Doctor Who has gone to hell in a handbasket under the incompetent direction of showrunner Chris Chibnall, and the return of Russell T. Davies as series head hasn’t exactly raised the hopes of longtime fans. Thankfully, there’s classic Doctor Who to fall back on; loaded with amazing stories written by competent scribes, and casted with actors who took their characters seriously.
And of course, there are plenty of Dalek episodes to enjoy, as well. These little green blobs in bonded polycarbide armour have fascinated both children and adults for nearly 60 years, and show no signs of stopping. There are many Dalek stories to choose from in the classic Who library, but five particular serials stand a cut above the rest, even for diehard fans of the franchise.
5) The Dalek Invasion Of Earth (1964)
Early Dalek stories were quite hit or miss, and different writers presented different interpretations of the dastardly villains that sometimes defied conventional wisdom. However, ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ remains one of the signature highlights, picking up shortly after the First Doctor’s initial encounter with the Daleks on Skaro. In this tale, the Doctor and his companions return to a future Earth conquered and ruled by Dalek forces.
In a post-apocalyptic world, small pockets of human resistance fighters stand against the Daleks in an attempt to reclaim the planet. They get some much-needed help from the Doctor and his friends, who manage to thwart the Dalek plan to eject the core of the Earth and pilot the planet like a gigantic spaceship through the cosmos.
This serial did a lot to free the Daleks from their initial weaknesses, thereby broadening their horizons, and setting the stage for future stories in an attempt to start a franchise. It was also notable for the departure of the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, the first time a companion left the Tardis. Fellow companions Ian and Barbara would also make a departure soon after, paving the way for a new Tardis crew, and eventually, a new Doctor.
4) The Evil Of The Daleks (1967)
For years, all but one of the early episode recordings for this Second Doctor serial have been lost to time, with only the audio tracks remaining. As such, it has remained a legendary holy grail of Doctor Who’s lost episodes, and it remains to be seen if an intact copy turns up one day. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the BBC from breathing new life into the story, courtesy of an animated retelling.
Now, audiences can finally experience ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ in its next-best form, either in black and white, or color. The story involves the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon chasing after their stolen Tardis, which was orchestrated by a group of Daleks seeking an edge against the human race. Events unfold which force the Doctor to implant the Daleks with the “human factor,” largely comprised of intuition and unpredictability.
The episode is notable for once again amping up Dalek lore to a much higher level, via the introduction of the Dalek Emperor. This towering monstrosity was, at the time, a massive paradigm shift in Dalek designs, which would eventually open up more opportunities for divergent Daleks to take the stage. It may have been overshadowed by the previous serial ‘The Power of the Daleks,’ but now’s the time for it to claim its time in the spotlight.
3) Day Of The Daleks (1972)
Normally, this particular Dalek story wouldn’t have made the cut, but an amazing restoration and remaster job for the 2011 DVD release has significantly upped its intrinsic value. ‘Day of the Daleks’ is one of the most intriguing stories in classic Who, beginning with a haunted house theme, before spiraling headfirst into a full-fledged temporal paradox.
The story begins when the Third Doctor and UNIT are tasked with investigating an assassination attempt on Sir Reginald Styles, a diplomat trying to avert World War III through a peace conference. The Doctor learns that the would-be assassin is part of a human faction from the future, who claim he was the architect of humanity’s downfall.
The Doctor soon learns that this future Earth timeline was brought about through a temporal paradox, allowing the Daleks to swoop in and conquer Earth’s future. The remastered 2011 release is notable for filming new footage using the exact same cameras as the original 1970s recording, while adding in spectacular new CGI and visual effects shots to complete the package.
However, it’s the appearance of modern-day Dalek voice artist Nicholas Briggs that seals the deal. Briggs was brought in to re-record the Dalek voice lines, which are far superior to the originals. It resulted in one of the best, and most balanced classic Who remasters in the entire catalogue, and every Whovian owes it to themselves to check it out.
2) Resurrection Of The Daleks (1984)
In terms of sheer spectacle, few Dalek stories can match Resurrection. The villains returned after a 5 year hiatus that began in 1979, and their return to form was nothing short of spectacular. The story began with the Daleks jailbreaking their creator Davros out of imprisonment, following the events of ‘Destiny of the Daleks.’ Though free, the Daleks intend to use Davros for their own purposes, and vice versa.
Caught in the middle is the Fifth Doctor, who was pulled out of the time corridor by the Daleks and lured into their clutches. The episode is notable for showcasing the first true sign of hostility towards the Time Lords, which would eventually turn into a full-fledged conflict between the two races in the 2005 Doctor Who continuation series.
Aside from its inventive and entertaining story, Resurrection is also one of the most violent episodes of classic Who, with a body count of 76 by the time the final credits rolled. Yet, it was a remarkable return to the sheer terror that the Daleks conveyed through their presence, which had been lost in previous stories.
1) Genesis Of The Daleks (1975)
This entry comes as no surprise to longtime Whovians and Dalek aficionados. Genesis represented some of the best storytelling in classic Who, made all the better through its ingenious pacing, a prolonged storyline, and genuinely good exposition surrounding the origins of the Doctor’s most lethal enemies. The episode began with the Time Lords convincing the Fourth Doctor to undertake a dangerous mission on Skaro.
His goal – to destroy the Daleks before they are invented, or affect their genetic development to make them less galactically hostile. It also marked the first time the Doctor came face-to-face with the Daleks’ creator Davros, a megalomaniac scientist who wished to play God with the rest of the universe. Davros was played to perfection by actor Michael Wisher, who unfortunately chose not to reprise the role moving forward.
Genesis was also the most pivotal moment in Doctor Who’s history, setting the table for the climatic Time War between the Daleks and the Gallifreyan Time Lords. That conflict would take a further three decades to come to fruition, but the first shots were fired in this very serial, and the ramifications would prove dire moving forward. It continues to stand tall as the greatest Dalek story in the classic library.