New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Other Dalek Asylum Inmates

Welcome to the next instalment of this tour through my collection of custom-made New Series Daleks. Following the previous instalment which covered Classic Dalek Asylum inmates,  the Daleks featured here are all New Series Dalek Asylum customs that did not fit the categories of the previous Dalek Asylum showcases. All of these Daleks are figures that have been altered and painted to appear destroyed, with some marked with stamps for the Dalek Asylum.

Custom Asylum Scenery:

Due to some of the heavy customisation that making Asylum Daleks can require, I often find myself with several spare parts left over afterwards. Sometimes these are heads, parts of lower sections, sometimes even appendages, but unfortunately never eyestalks. As such, I decided to combine some of the most common spare parts I have to form a scenery item which is featured in my Asylum display. Since this includes parts from many other Daleks, they are a bit mismatched, but I attempted to retain as much versatility as I could with this impromptu custom – the heads still rotate, and the manipulator arm moves too, which improves its function as a decorative piece if nothing else. This custom was created using paper mâché, hot glue and green paint, with some black and grey detailing to represent the years of wear and tear that a jumble of pieces of destroyed Dalek would probably accumulate after thousands of years rotting in an Asylum.

Duo of Paradigm Dalek Asylum Inmates:

Although these figures are in fact official releases and not customs, these Daleks feature alongside my other Asylum Dalek inmates because they just look so good. Whilst I am not a particular fan of the Paradigm Dalek design, the new chrome red paint job on the Drone figure looks incredible, and it almost makes me wish they had released an undamaged version of this figure, like they did for the Dalek Strategist. The Asylum damage detailing is actually really nice, and although I wish they had made a classic version of this set, it is still a nice set piece to have, and it was quite cheap on Amazon at the time of purchasing too, and although the centrepiece of the set was the bronze Asylum Dalek, it is great for bolstering an Asylum collection. Interestingly, a Paradigm Dalek Supreme did feature in Asylum of the Daleks, but it was not a complete prop and was missing the eyestalk and dome lights. This set therefore implies that there are several Paradigm Dalek Supremes imprisoned in the Asylum, probably due to their immediate redundancy following the fan backlash to their debut in Victory of the Daleks.

Asylum Dalek Strategist Figure:

In a strange role-reversal of the last figure, in which Character Options released the Asylum variant of the Drone but not a standard variation, for the new version of the Strategist they released a clean version in an exclusive two-pack with the Eleventh Doctor (making it increasingly rare and expensive nowadays) but did not release an Asylum version. Since I was able to pick up a spare Asylum Supreme on ebay, I used deep-blue paint coated with a layer of polished finish and detailed in black to create my own Asylum variation of the new chrome Strategist. Whilst it doesn’t really stand up compared to the professionally-made Paradigm figures, I am still pretty happy with how this one looks. Whilst not many Paradigm Daleks were admitted to the Asylum, this Strategist seems to be among the unlucky few.

Destroyed Paradigm Drone Figure:

As previously mentioned, during Asylum of the Daleks, one of the few Paradigm Daleks to appear in the Asylum was a heavily damaged Supreme Dalek, decorated with an elaborate ‘criss-cross’ scarring on the left hand side of the casing. Whilst the red colouration of this figure shows it is not a Supreme, I bought it pre-burnt and missing all of the appendages, so it seemed like there was only one thing I could use it for. I used a hacksaw to cut the crossed scars pattern into the Dalek and removed some of the panelling on the right hand side, creating the illusion that the Dalek mutant trapped inside had at one point attempted to break out. I used black paint in splodges all over the Dalek to suggest it has been hit with several energy blasts, possibly in a battle which drove it insane and doomed it to the Asylum. Needless to say, I have never had as much fun cutting up a Dalek as I did destroying this damaged Paradigm figure.

Emperor’s Guard Custom Figure:

This variant of the Emperor’s Bodyguard never appears onscreen, but it is my own personal creation that I based on Dalek designs in the comics. Since many of the classic Daleks that appear in Asylum of the Daleks have custom colour schemes that disguise their true design (usually boring greys, blacks and browns) I painted this Dalek to resemble a yet-unseen Dalek variant that has been admitted to the Asylum. Now catatonic, the casing is leaking oil and fluid and the eyestalk is clogged with dirt and grit. I painted this Dalek using Warhammer Citadel paints, so it has a dull finish that gives the illusion of age. Although it was once possibly an elite member of some obscure Dalek council within the Empire, this Dalek appears to have suffered several casing malfunctions and has subsequently become unresponsive. As a result, it has been cast into the Asylum, where it now sits and festers in the darkness.

Dalek Scientist Custom Figure:

Like the previous Dalek custom, this Dalek never appears onscreen. I based the colour scheme on a variation of one of the 1960s Peter Cushing Movie Daleks, although I used a New Series Dalek Sec as the base. I designed this Dalek to resemble a scientist rank, perhaps as part of a survey team that went to the Asylum to study the Daleks within, only to end up going insane itself and being admitted to the very institution it was sent to study. Fitted with Dalek embryo manipulation claws, perhaps it was once this Daleks’ job to oversee Dalek production lines, but now it seems abandoned in the Dalek Asylum, using external fluid pipes to sustain its damaged internal systems. I used Humbrol paints for this Dalek, and so the red coat is shiny and stands out amongst the dull colours of the Asylum.

Next – Classic Series Daleks Customs Collection Tour – 1960s era Daleks

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Bonus – Dalek Asylum Display Shelf:

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Classic Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Destroyed / Asylum Daleks

Welcome to the next instalment in this series of Dalek customs showcases, a tour through my collection of custom-made Classic Daleks that have been altered and painted to appear destroyed, with some marked with stamps for the Dalek Asylum. The previous instalment featured the New Series Dalek Asylum inmates, but one of the biggest draws of Asylum of the Daleks was the fact that there were Classic Daleks in the Asylum, so I was eager to include some in my collection. All of these customs are made by me unless stated otherwise in the description.

DISCLAIMER: I have not damaged or destroyed any rare classic Dalek figures to create these customs.

All of these Daleks are either common Classic figures painted to look like rarer figures, or figures which I bought on the pretence that they were damaged beyond repair and then painted and customised, so rest assured, no rare Daleks were harmed during the making of these customs. (At least, not by me, but I’ll explain that later…)

Duo of Destroyed Genesis Dalek Custom Figures:

These are two destroyed Daleks from totally different eras, even if they are of the same design. The left side Dalek has been altered to resemble a casualty of the early Dalek-Thal War that takes place on Skaro during the finale of Genesis of the Daleks. Damaged out in the wastelands of Skaro by a land mine and hit with a well-aimed explosive, this Dalek has collapsed in on itself as the mutant inside dies. I had to cut the neck rings to shape and use hot glue and paint to make it appear as though the front part of the Dalek’s neck ring had collapsed due to an impact on the back of the casing, which spewed green oil and fluid all over the top part of the Dalek and blasted off its weapons and eyestalk in the process.
The right side Dalek is my rendition of a Genesis-style Asylum inmate, who has been rotting in the Asylum since the very beginning. Long since destroyed by age and the other inmates, this relic to Dalek history sits abandoned, still bearing the scars of its former battles and stains of oil on its side. Whether or not the pole sticking out of its head is what remains of the eyestalk or a brutal makeshift weapon that has been embedded in the dome somehow is open to interpretation.

