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Episode 6 of the new Doctor Who series
Robert Tymec

Before we even get into the story proper, let me first of all say that this particular episode is, if nothing else, a brilliant piece of marketting. "Dalekmania", although now 40 years old, will always be an integral part of the success of the show. And Russell T. Davis knew exactly how to inject that formulae back into the new series.

Let's be honest, within seconds after hearing that the show was coming back on the air, the next thought that most fans had was: "I wonder when we'll see the Daleks". There wasn't even a notion of whether or not the Daleks would return - we knew they had to be there somewhere for the Doctor to run into or it just wouldn't be Doctor Who. And RTD, like all good producers, recognised that timing would be everything in the way these monsters would be re-introduced. And his timing was immaculate. Not only in terms of which episode(s) he chose to feature the Daleks in, but also the way in which they were featured.

"Dalek" succeeds best in this way because it features just a single Dalek. A smart way to re-introduce them to the series. For old fans, we get to learn some of the new nuances of the Daleks. And for the newbies, they just get to learn about Daleks, in general. To have an entire army of them roll in would've made this process far more complicated. But with just a single Dalek trundling around, we really get a chance to get up close and personal with him.

But, marketting aside, does the story live up to the hype?

Just about.

There are some very "classic" moments to this story but I wouldn't quite call this a classic. It's missing a few things in order to truly achieve that status. If nothing else, the plot is just a tad too streamlined. While I can appreciate a story like "Rose" being so simple in its plotting because it was the first episode of the new series, "Dalek" is now five episodes into the season. I could've used a bit more meat to my plot than just: "A Dalek's breaking out and it's going to spend the next 45 minutes killing everyone and then killing itself cause it went a little crazy from absorbing Rose's DNA."

Now, don't get me wrong, I do recognise that there is a bit more substance to this story than just that. We have Van Statten's egotism, some integral revelations about the Time Wars and Adam getting it on with Rose but these are all far too minor to really become legitimate plot threads. So, even though we've got some nice underscoring and subtext going on, we're still left with "A Dalek breaks out and is going to spend the next 45 minutes killing everyone and then killing itself cause it went a little crazy from absorbing Rose's DNA"! And that, in my book, is enough of a flaw to get it to not quite achieve "classic" status.

Still, this is a very strong story, overall. In many ways, it's superb. The conflict between the Doctor and his greatest enemy has never been so well portrayed. For the chief reason that the battle between Dalek and Time Lord is now deeply personal because of what occurred in the Time Wars. And it makes for excellent drama to watch. Particularly when you consider that one of the two combatants is really just a working prop!

Of course, this conflict is best displayed in the notorious scene when the two of combatants first meet. Eccleston turns in his best performance of the season here. His horror and dismay and then sheer fanaticism are all very compelling. And the way the Dalek actually plays off of him (even though, again, he really is just a working prop) gets this whole scene to shine brightly in the memories of both old fans and new viewers. It's everything we expected the confrontation to be between these two - and more.

It's also quite interesting to see what they had done with this latest model of Dalek. Some really cool new "special features" have been added to them: rotating gun turrets and bullet force-fields and the like. This is obviously the Dalek at its ultimate form of evolution. Which seems quite sensible. It would be at this stage that they would decide they are perfect and take on the ultimate enemy in the greatest war they would ever face. It all jibes with continuity quite nicely in my book. And that's always a nice thing for a fan to see in a story!

I'm also quite impressed with how deeply the story delves into "the Dalek philosophy". It really takes the time to not just show us how nasty these aliens are, but also explain why they are so nasty. So that, at the end, when the Dalek commits suicide, we understand why. It could never stand being anything but a pure killing machine and therefore needed to destroy itself when it realised it had been corrupted. This conclusion makes sense rather than being just a cheap cop-out.

