Any fan of Doctor Who can recognize these maniacal metal monsters in a moment’s glance, but one nagging problem has remained that they could never really do much of anything. Even in the new program the only characters that they kill are incidental. Either an army of Daleks shooting at once or a point blank range shot at the Doctor’s back with a death ray and he’s still fine. So what’s the big deal?
One may argue that (barring a few key exceptions) the limitations of the television format robs the Daleks of their real threat. I still say that the best Dalek stories are the first two and the rest are only so-so. However having not seen the sadly lost mega epic 12 part story the Dalek’s Masterplan, it’s difficult to know for sure. The surviving episodes are terribly good and the novels read well… but still. In any case, the kiddies of the 1960’s had it made thanks to TV Century 21’s Dalek Chronicles. A series of comic strips with no Doctor, just wall-to-wall Daleks warring with anything that got in their way!
The Dalek Chronicles spanned 104 issues of TV Century 21 magazine and thrilled the Dalek-mad children drunk on the glamor of the TV program. Bolstered by two color motion pictures starring Peter Cushing, the popularity of the tin pepper-pots grew and so did the comic strip. While Whovians of today have a very distinct origin story full of details and such, the Daleks of the TV Century 21 strips were a whole other animal entirely. Scripted by the excellent David Whittaker (writer of such stories as The Daleks, Marco Polo, Ambassadors of Space, Evil of the Daleks, Power of the Daleks and the stage play Curse of the Daleks), these are high quality comics. Without budgetary restraints, Whittaker and the many artists he worked on the strip with (including Richard Jennings, Eric Eden and Ron Turner) worked against an explosive panoramic canvas where Daleks flew about on sleds and attacked alien civilizations.
For an in-depth look at the exciting TV Century 21 Dalek Empire series, please visit this site.
The Dalek Empire strip was so popular that it was even adapted into a series of audio adventures much later on featuring Blake’s 7 Gareth Thomas, Red Dwarf’s Craig Charles and even future Doctor David Tennant!
Whittaker had helped shape the entirety of Doctor Who from a very early stage as both writer and script editor for the first two eras of the program. The character of the Daleks is both intensely terrifying and interesting. The last vestige of a deadly atomic war, the mutated creatures are all that remain of the once proud Kaled people of Skaro. It’s the connection to something that was once human twisted into a monster so driven by hate and paranoia that makes the Daleks so enduring in my opinion… well, that and the incredible design of the Dalek.
One of TV’s most beloved and feared monsters, the Daleks have inspired many creators to revise their classic look (as design by Raymond Cusick) while retaining that unique level of menace that the villainous survivors of Skaro evoked.
Back when Doctor Who was on the verge of making a big return to the small screen with Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor, the Daleks were also intended to come back… but this time they would look very different.
With the right kind of inspiration, anything is possible really.
A hero can often be judged by his enemy and in the case of the Doctor, the Daleks remain the most significant threat to the universe with only a single Timelord to ward them off. When the first series finale of Doctor Who was screened in 2005 I was very unimpressed with the story but the visual of an army of flying Daleks in space was simply thrilling. It’s just a pity that it was done much better back in 1965.