The Doctor Who New Year Special Reminded Us Why Daleks Are So Terrifying

Doctor Who Resolution header

From its onset, we knew that Season 11 of BBC's long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who was going to shake up the franchise's 55-year history. Not only does it feature the first female Doctor in Jodie Whittaker's titular Time Lord, the 10-episode season was also confirmed to feature only brand new villains to offer new viewers and old fans alike something they had never seen.

Of course, this created a bit of anxiety for those hoping for the return of some of the series' most iconic villains, like the Cybermen, the Zygons, the Silurians and, of course, the Daleks.

Well, longtime fans are now breathing a bit easier. In the New Year's Day special episode of Doctor Who, titled "Resolution," the Thirteenth Doctor and her three companions finally came face-to-face with a Dalek. Not a handful of them, nor a legion or an army. Just a single, lonesome Dalek. And you know what? It worked. The episode's lone Dalek was enough to remind everyone why the iconic villains were so frightening to begin with.

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The Daleks have been a part of Doctor Who mythology since the show's first season in 1963. When they first appeared, the motorized aliens were horrifying creatures that frightened audiences of all ages. But as time went on, and as the Daleks appeared more and more frequently, their threat diminished. In the modern era of Doctor Who, the Daleks have always been presented as a danger, but have rarely been frightening. In episodes like "Doosmday" and "Asylum of the Daleks," they appeared in great numbers, and their menace came from the destruction they caused.

Doctor Who Resolution Dalek

This all changes in "Resolution." In the New Year's Day special, viewers are introduced to a new breed of the alien villains: the Recon Dalek. This Dalek came to Earth a long ago, and became the subject of myth. It fought archaic armies until it was defeated, broken into three separate pieces and spread to different corners of the Earth. But when archeologists find one piece in present day, it isn't long before the Dalek -- the rarely-seen tentacled creature housed inside the iconic motorized metal casing -- reassembles itself and becomes a source of fear.

At first, it haunts the two archeologists in the sewers, an alien nightmare hiding in the shadows in a scene that seems lifted straight from an Alien movie. This Dalek, in its organic form, can latch istelf onto a human and control it. While the host may push back, the Dalek's hold is too strong, and it inevitably takes over, forcing the human to do things against its will with a raspy, haunting voice.

Once it finds a way to reconstruct its robotic shell, the Recon Dalek turns into a veritable engine of war, taking on a military envoy and laying waste to the soldiers and their vehicles. With its laser shooter and missiles, the Dalek even manages to take out a tank. It leaves no one standing, has no mercy, and delivers a laugh so haunting, it's unsettling even to the Doctor herself.

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By featuring just a single Dalek instead of a legion of them, the episode scales back on the destruction typically wrought by the species, while turning the dial up on the horror factor. Whether the Recon Dalek is in his shell or out of it, he's a true menace, providing new fans a bold introduction to the Daleks, one that will teach them to fear the monsters as much as the Doctor does. And for old fans, it's a reminder why they hid behind their couches when the Daleks first showed up.

Doctor Who stars Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth iteration of the titular Time Lord. Whittaker is joined by co-stars Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill in a series spearheaded by new showrunner, Chris Chibnall. "Resolution" was the only new episode of 2019, with production of Season 12 unfolding this year. The new episodes are slated to arrive some time in 2020.

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