The Red Dalek   Leave a comment

The Red Dalek

The new Red Dalek is the “Drone” (standard Dalek, general soldier and dogsbody)

A Red “drone”? Hmmmmm.

It may come as a surprise to some that this is the first time a “standard” Red Dalek has actually appeared in the TV show. The only other Red Dalek to appear on TV was the Dalek Supreme (with a different style casing) in “The Stolen Earth” (well, OK, on TV but not in Doctor Who itself there was a Red Dalek in a Wetabix advert – which you can see here)

But Red Daleks have a long history. Leaving aside the numerous Dalek toys that have been made over the years sporting an eye-catching red, Red Daleks appeared in both of the 1960s movies and in the TV21 comic strip, as well as in Big Finish’s audio plays.

Every time a Red Dalek did appear in the wider Dalek universe (of film, audio and print) it was always depicted as some kind of commander, usually second-in-command to the Black Dalek / Dalek Supreme and/or as (for example) a commander of a Dalek saucer or invasion force.

This “”command role” for the Red Dalek was echoed in the new-series Dalek Supreme of “The Stolen Earth” (personally I think the “Stolen Earth” Supreme Dalek should have been done in the “traditional” Black, Gold or a combination of these, with or without the optional silver and or blue bits that have also appeared on previous Supreme Daleks, but I can sort of forgive this in order to set the “Stolen Earth” Supreme apart from the “standard” gold/bronze Time-War Daleks and the Black Dalek Sec).

Now it seems that the Red Daleks have been demoted to general “drone” duty. It probably won’t bother most people, but personally I find this rather irksome, as it would have been just as easy to make the Red Dalek the “Strategist” – thus giving it a 2nd-in-command type function, and to make the Blue (or Orange, or some other colour such as Silver or Grey) into the “drone” / soldier Dalek. This would at least have been a nod at wider continuity.  My cynical side makes me think that “red is the new grey” Dalek solely for marketing reasons as I bet it will out-sell other colours in toy shops.  But enough of my gripes on this subject…

As ever, it isn’t really the colour that is the problem (though either a darker red or a metallic shade would probably have looked better) – it’s the hideous hunch-backed deformed “New Dalek” shape.

If no-one had ever built a Dalek before, this sort of thing would probably be OK. But the problem is, it just doesn’t look as good as what we’ve been used to seeing recently. In fact it doesn’t look as good as the BBC managed on a shoe-string budget in 1963…

Maybe the next Dalek story will give some sort of insight into what the new design is supposed to do – but I don’t think anyone actually worked this sort of thing out in advance before mucking about with the shape, look and feel of the Daleks. Naturally the new design is going to appeal to some people -probably mainly those who never saw Doctor Who prior to the 2005 relaunch – but honestly, does anybody at all think that the new Dalek backside looks better now than before?

The only time the “New Daleks” look half-way good is when they are shown either front-on, from an exaggerated camera angle, on in some way with part of their casing obscured. Parts of the design work – but see the whole thing in one and it is dire…

It has been suggested that much of the new design comes down to wanting to make them seem more threatening by being larger than before and/or to give the operator more room inside.

On the surface that sounds reasonable enough – until you think about it…

The Daleks have been around on TV since 1963 – forty-seven years so far. They have managed to strike terror into generations of delighted children (and a few adults), not because they are gigantic but due to their alien visual presence, their grating voices and their desire to exterminate everyone in sight. Making them bigger doesn’t actually make them more threatening; a six foot tall man with a gun isn’t really any more dangerous than a five foot tall man with a gun – and the same goes for Daleks. I don’t really have a problem with the Daleks being bigger, it just seems un-necessary and a poor route to travel down. A standard sized Dalek with a chainsaw attachment, the ability to spray acid from its sucker arm, domes that could detach and act as swarm of independent robot weapons, or an electronic device to reanimate the dead as a roboman living-corpse (and so on) – those sort of things would potentially make a Dalek more menacing, but just making them bigger just makes them bigger. And then what? Next time the Daleks appear, do we have to have them ten feet tall to provide even more menace? Their are better dramatic devices  than this.

As for the comfort of the operator… Well, Dalek operators have managed for nearly 50 years and I can’t believe the world has suddenly run out of people of small stature. The reasoning for this simply isn’t  good enough.

No doubt the New Daleks will be in your toy shops in time for Christmas. I wish I could feel more enthusiastic about that… Even my 6-year old daughter isn’t impressed. She loves the new colours and was really exited  to see the new Daleks (and I mean really exited) – but her thoughts on them?

“It’s a shame they don’t look like real Daleks”

The Red Dalek design

Let’s hope it doesn’t drone on for too long


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