6 January 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day Six - The Survivors (The Daleks, Episode Two)

Dear diary,

Doctor Who and the Daleks. It's always 'and the Daleks', isn't it? When people at work find out I'm a fan of the show (not that it's any real secret. The last couple of weeks, colleagues have actively been seeking me out to say how much they loved the Christmas special, as if I'll feed it back to the production team), they always make comment about remembering the show from childhood. And then they tell me how mud they loved the Daleks.

My friend Phil (Born 23rd of November, 1963, which officially makes him cool!) is always coming up with new tidbits. 'Was there one with the Daleks in an old Victorian house?' 'What's the one where the soldiers come back from the future, and there's Daleks in the sewers?' 'Didn't they team up with the Master one time?'.

Even my mum, who can't bear the show, has memories of hurriedly leaving the room when the pepper pots from Skaro arrived on the scene.

The point I'm trying to make is that the Daleks are absolutely synonymous with Doctor Who. What's so magical about them is that they're the first aliens to appear in the series, aside from the Doctor and Susan. Every other alien adversary the Doctor has faced has come after he fought the Daleks.

And it's lovely to see just how many hallmarks of Dalek law actually appear in this story. The design, the voice, the 'heartbeat' noise in the heart of their city… all these things survive to this day. Oh, sure, they've changed a bit down the years - the Daleks are rarely as articulate as we find them during this episode, but they're still basically the same creatures.

I have to confess, I love their first appearance here. Discounting the plunger at the end of the last episode (and it's really hart to imagine how scary that would have been on first transmission. Would anyone have really guessed it might be an alien? Or did a nation of children think Babs was being menaced by a plumber?), we don't see them until the Doctor, Susan and Ian emerge into a room full of them.

And there's the style of these models. There's something wonderful about the 1960s Daleks - it's no wonder that Big Finish choose to use them for the majority of their audio plays. Equally, Steven Moffat has recently sung their praises, claiming that the Daleks work best when they're small like this. Ironically.

But, before we go much further, and before I appear to be a real Dalek fanboy… I have a confession to make.

My name is Will, and I don't really like the Daleks.

Yes, yes, I know! I've just waxed lyrical about how they're the iconic villains, how great they look, how important it is for the Doctor to have this enemy… but I just… don't care for them. Give me a Cyberman any day.

Which is why I'm pleasantly surprised with how much I'm enjoying this story so far. By stripping things back to the pace of an episode a day, I'm finding myself able to concentrate on things other than the fact that this is 'the first Dalek story'. I went in expecting to be a bit bored by the whole piece, but actually - what we've had so far is quite good!

The Daleks here are interesting, because I'm seeing them with more personality than I'm used to, and I'm switching off before Dalek fatigue sets in. In many ways, like the last episode, this is 25 minutes focussed on just out four main characters. The Daleks are there, too, but it's hard to engage with them - being faceless machines and all.

The cast is still giving it plenty of enthusiasm and effort. All of them are on fine form still, but throwing an enemy into the mix gives them something to play off. Doctor Who at this stage still feels more like a serial than it usually does. The characters are growing, and they refer back to recent events. It's almost soap-like, with the TARDIS team as the central family of focus.

One other thought, without much of a home. I love the way the TARDIS doors open, and the jungle is just there, outside. There's something magical about that, and I'm so glad it's been brought back for the 21st century series. A black void beyond the doors just isn't as inspiring as this is, and while it's only a product of the way the set's been constructed, I love that the roundels glow when the lighting flares outside.

Next Episode - The Escape

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