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Doctor Who Makes the Daleks Creepy Again

Posted: 09/12/2012 4:50 pm

Never did care for the Daleks.

We figured we'd open with a doozy. After all, how can one claim to be a Doctor Who fan and simultaneously declare, at best, their ambivalence toward his greatest enemies (arguably)? It's like being a Batman fan but disliking the Joker; like loving Krystle, but hating Alexis.

Put it this way: we liked the idea of the Daleks more than the reality of them. They're perfect creations to scare children by tapping into their most primal fears; in this case, seemingly inanimate objects that not only are alive, but consumed with rage and relentlessly devoted to pursuit and destruction. There's something of the classic nightmare about them. But we were introduced to them as adults, so rather than being fearful of their escalating rage, we wound up laughing at their egg-beater and plunger attachments, as well as their ludicrous (and highly irritating) voices. It always seemed to us that in order to really get the Daleks as they were intended, one had to be a child when first introduced to them, and it would be helpful if one was also British, because there's something quintessentially so about them. We can't ever imagine any American adventure story introducing a character quite like the Daleks.

But there are Daleks, and then there are Daleks so crazy that other Daleks are afraid of them, which tended to up the fear factor in this episode. What was more interesting to us was the expression of their philosophy and how it relates to The Doctor; namely, that they worship hatred as a thing of beauty and consequently have always found it difficult to destroy him. In other words, their hatred of him is so divinely beautiful to them, that they can't quite bear to end it.

We're not sure what we think of a hive-mind Dalek empire that assimilates and converts other organisms into their collective, though. On the one hand, it's not only irritatingly Borg-like, it's too similar to the Cybermen. On the other hand, DALEK ZOMBIES, people. DALEK. ZOMBIES. And eyestalks suddenly erupting from random people's heads takes the creepiness of the Daleks to a whole new level.

But, as always, the real drama in Who plays out in the lives of the companions. It was a shock to see Rory and Amy angrily signing their divorce papers; so much so that we momentarily wondered if we were looking at an alternate timeline or something. After all, Rory had hair product in his hair and Amy was wearing a lot of eye makeup and those two things, along with the goatee, are the universal science fiction signals for "alternate reality."

What's most surprising about that is when they finally explained why they divorced, it actually made a tiny little bit of sense. It also finally (and belatedly, and possibly in response to a lot of criticism) addresses the severe emotional toll their adventuring has taken on the Pond-Williamses. Sure, the divorce neatly sidesteps the incredible messiness that River Song has wrought upon their lives, but it references it just enough for you to realize that Amy and Rory, despite their joyful jumping and down in the S6 finale, never really got over what happened to their daughter. As she acidly informed The Doctor when he asked about it, "That's life. It's what happens when you're not around." Ouch.

But the appeal of Amy and Rory is that they're fun, adventurous, endearing people that you want to know. We think their pain should be explored this season, but we don't want to see it become a defining aspect of them. What interests us here is the idea that the P-W's, especially Amy, are seemingly ready to move on from that life. She may have grinned and asked if it was wrong that she missed the insanely dangerous adventuring, but there was no doubt by the end that her real focus is her marriage now.

And in typical Who fashion, he's lining up the next companion even as he's wrapping up things with the current one. In atypical Who fashion (but extremely Moffatt fashion) said companion was dead by the end of the episode. But it says something about the insanity of this show that we actually wondered for a minute or two if The Doctor's next companion was going to be a cute little Dalek in a red mini-dress.

But no, she's dead, and she went out like so many Companions and potential companions do: by doing The Doctor an incredible favor. In this case, wiping the entire Dalek race of their memory of him. The point was made by Oswin that his relentless war against the Daleks only made them stronger; a variation on the Dark Knight principle that holds that Batman is responsible for the creation of Joker. This new status quo is the first exciting thing done with the Daleks in ages. We have a feeling it's not going to stick, however. It seems to us that Oswin got the classic River Song introduction; a super-intelligent, super-capable potential companion is introduced only to die in her first story. But The Doctor's got a time machine and she made a huge impression on him. We suspect we're going to be seeing Oswin become his companion before she becomes a Dalek, which will give her the same sense of doom that always hung over River. And if The Doctor comes to decide once again that time can be rewritten, he may wind up undoing the favor she did for him in order to do a favor for her.

Ah, timey-wimey. How we've missed you so.

 

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