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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Dalek Collection


Starring: Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant
RRP: £15.65
Certificate: 12
Available 19 October 2009

Celebrate one of the Doctor’s deadliest foes in this specially packaged collector’s DVD, which features seven action-packed episodes from the new series, plus an exclusive interview with David Tennant on this terrifying enemy. Watch two incarnations of the Doctor, and many companions, battle against the distillation of all that is evil in the universe - the Daleks...

This box set contains almost all of the new series episodes featuring the dreaded Daleks. It doesn’t include the Series 2 two-parter Army of Ghosts / Doomsday, as that was part of the recent Cybermen Collection, but all the rest are here - beginning with...

Beneath the Salt Plains of Utah, billionaire Henry Van Statten holds the last relic of an alien race. When the Doctor and Rose investigate, they discover that the Time Lord’s oldest and deadliest enemy is about to break free. It’s a fight to the death, with Rose caught in the middle...

When head writer and executive producer Russell T Davies was planning the re-launch of Doctor Who, he wisely resisted the temptation to bring back the Daleks at the start of the season. He wanted to bring them back for sure, but he knew there would be enough excitement about the return of the show itself, so he could hold the Daleks back for a while and thus create additional press interest later in the season.

As it happens, only one of the creatures appears in the mid-season episode Dalek, though this doesn’t lessen its impact - quite the opposite, in fact. By focusing on a single Dalek, the production team demonstrate what a cunning and dangerous creature this is, as it escapes from its confines and takes on an entire squad of human guards, lending credence to the creatures’ boast in The Daleks’ Master Plan, that: “One Dalek is capable of exterminating all!” Writer Robert Shearman overturns aspects of Dalek design that had previously been ridiculed, so now the sucker cup is a dexterous appendage and a deadly weapon, and the hovering casing is not defeated by a flight of stairs (though, in fact, the Daleks had already demonstrated this capability in Revelation and Remembrance of the Daleks). Meanwhile, production designer Ed Thomas retains the iconic silhouette of the Dalek while pimping the Kaled mutant’s ride so that it now resembles a small tank. The all-important voice is provided by Nicholas Briggs, who has been portraying Daleks on audio for years.

The script is based upon Jubilee, an epic Sixth Doctor audio adventure that Shearman wrote for Big Finish, though the setting is different and the plot has been compressed considerably (to such an extent that, I feel, both stories can comfortably occupy the same fictional universe). However, both stories involve a damaged Dalek imprisoned by human beings, which remarkably manages to elicit sympathy from both the audience and the Doctor’s companion. On audio the companion was Evelyn Smythe, who had met the creatures before. Here it is Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), who has never before seen a Dalek, which certainly saves some storytelling time, as she has no prejudice to overcome. The Dalek also plays mind games with the Doctor, whose fear and loathing of the creature is dramatically realised by Christopher Eccleston, and whose violent responses make him seem - much to his own horror - not unlike a Dalek himself.

A new companion, Bruno Langley (Adam Mitchell), joins the TARDIS crew at the end of the episode, though his one and only trip in the next episode, The Long Game, is not part of this box set. That’s the problem with extracting themed episodes from such an interconnected series. Indeed, the events of The Long Game would pave the way for the Daleks’ next appearance, in Bad Wolf...



The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack must fight for their lives on the Game Station. But a far more dangerous threat is lurking, just out of sight. They realise that the whole of humanity has been blinded to the threat on its doorstep, and Armageddon is fast approaching...

The Daleks return in full force in the two-part finale to Series 1, Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways - but not before writer Davies has had some fun with twisted versions of reality shows and quiz shows such as Big Brother and The Weakest Link. Some commentators have complained that such programmes would have long since been forgotten by the year 200,100. However, I think it’s worthwhile to assume that there must have been some kind of 21st-century retro revival, since the participation of Davina McCall, Anne Robinson, Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine in vocal roles, as well as the authentic theme tunes to their shows, provide a great deal of amusement.

Following on from Boom Town, this two-parter continues RTD’s well-deserved celebration of his new mythology, bringing together elements that had been introduced throughout Series 1, including the Daleks (natch), Satellite 5 from The Long Game, the extrapolator from Boom Town, Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke), Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) and, of course, an explanation (albeit a rather confusing one) for the recurring words “bad wolf”.

