I have to admit that this is the episode I was looking forward to re-watching the most during my Doctor Who Re-Watch. Not because it is my favorite (though I think it exceptionally well written) but because I wanted to think about it in comparison to the 50th anniversary special. I wanted to objectively consider whether or not the Doctor rewrote time OR if indeed this Doctor didn’t realize the Time Lords survived (see my theory on why the Moment was Bad Wolf HERE). After watching “Dalek,” I confess that it could go either way though I definitely lean more towards the rewriting of time as I just think the evidence is stronger.
Before I delve into too much of The Time War, I want to briefly talk about the merit of this episode in its own terms. Originally, this was the episode that convinced me that not only was Doctor Who entertaining but it was also brilliant as well. The focus on the Doctor’s characterization and losing all of his own people really sold him to me as a character. With “Dalek,” I finally felt like I knew him as this lonely, yet dark Time Lord. Just consider this speech he gives:
DOCTOR: The Daleks have failed! Why don’t you finish the job and make the Daleks extinct. Rid the Universe of your filth. Why don’t you just die?
DALEK: You would make a good Dalek.
Here, the audience can truly see how much the Time War has damaged the Doctor. At the same time, his darkness and hatred has a chance to evolve throughout the episode and season. Great characterization allows for a character to change and in this episode, the Doctor does show growth thanks to the influence of a compassionate Rose Tyler.
For instance, when he has the opportunity to kill the Dalek, the genetically engineered species responsible for the death of the Time Lords, he couldn’t do it because Rose helped him see the kind of man he was becoming and it wasn’t a nice picture. Rose calmed the murderous side of the Doctor down:
ROSE: It couldn’t kill Van Statten, it couldn’t kill me. It’s changing. What about you, Doctor? What the hell are you changing into?
DOCTOR: Oh, Rose. They’re all dead.
“Dalek” really opened up the Doctor’s emotions in a good way and it brought Rose and the Doctor even closer together. Aside from Rose helping to make the Doctor better (a claim the 10th Doctor later tells Rose in series 4), Rose and the Doctor came even closer romantically in this episode. I don’t know why but I have heard countless times that the Doctor and Rose’s story didn’t become romantic until Series 2 with David Tennant. I don’t find that claim to hold true at all on re-watch, every episode in Series 1 building them up until we reach the season finale.
For much of the episode, Rose and the Doctor are separated but it is in their separation that the theme of them coming back together and uniting becomes all the more powerful (a theme that plays out for the rest of their story). When Rose is about to be killed by the Dalek because she couldn’t make it out in time, the Doctor clearly becomes distraught and angered at the thought of losing her. Even before “death,” Rose tells him that she “wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” Their souls are becoming more and more connected, despite the contrast of their ages and species.
When the Doctor first understands Rose is still alive, he can’t contain how happy he is:
Then, after the Dalek tells the Doctor to “Open the bulkhead or Rose Tyler dies,” the Dalek presses the Doctor’s emotions for Rose even further:
DALEK: What use are emotions if you will not save the woman you love?
I love the line about saving the woman he loves. Perhaps he doesn’t even realize yet how much he is coming to love her, but I think here in getting her back, he is beginning to recognize it and an awareness is beginning to surface at the very least. The Doctor is a man who often leaves people behind but when he has a chance to no longer leave Rose behind, he takes it with the hope of reuniting with her again, with as the Dalek suggested, the woman he loved. There is certainly no denial from the Doctor…
Besides the romantic angle, “Dalek” allows Rose to shine as the episode strongly emphasizes her empathy and compassion as a human being, revealing why she is such a fantastic companion for the Doctor. When the Dalek is being tortured, Rose bravely speaks to it with emotion and sincere concern for its well-being. Even after the Dalek murdered a couple hundred people, Rose could talk with the Dalek without hatred, but with understanding and kindness. I really just came to love Rose Tyler even more, though I honestly can’t see what she saw in Adam who already showed bad signs with all of his bragging behavior.
THE TIME WAR
Finally, I want to talk about the Time War and whether or not the Day of the Doctor contradicts the earlier seasons. Did the Doctor really destroy The Time Lords or did he just think he did? Some elements hold true to Moffat’s version of events but others truly convince me that for the show to remain consistent, time had to have been rewritten. To begin, I will discuss how time MAY not have been rewritten:
In a compelling dialogue between Goddard, Van Statten and the Doctor, some of the lines he says could align with the 50th special. Consider this:
DOCTOR: How did it get to Earth? Does anyone know?
GODDARD: The records say it came from the sky like a meteorite. It fell to Earth on the Ascension Islands. Burnt in its crater for three days before anybody could get near it and all that time it was screaming. It must have gone insane.
DOCTOR: It must have fallen through time. The only survivor.
GODDARD: You talked about a war?
DOCTOR: The Time War. The final battle between my people and the Dalek race.
VAN STATTEN: But you survived, too.
