The mutual love of the Classic Series that both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi shared meant that the Twelfth Doctor’s era was packed with Classic Who references. Arguably the most overt were the appearance of several classic monsters, such as the Mondasian Cybermen, and spiritual sequels to several classic episodes, such as Genesis of the Daleks being continued in The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar. The latter two-part story features the appearance of several iconic Dalek designs, seemingly with little explanation as to why they appear. Variants such as the Special Weapons Dalek, a Renegade Dalek, 1960s Dead Planet Daleks and even Dalek Sec. But why are so many different types of Daleks featured in this episode?
The Asylum Problem
The real-world answer for the diverse variety of Daleks in this story is that the production team, particularly Moffat himself, decided to use more Classic Daleks in response to the poor reception of Asylum of the Daleks. The dark lighting and dulling-down of the paint jobs on the props in the Asylum meant that they were difficult to recognise in the episode, and their limited screentime coupled with the fact that the Special Weapons Dalek was completely idle was seen as somewhat of a missed opportunity by fans. So, when the next chance to introduce more kinds of Daleks to New Who came along, Moffat took it.
The fact that the Series 9 opener featured the Dalek central control on Skaro meant that there was now a chance to populate the set with Classic Daleks in a well-lit atrium, rather than a dank dusty chamber. The Dalek props were sourced from a variety of collectors and prop manufacturers, and a few were even hired from novelty businesses. Some were accurate representations of Classic Daleks, such as the Renegade Dalek and Special Weapons Dalek props, but others were modified varieties, such as the bright blue 1960s Daleks. But what was the lore reason behind these Classic Daleks showing up again after all these years?
The New Dalek Paradigm
As of Victory of the Daleks, it can be assumed that the Daleks featured in the New Series are all members of the New Dalek Paradigm. It has been shown that the Progenitor Daleks and the Bronze Daleks are part of the same faction in the Dalek Parliament, and depending on when The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar is set in the Dalek timeline, it could be that Skaro had been rebuilt for hundreds, even thousands of years before the Twelfth Doctor arrived to meet Davros. It is even possible that the Classic Daleks seen in the episode are survivors from previous wars that are kept safe at the heart of the Empire, as a form of experienced Elder Council. Or, the Daleks have been snatched from their own timeline to add their DNA to the pure Dalek race. Either way, it would seem that Bronze and Classic casings have replaced the Paradigm designs in the new Dalek regime.
However, it is clear from behind the scenes images that the Paradigm Daleks were on set, suggesting that they were originally to be included in the episode but were pulled at the last minute. As a previous Sacred Icon theory post suggested, the Paradigm could now be an elite time-travelling Dalek caste similar to the Time Controllers and Time Strategists of the Big Finish Audios. In that sense, the mainline Dalek Empire is composed of Bronze Daleks, with Classic Daleks appearing in the safe depths of Dalek space. Meanwhile, the Paradigm Daleks travel up and down the timeline, interfering when they see fit.
Another interesting addition to the Daleks seen in Series 9, however, are a particular set of Russell-era Daleks. The same kind of Dalek Supreme seen in The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End also appears here, although it is clearly a different individual as it displays a distinctly different personality from its 2009 predecessor. Whilst the previous Supreme shunned Davros and locked him away, the Series 9 Supreme shows Davros more respect and even praises him. The return of the red Supreme Dalek in this episode is a welcome addition, and is a clear deviation from the consistent use of the White Paradigm Supreme in the Matt Smith era.
The other significant Russell-era Dalek is the distinctive Dalek Sec, and as another theory post suggested, the fact that the Black Dalek featured here is definitely Sec going by the identification tag means that this Dalek is in fact Sec at a point in his timeline either before the events of Doomsday or, more likely, between Doomsday and Daleks in Manhattan. This is interesting as it suggests that the Cult of Skaro could have had more exploits between the ones we see on-screen that could potentially be developed in a Big Finish audio series.
So now that the appearances of the forms of Dalek seen in Series 9 have been explained, hopefully the reasoning behind Steven Moffat’s decision to include them seems more clear. Many fans would agree that the appearance of Daleks from different eras of the show in the New Series is definitely welcome, but perhaps it should be used more sparingly. Hopefully if the Daleks return to battle the Thirteenth Doctor again, they adopt a standardised design whilst still retaining varieties like the Supreme Dalek and the Special Weapons Dalek, but fans can only hope.