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Doctor Who Re-Watch: Dalek Versus The Day of the Doctor

Rose Tyler in "Dalek." Photo: BBC
Rose Tyler in “Dalek.”
Photo: BBC

Major Spoilers

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.


Dalek_The Doctor in captivity

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.

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 and the Dalek main picture Dalek_Doctor and the gun

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?

Dalek_Changing into
DOCTOR: I couldn’t. I wasn’t.

Dalek_I wasnt to Rose oneDalek_I wasnt to Rose two

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.

The Doctor and Rose
The Doctor and Rose

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:

Dalek_Rose is alive Dalek_Rose is alive two

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?

Dalek_what use are emotionsDalek_what use are emotions 2
DOCTOR: I killed her once. I can’t do it again.

Van Statten's face when he realizes the Doctor is going go open the bunker for Rose.
Van Statten’s face when he realizes the Doctor is going to open the bunker for Rose.
The Doctor is determined now...
The Doctor is determined now…

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…


Rose Tyler in Dalek

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 3 Doctors ready to push the button together. Photo: BBC
The 3 Doctors ready to push the button together.
Photo: BBC

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:

Goddard, The Doctor and Van Statten in elevator

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:

I'm the only one left

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)

I'd know in here

DOCTOR: Feels like there’s no one.
ROSE: Well then, good thing I’m not going anywhere.

going anywhere 2going anywhere 3

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.

Bad Wolf defeating the Daleks and 'ending' The Time War. Photo: BBC
Bad Wolf defeating the Daleks and ‘ending’ The Time War.
Photo: BBC
Her eyes glow with Bad Wolf powers. Photo: BBC
Her eyes glow with Bad Wolf powers.
Photo: BBC

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).

hurt doctor in front of red button

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_ the dalek tied up Dalek_rage while the Doctor talks to the 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.


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.



Read the rest of my blog posts from  Doctor Who Diaries.

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By on March 4th, 2014

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

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8 thoughts on “Doctor Who Re-Watch: Dalek Versus The Day of the Doctor”

  1. So your re watch inspired me to do the same….just finished with The Unquiet Dead, can’t wait to get to Dalek now! Love the review, though, especially with the Bad Wolf is The Moment theory. I definitely agree that here is where we get to see the trauma and grief ridden side of 9, how much he <3 <3's Rose (he he double heart joke!), and how much she works to make him better over time.

      • Ok finally got through to Dalek on my re-watch! And literally finished it right before I had to go to work. For the record, I don’t like Adam…slimy little snot putting the moves on Rose! But I looooved the pointed look and smile 9 got from Van Statten’s assistant, Goddard, when he proclaims that he won’t allow Rose to potentially perish again. It speaks a lot to the fact that he loves her and even others around them can see it

        I have to say, it’s still one of my fave 9 episodes simply because of the raw emotion Eccleston pours into his Doctor, and how war torn 9 is deep down. The varying shades of horror, grief, guilt, and rage this one creature brings out of him is astounding.

        And I’m glad you liked the double heart joke. I’m a bit daft, me. Can’t help a good Time Lord joke.

  2. The episode Dalek is definitely one of the most under appreciated episodes of NuWho. I agree with you that it shows, for the first time, really, just how much the Doctor and Rose mean to one another. And I think it’s a pivotal turning point in the Doctor. When he is told that he would make a good Dalek and then mocked for not being able to save the woman he loves, it’s evident that he realizes just how far he was strayed from who he believes himself to be. He starts to become a better man in this episode, rather than a semi-suicidal PTSD case. He starts to make himself worthy of the woman he loves. I agree 100% that time was, in fact, rewritten in the Day of the Doctor. The Bad Wolf took this memory, among others, and used it to help put together a solution.

    On another note, I am a huge shipper of Nine and Rose. The chemistry was palpable, and their love was true. It was based on mutual respect and friendship and trust. In my own happy little mind, there is another parallel timeline out there where they are still together. But that’s another story. 🙂

      • I adore Nine and Rose! I like her relationship with Ten and TenToo because it showed how he changed for her in every way possible, but was still enough of the man she fell in love with to still keep her love. But Nine and Rose were just…so much more than what they looked like. He was more than a killer; she was more than a shop girl. I am looking forward to the rest of your rewatch and blogs. Nine and Rose forever!

        • Hiya,
          just quickly butting in – that’s me being a big fan of the Rose-Nine relationship as well, I loved this episode … now a quick thought I had for the Nine-Ten regeneration: even if the Doctor claims that he has no influence as to how he looks like after the regeneration, the whole ten and tentwo happening made me wonder: what if the Doctor thought during the process “Hope the next one fits to Rose”, because, let’s face it, ten is perfect for Rose. I read in another blog that there seems to be the idea that the doctor always gets some of his last thoughts to be materialised in the next character – and when Ten finally goes, he mumbles a slightly childish and scared “I don’t wanna go”, aaaaand poooof, we have an adolescent-behaving clown as next incarnation …
          Anyways, looking forward to your next blogs, loved the Moment theory, having a different idea and will comment to that as soon as I get it right in my head 🙂


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