Damaged Revelation-era Asylum Custom Figure:

This Dalek was painted to resemble a Dalek from the 1980s using a Gold Day of the Daleks Supreme as the base, and then dirtied up with black, brown and green paint and stamped with an Asylum mark. This Dalek was also partially inspired by a bizarre story from 2009 in which a classic Dalek prop was found in a swamp and fished out, which you can read about here. the paint applications represent burn marks and stains of mud from a swamp or jungle which probably indicate that this Dalek was in some scrapes before being admitted to the Asylum but it is still very much active. Now it spends its time stalking labyrinthine corridors of the planet-sized facility, eagerly stalking bands of Imperial Daleks that have also been admitted to the Asylum, but more on that later.

Insane Emperor’s Guard Dalek Custom Figure:

A relatively prominent feature in the Asylum during Asylum of the Daleks was a dirtied-up Emperor’s Guard Dalek from The Evil of the Daleks, which featured in several of the promotional photos for the episode and actually appeared numerous times throughout the episode, unlike some of the other classic Daleks. Most notably it appeared as the Dalek which Amy, in her drug-induced hallucinatory state, imagines as a dancing ballerina, when it is in fact spinning endlessly and out of control. It would seem wrong then to not include this figure as part of the Asylum collection. For newcomers to the world of customising Dalek figures, this is one of the easiest customs to make, since 60s-era bodyguards are among the cheapest of the Dalek figures you can buy. All I used here was black and grey paint to dirty it up a bit and a tippex pen and red Sharpee for the Asylum stamp, as is the case with all of my Asylum customs.

Burnt Death to the Daleks Custom Figure:

Another Classic Dalek which was in Asylum of the Daleks but did not feature as prominently as the Emperor’s Guard Dalek was recreation of a Dalek from Death to the Daleks. Unfortunately, this Dalek prop barely featured in the actual episode, as it was painted with dull grey, making its unique design barely recognisable. This figure is therefore a representation of how the iconic Death to the Daleks Dalek should have appeared as an inmate in the Asylum. I created this model using a repainted Emperor’s Guard figure that I detailed in black paint to appear burnt, as a reference to the fact that several of the Daleks inexplicably catch fire in this episode. The orange lights indicate that this Dalek was once a commander before it was admitted to the Asylum, possibly having been scarred for life after the events of Destiny of the Daleks by that ridiculous-giant water eel that definitely wasn’t made of plastic and held up with wires. As a result, this Dalek is one of the catatonic Daleks imprisoned in the intensive care unit.

Destroyed The Dead Planet Dalek Custom Figure:

Another feature in the Asylum was a classic The Dead Planet Dalek, featuring the new updated colour scheme that would later become more prominent in The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witches’ Familiar, particularly since the props used in that episode were remarkably accurate yet updated for the modern era, with the addition of a blue eyestalk and a slightly altered yet more dynamic colour scheme. Oddly, some fans at the time complained that these Daleks weren’t ‘screen-accurate’ representations of the original Daleks from The Dead Planet, overlooking the fact that, although the props themselves were made by fans, they are still Dalek props that appeared in an actual episode, so they are now simply a canon variation of the original Dalek design. For this custom I modified a Dalek Saucer Pilot, replacing the base with a shorter one and painting the Dalek with grey and black paint to appear old and dirtied. I also added a ‘mutant reveal’ feature to this Dalek, by removing the front section and sanding down the parts that keep it in place so that it can be securely fitted but easily removed. The interior I created using parts of an old CD to give it a 1960s vibe, and the mutant is simply the top half of a Dalek Sec Hybrid figure’s head, held in place by a plastic sheet that holds the piece in place.

Duo of Destroyed Imperial Dalek Figures:

One of these is not a custom, but is in fact the destroyed Imperial Dalek that strangles the Seventh Doctor that was included in the Remembrance of the Daleks two-pack with Emperor Davros. The sculpting of the mutant on this figure is marvellous, far beyond anything I could do in a custom, and it was well worth the purchase. The Dalek on the right is a custom that I cannot take complete credit for, as I did the paint job but not the custom itself. I believe this to be one of CaptainJimiPie’s customs, the video for which is featured below. This Dalek has clearly been the victim of fire from other inmates in the Asylum and now sits dead, its rotting flesh hanging out of the scarred casing. One day I would like to do a custom of an actual Imperial Dalek model, but I would have to find one that was already broken as I could never bring myself to damage a rare figure of one of my favourite Dalek designs.

Next – New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Other Asylum Inmates

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Bonus – Custom made by CaptainJimiPie

This is another CaptainJimiPie custom that I got in a job lot of other Daleks. I have fitted with a new base since the original one had been removed when I received this figure. This Dalek features in CaptainJimiPie’s showcase of his Asylum Dalek collection, which you can view here (This Dalek that I now own features at 1:08 in this video):

 

New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Dalek Asylum Inmates

Welcome to the second part of my New Series Dalek custom collection tour. Following on from New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Destroyed / Asylum Daleks, which showcased my collection of destroyed Asylum inmates, we will be taking a look at some of my intact Asylum Daleks, i.e. Daleks that are still alive, but damaged and placed in the Dalek Asylum. All of these customs are made by me unless stated otherwise in the description.

New Series Emperor’s Guard – Asylum Variant Custom Figure:

This is an Asylum variant of the Emperor’s Bodyguard, first seen in 2005’s Parting of the Ways. Unlike the original Emperor’s Guards from the classic series, these Daleks were never actually built as a physical model, and they only exist in the form of CGI renderings. Regardless, the design itself is a nice homage to the classic series, reviving the concept of black-domed Daleks being seen as a higher rank. This Dalek, however, seems to have abandoned his post and so was admitted to the Dalek Asylum. Lack of maintenance has led to several fluid leaks in the casing, which I painted on in green. I bought this Dalek slightly burnt, put I have painted over the melted plastic patches to imitate warped metal, suggesting sporadic firefights in the Asylum between inmates has caused this Dalek’s damage.

Cannibal Dalek Custom Figure:

One of Asylum of the Daleks‘ biggest failures for me was the way in which the Dalek inmates were presented. Aside from some malfunctioning and generally odd behaviour, we never really got to see any truly insane Daleks. The inmates appeared to act just like any other Dalek would, and the irony is that we had already seen a truly insane Dalek in Dalek Caan. I built this custom to try and emulate a Dalek that had been driven so insane that it began to destroy and cannibalise other Dalek Asylum inmates when its own casing began to fail. After centuries of this, what remains is a hideously malformed and defective Dalek that no other inmates dare approach, as it uses its manipulator arm and reprogrammed self-repair droids to tear Asylum machinery apart in a desperate attempt to keep itself alive. I built this Dalek using leftover parts from my destroyed Dalek customs, and as such the parts are mismatched and held together with wires and bits of electronics which adds to the idea that this Dalek has combined parts from several of its victims in a manner that would bring a tear to Victor Frankenstein’s eye.