There are also more subtle allusions for long-term fans to spot. The clear casing that houses the Emperor Dalek recalls the transparent shell of the Dalek leader in David Whitaker’s novelisation of the first Dalek story. The Controller (Martha Cope) is reminiscent of both the Emperor Dalek in The Evil of the Daleks (being connected to cables) and the battle computer in Remembrance (a human female slaved to a computer during childhood). The Doctor’s powerful statement that he is going to: “wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky” echoes the vow made by comic strip antihero Abslom Daak, to: “kill every damned, stinkin’ Dalek in the galaxy!” And the Emperor’s final words, “I cannot die,” were also Davros’s last words in Resurrection of the Daleks.

It’s a bit of a pity that Davies stopped short of including the phrase “Ka Faraq Gatri”, meaning “Bringer of Darkness” or “Destroyer of Worlds”, a term by which the Daleks are said to know the Doctor in several books and comic strips since Ben Aaronovitch’s novelisation of Remembrance. Instead, the Doctor describes himself as “The Oncoming Storm”, a title assigned by the Draconians in Paul Cornell’s New Adventures novel Love and War. Still, I suppose that if “Ka Faraq Gatri” can be translated into two such different phrases, then it could also be taken to mean “The Oncoming Storm” - either that, or the Doctor is mixing up his D monsters! The term “Destroyer of Worlds” is eventually used by Davros (Julian Bleach) in Journey’s End, on the final disc of this box set.

The writer also seems a tad confused as to whether the Daleks are supposed to feel emotions or not. However, even their creator, Terry Nation, was prone to that failing - they have always exhibited hatred towards creatures unlike themselves, except in Destiny of the Daleks, in which they are said to be emotionless and motivated solely by logic, rather like the Cybermen.

Despite its flaws, Bad Wolf is not bad at all, and it builds up to a stunning... well, not a cliffhanger as such, but something far more uplifting, as the Doctor vows to rescue Rose and defeat the Daleks. However, the next episode raises even more questions...



Rose Tyler has seen danger and wonders alongside the Doctor, but now their friendship is put to the test as Earth is plunged into an epic war. With the human race being slaughtered, the Time Lord is forced into terrible action. Will the time travellers ever be reunited...?

Several aspects of the plot of The Parting of the Ways seem not to have been fully thought out. In Bad Wolf, it initially appears that the Doctor is responsible for millions, if not billions, of human deaths as a result of his interference a century earlier. Then Captain Jack (John Barrowman) discovers that the game-show guns are not lethal but are in fact transmat devices. So that’s all right then. However, The Parting of the Ways reveals that all those teleported humans have been dissected and harvested, with selected cells being cultured into Daleks. So the Doctor is responsible for a massacre after all. Yet he seems remarkably chipper as he and Rose depart the station.

And what about Captain Jack? We now know, from the episode Utopia, why the Doctor leaves Jack behind, but for a couple of years I remained confused as to why the Doctor and Rose do not mourn for him if they believe him to be dead. At least Rose mentions him in the subsequent episode, the 2005 Children in Need mini-episode.

The sequence in which the Anne Droid takes on the Daleks is a hoot, but when you think about it, those Daleks haven’t actually been killed, have they, just transmatted to a Dalek ship. That is, unless Jack fitted the droid with a proper weapon beforehand.

Talking of weapons, why does the TARDIS fly through space towards the mother ship, making itself a target for the Daleks’ missiles, instead of simply materialising on board? Maybe the TARDIS needs to be at relatively close range before it can materialise around Rose, or perhaps the Doctor just wants to show off his ship’s new force field. Come to that, why is the TARDIS dependent on the extrapolator to generate a force field, when it is usually capable of producing an invulnerable field of its own, which appears to still be operational as recently as the episode Rose, in which the Doctor boasts that: “The assembled hoards of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me they’ve tried.” Maybe the TARDIS’s force field was damaged by the Rift energy in Boom Town.

