The Daleks are Exterminated!
July 5, 2004 12:51 PM   Subscribe

EXTERMINATE! The Daleks are Exterminated: The BBC announces that the Daleks will NOT appear in the new Doctor Who series. It appears that talks between the BBC and the estate of Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, have broken down and the BBC has announced that the famed pepper pots will not appear in the series revival. Can Doctor Who really be Doctor Who without the Daleks? What other TV series do you recall that have had their franchises ruined due to logisitical/political/legal hangups such as this?
posted by tgrundke (38 comments total)
 
Allow me to be the first to admit that the Daleks are not my favorite Doctor Who baddies - but they do carry a sort of symbolism that, along with the TARDIS, more or less define the series.

Speaking of other series that have been ruined due to such meddling, I can think of "Airwolf", a series that was fabulous in seasons 1 and even season 2, but was then invaded by corporate suits who thought they could write and produce better than those who understood the series. Let's hope that Doctor Who doesn't suffer a similar fate...
posted by tgrundke at 12:53 PM on July 5, 2004


Did you learn that here?
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:54 PM on July 5, 2004


ah, terry nation. I'm never sure whether to thank him or curse him for a lot of blakes7....

this heart was like a tardis / I went and lost the key in a fight
I've never found a locksmith / will you be my locksmith tonight? (will I, shite)

posted by dorian at 12:57 PM on July 5, 2004


Terry Nation was a first class tool. I never have totally understood how the Daleks appeared in Dr. Who in the first series but then somehow were retained in rights by Terry Nation. In the later years of Dr. Who, Daleks stories got tougher and tougher to do because of Nation's demands for creative control. It doesn't surprise me that his estate should make the same demands. Remember, this is the same estate that signed off on Resurrection of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks, for those who watched the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy Dr. Who series. Those stories were awful.
posted by shagoth at 1:12 PM on July 5, 2004


There seems to be more to this story than meets the eye. On the one hand, the BBC are crying foul because Terry Nation's estate want a huge amount of money for licencing the Daleks, and on the other hand, Terry Nation's estate is saying that they can't have the Daleks because the BBC previously used them badly and without permission (The Gay Dalek show touted for BBC3 seems to feature prominently in this argument). I'm curious as to which it is.

On the other hand, I can do without the Daleks. As soon as they bring Doctor Who into the 21st Century, the better. (I'm thinking a Buffy style format, multiple writers, series long story arc, 1 hour "Monster of the week" episodes.)

Of course, they'll completely screw it up. I just know it.
posted by seanyboy at 1:13 PM on July 5, 2004


Can you imagine if every series writer somehow retained creative control over show elements which they introduced in their scripts? Imagine Sam Peebles or somebody saying that Star Trek can't use Phasers because he invented them and retains creative control "...and besides, you jerks have been using the wrong noise, the wrong color for the beams, and making them travel at what appears to be 20Mph instead of the speed of light."

Come to think of it, maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:47 PM on July 5, 2004


There was that time Felicity cut her hair.
posted by holloway at 2:07 PM on July 5, 2004


(I'm thinking a Buffy style format, multiple writers, series long story arc, 1 hour "Monster of the week" episodes.)

Of course, they'll completely screw it up. I just know it.


I agree with you on most of this, but not every show benefits by series long story arcs. Think the original Star Trek, or Next Generation, or hey, how about Doctor Who? Alternatively, think the last two seasons of Angel: a forced series arc can ruin a show.

Also the multiple writers should have distinct voices and not be hung up on continuity.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:44 PM on July 5, 2004


PST, I think Deep Space 9's multi-season Dominion War arc was pretty amazing. And the way newer series like The Wire and 24 go into depth on one story for the entire season show's that with capable writers the technique can succeed.
posted by billsaysthis at 2:57 PM on July 5, 2004


The Daleks were never very good. I kept thinking that all the Doctor had to do was to run up some stairs or put down some glue and he's be home free.
posted by stevis at 3:12 PM on July 5, 2004


Stevis: You realise the, ever since Remembrance Of The Daleks, broadcast back in 1988, it's been established that Daleks CAN go up stairs, thus ruining the act of many a poor stand-up comedian?
posted by kaemaril at 3:21 PM on July 5, 2004


PST, I think Deep Space 9's multi-season Dominion War arc was pretty amazing. And the way newer series like The Wire and 24 go into depth on one story for the entire season show's that with capable writers the technique can succeed.

Oh, I think it's absolutely possible for them to succeed. I just don't think they're necessary in every case, and some shows are better off without them. IMHO, Doctor Who would be better as a series of discreet stories.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:23 PM on July 5, 2004


Speaking, and on-topic! shoot me now!, about DS9--they did a wonderful Bond/60s spy era homage episode that the Fleming estate got all hinky about, and as a result, I believe, that episode could never be broadcast again. Though I do believe it was allowed to be included on the DVD set.