Damaged Dalek Commander Custom Figure:

This Dalek was once a Field Commander in the early days of the Time War, but was infected with a Time Lord bioweapon designed to react with Dalekanium and cause horrendous mutations in the Dalek mutant inside. After a lengthy quarantine, this Dalek was relegated to the Dalek Asylum when it was deemed unfit for duty. This Dalek started out as a Dalek Sec figure which I painted with a grey wash and enhanced with silver detailing, simply to add some variety to the customs. I also built a Dalek Thay-style makeshift replacement for the section of his lower casing that was removed, and the pipes beneath were made using pieces of a plastic frame glued together. The hasty removal of infected Dalekanium plates have caused the inner workings within to seep oil and fluid, represented on this figure by green paint. Since this Dalek came with no eyestalk, I had to make a new one using pieces of plastic and glue, and the gun I replaced with a few hanging wires which I then painted silver.

Intensive Care Inmate / Rusty Custom Figure:

Originally starting out as an Into the Dalek ‘Rusty’ custom, this figure took on a life of its own and I eventually decided to make it an Asylum inmate, although it fulfils both roles. Perhaps this is an alternate universe in which the Daleks found ‘Rusty’ before the crew of the Aristotle, and admitted him to the Asylum? Who knows. Nonetheless, I used glue and pieces of plastic from the frame of a Warhammer set to create and detail the additions, and I also created a complex copper wire frame which I sculpted around the Dalek and held in place with hot glue. I had to create a new eyestalk for this Dalek using more pieces from a Warhammer set and painted blue at the end.

Damaged Asylum Inmate Custom Figure:

This is a fairly standard destroyed New Series Dalek custom, the only real story behind this one is that it is yet another Dalek that I bought burnt. It is distressing that sellers on ebay put little-to-no effort into burning Dalek shells that they have salvaged for eyestalks, gunsticks and plungers to sell on individually, but this is one of those unlucky Daleks who, for whatever reason, were given trial by fire. I have been able to paint over the burnt sections to resemble warped metal and I gave this custom some character by removing sections of the lower skirt and sculpting the machinery beneath using plastic frame, hot glue and electronic circuitry from an old motherboard.

Destroyed New Series Supreme Dalek Custom Figure:

This was a fun custom to make, even if the Supreme Dalek figures are exceedingly rare. This was one that I got as part of a job lot with a few other Supreme Daleks, all of which were broken, some beyond repair. Thankfully, I had enough spares to fully restore and paint all but one of the Supreme Daleks – this last one. I had to use this poor chap for spare parts to repair the other two, and so it remains broken. In light of this, I decided to turn this last Supreme Dalek into an Asylum inmate, using hot glue and paint to fill in for missing parts and black paint to simulate damage on the head, side and lower section of the Dalek. I also used bronze Humbrol to give the impression of rust and decay to the gold parts. Although this particular model of Supreme Dalek was never seen in the Asylum, there are examples of Supreme Daleks in there such as the white Paradigm Supreme, so it makes sense that one of these would be in here too, particularly since this is the model that Supreme Daleks used during the Time War.

Next – Classic Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Destroyed / Asylum Daleks

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Bonus – Destroyed Dalek Caan Custom Figure:

Although not actually an Asylum inmate himself, Dalek Caan was definitely insane when we see him in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End. As such, it would be wrong to not include him here, particularly since this custom fits well alongside other Daleks in my Asylum collection. And to clarify, I was not responsible for the destruction of this rare Dalek with Mutant Reveal figure, it came to me in a damaged and burned state and it was only after I purchased it that I realised that it had the mutant inside at all. I used a hacksaw to cut the pieces and plastic frames and hot glue to secure them in place, and I expanded on the mutant using a combination of glue, plastic wire coating and purple paint.

 

New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Destroyed / Asylum Daleks

Welcome to my first in a series of Dalek customs showcases, this will essentially be a tour through my collection of custom-made New Series Daleks that have been altered and painted to appear destroyed, with some marked with stamps for the Dalek Asylum. All of these customs are made by me unless stated otherwise in the description.

Destroyed Dalek Thay Figure:

This is a recreation of the inevitable fate of Dalek Thay from the Cult of Skaro. Because Thay was never admitted to the Asylum, he lacks an Asylum stamp, and of course features the damaged back banels seen on many Dalek Thay figures. Thanks to the combined firepower of their own Dalek-Human Hybrid footsoldiers, both Dalek Thay and Dalek Jast are destroyed, and Thay’s remains are presumably disposed of by the citizens of Hooverville. I used paper mâché, glue and black paint to represent Thay’s charred upper half having been blasted away.

Escaping Asylum Inmate Figure:

This Dalek casing has damage to its upper half, and so the mutant inside, wishing to end its eternal damnation in the depths of the Dalek Asylum, is desperate to escape. As a result, the automated Asylum systems have fitted an external restraining field around the casing, but this won’t stop the insane Dalek inside from endlessly trying to climb out of the casing. I used green paint and some grey and black to represent the Dalek casing’s inner fluids and sculpted a pink and purple fleshly mutant out of paper mâché, glue, and part of a Warhammer Banner to make a distinct black claw, partly inspired by the destroyed Imperial Dalek seen in Remembrance of the Daleks. 

Blasted Dalek Shell Figure:

This Dalek was admitted to the Asylum presumably for aggressive behaviour, and has since been attacked and destroyed by one of his fellow inmates. Now a burnt-out husk, this Dalek shell has been pushed into the corner of one of the many cavernous Asylum chambers, forgotten and rotting. However, evidence of the mutant inside having since escaped may suggest that it’s insane former occupant may still yet be lurking somewhere in the Asylum…
I used glue and green paint to represent the Dalek flesh inside the casing and plastic-coated copper wire to simulate damaged parts of the casing.

Destroyed Dalek Scout Figure:

This figure is a representation of the Dalek that is destroyed by the War Doctor’s TARDIS in the 50th Anniversary Special Day of the Doctor. Since the scene in that episode used physical Dalek props instead of CGI, the Daleks that are destroyed break into their modular pieces, with the Commander losing his lower half, leaving a strange effect. This figure is what the Commander in that scene should have looked like, in my opinion. I had to take this Dalek apart and saw a clean cut with a hacksaw, before reassembling the two halves using a plastic frame and filling the detail with paper mâché painted black and held in place with hot glue.

Destroyed New Series Renegade Dalek:

Inspired by the destroyed Renegade Dalek seen in Remembrance of the Daleks, This figure was created using a damaged Dalek Sec figure that I purchased on ebay. An interesting, and slightly melancholy detail that I only noticed after I had finished this custom is that on the base of the figure there is a name tag that reads ‘Luke Lewis’. Whoever you are, Luke Lewis, I’m sorry but I sort of broke your already-broken Dalek Sec figure. Sorry. Nevertheless, the details were finalised using a combination of paper mâché and the pieces of the Dalek which I cut up and painted to match Renegade Dalek livery.

Next – New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Asylum Dalek Inmates

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Bonus – Custom made by CaptainJimiPie

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I am showcasing this last custom because it forms a key part of my Asylum New Series Dalek collection, despite the fact that it is not a custom I made. This is a CaptainJimiPie custom that I got as part of a job lot with other damaged Dalek figures. This custom is featured at 1:26 in this video:

Doctor Who – Why Do Daleks Have Plungers? – Top Questions about the Daleks answered!