And finally, some critics were disappointed that RTD chose to have the Doctor explain what regeneration was before the process took place, rather than leave the transformation as more of a cliffhanger for new viewers. However, whereas the audience only had to wait one week to find out what had happened to the Doctor following his first metamorphosis at the end of The Tenth Planet, there was a gap of several months between The Parting of the Ways and David Tennant’s first full episode, The Christmas Invasion, so I think Davies got the balance right. Tennant’s first few seconds in the role are sufficiently exciting in their own right, despite the fact that attempts to keep the regeneration a secret failed - what a cliffhanger that would have been!

At the end of the day, all the plot holes are easily forgiven and forgotten in the excitement of watching this truly spectacular season finale unfold. It may be flawed, but there’s no denying it’s great telly.



During the Depression in 1930s New York, the Doctor and Martha find that people are disappearing from among the homeless and jobless masses. Pig-like creatures hide in the sewers, while in the Empire State Building, the Daleks prepare their most horrific plan yet...

It has been observed that, in addition to the overt theme of the Doctor (David Tennant) getting over the loss of Rose and accepting Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) in her place, and the Mr Saxon arc, Series 3 is also liberally peppered with allusions to the 1965 serial The Chase. For instance, both The Chase and Smith and Jones feature a vampire of sorts (a robot of Count Dracula and the Plasmavore Florence Finnegan respectively) and introduce a new companion who is played by an actor (Peter Purves and Freema Agyeman respectively) who portrayed a different character just three episodes earlier (Morton Dill and Adeola Oshodi respectively). Several instalments include visits to London (not that that’s unusual for Doctor Who). The Shakespeare Code features the Bard and Queen Elizabeth I, while 42 makes mention of the “classical musicians” The Beatles, all of whom were depicted on the Time-Space Visualiser in The Chase. The two-part story Human Nature / The Family of Blood features a couple of schoolteachers and alludes to the show’s original producer Verity Lambert. However, Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks (which I’m reviewing here as a whole, as I don’t have that much to say about it) contains the most obvious Chase elements of all: time-travelling Daleks and the Empire State Building, as well as a reference to Frankenstein (inert human bodies being revived by lightning).

This two-parter also has the dubious distinction of being quite the silliest Dalek story since The Chase, boasting some singularly uncharacteristic Dalek dialogue and a bunch of half-man half-pig slaves. To make matters worse, we had a pig person just two series ago, in Aliens of London - it’s a bit too soon for the show to be repeating itself like this.

To cap it all, there’s the human Dalek (Eric Loren). Kids might find him scary, but to me he just looks like a bloke with a Kaled mutant stuck on his head. The design also resembles a monster from a previous Who story: Scaroth in City of Death. Hmmm, it makes you think, though... maybe the human Dalek genome somehow made its way back in time and ultimately evolved into the Jagaroth, and perhaps Scaroth is a popular Jagaroth name in honour of the Daleks’ home planet, Skaro...

Despite this serials fundamental flaws, the visual thrills are as appealing as ever, including CGI mutations, aerial exterminations and glamorous showgirls. And its always good to see the Daleks back in action, even under these bizarre circumstances.



Earth’s greatest heroes assemble in a time of dire need - but can the Doctor’s secret army defeat the might of the new Dalek Empire? With battles on the streets and in the skies, the Doctor and Donna must brave the Shadow Proclamation to find out the truth...

As discussed earlier, Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways packed in elements from the show’s past - but that’s nothing compared to The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End, the concluding two-parter of Series 4. As well as Rose Tyler, who reappeared in the preceding episode, Turn Left, The Stolen Earth sees the return of Martha Jones, her mother Francine (Adjoa Andoh), UNIT, Torchwood, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and her son Luke (Thomas Knight), former Prime Minister Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton), the Daleks, Davros and the Judoon. Journey’s End adds Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith to the mix.

The re-creations of Davros’s voice and mask are spot on, reflecting the original depiction of the character in Genesis of the Daleks, and Julian Bleach is excellent in the role - but why recast him, when Terry Molloy, the ’80s Davros, is still alive and kicking and recording stuff for Big Finish? Meanwhile, Sladen’s weepy acting is rather pathetic at times, and though it’s great to see the Judoon again, the once mysterious Shadow Proclamation seems mundane now that it has been revealed to be a mere police force (budgetary restrictions limited the realisation of RTD’s much grander original concept for the organisation).

