Friday, November 22, 2013

Doctor Who Week 2013: "Dalek"

“Oh, and I caught you little signal. Help me! But no one’s coming because there’s no one left!”
- The Doctor

On the eve of the 50th Anniversary, it felt fitting to end our week-long celebration with a look back at the introduction of the Doctor’s worst enemy in the Modern Era. The Doctor and Rose are traveling about when the TARDIS picks up a distress call 53 floors underground in a Utah-based facility. They find themselves in what looks like a museum of sorts with all kinds of alien objects and body bits (including a Cyberman head). This turns out to be the stronghold of one Henry Von Statten, supposedly the guy who owns the internet. He’s got a thing for collecting and he’s got one live specimen which he’s quite proud of. He takes the Doctor to see it and the Doctor starts by freaking out and then gets rather rude and haughty. It’s a Dalek. It’s in chains and the weapon systems aren’t functional and so that’s why the Doctor feels he can be nasty too it, taunting it and dumping the revelation that no one’s coming to save it or give it purpose because all the Time Lords and Daleks are dead, thanks to the Last Great Time War. I picked this episode because from what we’ve seen in the previews, it ties in directly with a portion of the anniversary special. Given what we know (or suspect) about the character John Hurt is portraying, I think it’s safe to say we’ll get a solid glimpse into the final days of the war. Having seen “The Night of the Doctor” prequel mini-episode, I can see flashes of a warrior come through in Nine’s demeanor. I feel like the first series of the Modern Era is really early days for Nine. It’s still so fresh and raw in him that it can’t have been that long ago that the Time War ended.

While the Doctor is off getting nostalgic with the Dalek, Rose is flirting with a genius guy. He patches them through to the video feed and sees that one of Von Statten’s men is torturing the Dalek. Naturally, Rose wants to help. And as if Von Statten wasn’t awful enough, he figures out the Doctor is the last of his race and starts doing tests so he can add the Doctor to his perverse collection. Rose gets some face time with the Dalek and it dupes her into feeling sorry for it. She touches it and it uses her time traveling DNA to regenerate itself to full power. And then the killing starts. Von Statten is probably one of the vilest non-alien villains we’ve seen on the show. He’s so self-important. He doesn’t want his “prize” to be harmed. The soldiers on his payroll are disposable according to him.

The Dalek chases Rose and her bodyguard and the cute Brit guy to a stairwell where it proves it can adapt and climbs the stairs. Bet they weren’t expecting that. After the Doctor explains to Von Statten that the Dalek will kill everyone it can find if it gets out of the facility, the sleaze offers to help by shutting down the bulkheads and sealing the vault. Unfortunately, Rose is still down there. The Doctor tries to hold off until the last second to give her time to get out but she’s too slow. He thinks he’s killed Rose and he’s absolutely torn up about it. Not only another casualty of the choices he made during the Time War but we see a lot of that guilt and anger come roaring to the forefront, especially when he yells at the Dalek to kill itself. He’s horrified when the Dalek remarks that the Doctor would make a good Dalek. I thought it was interesting to see the conflicting thoughts telegraphing on Nine’s face as this whole scenario played out. Sure he committed genocide against the Daleks but he also killed his own people. That has to be an enormous burden.

While Rose is still trapped, the Dalek begins to freak out. It can’t kill her because besides life she gave it emotions. Daleks are clearly void all emotion but anger and now it’s experiencing fear, specifically Rose’s at being killed. It sort of uses her as a human shield to get up to the main level of the facility and Rose begs it not to kill anyone else. Of all the people that have interacted with the Dalek, she’s the one who has shown it kindness and compassion. She didn’t know anything about it or the race it came from. I loved that about Rose, that she could be kind to even a pepper pot on wheels. The Dalek expresses its final desire; to be free.

Rose and the Doctor meet up again after the Dalek blasts a hole in the ceiling. It wants to feel sunlight and we first get to see the inner creature. It’s certainly not pretty to look at but just watching the little tentacles reaching towards the sunlight made me choke up a little. The Doctor is prepared to kill the Dalek but Rose won’t let it. Her defense is too little too late, though. The Dalek has mutated with her emotions and it can’t handle it. So she gives it the order to destroy itself. Rose admits that she’s scared as she back away from the Dalek. It’s scared, too. The Doctor seems a little melancholy about the whole thing as he realizes that he’s not the man who killed the Daleks. He’s the Doctor again. I just can’t wait to see what happens in tomorrow’s special. We’ve seen that the Doctor had no choice but to become what he did to end the war. I want to see what happens when he makes the decision to take up the mantle again and how he manages it. I’m not saying we’ll see a regeneration into Nine but I hope somehow, someday we learn how he reclaimed himself as the Doctor.

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