It's too bad, really, as the episode was really quite fun, and it would have been fun to have an annual episode based on the exploits of Secret Agent Julian Bashir. And the show contained the best Bond girl name this side of Pussy Galore--Mona Luvsitt.

Insert standard "Deep Space Nine" is the most underappreciated flavor of Star Trek ever rant
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:46 PM on July 5, 2004


There were a couple of loose story arcs on Dr Who, and they worked well. The e-space / key of time arcs with Tom Baker, and more loosely, the Stuck on Earth arc with Jon Pertwee.

However, where Dr Who worked well was with 4 or 6 half hour episode stories. This was one of the reasons why I loved the show when I was young.

In retrospect then: I'm not sure.
posted by seanyboy at 3:55 PM on July 5, 2004


Actually the lack of Daleks is very good thing indeed. It means that when we sit down on Saturday night we'll not only have something which is respectful of the past but will also look to the future. It'll have monsters which work within a twenty-first century context. No matter how hard you work, unless you go the whole hog they do seem a bit pathetic in relation to threats which have appeared on screen in the intervening years such as The Borg, the Independence Day aliens, or indeed Aliens. Kids need something more than a cone on casters nowadays.

One additional comment on something the Nation Estate said in relation to the breakdown: "We want to protect the integrity of the brand," he said. The problem is without Doctor Who, they don't really have a brand. For years Nation himself tried to get his own spin-off show made, presumably with someone called Tarrant fighting the Daleks but no one was biting. Although the afformentioned Big Finish Dalek Empire stories are gripping, the reason they work is because its about the people fighting the enemy, not the enemy itself. Nation's people need to be very careful and not quite so arrogant with their main property otherwise it might continue to be another one of those bits of nostalgia that everyone remembers being good at some time but not really what they want now.

Might I suggest to Russell and the gang that it might be time to pull The Mechanoids out of hiding. If they worked for TV Comic when they couldn't get the rights... (meanwhile anyone with a PDA looking for a Who fix can download the novel Sands of Time in full and gratis from the BBC -- who said the corporation isn't working for you). Also, did anyone hear Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy on the PM on Radio Four this evening? They'd wheeled him on to talk about the above (which gave us the utterly charming line from him 'Maybe they'll go from pepperpots to coffeepots...') but which (I'm not making this up) segwayed awkwardly into the death of Brando, the question pretty much being -- you're an actor and you're here so say something nice. Luckily Sylv had been working box office at a cinema during the 75th anniversary celebrations and had served him a drink at the bar. He was able to tell us Mr Brando was short. Could have been an embarassing moment otherwise ...

Couple of other issues here:

Over at Outpost Gallifrey's author discussion boards, Paul Cornell, one of the writers from the new series has alked about watching DS9 every lunch time in order and how much of a fan he is of the plotting -- but it should also be noted that Russell T Davies has asked each of the other contributors to write to their strenghts and in Cornell's case this means giving it the flavour of his New Adventures novels.

The Gay Daleks were a sketch from Victor Lewis Smith's late 90s show TV Offal. Their appearance was sanctioned by the estate before the shutters came down.

Possibly because of the above, the estate have been quite consistent in their attempts to bring the Daleks away from being made into comedy figures. For example, a recent dvd features a Blue Peter make from the sixties in which Valerie Singleton made edible sandwich Daleks. The clip had to be curtailed towards the end because it featured to of the 'machines' in the studio having a tea party. OK in the 60s when Nation was alive, not OK now.

Big Finish the audio drama creators have produced a series called Dalek Empire in which they are portrayed as vicious bastards.

In addition there has been an issue globally with the repeat of Dalek episodes. Some kind of problem with royalty payments mean that Dalek stories are being missed out on repeat runs.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:25 PM on July 5, 2004


Well, they could bring back the Movellans who could mention that they have successfully annihilated all of their past opponents (but not mention said opponents by name of course.)

Resources for villians or "monsters" are numerous (Ice Warriors, Sontarans, Cybermen, the Master, Omega, Zygons, Rutans, Silurians, Sea Devils, etc.) Personally though, if they trumped up the Nimons a bit they could be the new Daleks! The K1 perhaps, could be rebuilt as a melancholy companion to K9 Mark III (or is IV?)

Yeah, I've watched a few episodes here and there.
posted by juiceCake at 5:23 PM on July 5, 2004


Cybermen are much more badass, anyway.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:59 PM on July 5, 2004


This Doctor Who, he travels through time and space? I'm not being a wise-ass, I've made legitimate attempts to find out what the hell the premise of this series is, but could never find a resource that says, "Doctor Who is essentially about X, Y and Z." That BBC website is loaded with info, but it caters to the 'comic book guy' type fans.

