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Feature: Doctor Who 2000s

The Daleks spread

Charged with the giant task of bringing the Daleks – well, one Dalek – back to the screen after a 17-year absence, writer Rob Shearman went all out to prove they were easily the nastiest pieces of work in the universe again

All of the writers working on the new series of Doctor Who have worked on it before in some form. Rob Shearman, writer of sixth episode Dalek, is best known to fans for his critically acclaimed audio plays for Big Finish, including one, Jubilee, that features a captive Dalek. Sound familiar? “I think there may be two or three lines and that’s it,” says Shearman when asked about the similarities. “It was always going to be very, very different. Dalek was all about wanting to get back Doctor Who’s main baddies and introduce them to an audience who wouldn’t have seen them before or would only dimly remember them, whereas Jubilee was really all about taking an audience that had grown over-familiar with them and taking that to extremes.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Wranglings with the estate of the late Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, meant the central character wasn’t even in the script at one point, resulting in executive producer Russell T Davies coming up with another main villain Shearman could work with. “I went away and did something which was a bit more child-like and sadistic and it was quite good fun to do that, but because I was trading off too much of my own draft upon the fact that the Daleks were these huge, iconic creatures, having a monster that wasn’t iconic meant that I couldn’t get away with that any more and I had to make other characters a bit more of a threat. That was the point when Van Statten began to be somebody who wanted to experiment on the Doctor; before that he just hadn’t bothered. Although it wasn’t an easy time and I sulked a bit when it first happened and I probably kicked a few things in the house over, I’m really pleased that I went through it.”

Once the Dalek was firmly back in the picture, it was important to upgrade it for a new, more discerning audience. Hearing his wife’s unenthusiastic attitude to the one-track Dalek mind fired Shearman up. “I went a bit too far at first; in my first draft I think I used ‘Exterminate’ maybe twice and Russell quite rightly said, ‘Um, I really think it’ll be good fun that if kids in the playground want to have a catchphrase for their Dalek then they ought to be able to have one’. The whole climbing the stairs thing was something Russell said from the very beginning, and I wanted the sink plunger doing something quite horrible to somebody’s face, which got toned down a bit in subsequent drafts. It did some very unpleasant things and Russell said, ‘I don’t know what you’re thinking you’re doing, it’s going out at 7pm!’”

by Paul Spragg

Get the full interview and much much more on Doctor Who in
Cult Times Special #34

Image © Visual Imagination, Doctor Who © BBC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

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Cult Times Special #34
Doctor Who 2005
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