The 2019 New Year’s Special of Doctor Who featured the return of the Daleks and the introduction of a new Dalek variant – the Recon Scout, a mutant with genetic modifications and extra abilities that allow it to survive in almost any environment, as well as allowing it to exist outside of its casing.
However, this does seem to contradict Doctor Who lore, as historically the Daleks have been confined to their casings, so is this a mistake? Well, to answer that question, let’s first dive in and explain why the Daleks actually need their casings to begin with.
Locked inside a Cold, Metal Cage
The Daleks originated on Skaro, a planet ravaged by nuclear and chemical warfare, as the result of experiments conducted by Davros that focused on adapting the existing races of the planet so that they could survive in the polluted and ruined atmosphere. The idea behind this was that, once the war was over, some form of life had to survive to live on otherwise the entire conflict would have been meaningless. However, in the process Davros created a monstrous creature that lived to hate and required a life support machien to survive.
Though it might seem ironic that Davros’ attempts to create the ultimate creature ended up creating a race that were dependent on life support to exist, Davros countered this by also inventing the ultimate weapon – the Dalek shell, a self-supporting battle tank with extremely powerful weapons, armour and shields. In many ways, the Dalek mutant and the casing are intrinsically linked, to the extent that in the Big Finish Audio Story In Remembrance, an Imperial warrior states that “A Dalek is it’s casing”, further solidifying the idea that, to the Daleks, their casing is almost like an extension of itself.
Daleks and Their Casings
Nonetheless, the casing is not always necessary for a Daleks’ survival. In past episodes of the show we have seen that some Daleks are capable of surviving outside of their shells for some time, as was seen in Resurrection of the Daleks, Twice Upon a Time and Resolution. But how is this possible when the casing provides such essential life support? The answer to this question varies depending on the context and the episode – in some cases Daleks have been seen to adapt to life outside their casings over time, and in other cases the Daleks are capable of temporarily leaving their casings.
Either way, the primary purpose of the Dalek’s casing is to provide life support – that was its primary function before the Daleks even adapted for interstellar warfare. Daleks have also been known to use their casings to depict rank or allegiance. This was certainly the case with Supreme Daleks, and in the case of important individual Daleks such as the Dalek Time Controller or Dalek Sec. During the Imperial-Renegade Dalek Civil War, the different Dalek factions were denoted by their different-looking casings, that each sported their own unique colour scheme and overall design.
The Paradigm Daleks used bright colours to determine rank among their limited number, and their casing deviated radically from that of the standard Dalek of that era to denote their unique position in Dalek society. Despite these differences, the overall design of the standard Dalek casing has always remained constant. The Daleks have no desire to adapt the shape or design of their casings, and they see any attempt to do so as an abhorrent deviation, except in the most dire of circumstances. Daleks view themselves to be the supreme beings in the universe, so they revere imagery of their own casings, building skyscrapers in an image that resembles them, both on Earth and even on Skaro itself. Overall, it’s safe to say that the Dalek casing is an important part of the Dalek itself.
Battle Armour and Immense Firepower
In keeping with their philosophy of Extermination of all other life forms, the Dalek casing is built to be the ultimate death machine. The primary armament is a gunstick fitted into the left-hand ball-jointed socket on the front of the Dalek. This weapon fires an energy blast that can be tuned and modified to suit the needs of the Dalek in the current situation. Their first on-screen use was to stun humanoids by disabling their legs temporarily.
When used at full power, however, the Dalek’s death ray can instantly kill almost any life form in a single blast, which liquefies the internal organs of the victim causing intense agony followed by a sudden death. The blast can be altered in strength to quicken the death of the victim, disintegrate targets, cut through metal or cause intense explosions, or modified in delivery by either a projectile or beam-shaped blast.
Not only that, but the Dalek is also armed with a strong manipulator arm with a flexible gripper that can assume almost any shape, either to interface with complex mechanism or to crush the heads of humanoids in close-quarters combat. The Dalek is protected by an energy shield that absorbs energy-based projectiles and disintegrates incoming ballistic-based projectiles and vaporises living things that get too close when used at full power. Not only that, but the casing’s armour itself can withstand most projectiles. Needless to say, the Dalek’s casing is a catch-all tool for hunting down and exterminating prey on the ground. But the Daleks would never stop there.
Defeating the Flight of Stairs
The Dalek casing moves about using heavy lifters beneath the casing that can be intensified to allow the Dalek to fly. This allows Daleks to essentially become airborne fight craft, that can also double as bombers if their weapons are used at full power.
This feature also allows the Dalek to fly up stairs, navigate potentially difficult environments, and even function in space. When flying through space, Daleks are surprisingly fast, and are often deployed en masse from Dalek saucers and used in ship-to-ship combat.
Due to their enhanced mobility and ability to make their casings air-tight, Daleks can also function underwater if necessary. Certain models of Dalek are adapted specifically for underwater environments, as the Dalek Empire will conquer and destroy ocean worlds just as freely as any human colony or tropical paradise.