DOCTOR: Not by choice.
VAN STATTEN: This means that the Dalek isn’t the only alien on Earth. Doctor, there’s you. The only one of your kind in existence.
Why and how did the Doctor survive other than being the one to destroy them? Well, Moffat gives a clear answer in “The Day of the Doctor,” that he survives because it is his punishment, EXCEPT, this would have been his punishment only if he destroyed the Time Lords. Hmm. Now that I think about it, perhaps this is just more evidence that time was rewritten because the first time around, the Doctor WAS punished. Then the second time around, he was rewarded with their lives…Actually makes more sense in my head. Still, the suggestion of ‘why’ this Dalek fell from the sky could be consistent to Moffat’s story, if indeed there had been no time lock like the Doctor always thought…
Another ‘clue’ or piece of the puzzle that could change the Russel T Davies’ original intention is all the eerie foreshadowing that the Doctor is not in fact the last of the Time Lords. Think about this conversation at the end of the episode between the Doctor and Rose:
DOCTOR: A little piece of home. Better than nothing.
ROSE: Is that the end of it, the Time War?
DOCTOR: I’m the only one left. I win. How about that?
ROSE: The Dalek survived. Maybe some of your people did too.
DOCTOR: I’d know. In here. (his head)
DOCTOR: Feels like there’s no one.
ROSE: Well then, good thing I’m not going anywhere.
Interesting, considering that we know this episode WAS NOT the end of The Time War. Nevertheless, we were for sure meant to think it the end of the season with Bad Wolf. Could this just be construed as a suggestion that the Time Lords did truly survive but the Doctor can’t feel it because they are hidden in time and space? HOWEVER, the last couple of lines are kind of eerie when you think about the Doctor and Rose’s future, that she does get parted from him. But, if you believe that Bad Wolf will always be somewhere, then this line could really take on double meaning, that indeed he always has someone out there watching out for him in the universe.
Rose (in a way) never goes anywhere after all. Rose, the Doctor, and Bad Wolf have always been connected to the end of the Time War. This ending would certainly feel more poetic.
The last bit of evidence that I find the most convincing is when at the end the Dalek asks the Doctor why they both survived, and all he can say is “I don’t know.” Why doesn’t he know? Could certainly be twisted to match Moffat’s vision (that is if you believe time had not been rewritten but had always been this way).
Aside from these details, I can’t completely buy that Gallifrey may have always survived. Not only does it take away the brilliant characterization of the Doctor choosing to destroy his own people, but it doesn’t actually make complete sense when you compare it to episodes like “Dalek.” If, like my theory about Bad Wolf being the Moment is true, then this last conversation really does tie in together. Bad Wolf, being Rose, understands the immense suffering the Doctor went through in losing his people. She would know that to help him she would have to help him rewrite time and rewrite his past choice to kill them all.
Furthermore, the Doctor in “Dalek” doesn’t shy away from his choice. When he talks to the Dalek, he’s even proud of what he’s done (I am still a little irked that John Hurt’s Doctor couldn’t be considered the “Doctor” based on his dark decision to destroy his people because that feels more like a wimpy copout and blatant disregard for earlier characterization but I digress). Think about the conversation between the Doctor and this Dalek:
DALEK: I demand orders!
DOCTOR: They’re never going to come! Your race is dead! You all burnt, all of you. Ten million ships on fire. The entire Dalek race wiped out in one second.
DALEK: You lie!
DOCTOR: I watched it happen. I made it happen.
DALEK: You destroyed us?
DOCTOR: I had no choice.
DALEK: And what of the Time Lords?
DOCTOR: Dead. They burnt with you. The end of the last great Time War. Everyone lost.
DALEK: And the coward survived.
DOCTOR: Oh, and I caught your little signal. Help me. Poor little thing. But there’s no one else coming ’cause there’s no one else left.
DALEK: I am alone in the universe.
DALEK: So are you. We are the same.
If the Doctor watched it happen, then he couldn’t have forgotten that he actually saved them. His memory wouldn’t be a blur. Here, the Doctor KNOWS what he did and speaks with a surety that he watched it happen and chose to make it happen. Here is a man who knowingly destroyed his own people and in the process, became the last of the Time Lords. Rewriting time has to be the only solution or else I can’t make sense of what came before. If it wasn’t rewritten, then I admit I would find this whole story about as unsatisfactory as “it was all a dream…”
Overall, “Dalek” is probably one of the greatest Dalek stories of all of Doctor Who because the focus isn’t on the plot but on the characterization of the Doctor and the choices he made to save the world. It is about loneliness, darkness, hatred, and even redemption. I hope when I continue my re-watch, I will continue to see Bad Wolf’s footprints span across the Doctor’s life.
ONE LAST THOUGHT
This deleted scene should have totally been in the episode:
What do you think of “Dalek?” Do you think time was rewritten? Sound off in the comments and don’t forget to tune into future re-watch look backs at Doctor Who.
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