Can anyone here give me a two sentence description of what Doctor Who is about, or better yet, drop a link to that end?
posted by crank at 6:07 PM on July 5, 2004


crank, Doctor Who is tough to describe shortly, because it has a long history: it was on the air for over 25 years. Here it is in a nutshell:

The Doctor is an alien who travels through Time and space in his space ship, called a TARDIS. It's a cliff hanger type show, where the Doctor and his friends (usually lithe young women) must deal with aliens, evil robots, etc. The Doctor's species can change their appearance when heavily injured, so the actor that plays the Doctor can and will be replaced (8 times so far). It's low budget, campy fun. It was canceled years ago, and is now coming back. The Daleks mentioned above are one of the show's most famous villains, which is why there's some disappointment that they won't be showing up.
posted by unreason at 6:41 PM on July 5, 2004


Crank - you've really got the meat of it. The Doctor, he travels (more or less at random) through time and space. Every when/where he goes, some group of humanoids is in trouble and The Doctor helps them help themselves.

The mechanics of the show - The Doctor's time machine being basically busted and uncontrollable, a constantly changing handful of traveling companions, and The Doctor's ability to 'regenerate' and become a completely different person - largely alleviate the need for much over arching story or indeed week to week continuity.

Who's Doctor Who gives a pretty good overview of the main character. Unless you want to get bogged down into story details that's about as good as an introduction to the show gets.
posted by adamt at 6:54 PM on July 5, 2004


Well, *I* think that multistory arcs in space are pretty popular... kind of like Battlestar Galactica, or Star Blazers, or even the Botany Bay!

Dr. Who needs space hippies!
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:26 PM on July 5, 2004


One quirky element not mentioned in unreason's description is that the TARDIS isn't a ship, but a machine that travels by de-materialising, making a strange grinding noise, and teleporting to another place in time and space. Due to a breakdown in the 'chameleon circuits' that ought to camouflage it, it's permanently stuck in the form of an early 1960s blue British police telephone box, It's also vastly larger inside than out.
posted by raygirvan at 7:26 PM on July 5, 2004


As an American, I remember public tv exposing me to Dr. Who late at night -- I remember thinking "this is interesting -- but it's so cheesy!" -- but I was intrigued by it. As I got older I saw there is the same kind of enthusiasm for Dr. Who as there is for Star Trek. I also could see it was so British, and it would be a herculean task to get into, so I've largely ignored Dr. Who. But as a geek and nerd, I have to give props to what is clearly a fascinating subculture with a long (really long!) history.

The other day I found the Wikipedia page on Doctor Who and was stunned at how much history there is. crank, check it out for an introduction.
posted by artlung at 7:49 PM on July 5, 2004


I love my dead gay Dalek.
posted by subgenius at 8:09 PM on July 5, 2004


Isn't the essence of the argument "what makes a good villain?"
Back at their height, Daleks represented the best of what makes a good villain. Extremely powerful, ruthless, dominant, cruel, vicious, unfathomable, irrational and underdefined. They have a motive, but they don't share it. They have a face, but they don't show it.

Especially, they are menacing *not* from what we *know* about them, but what we *don't* know about them. These monsters destroy planets. That's good enough for me.

They were beings from the nightmares of small boys, which is why small boys were hypnotized by them--running around with one arm out going "Exterminate! Exterminate!"

A good villain makes a story--a hero can only be as great as his nemesis.

But for some reason, some people just can't resist destroying villains. It's like they hate the character so much that they want to emasculate it. But in doing so they destroy the drama, and turn the hero into a fool.

1) Darth Vader was great, until they decided to redeem him. It just sucked the oxygen out of the theater, leaving a bunch of laughing, dancing teddy bears that the audience wanted to kill.

2) The best villains are villains because they *like* being villains, not because of some ordinary psychological hang-up. Hannibal Lecter was forced to eat Big Macs as a child, which made him what he is. So what? We don't care about Hannibal as a child, unless he was just as bad as he is as an adult.

3) Real villains can't be destroyed. Even if the hero survives, for the rest of his life he will remember *that* villain. The villain will define him like Thulsa Doom defined Conan.

Dream of Daleks tonight.
posted by kablam at 8:31 PM on July 5, 2004


I never have totally understood how the Daleks appeared in Dr. Who in the first series but then somehow were retained in rights by Terry Nation.

