"You would make a good Dalek."
IN THIS ONE... You will cry for a Dalek. I did. I admit it.
REVIEW: Dalek could have been called Transference, if episodes were named after their narrative tricks. One of the things it does is equate the Dalek and the Doctor, the two sole survivors of the Time War, and at some point, both tortured by alien tech collector Henry Van Statten. The Doctor doesn't want to believe he's anything like Van Statten's "Metaltron", but in the end, he's the one with the big gun and the Dalek the one Rose defends. It's the Doctor who's filled with hate, who commits an act of torture, who rants with spittle dripping off his lips. Meanwhile, the Dalek has been infected with Rose's DNA, or to use Evil of the Daleks' parlance, her Human Factor, and only wants to feel the sun on its skin, though ultimately, it's its new emotions that force it to commit suicide. When you consider the similarities between the Dalek and the Doctor, this is significant as foreshadowing. Rose has healed this wounded time soldier, just as she's healing the time-worn Doctor. The Doctor without a companion (and he still has those reflexes) is dangerous. He commits acts of terrorism, destroys buildings, is reading to complete one of the very genocides he feels so guilty about. This is a turning point where Rose shows him a better way, reflecting his own ethos back at him. The theme includes Adam, who mirrors the Doctor in genius (flashback to Jo Grant and Professor Jones), and Goddard becoming the new Van Statten at the end.
On a more literal level, this is about reintroducing the Daleks, and it does some fantastically. Look at what Rob Shearman does in the script here. It could have gone all wrong, testing older fans' patience by introducing the same old monster we already knew. But no. We're first TOLD (by the Doctor) these things are terrifying and that a single one could lay waste to the planet, but like Van Statten, Adam et al., we're not convinced. If we don't know the Daleks of old, we've heard of them, we know all the jokes. And then the episode proceeds to undo that reputation, bit by bit. Silly sucker arm? It crushes a man's skull and absorbs the Internet. Stairs? Daleks can fly (since Remembrance, thanks, but far fewer people were watching by then). Even the balls on its skirt are given a function. By the end of this whole sequence, we GET IT. The Dalek is super-smart, kills all the soldiers with very few shots, has a force field that melts bullets... Yeah, Salt Lake City is doomed. And then, the world. So it's incredible that in the last act, we CARE for this killing machine. That it's final moments and its relationship to Rose are truly TOUCHING. Obviously, Billie Piper's performance is part of it, and so is Eccleston's (I'm not sure ANY Doctor could have given this textured a performance in this story), but there's also that transference again. When we cry for the last of the Daleks, we're really crying for the last of the Time Lords, whose story is the same.
A have to say a few words about the new Dalek design, because it's great. I love the bronze finish. For once, the regular Dalek soldier looks solid and tank-like, which they hardly ever did. The music that accompanies its massacre is literally operatic, making it even more awesome (in both senses of the word). The mutant inside looks cool too, establishing the Cthuloid design that will be used for the rest of the series. The voice, played by Big Finish maestro Nicholas Briggs, is perfect, but the monster is also incredible in the way it uses silence to intimidate, or to show contempt (for Van Statten, a man who can't stand to be ignored). The Time War Daleks are physically powerful AND brilliant AND good at mind games. Formidable foes! Too bad this was the last one! ;-)
VERSIONS: Rob Shearman was asked to adapt his audio play "Jubilee" into a Doctor Who episode, but aside from the lone tortured Dalek, his 6th Doctor and Evelyn adventure is very different from the broadcast result. Jubilee has alternate history shenanigans, a psychotic guest cast (well... a different one), and is in general funnier, more epic in scope, and less emotional in tone. Well worth a listen, and you won't get a sense of déjà vu.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Shearman has written New Who's first true classic, cool and powerful, re-establishing the Daleks as the kings of monsters, something that likely hasn't really been true since after The Dalek Invasion of Earth.