I never really cared for the Daleks, which I suppose makes my giddiness over this week's SciFi Doctor Who broadcast (Friday at 8PM [CST]) all the stranger.
The Daleks made their first appearance on the series in late December of 1963 and Doctor Who never looked back. Had they never appeared, I highly doubt I'd be sitting here writing about the Doctor today. The Daleks made Doctor Who far more than Doctor Who made the Daleks. The series initially was to feature no "bug-eyed monsters" and was intended as more of a romp through history. Good thing somebody altered that edict.
It was always assumed that when Doctor Who returned to TV, the Daleks would be given some sort of massive overhaul, especially to their appearance. There's no reason that goofy design should still work 43 years down the road and yet the new series' production team have somehow managed to make it work better than ever.
Daleks were originally intended to be an allegorical spin on the Nazis; a race of beings all about racial purity and the utter annihilation of the "not we". That formula works so well that it's still more or less what the episode "Dalek" is based around, although writer Rob Shearman gives it a number of intense twists and turns.
The Dalek creature in the episode, while on the outside looking basically the same, has had his ante upped and been given a number of special surprises (well, they're special to anyone familiar with Daleks, anyway). My personal favorite? Some good use finally being made out of that damn plunger.
I'm still not a huge fan of the Daleks, but like the series itself, they're in better shape now than they've ever been. The episode itself is where the new series really takes off and begins to soar. It's also the first episode where Christopher Eccleston finally outshines and outacts his co-star, Billie Piper which, upon originally viewing the episodes, I was beginning to wonder would ever happen.
The Doctor is finally front and center when he's forced to deal with a creature whose race has caused him more misery and heartbreak than any other. The idea of him brandishing a weapon with glee isn't the most comforting to a long-term fan, but Eccleston sold me in two heartbeats. Suddenly the Doctor is transformed into a one-Time Lord killing machine, and you can't blame the guy.
But his mortal enemy one-ups the Doctor in a pivotal moment by proclaiming, "YOU-WOULD-MAKE-A-GOOD-DA-LEK!"
Pure Doctor Who brilliance.