One of the issues I inevitably face when writing blog posts for this colloquium is resisting the urge to just keysmash and flail about my ~feelings~. Doctor Who tends to elicit a pretty powerful emotional reaction from me, and I often have to take a step back before I can write about it coherently from any kind of literary perspective.
“Dalek” is one of several episodes that never fails to move me because it reveals just how broken and unstable the Doctor is himself. When he and Rose stumble across a captured Dalek, the last member of the alien race that was destroyed along with the Doctor’s own people in the Time War. Daleks are described as killing machines genetically programmed to exterminate everything in the universe that isn’t a Dalek as well. Don’t let their appearance fool you — they may look like mutated trash cans, but they are utterly ruthless and utterly deadly.
The Doctor is terrified to find one of his old enemies locked in an underground bunker with him, but that terror quickly turns to a vicious sort of glee when he realizes it is weak and helpless from being experimented upon. Rose, who encounters the Dalek while it is incapacitated and relatively harmless, is horrified when the Doctor tries to kill it. She cannot see any justification for killing a hurt and unarmed creature, even given the Doctor’s history with its race. The Doctor will have none of it. Blinded by the pain of his own past, he wants this opportunity to take revenge on one of the creatures that destroyed his home world — when, in fact, the Doctor caused the cataclysm that ended the Time War that burned both worlds himself.
“You would make a good Dalek,” the alien tells the Doctor. It’s disturbing that it takes an accusation of that magnitude for the Doctor to realize the implications of what he wanted to do — he was willing to kill the last creature of its kind while it couldn’t possibly have hurt him based on an old and incredibly bitter grudge. While his actions are understandable, they are far from justifiable — at least until the Dalek breaks free and lives up to its murderous reputation. It’s a sobering episode for everyone.
Like I told Chelsea, I wish I could just set up a big neon sign pointing to her post on this episode that says yes, I agree with all of this. I suppose linking there is the digital equivalent. She makes some excellent points; go read them.
I just realized I linked to a blog post that’s written well in the future compared to this one. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey indeed.