I had my niece around this morning and I fetched out a Dalek model that I’ve got for her to destroy. She likes destroying things. She thought it was rubbish.
And you know what? The Daleks are rubbish.
What’s the defining trait of a Dalek? It hates people and wants to kill them. And that’s it. Oh, you can dress it up as ‘the worst thing in the universe’ and ‘the ultimate evil’ and ‘the perfect killing machine’. But they’re not. They’re defeated again and again quite easily. And that’s fine – they’re not exactly gonna win. But you know what’s not fine? The Daleks are boring.
There is nothing left to do with the Daleks. They turn up, they exterminate a few people, the Doctor has a face-to-face confrontation with them. And they blow up. Occasionally they just whizz off.
Familiarity breeds contempt. And ennui. We’ve had 50 years of Daleks. Every single Doctor has faced off against them, they turn up in virtually every end-of-season blowout. If you count all of their appearances (I count 27 stories where they’re the main antagonist) they feature in about a tenth of all televised stories. Big Finish ran out of “…of the Daleks” suffixes years ago, recently being forced to release new CDs under the unlikely titles of “Salt of the Daleks”, “Axolotl of the Daleks” and “Dalek of the Daleks”.
The Daleks are done. Finished. The only stories in which they’ve worked since Revelation of the Daleks are the two stories that reinvented them: Remembrance of the Daleks and Dalek. Probably recognising this, Mark Gatiss attempted something similar in Victory of the Daleks, which was rubbish. So rubbish that the iconic new design has been quietly – but still rather embarrassingly – forgotten.
Where else is there for them to go? We’ve had good Daleks, servile Daleks, mad Daleks, human Daleks, multicoloured Daleks, emperor Daleks, Daleks in fucking Manhatten – now we’ve gone inside a Dalek. Other than a paedophile Dalek to really ramp up the ante, I really can’t see where else there is to go.
And it’s still the same story because you just can’t do anything that hasn’t been done before and there is nothing interesting to say about them anymore. The same problem, which Nightmare In Silver spelled out for those who still hadn’t worked it out, has affected the Cybermen, who actually haven’t been remotely interesting since The Invasion.
I think Moffat has realised that there’s extremely limited mileage in most classic monsters, which is why Sontarans, Silurians and Zygons – in pretty short order – were made into comedic cyphers.
In the classic series you could get away with an appearance ever three years or so. The storyline could evolve, the subtle upgrades were sufficient. Like a visit from an old friend who you lost touch with decades ago, it’s nice to see them once in a while but you’d get fed up if they turned up, unannounced, on your doorstep every six months. Now you can almost sense the desperation to find something new to do with them – Into The Dalek was all the proof you’ll ever need.
It’s time to think the unthinkable. They’re finished, washed up, not so much exterminated as shagged out. Arm the Thals, build a new Omega Device, freeze them on Spiridon. Doctor Who can survive without the Daleks, just as we survive the end of a relationship than has grown stale. Let’s not stay with them out of duty, a sense of obligation, fear of the unknown. Kill them off. We need to destroy the Daleks, once and for all.
A final end.
Death to the Daleks.