There are several other really nice touches to this story. The Doctor coming to terms with his obcessive hatred is nicely achieved. And the destruction of Van Statten is also great stuff. I even quite liked the vague reference made to Davros. But, in the end, I still feel that the two final episodes of the season were better Dalek stories. And the all-time best Dalek story, for my money, is still "Remembrance of the Daleks" - even if the title is a tad goofy! Still, "Dalek" does an excellent job of bringing this evil intergalactic conqueror back into Whoniverse - I just can't quite call it the "classic" some of you are claiming it to be.

It's pretty damned awesome - but not a classic!

Shane Anderson

This is the story I wanted to see ever since I read about it, and the only one I couldn't resist spoilers on. I went and read reviews by fellow fans months ago, as well as watching the Doctor Who Confidential episode covering this story over my dial-up internet connection (a chore, to be sure). Having finally seen the episode itself, I have to say that the oldest enemy of the Doctor was redesigned and reinvented very well in my opinion.

The story itself is not bad. It's not a deep plot but it works, and writer Rob Shearman relies on the Doctor's history with the Daleks for much of its emotional impact and drama. It boils down to this: Dalek falls to Earth, is ultimately bought by Van Statten and put in the cage, until the Doctor arrives. Doctor and Dalek shout at each other, Dalek tricks Rose and escapes, slaughtering hundreds in the process. Genetically contaminated by Rose, the Dalek chooses suidcide. Fine and dandy, but I wish the one event on which the plot turns, the absorption of Rose's DNA by the Dalek, had been explained in more detail. What was it about her DNA that allowed the Dalek to recharge and escape? We're merely told that the fact that she's a time traveller allows the Dalek's renewal, with no further explanation. Of course, the answer is that the concept makes no sense, and that the writer didn't even try to make up some technobabble to explain it, which is disappointing.

The Dalek itself is wonderfully updated. It's still the same old basic design we've seen since 1963 (thank goodness) but with a few tweaks here and there. The dome with rivets and panels looks good, along with the larger "eye" lamps. The eyepiece with what is presumably the Dalek's designation underneath is a very good update, giving the faceless Dalek some individuality at last. The bronze-metallic overall finish works very well and gives more of an impression that the travel machine is made of metal than previous Dalek props have done. The force shield, levitation and the rotating midsection are just icing on the cake, really making this Dalek the threat that it should always have been. Last but not least is the depiction of the mutant inside, which takes elements from the old Raymond Cusick sketch with it's exposed brain, along with the tentacled Dalek creatures we've seen over the course of the old series. The redesign is nigh-on picture perfect.

As for the Dalek's character, it's quite accurate as well. Emotional, manipulative, deceptive and murderous, the Dalek draws on both "Power of the Daleks" and "Evil of the Daleks" for characterization. Speaking of "Evil", lest we forget, this is not the first time we've seen a humanized Dalek. Unlike the ones in "Evil" who seemed to take in stride their new human emotions and ability to question, this one becomes very self-aware and chooses suicide over ˜contamination". I almost felt sorry for the thing at the end of the episode, but considering how many people he murdered, it's hard not to see his condition and death as just desserts.

Moving along to characters other than the Dalek, there's villain number two, Henry Van Statten. The idea of an egomaniacal billionare who collects alien artifacts is a decent concept. However, Van Statten begins to fail as a character when other ideas are thrown into the mix. He owns the internet? Picks the next president? Invented broadband? Right. The character would have worked very well without these needless excesses. He is acted well enough I suppose.

Moving along, Goddard is a character who's barely there, and her sudden takeover at the end defies belief somewhat. Whose name is on the bank accounts? Though I suppose given that she had the support of the troops who were angry at Van Statten for letting so many of their fellow soldiers die, she might pull it off. Seems a shame that she wanted the museum destroyed at the end though. Adam comes across as a bit full of himself, but as someone who plans ahead a bit, given that he keeps some alien weapons stashed away just in case. Pity he couldn't have planned ahead a bit further next episode, eh? "Ithink I'll have this chip installed in my forehead..." Even the few soldiers who get lines get good ones. "Get the civilians out," one says. Nice to see that even though his boss is a ego-maniac, he takes his job seriously. Then of course there's the doomed soldier trying to hold the Dalek off on the stairway... a futile gesture and a wasted life.

