on 1 July 2014
In the world of Doctor Who, it can be said with undeniable surety, that the Daleks are the most prolific, the most daunting and the most exciting creatures to come out of the franchise since its inception in 1963, when they first appeared on our screens as pepper-pot shaped mutations with attaching sink plungers and flashing light bulbs for ears (or at least the resemblance of such). As well as the wave of Dalekmania spreading forth to the masses following the cinematic showing of the two Peter Cushing Dalek films of the sixties (based on the first two Dalek serials produced for the BBC series), these world-conquering aliens from Skaro became embedded into the national consciousness, with kids on the playground yelling 'exterminate!', alongside the distribution of toys, comics and annuals focusing on their exploits throughout time and space.
The Daleks were the brainchild of Terry Nation, who debuted their on-screen television appearance in the second serial of the first series, running from 1963 to 1964, titled 'The Daleks' (although each twenty-five minute episode had individual titles). This serial introduced the Daleks as mutations who had survived a neutronic war with the Thals, forced to spend their days in their metal city, gaining their power from static electricity, attempting to thwart the plan of the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions to end the Dalek oppression of the pacifist Thals. Later stories would give the Daleks a chance to show off their battle expertise in conquering twenty-second century Earth, along with providing a rather convoluted species history, which began with their creator, Davros (shown in the 1970's serial 'Genesis of the Daleks'), remaining ever popular throughout the Classic Series' run until its cancellation in the late eighties.
When Russell T Davies revived the series with Christopher Ecclestone as the Ninth Doctor in 2005, it was only a matter of time until the Daleks were to make a long-awaited comeback to their television roots. This was ultimately given to viewers in the single episode 'Dalek', which provided some intermittent backstory between the years that the show was off-air, explaining that the Daleks and the Time-Lords were both destroyed in a cataclysmic battle deemed the 'Last Great Time War', which devastated both species' planets (although the Time Lords were shown to have survived due to the efforts of three iterations of the Doctor, placing the planet of Gallifrey into a pocket universe, played out during the fiftieth anniversary special). Eventually, in the four series that followed under Davies' production schedule, it was shown that some Daleks did indeed survive, including both the Emperor and Davros himself, as well as the mythical and secretive Cult of Skaro; a quartet of Battle Daleks created to think up new ways of species survival. One of these Cult members, Dalek Caan, temporal shifted back into the Last Great Time War to rescue Davros from the so-called 'Nightmare Child', which resulted in an attempted invasion of Earth and the destruction of reality itself in the year 2009, thwarted by the Tenth Doctor and his gathered companions. Following this defeat of Davros' New Dalek Empire by the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor in the New Series Season Four finale, three remaining Daleks inevitably were responsible in creating a new, pure-bred Dalek Paradigm, which has resulted in a new Universe-fearing fleet of Daleks, with a whole new colour palette redesign and militaristic designations for each variant.
'Doctor Who - The Monster Collection: The Daleks', distributed in 2013 by BBC Worldwide/2entertain for the Region 2 market, contains two stories spread over two discs that focus on the Daleks' progression throughout nearly fifty years of the show's on-screen history. With no bonus material, apart from audio menu navigation, episode selection on Disc One and subtitles for the English hard-of-hearing, the feature length running time is approximated at three hours and forty minutes, and the two stories are as follows:
*'The Daleks' (originally transmitted 21/12/1963 - 01/02/1964) - The aforementioned second story from Season One and presented in black and white format, this seven-episode serial was responsible for bringing the Daleks into the nation's public consciousness. It shows the First Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her school teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, landing on the almost 'dead' planet Skaro after escaping from primitive Earth during their previous adventure. After venturing into a metal city in search of mercury for the Tardis' fluid-link, the Doctor and his companions are imprisoned by the Daleks, and end up fighting alongside the pacifist Thals for freedom, attempting to stop the static-electricity utilising mutations from detonating a neutron bomb that will allow them to take over the planet for themselves.
*'Asylum of the Daleks' (first shown 01/09/2012) - This first episode from the New Series Season Seven concerns the Parliament of the Daleks enlisting their so-called 'Predator', the Doctor (in his eleventh incarnation), alongside his companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams, into disabling the force-field of the Dalek Asylum, a planet wherein lies casualties of Dalek wars throughout history. After a space-freighter crash lands on the planet, the crew's Junior Entertainment Manager, Oswin Oswald (later revealed to be an echo of the Eleventh Doctor's future companion Clara), causes havoc amongst the Dalek inmates, and it is up to the Doctor and his two companions to work for the Daleks so that the Asylum can be cleansed.
All in all, the 'Dalek' entry in the 'Doctor Who: Monster Collection' series of DVDs, released to coincide with the franchise's fiftieth anniversary, shows how the Doctor's most nefarious foes have progressed and evolved throughout the show's history, and it is great to see the many cameos of Dalek variants shown in 'Asylum of the Daleks'; from the Mark 1 design introduced within 'The Daleks', through to the most recent iterations as part of the New Dalek Paradigm.
It would have been nice to have some extras and bonus material included, if only a few trailers, for instance. However, this in no way detracts from the viewing experience for the avid Whovian and the general viewer alike.
Additionally, if the Daleks are of particular interest to you, it is worth having a look at the two non-canonical Peter Cushing films, produced in the 1960s, and based on the first two Dalek serials in an attempt to reach a more widespread international audience, plus the three-DVD set distributed in 2009 titled 'Doctor Who - The Dalek Collection', which includes all episodes focusing on the Daleks throughout the first four seasons of the New Series, save the Second Season two-episode finale, which is included within its sister set, 'Doctor Who - The Cyberman Collection'.