“Daleks! We foresee a time when they will have destroyed all other life forms and become the dominant creature in the universe.”
Those words, spoken by an envoy of the Time Lords, were supported by the ability of those reclusive people to explore the fourth dimension, extrapolating information and predicting outcomes to be manipulated as dispassionately as pieces moved on a chessboard of cosmic dimension.
What the High Council of the Time Lords failed to see was that their own direct action against their enemy, sending their reluctant agent known as the Doctor to the Dalek’s ancestral home of Skaro to alter their mutated genetic makeup to make them less hostile or prevent their creation entirely, would backfire, embroiling them in the mutually assured destruction of the Time War.
As iconic as the blue box of the TARDIS, unlike the Metropolitan police box upon which that was based the Daleks were designed specifically for Doctor Who by Raymond Cusick, guided by the description of Terry Nation who wrote the story in which they were introduced, The Daleks, broadcast across seven episodes from late December 1963 to early February 1964 and raising the viewing figures of the recently debuted show to ten million.
The phenomena of Dalekmania having dominated the sixties, their frequent return to the show in its original run was often used to anchor the audience when it was felt a boost was needed or a change in the format was necessary such as carrying an episode when the regular cast were absent or when Patrick Troughton took over the lead role in Power of the Daleks, and their empire stretched to other dominions, in books, comics, stage plays and two feature films starring Peter Cushing.
Nation’s long running ambition to have the Daleks as the stars of their own television show never having materialised, with Doctor Who no stranger to the animated format with both recreations of “lost” episodes such as The Reign of Terror and The Moonbase and original features such as Dreamland it is perhaps surprising that it has taken so long for the Daleks to have made the leap.
Conceived as part of the convoluted multi-platform undertaking Time Lord Victorious, Daleks! is an hour-long animation released across five episodes written by James Goss and featuring Nicholas Briggs as the many voices of the Daleks, more varied than their outward monolithic appearance would suggest, alongside Ayesha Antoine as the Chief Archivian.
Guardian of The Archive of Islos which gives its name to the first episode, the robotic library interfaces are a blending of the design of the similar functionaries of the Library and the Vocs of Storm Mine 4, and like those the Chief Archivian is more than programming would suggest, a willing pawn to be sacrificed if unavoidable but sufficiently cunning to ensure the act is not in vain.
The Daleks lacking subtlety or complexity, it is the Strategist upon whom the Emperor relies for insight into and understanding of the other species they face, and while that knowledge is of value it does not translate to a regard for the messenger whose casing is in disrepair, battle-damaged and in need of upgrading.
The mechanical nature of Daleks making them an ideal subject for a medium which has often struggled to convey the complexities of flesh in simple renders, the animation is bold and vivid as blaster fire arcs across the metropolis of the Archive, and with echoes of City at the Edge of the World, written by Robots of Death’s Chris Boucher for Blake’s 7, another Nation creation, Daleks! is so far an exciting and entertaining if overdue attempt to conquer a new realm.