It's hard not to sympathize with Rose in this episode. She doesn't know about the Daleks at this point, and doesn't realize just how terrible they are. Her compassion for the Dalek after she sees him being tortured is commendable, as are her attempts to stop him from killing Van Statten. Even though the Dalek has killed ˜hundreds of people", as she sees it changing she tries to reason with it. There's a lot of nobility in her actions.

This ninth Doctor is a tough one to come to terms with. I accept that he's been traumatized by the war, and by losing his home and family, but even so it's hard to like him sometimes. A lot of the characteristics of past Doctors shine through, except for charm. He has very little of that, sadly. I did feel that his actions in this episode were spot on character though. He's afraid of the Daleks, he recognizes just how dangerous they are, he hates them for taking part in the destruction of the Time Lords, and when he takes the weapon to go and destroy the Dalek at the end of the episode, it's not the action of a man becoming what he hates. His action is more than justified, given what the Dalek has just done if nothing else. For all that the script tries to draw parallels between the Doctor and the Dalek, and make us feel pity for the Dalek, said parallels are surface level only. The Dalek kills because it is xenophobic, and to it all other life is wrong. The Doctor wants to kill the Dalek because of so many past experiences where all the Daleks do is bring death and destruction, and the Doctor's instinct is to protect innocents. There may well be some revenge in the Doctor's mind as well, which while wrong is both understandable and still a long way from the Dalek point of view. The two are not the same, and never will be, despite being the "last survivors" of their respective races.

Despite my defence of the Doctor here, I have to agree that he is angry, bitter and vengeful towards the helpless Dalek in the cell. It's unpleasant to watch, but he's right: what is a Dalek good for, if it can't kill? Having seen the Daleks kill every other member of his race (so far as he knows), I think we'd be hard-pressed to fault the Doctor for his verbal abuse of the Dalek. It is a commendable scene for another reason: not since the days of Hartnell and Troughton have we seen the actor who plays the Doctor taking the Daleks so seriously(with the possible exception of "Genesis"), and Eccleston's superb acting in this scene really does sell the idea that the Doctor hates and fears these creatures unlike any other. Already this season we've seen him attempt to reason with the Nestene and the Gelth, but his approach to the Dalek is vastly different. His hate is understandable, even if we wish he would rise above it.

Some nice touches to the episode include the Cyber-head from "Revenge of the Cybermen", and the mention of Davros (though not by name, just as the Daleks creator). Numerous Dalek-POV shots were nicely done as well. Some not-so-nice touches: the horribly cheesy line "what good are emotions if you will not save the woman you love?"

The final scene is touching. "I win" the Doctor says sadly. Do we really think Susan is gone, or Romana, or the Master? I tend to believe the Doctor isn't as alone as he thinks, but it may be a long time before any writer feels like bringing another Time Lord back into the mix.

In short, the plot is functional and advances the Time War story. The episode serves to reintroduce and amplify the Daleks as the ultimate Doctor Who adversaries. It's the Dalek and the history behind it that makes this episode work dramatically. No other monster or enemy has the same effect on the Doctor. "Dalek" is not a classic, but it is a strong episode.

Adam Kintopf

‘Dalek’ reintroduced ‘Doctor Who’s’ most enduring and iconic villains to a new audience, and at times during this story we can’t help feeling a kind of magic. When the Doctor approaches the hurt, shadow-shrouded alien in friendship, only to hear that horrible, familiar voice (“DOC-TOR? THE DOC-TOR?”), it’s a moment filled with horror and delight – an instant classic scene.

The idea of an emotionally tortured and stranded Doctor facing off against a *literally* tortured and stranded Dalek counterpart is a fascinating one, rich with dramatic possibilities, but unfortunately this story is not the mini-masterpiece it might have been. This is not really to do with the ‘time-traveler DNA’ element that seems to have angered so many fans (it’s really amazing to me how many of us seem to have convinced ourselves that classic ‘Who’ was above absurd – often *extremely* absurd – pseudoscience).