Terry Nation (August 8, 1930 - March 9, 1997) was a TV screenwriter and is probably best known for creating the Daleks for the Doctor Who television series.... In 1963, he wrote the Doctor Who story The Daleks (aka The Mutants) for the BBC, which introduced the most popular villians on the show, and was responsible for the BBC's first merchandising boom.

shagoth, most likely Nation's original contract with the BBC made his creation of the Daleks what in the US is called work for hire; I surmise that as his role in the series grew, at some point a contract renegotiation threw in some higher level of proprietary rights, perhaps in lieu of higher royalties on things like Dalek lunchpails.

I hate the Daleks, too; the Master was everything the Daleks couldn't be, of course. As an aficionado of hard sf I was always embarrassed by the schlocky robotic villains on Dr Who, despite otherwise brilliant writing. But I'm also a pragmatist, and I don't object to the show being reinvented, especially after growing so tired toward the end. My thinking now is that there's no reason the Daleks couldn't be reinvented as well, using what we know of robotics today. (The only problem, perhaps, would be making the new Daleks resemble R2-D2 as little as possible.)

But, jeez, if Nation's gonna be a dick from beyond the grave ... well, they're not an essential part of the Who mystique.
posted by dhartung at 9:48 PM on July 5, 2004


Extremely powerful, ruthless, dominant, cruel, vicious, unfathomable, irrational and underdefined. They have a motive, but they don't share it. They have a face, but they don't show it.

*cough* anti-hero avon *cough*

(brilliant description btw)
posted by dorian at 10:25 PM on July 5, 2004


(see also: servalan)
posted by dorian at 10:26 PM on July 5, 2004


The Daleks were both menacing with their grating voices and utterly silly in their distinct lack of vocabulary. At least that's what attracted me when I first saw the TV show as a teenager. In fact, I would even venture to say that the good Doctor's wit and mobility made the Daleks a good way to concentrate on his strength.

You could make a similar case about the Cybermen, who always seemed to lumber along in sewers. Or any of the bug-eyed monsters featured.

Slow, lumbering monsters (obviously guys in suits) are what made the show. Hopefully, the new production team realize this.
posted by ed at 12:31 AM on July 6, 2004


What other TV series do you recall that have had their franchises ruined due to logisitical/political/legal hangups such as this?

Ren and Stimpy got pretty bad all of a sudden. Been told it was due to the creator losing artistic control because he won some sort of competition and he only got to be in charge of x amount of episodes.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:58 AM on July 6, 2004


Ren and Stimpy got pretty bad all of a sudden. Been told it was due to the creator losing artistic control because he won some sort of competition and he only got to be in charge of x amount of episodes.

what? no. there was no "competition", it was just the typical backstage animation politics.

he managed to wrestle back full creative control on the spike tv version that premiered a couple years back, and that resulted in such charming escapades as ren and stimpy engaging in full-on sodomy. so there you go.

sorry to derail the thread.
posted by jimmy at 6:00 AM on July 6, 2004


As an add-on to the 'what's Dr Who about' stuff, let me just add what I always considered the best part about the show. Dr Who travels around the universe defeating evil and righting wrongs and never carries a gun. That ability to outthink his opponents and never out shoot them, made him totally unique for many, many years.
posted by lumpenprole at 7:21 AM on July 6, 2004


Thanks for the responses everyone.
Adamt- great link, that's exactly what I was looking for and yet never stumbled across for some reason.
Artlung- 'doh.. I don't know how I managed to not look at wikipedia. Lots of info there, thanks!
posted by crank at 9:13 AM on July 6, 2004


Exterminate, exterminate!

Sorry, just had to get that out.
posted by davros42 at 1:59 PM on July 6, 2004


Crank, if you really want to blow your mind have a look at The Canon Keeper's Guide which tries to fit every Doctor Who story every written (whatever the media) into chronological order. Some kind of mad genius.
posted by feelinglistless at 3:20 PM on July 6, 2004


Admittedly it's not a TV series, but the James Bond movies had a similar problem. The exact details escape me, but a writer claimed that the Blofeld character was his creation. As a result, the producers killed off an unnamed, gray-clad villain in a wheelchair in the opening of For Your Eyes Only.
posted by Man-Thing at 3:25 PM on July 6, 2004


sorry to derail the thread.

Hardly a thread derail, jimmy. The original post included a Q. about all TV shows. Thanks for the clarification.

If you want Dr Who baddies, look no further than the mummies from Pyramids of Mars. With a 6+ year career of being scared by Dr Who episodes, these dudes rank as the scariest.

Even though they moved at a sloth's pace, the fact that the compound was surrounded by a force field meant the was NO ESCAPE!!! Plus they were, like, 10 foot tall with no faces.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:09 PM on July 13, 2004


It appears the Dalek mess has been sorted out.
posted by GeekAnimator at 2:16 PM on August 4, 2004


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