Review: Doctor Who – Dalek

4 Stars
Written by Robert Shearman
Directed by Joe Ahearne

The broadcast of “Dalek” marks some milestones in the new run of the long-running science fiction series. Firstly, it’s the sixth episode, making it the mid-point in the 2005 season’s thirteen episode run. More importantly, however, it’s the first return of the popular iconic metal villains who last appeared fully nearly seventeen years ago in the 1988 episode “Remembrance of the Daleks“.

This 45-minute episode goes a long way toward making the Daleks a viable villain again by showing the danger even one of the metal pepperpots can pose. The effects crew managed to create a really substantial model that looks very solid on-screen and updated radio control movements really help complete the illusion. Many of the previously perceived flaws and weaknesses of the Dalek frame, such as the often mocked plunger manipulator, have been addressed in a manner that improves upon the creatures, yet remains true to the iconic image of the Daleks.

Christopher Eccelston is given a much more substantial run at the more serious Doctor he’s better able to portray and he feels much more in tune with the darker aspects of this plot compared to the lighter fare of previous episodes. Billie Piper continues to impress as companion Rose Tyler with her ability to handle any scenes given to her. The rest of the actors are something of a mixed bag, most likely due to their being American actors (or British actors playing with American accents) in a British production.

There are some problems with the story, such as comically bad lines about the Dalek having “downloaded the Internet” and the rather confusing plot point about energy from the DNA of a time-traveler being used to rejuvenate the Dalek, but long-time fans of the series have probably learned to ignore these “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” moments.

Overall, “Dalek” is an improvement over the last two episodes, and my particular favorite with “The Unquiet Dead” coming in closely behind. It will be interesting to see how the final half of the first year’s run plays out in comparison, but this episode will certainly be remembered as one of the strongest.

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