No, instead it’s more to do simply with the storytelling methods. If classic ‘Doctor Who’ can be criticized for giving its audience too much detail (and boy, can it ever), then ‘Dalek’ can be criticized for giving us too little. Oh, we have everything we need to follow what’s going on – but we have nothing more, and it is that ‘more’ that so often made the old series feel like it existed in its own true fictional universe. ‘Dalek,’ on the other hand, feels like a plot outline. Gone is the fun of the Doctor having to figure out where he and his companion have landed and why; this time he simply tells us in the story’s first minutes. (In fact, he tells us we’re in an alien museum before we can even *see* that we’re in one!) Then we are asked to swallow that the paranoid van Statten would immediately take an intruder found in his maximum-security compound and dump him in (unchaperoned!) with his most prized possession . . . . These problems aren’t really the fault of Rob Shearman’s script; the writer simply does what he has to in order to bring the viewer up to speed within the constraints of a single 45-min. episode. But to anyone approaching the new ‘Doctor Who’ in the context of the old, ‘Dalek’ can’t help feeling somewhat shallow and rushed – blink and you’ll miss it.

The supporting cast of characters doesn’t add much. Van Statten is an extremely annoying stereotype – he bellows his own *name*, for crying out loud – and his self-conscious banter with Goddard is shrill and witless. He’s as bad as Chinn in ‘The Claws of Axos,’ and the fact that the character is such an obvious joke makes it seem ridiculous that the Doctor would take him seriously enough to give him a Pertwee-esque indignant lecture. And the irritating Adam contributes little to this story, except for his obvious plot function as provider of the secret Dalek-killing weapons.

That’s not to say that all is bad about ‘Dalek.’ The fundamental premise is still compelling, and Christopher Eccleston effectively plays the Doctor’s jumble of emotions at the resurfacing of his oldest foe – bafflement, fear, fury and mockery all combine convincingly in this performance. Rose is plonked into a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ cliché, but Billie Piper makes as much of it as she can. The finale is rather melodramatic (especially Rose’s ‘What the hell are *you* changing into?,’ accompanied by ‘Tara’s Theme’ style sweeping music, which made me cringe a bit), but even so, it’s hard not to be touched by our first good look at the sad, lonely mutant inside the travel machine.

As for the Dalek itself, it is also somewhat better in the concept than in the execution (this is nothing new for the series, I suppose!). Nicholas Briggs seems to be channeling the ghosts of Dalek voices past – he sounds like Roy Skelton when angry, like Michael Wisher when hysterical, and like Brian Miller much of the rest of the time. It’s a messy, mixed bag of a performance: Briggs jumps up and down vocally where Dalek inflections traditionally go up and up and up, and I found it rather distracting. The Dalek machine itself does look very good, and it’s certainly nice to see its lights flashing in synch for once. But it also seems to move slower than any Dalek in ‘Doctor Who’ history (who would have thought that was possible?), and the production team has inserted a C-3PO-esque mechanical squeak when it moves its eyestalk, which makes it more robot-like than ever. As for the Dalek’s character, it does show cunning and manipulation in its dealings with Rose, true, but it doesn’t really resemble the resourceful, scientific Daleks of old at their best (the weaponless Daleks in ‘Death to the Daleks,’ for instance, take control of their situation much faster than this mopey old philosopher).

All in all, it’s of course worth watching, and nostalgia alone should raise it a couple points in any fan’s estimation. But there should have been another way . . . .

Billy Higgins

When I first saw “Dalek”, I had the same sort of vibe as I did when watching “The Green Death”, “Planet of the Spiders”, “Genesis of the Daleks”, “Earthshock” and “The Caves of Androzani”. In other words, here in 2005, we had another member of my personal “Doctor Who classic” club.

Subsequent viewings have confirmed that first impression (which, in my experience, are so often right). From beginning to end, I loved “Dalek”. It was my favourite episode of the new series – and I’d be surprised if it didn’t rank similarly highly in any season surveys.

