The Daleks are back in Doctor Who – and they’ve had a major makeover

The Doctor’s greatest foe has made a lot of changes for the New Year

Daleks

After months of rumours, Doctor Who’s 2019 New Year’s Day special finally brought the Daleks back – and they’re looking rather different to the last time they appeared on TV.

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The Dalek in the episode is still the same classic pepperpot design originally conceived by Terry Nation and Raymind Cusick, but it’s definitely a fresh take on the fascist mutants from Skaro, even down to the squid-like creature inside the iconic Dalek shell.

So what are the big differences?

Well, the first thing that strikes you about the Dalek redesign (apart from that it’s a bit battered) is that its middle is a little more ‘tapered’ than previous versions.

In recent years the Dalek’s ‘waist’ (the place the weapons are situated) tended to taper out in line with the ‘skirt’ (the lower part of the armour covered in spheres).

Now though, the central part of the body is more flush with the Dalek head, giving the slightly odd effect of making the new Dalek look like it’s wearing a corset.

Perhaps it’s just trying to look in better shape for the New Year?

Also on the same part of the body, there’s been a slight change to the Dalek’s gear. Look closely during Resolution, and you’ll note that the classic plunger tool has been replaced by a kind of claw. The Dalek still uses it to interact with different systems, but it looks a little more menacing than the usual plumbing gear.

This isn’t the first time the plunger has been replaced: for example, in 2005 finale The Parting of the Ways one Dalek had a blowtorch instead, while 2008’s Journey’s End introduced Daleks with a kind of spiky manipulation arm. But it’s still striking in the new design.

Apart from this, the most notable change in the new Dalek is probably its lighting. Specifically, we’re referring to the new internal red light in the head that flashes in time with the two small lights on top whenever the Dalek speaks. Clearly, this is a mutant with a bit of design flair.

Oh, and in a small change, the spheres on the Dalek ‘skirt’ – revealed in this episode to house short-range missiles among other things – aren’t all the same size anymore, with some larger and some smaller depending on their placement.

Doctor Who Daleks
Previous Dalek designs, as seen in the 2015 series

Normally, such changes would require a bit of heavy lifting from the storytelling (for example, in 2010 new Daleks were created by the golden Daleks that had come before), but Resolution does something quite clever to explain away any inconsistencies.

Within the story, the Dalek creates its own shell from scrap metal and old parts, giving a much rustier, hand-made and industrial feel to the creature. The Doctor suggests that it is recreating its old design from memory.

In a way, this story choice is a masterstroke from Who boss Chris Chibnall and the team, allowing for them to fiddle with the Dalek design while also insulating them from the sort of criticism that appeared the last time they were reimagined, during Steven Moffat’s 2010 series.

Think the new Dalek looks rubbish? Well, that’s because it’s built itself from old parts centuries after it was destroyed. It’s internet snark-proof!

The episode’s story also allows the squid Dalek creature within the tank a few new abilities without breaking Doctor Who canon. Within the episode, it’s specifically pointed out that this is an old Recon Dalek, a model of the cyborg creatures sent out from Skaro in the early days to scout out and conquer new worlds.

To aid that mission, Daleks inside the suits were given slightly different abilities – including this Dalek’s ability to control human beings and teleport parts of itself together – in order to make them hardier travellers.

It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to suggest that the differences in the Dalek shell design can also be explained by this part of the story – it’s an older model that left Skaro in the 9th century after being given slightly different capabilities – and that if the new look isn’t that popular, the team can very easily backtrack into something else without it being as embarrassing as it was in 2010.

In other words, we might not want to get to attached to this Dalek design, even if they do come back in the 2020 series. At the very least, we can expect a less battered and rusty version of the tinpot terrors – and it could even be that the Doctor Who team have left themselves an opportunity to change things even more next time…

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Doctor Who returns to BBC1 in 2020