It’s been widely reported – albeit without any official confirmation – over the past week that one of the first villains that Matt Smith will be facing when he gets the keys to the Tardis will, predictably, be the Daleks.
This is hardly a massive revelation, given that the Daleks have been dragged out for every season of the show since Doctor Who was brought back to our screens in 2005. But it doesn’t, anymore, fill us with the joy that it once did.
This writer, for what it’s worth, has been a fan of what Russell T Davies has done with the show, but the main area that he’s not convincingly addressed for me is the reliance on recycling the same old villains. Come the end of season four, we had a belting penultimate episode, where the whole world looked doomed, but again the Daleks were beaten quite easily, and again they lived to survive another day. Because, simply, you can’t kill the Daleks. It’s clearly against the law.
Add in the recycling of the Cybermen in the last Christmas special, and I can’t be the only one who was secretly hoping that the two big villains in the Doctor Who universe would be kept in the locker for at least a year or so. Especially as new show Steven Moffat boss has given us the best new villains of the revived show’s run (the weeping angels, anyone?).
Now appreciating that introducing new monsters is easier said than done, there’s also the greater problem here, in that the Daleks make lots of money for the BBC. Furthermore, with a pair of unknowns piloting the Tardis in the shape of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, it does give the BBC a comfort blanket to have the Doctor’s most iconic enemies turning up to do battle once more.
But does it help the show? I’d be the first to sit down and watch a Moffat-scripted Dalek episode, and I’d be fascinated to see if he can wring a strong tale out of them, given that we all know that both sides of a Dalek vs Doctor battle will survive to fight another day.
The only potential solution a mere mortal like me could offer would be that if they want to do this, they should really, really go for it, and perhaps even devote a full season – maybe in the style of Torchwood: Children Of Earth – to doing it properly, rather than going through the routine of building either the Daleks or Cybermen up, then promptly knocking them down. And some degree of lasting damage needs to come as a result, rather than everyone licking their wounds until the next time.
For me, ultimately, this is the biggest challenge facing Doctor Who right now. I’m perfectly happy with the new casting of the show, and the team of writers behind it is hard to argue with, too. But the quest to come up with a new foe worthy of the show’s name must be near the top of the list to sort out.
Because, realistically, the Dalek-Cybermen-Dalek-Cybermen cycle surely has to stop soon?