It was a very shrewd move from Russell T Davies to position “Dalek” at Episode Six in the series running order. This guy plays the TV game beautifully, and he must have known there was a chance if things weren’t going well, ratings-wise, in the new series, the promise of the Daleks’ return – even if it was just the one truly-amazing Dalek – would provide a mid-season boost. As it happened, it did just that, even though the season’s success was already guaranteed by this point.

I’d thoroughly enjoyed the new series to this point, but “Dalek” took things to another level. It wasn’t “just” an excellent “Doctor Who” adventure, it was a first-class piece of TV drama in its own right. I’m sure even the people out there with no imagination could have found something in there!

And the “old school” fans who found the new series too far removed from what came before must have found an affinity with Robert Shearman’s beautifully-crafted, perfectly-paced piece. Unlike any of the other episodes in the series (with the possible exception of “The Unquiet Dead”) I think “Dalek” could have appeared in another Doctor’s tenure but, given the choice of any Doctor at their best to play the Time Lord in this story, Christopher Eccleston would have been my pick.

I’ve been a fan of Eccleston’s Doctor right from the off. I like the physicality he brings to the role. Jon Pertwee and both Tom and Colin Baker were all powerful men who really filled the screen – and Eccleston is of that ilk. And, without the bouffant or curly mops, his shorter hair marks him out as someone who can really handle themselves. I also enjoy his sometimes-criticised “inane grinning” – he’s playing an alien, why shouldn’t he grin inanely and have a rather odd stride pattern as he bounds along?

And he really delivers his lines with a passion. When Eccleston’s Doctor goes through a gamut of emotion when he uncovers the Dalek for the first time – fear, loathing, sarcasm, relief, anger, the lot, all in the space of a couple of minutes – you really feel those emotions with him.

I must admit I found the back-up characters in this story less remarkable than in previous episodes – including companion-to-be Adam Mitchell. However, this way have been because this was all about the Doctor, the Dalek and Rose.

The setting for the episode was ideal. The Daleks have always been at their deadliest in an underground setting (after all, that’s how it all began) and the basic idea of the last Dalek being held in a museum, and being tortured by a megalomaniac, was a cracker.

The initial encounter between the Doctor and the Dalek really was gripping. Nicholas Briggs’ Dalek intoning, “Doc-tor. THE Doc-tor!” emphasising the definite article was an edge-of-the-seat moment – one of the best scenes of the whole series. Simple, but so effective.

And displaying the Doctor showing genuine fear – an emotion never shown in previous incarnations – is one big improvement to the Time Lord’s character in the new series. Of course, the Doctor is a superhero. He’s physically powerful and mentally strong. But he’s seen terrible things. He may have caused terrible things in the Time War. His whole race have been destroyed. He isn’t invincible. He is vulnerable – and he knows it. And, although we’re not used to seeing the Doctor afraid, he is afraid here. Even of this chained-up, impotent Dalek. Very afraid.

Briggs – now, undisputedly THE voice of the Daleks – had some great dialogue to work with, but I really enjoyed the softer monotone he brought to his character looking for pity. “Character” being the operative word. Too often in the past, the Daleks have been one-dimensional killing machines or, as in “Revelation of the Daleks”, mere drones. But here, without Davros for the first time since the Pertwee years, a Dalek by itself was able to take centre stage and be a “character” in its own right.

And who’d have thought the viewer would have cared about that character? A tribute to Shearman, Briggs - and Eccleston and Billie Piper in their scenes with the Dalek. It must be difficult acting against what is essentially a giant metal pepperpot, and making it so utterly believable and watchable, but they managed to pull it off.

The Dalek itself was another triumph for the design team. I loved the transformation from old, battered Dalek to majestic, gold, killing machine after its extrapolation of Rose’s DNA. It really looked the part as it glided along the corridor (you can never have enough corridors and running in a Dalek story!) at no great pace, exterminating indiscriminately. This is part of the menace of a Dalek when it’s handled properly – you can’t stop it. It doesn’t have to be move quickly. You have nowhere to run to. It will catch you, and it will exterminate you.