However, in all other respects, this is a great payoff for loyal viewers who have been with the show for the last four years - or longer. Who can blame the production team for coming over all celebratory? This season marked the programme’s 45th anniversary and is the end of an era for the show. When it returns as a full series in 2010 (following a handful of specials in 2008 and 2009) it will be without Davies and producer Phil Collinson.

As the writer, Davies does show some restraint, though. Think of all the characters who don’t reappear here: the Ninth Doctor, the Master, the Cybermen (though they were in a deleted scene from the very end of Journey’s End), the Sontarans, the Slitheen, the Autons, Pete Tyler, Tish Jones, Leo Jones and Clive Jones, and Maria Jackson and Clyde Langer from The Sarah Jane Adventures.

All in all, this is a magnificently strident episode, which ends with another cracking cliffhanger (which makes up for the surprise we were denied at the end of Series 1).



The entire universe is in danger, as the Daleks and Davros activate their master plan. The Doctor is helpless and even the TARDIS faces destruction. The only hope lies with the Doctor’s secret army of companions - but a prophecy declares that one of them will die...

Following the build-up of the previous couple of episodes, it was almost inevitable that Journey’s End would disappoint to some extent.

The Daleks’ plan of destroying the whole of creation is innately stupid. Even bearing in mind their xenophobia and the fact that they have a means to protect themselves against the effects of the reality bomb, surely they need the resources of other species and planets in order to survive. I can accept this crazy plan from Davros and Dalek Caan, both of whom are clearly as mad as a box of slythers, but the rest of the Dalek fleet are in on it too.

The Doctor’s averted regeneration also lacks sense. I have listened to the Time Lord’s explanation of it several times now, and I’m still not convinced. I suspected that the severed hand would play a part, but I would have thought a more sensible use for it would be as a means of reasserting the Tenth Doctor’s genetic structure, rather than as a “handy bio-matching receptacle” for his “regeneration energy”. How come he can use the regeneration energy to heal himself without changing, when the change has always been part and parcel of the healing process? Does this mean that he’s used up a life, even though he hasn’t changed, or not? Maybe he wasn’t that badly injured after all.

Davies’s script doesn’t specify, though Tennant himself has provided some clarification in Doctor Who Confidential, in which he states his belief that a full regeneration wasn’t necessary. The actor is less certain about whether or not this means the Doctor has used up one of his lives. He suspects that this is something fans will debate for years to come. Here’s a thought: the Second Doctor was forcibly regenerated into the Third at the end of The War Games, with no life-threatening reason, so perhaps that regeneration didn’t use up a life. So maybe the Tenth Doctor’s averted regeneration makes things even!

The Doctor’s dialogue also skirts around the fact that he is already half-human (or at least he was according to Paul McGann’s Doctor in the TV movie).

Still, all of the above technobabble leads to the creation of the Doctor-Donna, an exciting and funny idea.

The episode runs to nearly 65 minutes, though the extra 20 minutes are mostly taken up with farewells to various characters, many of them very moving. The parting of the ways for Donna (Catherine Tate) and the Doctor is one of the most tragic ever, even though her prophesied “death” is as much of a cop-out as Rose’s was back in Doomsday. It’s a very downbeat ending, though a more suitable one than the “What? What?! WHAT?!!” style of recent season endings.

Journey’s End almost collapses under the weight of its own baggage as it waddles towards the finish line, but it just about manages to bring four years of story arcs (and this box set) to a satisfactory conclusion.



Unlike The Cybermen Collection, there isn’t an additional documentary, but then this box set does contain three more episodes than the Cybermen set. Disc 1 includes a ten-minute introduction by David Tennant, apparently compiled from material recorded for Doctor Who Confidential.

If you already own these episodes, then there’s very little here that you haven’t already got. However, if you’re a more selective Who fan with a particular fondness for the metal meanies, then this could be the box set for you.

Richard McGinlay

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