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21 March 2014 @ 05:58 pm
The Randomizer: Dalek  
In retrospect, I don't think I really appreciated or understood what season 1 of NuWho was trying to do. I recall thinking that the stories all seemed very simple, but on rewatching there is a lot more going on - its just not the sort of thing Doctor Who has attempted much either before or, to be brutally honest, since.

You actually don't get a lot simpler than the plot of Dalek which is, mostly, a chase sequence and not a chase that involves a great many events. However the story isn't really about the chase, or even about making Daleks scary again (which I vaguely recall being a part of the publicity at the time). The story is very much about highlighting the Doctor's emotional state, the dark place he has reached, and Rose's capacity to redeem him.

The Doctor's initial reaction to the Dalek, particularly once he realises that it can not escape is shocking, and I'm surprised that I have no memory of this at the time. The Doctor gloats, and is deliberately cruel to a defeated enemy something I don't think* we've ever seen before. Its an excellent scene, tightly directed, which very clearly sets out the Doctor's state of mind. The parallels between the Doctor and the Dalek, including the way Rose redeems both of them, then continue to be carefully drawn, with the acting and direction remaining focused on the characters. It is all, really, very good indeed.

The secondary story, of the Dalek escaping its confinement is also very well done. I think it has become tempting to say that a lone Dalek is naturally more scary than an army of Daleks and that Who has got trapped into some kind of "and yet more Daleks" arms race. But I suspect it is more accurate to observe that you can tell a story which is essentially a chamber piece (for all the scores of expendable soldiers and scientists) with a single Dalek while any story featuring an army of the things is necessarily an epic of some kind. Chamber pieces let you tell tightly focused stories which, when done well, are often more memorable and gripping than sprawling epics. I don't honestly see why Doctor Who couldn't do another lone Dalek story, so long as the forces ranged against it were underpowered enough, its just that it hasn't, so far, chosen to do so.

*In 50 years of the show I'm sure it's happened some time, but never, I suspect, quite so deliberately.

To be honest, I don't have a great deal to say about Dalek. It is very good indeed but others have noted that before me. I'm surprised that The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances beat it to the Hugo, though maybe I'll revise that opinion when I rewatch the latter. The only real revelation is the feeling that I very much under-appreciated this season of Doctor Who the first time around.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/113103.html.
reggietate: daleksreggietate on March 21st, 2014 11:29 pm (UTC)
I loved Dalek. I certainly never expected any episode of Who to make me cry for one, but this did. It was an absolute gem.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 22nd, 2014 11:13 am (UTC)
I do think I thought it was good at the time, but I think I was just grumpy in some what that NuWho was not what I had expected. I thought it was truly excellent this time around and it also made me think that NuWho has moved back towards something much more like old Who which is, perhaps, a shame. Much as it may make us old skool fans feel more comfortable.
Pollyjane_somebody on June 6th, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC)
"I think I was just grumpy in some what that NuWho was not what I had expected."

What were you expecting NuWho to be and how did it differ from that expectation?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 7th, 2014 09:43 am (UTC)
That's an interesting question and I'm not sure I have a very clear answer.

I was certainly expecting plots to involve more investigating things, discovering things, with A plots and B plots and the supporting characters' various agendas interfering with each other as well as the Doctor's own actions putting spanners of various sorts in the works. Old Who often used multiple factions as part of its plot structure where NuWho tended to pare the supporting cast down to the bare minimum often with the effect of simplifying the external situation in which the Doctor found himself. As a result NuWho tended to serve up fairly simple stories of the form Doctor Arrives->threat is revealed->threat is defeated with comparatively little else going on at that level beyond a certain amount of running around.

Instead, the complexity in these episodes is coming from what is happening inside the characters heads while the arrive->threat revealed->thread defeated steps are going on and I think I was missing a lot of that since I wasn't expecting it.