Daleks to be scary.

    The closest the show ever came was Resurrection but that was just the discomfort from seeing Rodney Bewes playing someone evil.

    I think that there are a few very good reasons for people not finding the Daleks scary. I’m going to go through them as I see it with apologies for covering what some people already have (I always write these off-line in Word to make it look like I’m working!):

    1. The Daleks were created as a comparative for the Nazis. Who, under the age of 60, is actually scared of Nazis any more? We know of them, we know of the wrong they did and we know what we have to fight against but it’s that far removed from our experiences that there’s no tangible fear of them. More often they’re the butt of our jokes (Allo, Allo or the Producers). The thing they used to trigger a fear of no longer holds fear itself so the majority of their effect is neutralised.

    2. Sci-Fi, fiction and the average fan has moved on. Look at the most popular Who villains at the moment – the Weeping Angels and the Vashta Nerada. They have more about them and instead of trying to stand in for a real-world party they play on primal fears. For a comparison – the further the Cybermen get away from complex and primal the more generic they have become and the less scary (and popular) as a result (which upsets me greatly!).

    3. Familiarity breeds contempt and also shows their weakness. As Steven Moffat has said – “The most readily defeatable villain” (I may not have got that down perfectly). The best thing the producers could do is to use them scarcely (less than one story a series) and have them kill a Doctor.

    4. Following on in the same vein – merchandising. I will never be scared from something I can buy bubble bath in the shape of.

    5. What I call the Law of Inverse Dalek Proportion – the more Daleks you see on screen at any one time the less scary they are. Look at the best the Daleks have used and how many are on screen at that time (Dalek especially). There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, but the season 3 ones are so bad they break every rule!

    6. Coloured Daleks. Grey was cool, white was ok, Bronze was awesome and Ironsides kicked ass. Skittles Daleks (even ignoring the slow, lumbering movement, the humpbacks and the voices that make them sound like they have a throat infection) just look rubbish.

    Having mentioned the Angels I’ll say that I also didn’t find Blink scary, although I loved the suspense. Scared the hell out of my ex though to the point she couldn’t even look at the Series 5 DVD cover without feeling uncomfortable. Strangely, I found them scarier in series 5.

  14. Kevin Neeman said:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been alternately calling the “Skittle Daleks” the “Mighty Morphin Power Daleks” and the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Daleks.”

    And “Carl, The Exposition Dalek” needs to be a t-shirt. That is absolutely hilarious.

  15. AntonB said:

    Well, you asked for a reaction from an old skool fan so here you go. I was just the right age to be completely captivated by Doctor Who in 1963. I was eight years old, living in London where police telephone boxes where still a familiar piece of street furniture and brought up on the classics of British fantasy literature, Peter Pan, the Narnia stories and particularly Lewis Carrol’s ‘Alice’ books. I had recently progressed (via my uncle’s old Eagle comics annuals) through Dan Dare and was just discovering HG Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’. So, when Doctor Who came along on that foggy November evening fifty years ago it was as though someone at the BBC had managed to market research my own personal childhood taste in fantasy adventure stories and created a TV series just for me. And it turned out I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t long before school playgrounds around the UK were resounding to the rasping shouts of stiff armed kids charging round ‘exterminating’ anything in their path. I got a battery operated Dalek and the first Doctor Who annual for Christmas thst year (I still have it) and my life-long obsession began.

    When the movies came out a few years later, I remember being taken to see them, I was eleven by then and developing that know-all cynicism that would become fully fledged teen angst in a few years time. So I remember sitting there and mentally ticking off the things the movie had got ‘wrong’. I had no idea of ‘canon’ or even the concept of continuity but I did wonder why it seemed that either the film-makers had never seen an episode of Doctor Who or had wilfully decided to ignore the established story and characters to come up with, what seemed to me, totally unnecessary new ones. It also concerned me that none of my peers, the former stiff-armed playground exterminators, were that bothered. Most had outgrown the show and were more interested in The Man from UNCLE or The Monkees. I was frustrated that no-one seemed to care that The Docto’s name wasn’t ‘Who’ and that he only had one grandaughter, Susan who he had recently left in Earth’s future. Roy Castle was known to us kids as a TV presenter, the kind of jovial older brother type who could play a tune on a length of hosepipe while tap dancing. (I’m not making this up). He was not the capable and stoic schoolteacher Ian I knew from ‘Doctor Who’ nor was Peter Cushing, who we had vaguely heard of as an actor in Hammer Horror films that we were not old enough to watch, anything like the irritable old Hartnell Doctor we had come to love. Bear in mind also that the idea of different actors playing the Doctor was a few years off. But this was all made up for by the eye wrenching nascent psychedelia of the movie depiction of Skaro, the sexy Thals and oh!, those Daleks! Huge, brightly coloured, menacing, their voices amplified by the cinema sound system making their monochrome TV cousins sound tinny and pathetic. This was the apotheosis of Dalekmania. For years, however, I remained sceptical and slightly annoyed by this parallel universe ‘Dr Who’ but more recently I have found a way to embrace them as fond nostalgia for a might have been past. In an infinite multiverse, somewhere, this IS the Doctor and these ARE the Daleks. I remain a fan to this day and look forward to, next weekend and for the first time in fifty years, seeing the Daleks once again on the big screen, in 3D this time. My inner eight year old is delighted.

    • That is awesome. And just the sort of response I was curious about. I love that we fans from all different eras can come together and share our experiences. I’m always so curious about how the fans perceived things at the time. It’s easy to distort perceptions when looking back through 50 years!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share! I genuinely appreciate it.

  16. AntonB said:

    Thanks Erika, I enjoyed writing it and re-living those memories. I wouldn’t count myself as a complete Doctor Who obsessive (though my girlfriend would disagree, only last night we came home from a night out and marathoned two Tennant’s and a Matt Smith’ till 4 in the morning) I can’t quote production codes and couldn’t tell you who played the second Cyberman on the left in ‘Tomb of’ but the show has been a constant in my life, even, in some way, determining my career path; I became a video producer and later an actor with the thought always in the back of my mind that I might get to work on my fave show or even (blimey!) get to play the Doctor. It didn’t happen but in the course of my career I have been inside a classic era Dalek and got to play my version of the Time Lord in a fan made video that, thankfully, never saw the light of day. I’m a huge fan of your podcasts and relative writings, this site, Radio Free Skaro and The Tardis Eruditorum are often my first ports of call on the net. I’ve recently changed careers to become a drama teacher and am frequently delighted to find my secondary school students using Nu Who and even sometimes the classic series as inspiration. Keep up the entertaining discussions here and if you ever need the old skool perspective I’m happy to oblige.

  17. Looks like we were incorrect. Roberta Tovey didn’t sing “I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas with a Dalek,” but she did sing this!


  18. Can’t think of any other place to pass this on, and have been meaning to since Halloween– have you seen the Princess Dalek?

    • We have, indeed! I think Deb tweeted about that a while back. Lovely adorableness! Hope everyone reading these comments clicks to enjoy as well!


  19. […] links: Dr. Who and the Daleks Verity!’s Dalek episode Lazy Doctor Who covers “The […]

  20. […] links: Dr. Who and the Daleks Verity!’s Dalek episode Lazy Doctor Who covers “The […]

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