Daily Lists, TV

The 5 Best (And 5 Worst) Doctor Who Dalek Episodes


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Even before the current run of Doctor Who became a success on these shores, even the most novice sci-fi fan possessed a passing familiarity with the Daleks. Originally created by Terry Nation in 1963 for the second-ever Who serial — called, you guessed it, “The Daleks” — the race of robotic monsters with a mutated nugenty middle have become the series’ most iconic villains. Because of their popularity in both runs of the show, the Daleks have been trotted out repeatedly over the years. True, it’s always nice to see them, but their constant use has diminished their impact and scare value. For today’s Daily List, Topless Robot will be looking at the five best and five worst episodes to feature these perilous pepperpots. Because a list like this one is bound to stir up controversy, remember that the choices featured within are subjective and just one man’s opinion. So instead of planning to exterminate me, be sure to mention your own picks for the greatest and lamest Dalek adventures in the comments. Let’s begin!

The Best:
5)The Parting of the Ways
Christopher Eccleston ended his all-too-brief stint on Doctor Who with this episode that marked the heartbreaking finale of the first season of revamped show. Some fans may still moan about how the Rose ex machina at the end of this episode dispatched the Daleks (and gave Captain Jack immortality), but this was an installment packed with real menace and emotion — not to mention a threatening opponent for the Doctor in the form of the Dalek Emperor. Whether paying off the season’s Bad Wolf running theme or making viewers weep from the Doctor’s final transmission to Rose, “The Parting of the Ways” is the series at its most action-packed and affecting.

4) Remembrance of the Daleks
The most infamous moment of “Remembrance of the Daleks” occurs when an Imperial Dalek is able to successfully climb steps. It’s a cool scene that dispenses the most common criticism about the awkward aliens, but that’s not the primary reason this episode is featured here. The true strength of this installment lies in the delightful interplay between the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and his companion Ace (the always great Sophie Aldred). The enjoyable plot — involving the Doctor attempting to keep a Time Lord relic out of the clutches of the Daleks — moves along nicely thanks to memorable scenes, including Ace’s baseball bat attack against one of the intergalactic pepperpots. And you thought Thor had a hell of a swing.

3) The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Forty-eight years after its initial airing and the sight of Daleks crossing London’s Westminster Bridge in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” is truly stunning. You know how when Brits mention how Doctor Who scared them so much as children that they hid behind their sofas? Much of that can be attributed to this episode. By placing the Daleks in an environment that UK viewers were familiar with, it made the terror seem just around the corner. The fact that the rest of this episode is engrossing is notable. Really though it is the aforementioned scene that helped the Daleks become the icons they are today.

2) Dalek

When Doctor Who returned to TV in 2005, there was much curiosity about how Russell T. Davies would handle the Daleks. That answer was revealed midway through the season with this jaw-dropping installment that sees the Doctor — still haunted by his experiences in the Time War — confronting his old enemy. In the episode’s best scene, the frenzied Doctor verbally unleashes upon a solitary Dalek. In response, the alien tells the Doctor that he would make a good Dalek. Suddenly, the Doctor is forced to examine exactly how much of himself he has lost in the Time War. Such character introspection on the series hadn’t been handled so well since the classic Tom Baker episode “Genesis of the Daleks.” Speaking of which…

1) Genesis of the Daleks
Serving as a sort of Dalek History 101, “Genesis of the Daleks’ finds the usually cheery, jelly baby-popping Fourth Doctor grappling with ennui. Tasked by the Time Lords with halting the creation of the Dalek race, he finds himself unable to commit genocide against his greatest foes. Tom Baker’s performance in this episode is a series best, and while it is not his greatest outing as the Fourth Doctor (that honor still goes to “City of Death”) it is pretty damn close. As many times as viewers have seen the Doctor play God throughout the series’ nearly 50-year run, his controlling of others’ fates has never been as urgent or unforgettable as it is here. This is a masterpiece.

Hit the jump for the worst on-screen adventures of the Daleks
The Worst:
5) Asylum of the Daleks
Because of the unexpected appearance of Jenna-Louise Coleman (i.e. the Doctor’s next companion) and her great performance, Whovians were quick to overlook the fact that “Asylum of the Daleks” was a bit of a mess. From Amy and Rory’s forced martial woes to the contrivance that is the Dalek nanopods and the “love conquers all” subtext of the episode, it feels like Steven Moffat isn’t quite sure what to do with the Daleks these days. Clearly he’s setting something up by wiping their memory of the Doctor. But unless he figures out a way to reinvent them, they’ll remain as menacing as they are in this Kit Kat ad.

4) Journey’s End
Unlike John Simm’s hammy portrayal as the Master, Julian Bleach brought a gentle madness to his role as Davros. Unfotunately, his character got lost in the self-indulgence of Russell T. Davies script — which was way more interested in getting the Doctor (well, a Doctor) reunited with Rose than paying the Daleks and Davros their due. The lesson to be learned here is that no one is immune to the temptation of fanwankery.

3) Victory of the Daleks
Here’s a question for you, does “Victory of the Daleks” exist to tell a rollicking WWII tale featuring Winston Churchill? Or is the entire episode a sly advertisement for Character Options’ multi-colored Dalek toys?

2) Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks

This two-parter had Nu-Who returning to its cheesy monster roots with the hybrid human/Dalek version of Dalek Sec. It shouldn’t have bothered. If you can somehow overlook the logistical flaws in the Cult of Skaro’s plans, inane pig slaves and the rather shouty David Tennant performance and actually enjoy these goofy episodes, you are a bigger Who fan than I. (What’s worse, the Great Depression featured within this pair of adventures, or the one that comes from watching them?) Any discussion of these installments would be incomplete without mentioning that a pre-The Amazing Spider-Man Andrew Garfield co-stars as Frank, the plucky young Hooverville resident who encourages his neighbors to let a deformed pigman live amongst them. What a guy.

1) Abduction of the Daleks

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Okay, this is a total cheat. But I just want to take this opportunity to remind you that a few years ago a Dalek-themed porno was released. (The events of which are obviously not canon). Yep, Doctor Who is now so big that it has its own copyright-shunning porn parody. Well, it did until the BBC intervened. Maybe I was a bit too hard on “Journey’s End,” as the only reason for this one’s existence really is fan-wankery. Eww.