The Daleks are the Doctor’s greatest enemy, and have had more appearances throughout the show’s run as any other enemy, so despite the vast swathe of Doctor Who lore out there, a lot of fans both casual and die-hard alike are well-versed in the history of the Daleks. However, certain questions about the Daleks remain. This article will attempt to answer many of the pressing questions that fans have about Skaro’s metal murderers.

Why do the Daleks always shout ‘Exterminate?’ rather than just shoot people on sight?

This is a question you hear all too often about the Daleks. In the lore, the Daleks are supposed to be intergalactic mass-murders who destroy cities, fleets of warships and sometimes even entire worlds in their spare time, and yet when you see them on-screen they appear to dawdle and get caught up screaming ‘Exterminate’ over and over again rather than actually just shoot people. Why is that?

Well, for a start, that isn’t necessarily the case 100% of the time. There are plenty of examples of Daleks shooting on sight, mostly to kill nameless characters or anyone not relevant to the plot. You could say then that the real explanation for the Daleks’ inconsistent behaviour is due to a classic case of plot armour – the Daleks can’t just shoot the Doctor, because then there’d be no Doctor Who, and wouldn’t that be a tragedy.

In-lore, however, there are actually two other possible explanations for this, the first makes its appearance in The Witches’ Familiar, in which Missy finally explains why the Daleks shout ‘Exterminate’ all the time – their weapons channel hatred, and their battle cry is how they reload. It’s an interesting concept, and it’s great that it comes from Missy – the Doctor would be much more likely to try and explain the Daleks’ ways in a more philosophical sense, whereas Missy just gets to the technical ins-and-outs. This not only provides a great insight into how Dalek technology functions (as well as perhaps paying homage to the psycho-kinetic mobility systems that are explored in their very first episode, The Daleks) but it also covers for several instances in Dalek episodes in which they seem to get stuck like a broken record, shouting ‘Exterminate’ over and over again until some convenient plot device comes in to save whoever is in danger (usually the Doctor).

The second explanation for this is slightly more simple, and relates to a concept that, for better or worse, is introduced in Asylum of the Daleks, which relates to how the Daleks view the concept of hatred itself. The Daleks admire anything that can hate as much as they can, and since the Doctor hates the Daleks, they actually admire him for it. Not only that, but they work themselves up into a frenzy over it – imagine each Dalek who tries to kill the Doctor agonising internally over whether or not to kill their greatest enemy, or spare him simply because of the raw untapped hatred that festers within. This can count for any hate-filled species, which might also explain the Daleks’ initial poor luck in their war against the Movellans – but we’ll get to that later.

Why were the Daleks set back by 1,000 years in Genesis of the Daleks by a collapsed corridor?

This one is interesting, to say the least. In Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor fails in his mission to destroy the Daleks before they are even created, but he does achieve one small victory – he manages to destroy their embryonic growth tanks, and also destroy the one entrance into the Dalek bunker, effectively trapping them inside. But he then says that he estimates that these two actions have stunted Dalek development by a thousand years, which seems unlikely, particularly given their persistent nature. So why is this?

Essentially, it comes down to a cascading effect, and also relates to the death of Davros. In destroying the Dalek embryo tanks, the Doctor wipes out all of the Daleks growing inside, and also destroys their means of reproduction. Since the Daleks also kill Davros, their creator, as well as all the other Kaleds, they have no means of procreating, and basically have to start from scratch. Given the limited resources available, it’s a small wonder that the Daleks don’t just die out there and then, and having to rebuild a delicate and precise genetics laboratory with no arms is no simple task.

Why do the Daleks always seem to lose, when they have such a fearsome reputation?

Another common criticism of the Daleks is that they lose too much. This is fair, as we rarely see long-lasting Dalek victories on screen. However, there is plenty of evidence on-screen to suggest that they have conquered a significant portion of the galaxy. We see humans in conflict with Daleks in the future in plenty of classic Doctor Who episodes, and we also see the Daleks subjugating alien races too, like the Thals, the Aridians and the Exxilons. We see an example of a Dalek prison camp in Destiny of the Daleks, giving us an idea of how the Daleks treat the residents of the planets that they conquer. But they never actually manage to destroy the human race. In The Parting of the Ways, the humans on Satellite 5 know of the Daleks from legend, but claim that they ‘died out’ thousands of years ago, relative to their time period of 200,100, obviously to fight in the Time War.

So the Daleks are spread out across the Galaxy, fighting what is essentially a war with infinite fronts – it is in their nature to attempt to destroy everything that they encounter, which is no easy task, even for them. And then you must take into account the instances where, by pure fluke, the Dalek expanse was halted or reversed, such as the Movellans devious virus, the Dalek Civil Wars, or their mass exodus out of time and space to throw all of their resources at Gallifrey’s planetary shield at the conclusion of the Time War. If the Daleks hadn’t suffered these setbacks, judging by what we have already seen on-screen, there is no doubt that they would have conquered the Galaxy. The greatest obstacle standing in their way, however, is the Doctor, who has been declared on multiple occasions to be the Daleks’ greatest enemy for meddling in their affairs at critical points throughout their history and derailing many of their more destructive plans. As the show’s expanded universe often points out though, the Doctor cannot stop every Dalek invasion. As such, the Daleks have still caused immeasurable destruction throughout the Galaxy that the Doctor never really sees, and as the Doctor never experiences it, we as the audience don’t either.

Classic and Modern Daleks work together on Skaro

Why do the Daleks change their appearance over time, when they regard themselves as the pinnacle of all evolution?

Again, the real-life answer for the Daleks’ changing appearance is due to the evolution of the BBC’s production values and materials, similarly to how the Borg in Star Trek change their appearance over time despite existing in their original form for millions of years. In-universe, the Borg appear to adapt when they encounter a race that benefits them, and the same can be said for the Daleks.

As far as the casings are concerned, the Daleks undoubtedly incorporate new materials and techniques into their design as they encounter them, such as the Metalert that was accidentally discovered and absorbed by the Dalek scientist Zeg, which was later used to create the casing for Dalek Sec. Although the Daleks constantly view themselves as supreme, they are not above altering certain aspects of their design when they feel that it was make themselves even more ‘supreme’.

As far as the actual physical appearance of the mutant is concerned, there is a simple in-universe explanation for this as well, although it requires some explanation. Although the Daleks central philosophy is maintaining their own genetic ‘purity’, their physical form does mutate over time. This stands to reason, as they were created using nuclear radiation, and it is very possible that by the time the Daleks go off to fight the Time War, they are practically a different species to the Daleks we see in the city on Skaro. This is proven by the alterations to the Dalek physical form that we see in Remembrance of the Daleks and The Parting of the Ways. One thing that is clear, however, is that following Victory of the Daleks, the Dalek Empire has returned to its original, ‘pure-bred’ state after surviving for years as half-mad hybrids or derivations, which the new Daleks dramatically destroy in the climax of that episode.

Why would a race like the Daleks ever fight a Civil War?

