ONCE UPON A TIME, THE DALEKS had empires. The children of Skaro conquered whole galaxies from their fleets of saucers, all led by the mighty, golden-domed Dalek Emperor. They battled Monstrous and Mechanoids, conquered the Archives of Phryne, and finally set their eyestalks on invading Earth… Of course, none of that happened on screen. While Doctor Who has filled out the backstory of its first and best monster (most notably in 1975’s bleakly brilliant “Genesis Of The Daleks”), it hasn’t spent too much time on what they get up to when the Time Lord isn’t around. Instead, much of the lore surrounding them came from the printed page, in Terry Nation’s Dalek Special and in the TV Century 21 comic strips.
All of that changes with Daleks! – a new CGI animation launching online in November. With not a TARDIS in sight, it follows the pernicious pepperpots as they do what they do best: rampage across the galaxy conquering, exterminating and getting into scraps with enemies old and new.
“It’s all about the Daleks being the most Daleky Daleks that they could possibly be,” says the series’ writer James Goss down a crackly line in early October. SFX has just seen episode one, while the remaining four-inch towards completion in an animation studio, somewhere in Salford.
“My Doctor Who as a kid was the 1960s Dalek Book, which I got from a jumble sale for 10p,” says Goss, explaining the color tone of the new toon. “It was just full of the most insane and beautiful comics all about the Emperor and his henchmen having adventures across the universe.”
Daleks! is very much in the same vein. It’s a cosmic story told in (roughly) 10-minute chunks following the escapades of the Time Squad – an elite group formed by the Emperor to deal with an ongoing temporal threat. It’s not long, however, before they bite off more than they can chew and come face to face with an old enemy. “It fits in wonderfully with things like the comics and the Peter Cushing films – that sense that the Daleks are just the most fun thing you can possibly look at.”
Of course, the tinpot terrors are hardly famed for their wit and repartee. Aside from “Exterminate!” and the odd “My vision is impaired, I cannot see!” you’re unlikely to get much chit-chat. The nature of the Time Squad, however, allowed for a degree of individuality that we’ve rarely seen since the likes of Dalek Sec in the David Tennant years.
“The two main characters in the series are the Emperor and the Strategist,” says Goss. “The Emperor is, in many ways, a very simple Dalek. The Strategist believes that he’s just this golden-domed figure that’s been promoted above his ability.”
The Strategist, however, is very different. Inside his battered and beaten shell, “he’s this super forecaster Dalek, lurking in the background manipulating everyone. It’s a really interesting dynamic. And then you also have the Executioner, who Big Finish writer Lizzie Hopley describes as ‘mental bulldozer’ – and it’s exactly that. It’s a Dalek that just exists to kill, kill, kill.”
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