The Doctor couldn’t return to TV in 2005 without the Daleks. After featuring the Nestene Consciousness in the Series Premiere, the subsequent episodes had new less memorable aliens. The Slitheen seen in the two parter, “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” were a misfire. It was only a matter of time before the Doctor’s greatest enemy made an appearance on the new series.
The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler follow a distress call to Utah in 2012. The Time Lord is shocked to discover a Dalek held captive by Henry van Statten, a billionaire who collects alien technology. Despite van Statten’s assurances, the Dalek escapes and begins a killing spree. It’s up to the Doctor to work through his anger at the Dalek to save everyone he can.
The Doctor visits the Metaltron, van Statten’s prized possession. The lights are down, obscuring it in darkness. He offers help, thinking that van Statten has imprisoned an innocent bystander. But the Metaltron recognizes the Time Lord and calls out in its distinctive voice. As soon as the Doctor realizes what’s happening he panics as the Dalek prepares to exterminate him.
Luckily for the Doctor, the Dalek’s weapon is broken. When he discovers this he turns on the Dalek and starts taunting him. The Dalek race is dead, and he was the one who made it happen. It’s almost like he’s gloating. When the Dalek asks about the Time Lords, the Doctor is forced to confirm that they too are all gone, leaving the Doctor and the Dalek the last survivors of the Time War.
Rose visits the Dalek after seeing van Statten’s employees torture it. She doesn’t know what it is, and offers the same compassion she has for everybody she meets. Unfortunately all it takes is a touch before the Dalek restores itself and breaks free from its chains. For the first time in the show’s history, we see what the plunger shaped apparatus can do, and it is not pretty.
We see a Doctor who is more emotional than we’ve ever seen the Time Lord, even the Eighth Doctor in the movie. The Ninth Doctor is carrying around a lot of guilt for ending the Time War the way he did. Seeing that even one Dalek survived was a slap in the face for him. Yet when the Dalek breaks free, the Time Lord is able to work through the trauma all over again to save as many as he can, including Rose.
“Dalek” is a great episode that serves two purposes. It introduces viewers who haven’t seen any of the Classic show to the Doctor’s greatest enemy, and helps establish context for the Time War and the lack of Time Lords within the new series. It is also among my favorite episodes. As I wrote in the post for the Tenth Anniversary of the new series, this was the episode that made me fall in love with the Ninth Doctor.