Speaking of Remembrance, that episode and its two predecessors, Resurrection and Revelation, introduce a fascinating new aspect to Dalek lore, and that is the concept of an all-out Dalek Civil War. It seems odd that a race as single-minded and fanatically loyal as the Daleks would ever fight such a war, since Dalek rebellions or dissent among the ranks are unheard of given their nature. But the seeds for this idea were sowed as far back as Evil of the Daleks, in which the Second Doctor causes a civil war to break out in the Dalek city on Skaro by infecting a significant portion of the Daleks with the ‘Human Factor’, making them able to express emotion and question orders.

In terms of the actual full-scale Civil War to follow, however, one must look to Destiny of the Daleks for the first stages of the answer. The Movellans, who are able to effectively combat the Daleks due to their development of a synthetic virus which is the only disease which affects them, reduce the Dalek Empire to rubble overnight, cutting dozens of Dalek holdouts off from each other, which continue to exist even after the Movellans are eventually wiped out. Cut off from the main Empire, and believing themselves to be the only survivors, these Daleks go on to adapt and change for the same reasons discussed earlier, leading to several splinter factions who regard all of the other factions of Daleks as inferior.

And then Davros gets thrown into the mix, and he takes this a step further by actually creating Daleks from different template species, such as humans, and also altering the Dalek base design by incorporating far more cybernetic elements to make them obedient to him, basically creating a race of Daleks that are more machine than organic. The result is a Dalek Civil War on many fronts, with many factions, that lasts for centuries as the main Dalek Empire focuses on wiping out all of the smaller splinter factions, which they consider to be an affront to their existence. It is even implied in Remembrance that the Daleks hate non-pure Daleks more than they hate humans, which certainly explains why they get so caught up in constant in-fighting rather than focusing on destroying humanity.

And finally, arguably the most pressing question of all…

Why do the Daleks have plungers?

Ah, the quirks of 1960s prop design. Supposedly the idea of a totally inhuman appendage that defies our understanding scared people back then. In truth, the plunger is a bit of a weird choice to have opposite the gunstick, and frankly is amazing that it has been retained all these years, particularly in the new series. The Americans did away with the plunger for their Daleks, instead preferring a more sinister silver claw, but we Brits like to stick to our guns – or, rather, cleaning utensils.

In fairness, the revival did wonders for actually trying to make this appendage seem scary – it looks less like a toilet plunger with its detail, but still retains the same shape, and it is revealed in Dalek that it can not only morph to fit around panels and buttons to use a an actual manipulator, but it can also form a tight seal around a human’s face to suffocate them to death and also apply enough force to crush a man’s skull like it was polystyrene.

The in-lore explanation for the manipulator arm, as it is officially named, is that it is a catch-all device for performing as many tasks as possible with one standard attachment. The problem with the Daleks having a claw is that this is a recognizable human shape, a hand, and that detracts from the Daleks’ most chilling aspect which is their utterly unapologetic non-humanness. When one takes into account the fact that it can change shape, it actually makes a lot of sense, especially since the Daleks aren’t likely to carry spare tools around with them. It also doubles as a scanner, a brainwave-extractor, a tea-tray-carrier and, if the situation requires it, it can make quite an effective close-range weapon for ripping people’s faces off. I think I’d prefer a quick extermination, thanks.

How do Daleks build things?

Daleks build things using a combination of their technical genius, their plungers and sheer determination. Despite their odd design, Dalek plungers can extend and retract, hold objects with a vice-like grip, and rotate and move objects in ways Human hands can’t, making them perfectly functional. Daleks can also replace the plunger with other tools like welders for specific tasks.

How do Daleks reproduce?

Daleks reproduce by growing new Dalek mutants in genetic laboratories and installing them into Dalek casings which are built on production lines. The Power of the Daleks showed us that Daleks were capable of setting up new Dalek production facilities using samples of their own DNA, metals from a Human colony and a constant supply of electricity. This means that a single Dalek ship can theoretically create a new Dalek production line anywhere it lands.

Do Daleks Eat or Sleep?

Because their casings provide nutrients and life support for the Dalek mutant, Daleks never need to eat or sleep. The corpses of their victims are pulped and fed into Dalek casings to provide sustenance, and their brain chemistry is constantly monitored and sustained by their life support system so they will never need nor want rest of any kind.

Can Daleks Fly Anywhere?

Daleks can not only fly, they can fly practically anywhere. The exact range of a single Dalek’s flight is not known, but they are capable of flying at high speeds in-atmosphere and even faster in space, to the extent that a single Dalek can serve as a fully-shielded heavy aerial fighter-bomber, as episodes like Evolution of the Daleks and The Stolen Earth show that their firepower can be maximized to destroy buildings and vehicles.

Can Daleks Work Underwater?

Daleks can work perfectly underwater, and this has been known to fans since as far back as their second ever appearance in The Dalek Invasion of Earth in 1964 when a Dalek rose ominously out of the Thames. Daleks can either traverse the bed of a body of water or use their flight abilities to move through the water like sharks, and their weapons can be instantly adapted to be functional underwater.

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Doctor Who – Will the Daleks return in Series 11?

Doctor Who fans worldwide are once again grappling with an age-old question that every Doctor Who fan asks themselves before a new series airs, and that is: ‘Will the Daleks be in this series?’ Unlike any other of the Doctor’s enemies, the Daleks have appeared in every single series of the revival and so it may seem obvious that they will return… or does it? And if the Daleks do return to antagonise Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and her trio of new companions, will they fill a prominent role? Or will they take to the sidelines? To answer this question, it might be useful to just recap how the Daleks were used by various showrunners throughout Doctor Who’s history.

The Classic era of the show used the Daleks relatively sparingly – in over 150 stories only 16 were dedicated to the Daleks, and that includes both Mission to the Unknown and Frontier in Space. The Daleks were often held back for big reveals and a great deal of effort was put in to keeping surprise appearances a secret, unlike in NuWho. Remembrance of the Daleks even goes to the trouble of using the pseudonym ‘Roy Tromelly’ to hide the presence of actor Terry Molloy in order to keep the eventual reveal of Davros a secret. This sparing use of the Daleks led to long gaps between appearances that would sometimes span as long as 5 years, particularly since Tom Baker’s era has only 2 Dalek episodes out of 41 total. After taking over as showrunner, John-Nathan Turner seemingly limited the Daleks to one appearance per Doctor, either by accident or design, keeping Dalek appearances in the 80s limited. But when the Daleks did appear, fans could be certain the episode in question would be dark, violent and sometimes even horrific.

When crossing over the vast canyon that is the Wilderness Years to the idyllic oasis of NuWho, however, an obvious change in the utilisation of the Daleks in Doctor Who becomes apparent. Russell T. Davies certainly succeeded in revitalising the Daleks with a much-needed redesign and excellent first reveal in Dalek, but after that a pattern seems to emerge. It is worthy of note that there is not a single series of the Davies’ era that does not contain a Dalek two-parter, and whilst this was fantastic for my 10-year old self, this means that the shock factor of a Dalek reveal that was present in the classic series as well as the first series of the revival has now considerably diminished. Russell seemed intent on the Daleks being the ‘big baddies’ of the series, which in itself is a logical direction to take the show in, but it did introduce one significant element to the Daleks that they could definitely have done without – predictability.

