I mentioned in Unearthly Beginnings that when I first came to The Daleks serial a couple of months ago, I already knew that Daleks were bad guys. What I didn’t know was that they were bad guys in a machine.
The image above captures the moment in which the Doctor Who audience gets its first good look at a Dalek. Within the story itself, it captures the first time that the Doctor ever meets (or rather, is ever captured by!) a Dalek. But the Doctor not only becomes aware of the Daleks. The Daleks also become aware of the Doctor.
If there are, as the Tenth Doctor tells us, some moments in time that cannot be re-written, then this is probably one of them. This is not only the moment that “made” Doctor Who. It made a huge chunk of the mythology.
I don’t know what anybody else thought when they first saw it, but I was thinking about all the robots that I had seen in science fiction. I wondered about its programming. I wondered who was controlling it. I wondered how something in such a seemingly docile shell (“Danger, Will Robinson!”) could possibly be convincing as a key villain in the longest-running science fiction series of all time. And I wondered how the show was ever going to get past the cheese factor. I think I may even have groaned a little.
Fast forward to a few weeks later when I first saw a Dalek in a preview to an episode with the Ninth Doctor: I gasped. Not because the Dalek design was so much sleeker and cooler and more formidable. I gasped because by then, I knew the Daleks.
In context, the Doctor and his companions are captured by the Daleks as a result of their own choices:
- The Doctor manufactures a lie about the mercury-level in the TARDIS’ fluid link so that he might coerce his companions into letting him explore the city. (BAD AND SELFISH CHOICE)
- As always seems to occur during on-screen explorations of strange and potentially dangerous places, the party decides to split up. (STUPID CHOICE)
- In the split-up, Barbara goes off alone and gets captured, but Ian insists on looking for her over the Doctor’s protestations (NOBLE CHOICE)
And so the Daleks encounter non-Dalek beings for the first time since they exploded a neutron bomb on Skaro. And the Daleks’ choices in how to respond to that encounter ultimately have consequences not only for the Doctor (and the Daleks), but possibly also for the Time Lords and the universe itself. But more on the Daleks’ choices next time.
For now, I’m going to make a quick prediction…
FIRST PREDICTION on the Doctor and the Daleks
Okay, I already know the outcome of the first Daleks serial, and I also know that later incarnations of the Doctor engage in epic multiversal conflicts with the Daleks. So here’s my prediction…
This first encounter – initiated by nothing more profound than the First Doctor’s selfishness – will provide the catalyst that rouses the “sleeping” Daleks from their city on Skaro and gives them ambitions of universal (or multiversal) omnicide.