Obviously, the effortless “elevation” upstairs was an added bonus, as was the “kitchen sink plunger” being used for more nefarious purpose than just being there. I wonder if the production team were tempted to go further with the “sucking” of the Dalek torturer’s face – now that would have been worth the 12 rating on the DVDs!

Talking of added bonuses, the Doctor actually allowing Rose to die (or so he believed when she was trapped by the Dalek) was a fabulous scene. The only thing from the old series which was comparable was Adric’s death in “Earthshock” (one of the great scenes in “Doctor Who” lore) and, even then, the Fifth Doctor didn’t directly seal his companion’s fate. More scope for great moments from Eccleston and Piper, who must look back on this episode with tremendous pride.

And a truly great ending to boot. Eccleston’s Doctor is, by this stage, mentally all over the place, waving around a huge gun for goodness’ sake! The Dalek’s plea for an order to die, and Rose’s softly-intoned clearance for the creature’s suicide was gripping stuff.

This was a great story – have you got that impression from these words? If there was a serious fault, it wasn’t one I could find. Even if the rest of the series had been rubbish, it would have been worth it for “Dalek”. Full marks to all involved. This was “Doctor Who” at its very best. And maybe time will show “Dalek” to be the best of the best.

Alex Gibbs

Living half a world away from England can be difficult sometimes, especially for a Doctor Who fan during the first run of the new series. I’d been spoiled to death. I knew practically everything about this episode well in advance. Since its premiere in the UK eight weeks ago, Dalek had been hailed by many as the best episode of Doctor Who in a long, long time. Some were even calling it the best ever. Apart from these things, I was looking forward to this episode for another reason – in a week’s time, I’ll be leaving the country for a couple of months, thereby missing the rest of the show’s run completely. This was to be the last episode of new Who I would see in a long time. I was so glad – I am so glad – I got to see this one.

Joe Ahearne, I’ve just heard, masterminded the BBC documentary Space Odyssey, which was just shown on Australian television. I loved it. And when I discovered Dalek was directed by the same man, I knew I was in for something special. I was proven right only a few moments into the episode, when a classic-style Cyberman’s head was revealed. But it wasn’t just thrown into the background, Hitchhiker’s movie style – nor was it dwelt upon for ages like a fanboy’s wet dream. I guess it was somewhere in between. But it worked brilliantly. Henry Van Statten is a great character – evil, funny, clever, well-acted and well-cast – and his first scene strikes all the right notes.

When I first heard the Dalek scream, I winced. I suddenly felt as if I was trapped inside the Dalek’s armour, unable to get out, and being tortured to death. This feeling remained with me throughout the rest of the episode, and I put it down to three things – Joe Ahearne’s direction, Robert Shearman’s writing and Nicholas Briggs’ acting. When the Doctor faces off with it, the Dalek goes from gloating to immense pain within moments. And then we’re in for Nicholas Briggs’ greatest triumph so far – the Dalek’s first meeting with Rose. This is a meeting that could’ve happened in the first Dalek story, all those years ago, but instead it was decided the kids would prefer them to be mindless killing machines. That’s all well and good, but what if you were trapped inside there? The Dalek was in pain. Genuine pain. It was dying. That said, I was sitting up in my seat when Rose touched it, and it regenerated into its former, killing-machine self.

So the Dalek’s on a rampage. The best directed Dalek rampage in the history of this show. (Sorry, Mr Harper.) And I thought Euros Lyn was good! Joe Ahearne was perfect for this job. I’m glad he was kept on for the majority of the season, but at the same time disappointed that he won’t be back next time. Oh well. Dear me, this is brilliant stuff… the way the Dalek wipes out the entire squadron… without even touching the ground! The suspense is terrifying! I loved the reveal when it turned out Rose had been trapped behind the bulkhead. And when we heard the Dalek cry “Exterminate!” and fire, for a moment – despite what I already knew – I was sure Rose had been killed.