It is for this reason that, upon reading the title of this article, a common reaction would probably be “Of course the Daleks are going to return, they always do!” and you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that – Russell even included a line in Evolution of the Daleks in which Dalek Thay states “We always survive.” It’s as if at some point off-screen Russell had turned up in the Dalek base and read them the script for the next series in advance. But Doctor Who has been without Russell T. Davies since 2010, so how has Steven Moffat handled the Daleks in his era of the show?

The answer is, with all due respect to the Moff, that he has handled them badly. Very badly indeed. In 2010, Moffat stated that he intended the Daleks to be ‘retired’ for a few years, in similar fashion to the brief hiatuses of Dalek activity in the late 60s and the late 70s. However, he did not follow up on this promise. Instead what we got was an era of Doctor Who peppered with sparse and meaningless Dalek cameos, and although some of the later ones were done right (as I have discussed further in another article entirely), the end result means that Matt Smith’s era of Doctor Who can be described as ‘almost Dalek-less’, since we don’t talk about Asylum of the Daleks. If Moffat had truly removed the Daleks from the show then as he originally intended, we would have been set for an epic and long-awaited return of the Daleks during Peter Capaldi’s era which would have given Moffat the time necessary to complete the 14 rewrites to the script of Asylum that were necessary to make it watchable, and it might have been good – maybe even awesome.

So this brings us to 2017, and after 7 years of pitiful Dalek appearances, how will Chris Chibnall handle the Daleks? Surely they will at least cameo in the series for the eleventh time in a row? Well, perhaps not. Recent evidence has come to light that suggests that Chibnall may be going Dalek-lite for Series 11, for better or for worse. Following the sacking of longtime Dalek operator Nicholas Pegg for hiding an offensive message in his a column published in Doctor Who Magazine, the BBC claims that Pegg was not due to be involved in Series 11 anyway, and there has still be no news as to whether or not the voice of the Daleks himself, Nicholas Briggs, will be involved either. Could this be a clue suggesting that the Daleks will be absent in Series 11?

Well, probably not. Even if Chris Chibnall is taking the series in a radical new direction, chances are the Daleks will still appear in some form or another, particularly since this series of Doctor Who has proven controversial for some and Chibnall will need to gently convince fans that this is still the same Doctor Who that we know and love by bombarding them with imagery of innocent people slaughtered by alien death machines. For the Daleks to succeed as effective villains it is vital that Chibnall, unlike Moffat, decides on how he wants to use the Daleks and sticks with it – either a Russell-style epic Dalek finale or an extended period of Dalek absence could benefit Terry Nation’s creations, and Chinall certainly has the writing skill. Let’s just hope he puts two and two together to either bring the Daleks back in an epic space-opera style episode that they deserve, or to give them much-needed downtime in preparation for whoever takes the reigns next.

 

 

My Top 5 Scariest Doctor Who Monsters

Doctor Who has a reputation for terrifying children and adults alike for decades, and holds a special place in the hearts of many as a show that can dish out a surprisingly diverse array of horrific creatures for a BBC family-orientated TV show. But for all the creepy creatures that have graced our screens since Doctor Who first aired in 1963 there are but a select few that continue to scare me even to this day. And what better time to showcase these frightful fiends than the spookiest day of the year! So let’s get started:

Number 5 – The Weeping Angels

No list of scariest Doctor Who monsters would be complete without Moffat’s Lonely Assassins, who’s debut episode Blink is now considered to be one of the scariest (and also one of the best) episodes of Doctor Who of all time. Had that been their only appearance, the Weeping Angels might have ranked a bit higher on this list, since their frightful abilities and ominous presence made them the perfect standalone villain for a particularly unorthodox episode. Their only drawback is that with frequent reappearances the fear factor of the Angels has been reduced somewhat, particularly due to the fact that their abilities seemed to change from appearance to appearance. Moffaaaat!

Number 4 – The Silents

I promise this will be the last Moffat monster. Maybe. Despite their confusing arc that baffled fans for the majority of Matt Smith’s run, the Silents (Silence? Silents?) have to make this list simply because I have vivid memories of the aftermath of seeing The Impossible Astronaut – The Silents made an impact on me, that much is certain. I was staying at a family friend’s house at the time, and the unfamiliar environment I was in coupled with the Silent’s unique memory-altering traits meant that I was doubting myself for days, and constantly doing double-takes to see if I had actually caught a glimpse of one of the creepy-looking creatures in a mirror or down a dark corridor. So the Silents did exactly what a scary Doctor Who monster should do – they left a lasting impression.

Number 3 – The Mondasian Cybermen

This may be a slightly odd entry given that this is a monster from the 1960s, but I have always found the Mondasian Cybermen creepy as heck. Even though its pretty obvious that the costumes are made of cloth and plastic, there’s just something about the faces of these original Cybermen that makes them scarier than all of the other variants – personally I find the soulless, staring blank eyes and the perpetually expressionless mouth to be sinister enough, but when they talk, they don’t even move their mouths – it just opens. And then there’s the way they actually talk – their monotonous voices are just a little less robotic than later versions of the Cybermen, and yet the way they put emphasis on the wrong words in every sentence really makes it seem as though these creatures are no longer human. They may toe the line between scary and ludicrous, but after some suspension of disbelief they are perfectly chilling.

Number 2 – The Empty Child

I couldn’t do it, I know that’s the third Moffat monster on this list, but what can I say? The man knows how to scare people, and there aren’t many Doctor Who episodes scarier than the 2005 two-parter The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. In fact I often consider these two episodes to be the scariest episodes of Doctor Who of all time – this may seem confusing since the child himself is only second on the list, but I’ll explain later. Undoubtedly the creepiest thing about the Empty Child is the purported innocence with which he goes about on his killing spree – not only does he appear as a desperate child crying out for his mother, he also possesses the ability to manipulate seemingly innocent household objects to broadcast his cries for help, creating a truly chilling scene in which the Doctor is accosted on all sides by the child’s whimpering calls – all whilst the Empty Child’s silhouette lingers at the window. This, coupled with the iconic World War II setting, makes The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances truly spooky.

Honourable Mention: The Clockwork Robots

These guys are creepy, there’s no denying that. Again, another Moffat villain, but the Clockwork Robots, scary though they are, seem to me to be a slight re-invention of a classic Doctor Who monster that, to me, could be the scariest monster of all time, and that is…

Number 1 – The Autons

Well I did say could be the scariest, and I mean that literally – the Autons could well be the scariest monster Doctor Who has produced, it’s just that they’ve never really been used effectively in that way in the handful of episodes in which they have appeared, either in NuWho or Classic Who. And yes, there are a few token scenes in Doctor Who in which the Autons do have some pretty chilling moments – the horrendous plastic doll assassin created by the Master in Terror of the Autons springs immediately to mind, as does a brief scene in Rose. Interestingly enough, this scene in Rose is almost exactly what I would want from an episode that used the Autons properly, since they are doing what they do best – being disguised as plastic shop dummies and doing generally creepy things. For me, nothing is creepier than a mannequin and the Autons are basically just mannequins that are alive, evil, and are very good at staying still when you’re looking. In a way the Autons need to be almost like a cross between the Clockwork Robots and the Weeping Angels – able to blend in to their environment, stand stock-still to avoid detection, and then striking with robotic and merciless efficiency. If an episode of Doctor Who could write the Autons in this way and truly seize their creepy potential, then it could well be one of the creepiest episodes of the show to date.

So there we have it, the spookiest of the spookiest that the pantheon of Doctor Who monsters has to offer – and yes, there are dozens of other scary creatures that didn’t make this list, either because I don’t find them as scary as other people do or because I find other monsters scarier. Indeed, there are many Doctor Who monsters that do not appear that scary on the surface but, if you think about it, are actually quite horrifying. The good news there is that there is no shortage of scary episodes to enjoy on Halloween!

 

 

Doctor Who and Gothic Fiction – Part 1

For a piece of fiction to be Gothic, what criteria, if any, must be met?

When one thinks of Gothic, often our thoughts go to one of two things – Gothic Horror, and Gothic Architecture. But whilst both of those things derive from the essence of what the nature of Gothic is, neither fully explore or explain what truly makes something Gothic, because there is no clear method of distinguishing one way or another. Gothic architecture is Gothic because it conforms to a set of styles commonly associated with the architectural style, a Gothic Horror is a Gothic Horror because it uses one or more Gothic elements in it to define what it is and how it appears to the audience. But getting to the root of the topic, defining what Gothic actually is, can be difficult.

It is because of this that many pieces of fiction can be described as Gothic even if the work itself contains none of the stereotypical Gothic tropes such as gargoyles, castles, ghosts or graveyards. For something to be ‘Gothic’, it must inspire a particular feeling in the viewer, as Gothic fiction creates an atmosphere of unease, tension and even paranoia, and deal with dark themes with deep psychological undertones that aim to give the audience something to think about. Often Gothic stories will feature a monster, usually male, pitted against some form of Gothic heroine – but even this is not clear-cut, as heroines in Gothic fiction can be anything from a damsel-in-distress to a sociopath.

So how does this link to Doctor Who? Well, in more ways than you might expect.

Doctor Who is a very Gothic work of fiction. It has used Gothic elements almost since its first episode, and there have been periods in Doctor Who’s history where the show seemed to turn from whimsical science-fiction adventure to haunting Gothic-horror style tales of monsters, dark deeds, terror, and betrayal. As is the nature of Doctor Who as a show with a perpetually changing identity, Gothic elements haven’t always been at the forefront of how the show presents itself, and there have also been periods in the show’s history where it seems as if it couldn’t be any less Gothic. But deep-rooted in the show’s collective consciousness there is a drive to constantly return to a ‘neutral-state’ of Gothic horror, to the point that episodes that are less Gothic feel that little bit less like ‘true’ Doctor Who.

To map out the evolution of the relationship between Doctor Who and Gothic fiction, it is necessary to isolate three distinct phases in the show’s history in which Gothic elements are at their most obvious. The first phase began when the show was in its infancy, and only appeared sporadically in the turbulent times of Seasons 1 and 2 when the show was first finding its feet. Despite being a program designed specifically for children at the time, William Hartnell’s era of Doctor Who dabbled a fair amount in the genre of Gothic Horror. This may come as a surprise to modern viewers, many of whom have come to consider Hartnell’s era boring, outdated, or at the very worst, irrelevant. And yet here, in the show’s earliest days, there are examples of a genuine Gothic feel to Doctor Who that began here and spanned over 50 years.

Of all Hartnell’s episodes, one in particular stands out as truly Gothic. The first is The Rescue, a short but shocking two-part story in which companion-to-be Vicki, having crashed on a hostile planet rife with danger, must care for the only surviving crewman whilst simultaneously tolerating the constant demands of a local alien warrior. Vicki fits the profile for a Gothic heroine – she is an orphan, trapped in unfamiliar territory by a monster who appears half-man, half-monster, and she appears helpless to resolve the situation and so must constantly sit by the radio of the ship and hope for rescue. The ship itself also embodies many elements of a Gothic setting. The warped hull, rotting and torn-down panels coupled with collapsed beams and a claustrophobic interior make it an ideal Gothic setting. The final act of the story sees the Doctor facing off against the alien in a cavernous underground occult church and, for the native aliens and the humans, the reveal at the end of the episode cast doubt over who is really man and who is monster.

This is only one example of many early Doctor Who stories that are driven by unmistakable Gothic elements, with other examples including The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Crusade, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The War Games, and of course The Dæmons. In its early days, however, Doctor Who still for the most part adhered to the pretense of being a show for children but, during the transition between the Third and Fourth Doctors in 1974, the writing team decided to take the show down a different route. Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes began an era of Doctor Who that is most certainly Gothic, and is often considered to be the first Golden Age of Doctor Who for its quality of scripts, actors, sets, but most importantly, atmosphere.

In Part 2 of this article, I will discuss in depth the Gothic elements present in Seasons 12, 13 and 14 of Doctor Who and discuss what it is about the Gothic nature of this era that makes it so well-remembered, well-loved and well-respected even now, over 40 years later.

 

Russell T. Davies vs Steven Moffat – Who saved Who?

Russell T. Davies vs Steven Moffat – one of the most common debates in the Doctor Who fandom, particularly the NuWho sect of the community. Whether or not this necessarily needs to be debated is a question for another day – the question we are debating here today is, who was the true saviour of Doctor Who?

Russell T. Davies deserves a lot of credit for the revival of Doctor Who. Whether you like his era or not, it is totally undeniable that without Russell T. Davies, there probably wouldn’t have been a Doctor Who revival, and there certainly wouldn’t have been a revival as soon as 2005. Davies was essential in rebooting the franchise, NuWho was his vision, and he carried the show for 4 (and a bit) successful series’ that received critical acclaim, were universally accepted by fans of Classic Who and elevated the show from an archaic relic to one of the most treasured franchises of the BBC – and indeed of science fiction in general. When Doctor Who came back, it came back big, and Russell was the man who made that happen.

But he wasn’t the best writer. At least in my opinion. And to clarify – Russell T. Davies was, and is, a fantastic writer – he wrote some of the best episodes in all of NuWho: The Parting of the Ways, The Christmas Invasion, Utopia, Midnight, Turn Left, The Waters of Mars – and these are just the ones that I personally find exceptional. Many other fan favourites were written by Davies, including New Earth, Tooth and Claw, Partners in Crime and The Next Doctor. Undeniably, Russell T. Davies is a fantastic writer and Docotr Who would be lesser without him. But when I say that Russell T. Davies wasn’t the best writer, I mean that literally – the best writer in his era was Steven Moffat, as the vast majority of the truly fantastic episodes in Russell’s era were written by Moffat.

If you don’t believe me, just look at the writing credits Steven Moffat has in Russell’s era, and decide for yourself which writer has the better set of episodes. Moffat wrote 6 and a half episodes of Doctor Who during Russell T. Davies’ era – The Empty Child, The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, Silence in the Library, Forest of the Dead and, finally, Time Crash – the 2007 Children in Need minisode about the Tenth Doctor meeting the Fifth Doctor. Of these episodes, there is not one that is not considered a classic, and it is hard to argue that Moffat’s spooky selection of Magnum Opuses is better as a group of episodes than even the best of what Russell penned during his time as showrunner. So does that settle it then? Is Moffat objectively better than Davies?