But this is a new kind of Dalek – a Dalek the Time Lords hinted at many years ago. Remember when Tom found the little Kaled mutant in the pit? Beautiful scene. And now, when this Dalek blows a hole in the roof just to feel the sunlight, we have the follow-up to that beautiful scene. Suddenly the Doctor turns up. At this point I realised the full extent of what the Doctor had gone through with this Time War. You might exile yourself from your home, but when you find out your home’s gone… destroyed by monsters… what is your gut instinct? Forget right and wrong – the one thing you want to do is find these monsters and destroy them. Thankfully this tends to wear off pretty swiftly. And it does with the Doctor, who watches helplessly as the Dalek begs Rose for one last order. We can now see this poor creature, reaching out to the light, and the one thing we want for it is… what? Do we want it to die? To become ruthless again? To be free? Wow. Existentialism in Doctor Who. This is new, isn’t it?

Yes, I cried. Again, I have Messrs. Ahearne, Shearman and Briggs to thank for this. (You gits.) And Billie Piper? Well done, kid, you pulled it off. I felt your fear too, because I was trapped inside that horrible casing, begging to be set free. I never thought I’d be writing such things about an episode of Doctor Who… but then again, this is indeed the Best.

Richard Board

"Dalek" marks the best episode of the new Dr Who series to date and not too soon either, many would say, following on as it does from arguably the series' worst.

It's best to dispense with the only real quibble first, which is the inexplicable empowerment of the Dalek's motive units from Rose's brief touch. We are told of time traveller DNA being absorbed and extrapolated - no problem there; even the smallest amount of matter harbours a staggering amount of energy - but not how it particularly differs from other DNA or why it is the only DNA that works. As a general rule, if a concept can be understood by anyone with a high-school level knowledge of science, no need to explain, but if it requires some leap of logic then some attempt had better be made. Often enough the rational, even if technically improbable, works well enough in this quantum age for dramatic purposes, although I must confess being hard put thinking up anything that might enlighten us regarding this particular plot point. Still, there's no point getting stuck on this one anomaly, as it - thereafter logically - underpins so much of what follows, including the frankly wonderful denouement.

Several factors combine to elevate the overall standard of this episode. Most conspicuous is the presence of the Dalek itself and the fashion in which it is presented. Fans doubtlessly want the Doctor's arch-nemesis to figure as a credible and deadly threat, and the story certainly delivered that. Loved the subtle updating of its casing and weapons system, from the eerie blue light emanating from its eye stalk to the first ever decent use of its sucker.

Thankfully, we also had a more serious Doctor this time. After being desperately afraid that his emotional reaction to the Dalek would be mishandled, I was gratified to discover how well they actually did it - fear, anger, even commiseration was all there yet kept in check; just when the Doctor's dignity seemed about to shatter it managed to be maintained - for we don't have to witness him crying or ranting to appreciate his genuine distress (in fact, I find it far more powerful the more it is internalised and nevertheless evident, which is a feat good actors can accomplish and which should be always appreciated). That the ninth Doctor is more outwardly emotional than the others is by now beyond doubt, and that's fine so long as it isn't driven too far; he's still a Time Lord, remember - a title of dignity and distinction. One more grumble, however: I do wish he would stop feeling guilty every time Rose is in trouble. I mean it's going to happen, isn't it, every episode! Drop her back home for good if it's such a big deal.

In the final moments we have a Dalek committing suicide. Heresy?! Believe it or not, no, for the living creature inside was corrupted by alien DNA, it was no longer pure - the perfect and most ironic foil to its own racial hatred. In reality a Dalek did not suicide, something else did. One has to admire such a simple but poignant conclusion to some of the most exciting television I've ever had the pleasure to watch. That its central themes derive from earlier Dalek stories - "Power of the Daleks" and "Evil of the Daleks" as all good fans know - is no bad thing; for a start they are two classic but sadly lost episodes, and I also believe that with such a long history, Dr Who has every right to pick from its own vintage, especially when it can engineer such a fresh reworking as this one.

Little more need be said. Message to the BBC: this is what we want! They must have some feedback system in operation. I can only hope most people agree with me in thinking that less adolescent humour and more guts will keep this series going, not just for a few years but for whole generations, in the successful tradition of its earlier, venerable incarnation.