Well, in 2010, when it was announced the Moffat was taking over from Davies as showrunner, fans certainly seemed to think so. The lackluster reception to the end of The End of Time showcased to many the shortcomings of Russell T. Davies’ writing style – a pandering to soppy NuWho fans who were pining over David Tennant and little regard for Classic fans, or, indeed, fans who just wanted to watch science fiction about adventure and wonder rather than 25 minutes of David Tennant staring at characters who hadn’t been in the show for nearly 2 years and making people cry. For many, Moffat taking over was a dream come true, since he had written some truly award-winning episodes and had shown his dedication to the Classic series with Time Crash.

And now, at the conclusion of Moffat’s era, his reception can be described as… mixed. In truth, Moffat can not be called a ‘bad’ showrunner, as he has kept the show afloat in an era where TV shows as a medium are dying rapidly, and regardless of what anyone says, Doctor Who is still popular now and will continue to be so for many years to come. Moffat hasn’t ‘killed the show’, far from it, and his era has seen some of the best episodes of Doctor Who to ever air, such as Heaven Sent, World Enough and Time, The God Complex, Amy’s Choice, Oxygen, The Doctor’s Wife, The Eleventh Hour, The Day of the Doctor, and Cold War (yes, I like Cold War, what of it?) but of these, only a few are actually written by Moffat himself – Heaven Sent, World Enough and Time, The Eleventh Hour and The Day of the Doctor, to be precise. And Moffat has written some of the worst episodes in his era – Let’s Kill Hitler, The Angels Take Manhattan, The Name of the Doctor, Hell Bent – and the less said about Asylum of the Daleks, the better.

So the question remains – who is the better writer? The true answer is, its impossible to tell – because Russell T. Davies wasn’t around for Moffat’s era, and so we didn’t get to see what he could do without the burden of ‘being the showrunner’. If the stresses of the job of showrunner turned the writer of The Girl in the Fireplace into the writer of Asylum of the Daleks, then it could well be that if Russell wrote a standalone episode of Doctor Who on the side, it could be the next City of Death. But, Moffat still wrote Heaven Sent nearly 6 years into his time as showrunner. So maybe the truth is that the two of them are just writers, each with their individual talents and shortcomings, and comparing them to one another is as futile a task as comparing Doctors, since they both contributed in their own way to a show we all love, and for every Love and Monsters we got a Turn Left, and for every The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe we got a Blink.

But don’t get me started on John Nathan-Turner.

 

 

Very Good at Opening Doors – In Defence of the Sonic Screwdriver

‘Sonic Screwdriver’ is about to be added to the Oxford English Dictionary as an official phrase in the English language, joining fellow Doctor Who-related entries such as Dalek, TARDIS and Cyberman. This demonstrates how ingrained the sonic screwdriver is in the consciousness of Doctor Who fans and, by extension, the country as a whole, but why is this the case? The sonic screwdriver is constantly criticised for its overuse in the show, and what was once a multi-functional scientific instrument designed to open doors and turn screws has now become a catch-all deus-ex-machina maker in the eyes of many fans. But the sonic persists in the show as it always has… or has it?

The truth is that the writers of Classic Who were just as conscious of the shortcomings of the sonic as modern writers and fans are today, to the extent that the sonic was ‘killed off’ in the Fifth Doctor serial The Visitation, and was never brought back for the entire of the Classic series. Colin Baker briefly used a temporary replacement in the sonic lance but this was short-lived and he appeared to show little regard for the device, a stark contrast to Peter Davison’s reaction to the destruction of the sonic as the loss of an ‘old friend’. The first reappearance of a true sonic screwdriver was in the 1996 TV Movie, in which the Seventh Doctor inexplicably carried one (despite never doing so at any point during his era) but this was almost certainly due to the fact that Doctor Who was being ‘rebooted’ and the writers were working on the assumption that you can’t have Doctor Who without the Doctor’s sonic.

This was the same logic behind resurrecting the sonic again for the 2005 revival, with Christopher Eccleston’s sonic being the beginning of the ‘weaponised’ sonics – held more like a weapon than a tool, pointed ‘at’ the monster rather than ‘towards’ it. David Tennant was further criticised for his overuse of the sonic – for an example of this, watch the opening of The Impossible Planet. When the Ood emerge from the doorways to menace the Doctor and Rose, watch Tennant’s reaction. Rather than surrender or attempt to run like his previous incarnations did, Tennant draws the sonic and points it at the Ood. What is he hoping to achieve? This is even referenced in the 50th Anniversary episode Day of the Doctor. When the three Doctors are surrounded by soldiers, Ten and Eleven draw their sonics and wave them around at the guards, to which Hurt’s incarnation states: “They’re screwdrivers! What are you going to do, assemble a cabinet at them?”. To put this into context, John Hurt was playing the War Doctor – an incarnation of the Doctor that is supposed to be aggressive and trigger-happy. And even he doesn’t wave his sonic around like a weapon.

So is there any point to the sonic anymore? If it can be used to solve any problem, even to the extent of being seen by the Doctor as a weapon, then does it still have a place in the show? The fans seem to think so, as when the sonic was temporarily replaced with the ‘sonic sunglasses’ in Series 9, there was an instant backlash, with some fans even claiming that the sonic was ‘integral’ to the show itself. It is laughable to think that a device that didn’t even exist either at the beginning or the end of Classic Who is as ‘integral’ to the show as the TARDIS, the companion, or even the Doctor himself.

However, there is an element of context to take into account when it comes to comparing NuWho and Classic Who, and it all comes down to time. For a Time Lord, the Doctor certainly doesn’t seem to have as much time on his hands nowadays as he did back in the 20th century, with most episodes now being restricted to a mere 45 minutes – and only double that in the rare instance that we get a two-parter. This is far less time to tell a coherent story than the 100-minute 4-part stories that were commonplace in the Classic era, with some even being up to 200 minutes long. In NuWho, there simply isn’t the time to spend an entire 25-minute serial watching the Doctor figure out how to escape a prison cell with an umbrella and a stick of celery. Times have changed, and so has television.

As a result of this, the sonic screwdriver basically performs any task that the Classic show would have taken an entire episode to carry out – thereby cutting down the time needed for each story and vastly improving the pacing. If the sonic was removed from NuWho, we wouldn’t see an increase in inventive and ingenious methods of escaping from deadly traps – all we would see is a series of conveniences and more deus-ex-machinas. It is, in many ways, the lesser of two evils.

That being said, it would be nice to see Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor going sonic-free for at least a while in her new series – for the simple reason of having something to hold back for the audience. The sonic should be unveiled when it is needed most, and its use as a makeshift weapon should certainly decrease. The sonic is a useful tool, not a weapon, and it should always remain so. For the sonic to work with the Doctor’s character, it should be used sparingly, and when it is used, it should stay true to the Doctor’s nature of giving a helping hand rather than doing the job itself.

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