The Daleks or rather, the Dalek (singular) is back, and it is peeved. It has not one but three issues: 1) Henry von Stanton, 2) the "extermination" of its race and 3) the man behind that "extermination," the Doctor. As one reader pointed out, the Time Lords weren't wiped out by a civil war, as I'd thought, but by a protracted conflict with the Daleks. The Doctor succeeded in destroying the screechy pepper shakers, but only at the expense of his own people, which is a lot of guilt to carry around even in something as big as the TARDIS. Age and grief catch up to our hero when he spots the Cyberman head in a museum. Its owner is von Stanton, an A++++-type billionaire from the year 2012. "Blimey, you can smell the testosterone," muses Rose. Von Stanton has to rank among the most obnoxious people the Doctor has ever dealt with. He is, of course, American a control freak who can hire and fire presidents on a whim because he owns the Internet. (Al Gore apparently didn't patent his invention.) Von Stanton at least has the acumen to promote the seductive Diana Goddard to chief assistant. (Anna-Louise Plowman resembles Nicole Kidman during her younger, curlier days.) Among von Stanton's objets d'art are items from Roswell, alien weapons, a hair dryer and the aforementioned Cyberman head. In the basement of his Utah bunker, the last surviving Dalek is being tortured to get it to communicate. It parts with no words until it sees its old enemy, the Doctor, after which comes the familiar, metallic refrain of "Exterminate!" Marooned and moribund, the Dalek can't cause any trouble yet but it does give as good as it gets in a verbal duel with our tart-tongued Time Lord. "If you can't kill, what is the point of you?" he snarls. The Dalek points out that the Doctor, too, is alone because of the Time War. That the writers could inject pathos into a Dalek is a wonder in and of itself, particularly considering how many people it exterminated during the course of this phenomenal episode. But it was alone, it had no orders, and it had no purpose. Alas, Rose soon gave the Dalek a new lease on life by touching it, somehow passing the Doctor's regenerative DNA into its genes. The Dalek then went on a killing spree that made the bunker look like the Alamo (like bullets were going to hurt this thing). Still, it was about time that someone explained how the Daleks could overcome the stairs obstacle. It flies, you see. Wonder why the Daleks didn't use that on the Doctor before. (Budget constraints, perhaps?) After telling Jackie that he'd protect Rose, the Doctor's agony at her supposed death really hit home, all the more so because we could see it coming. Of course, she didn't perish (she was one of the few who didn't), but with her as a hostage, the Dalek barged into von Stanton's office. "What use are emotions if you can't save the woman you love?" it barked at the Doctor. The Dalek's reaction to von Stanton's hemming and hawing about trying to get it to talk was classic "You want me to talk? Ex-ter-min-ate!" No, it didn't kill him (Goddard staged a hilarious coup instead), but the Dalek did undergo a subtle emotional shift as the episode went on, experiencing fear, a craving for freedom, and a desire to see the sun. Armed with a honkin' alien bazooka, the Doctor wanted to do some exterminating of his own. Seems he'd undergone a shift, too, as Rose noted. "What are you changing into?" she demands. This gives our emotional hero pause. Christopher Eccleston was awesome throughout the entire episode. He is by turns cheeky, angry, wistful, guilt-ridden, passionate and compassionate, like a bipolar person who has harnessed their behavior. An amazing performance. Billie Piper again shows why she is such apt foil Rose is tough, stable and warm but never wooden. The Dalek gives perhaps the most remarkable performance of all, though you'd have to be a fan of the old Who to really appreciate why. Rose's humanity caused the Dalek too much emotional distress for its one-dimensional genetic makeup. It had to die. "Are you frightened, Rose Tyler?" "Yes," she replies. "So am I." It was like the Tin Man getting a heart if the Tin Man were Saddam Hussein. And with that, the Dalek implodes. Before departing, the Doctor gets a new comrade. Adam (Bruno Langley) is a brilliant young British minion of von Stanton's who has more than a passing interest in Rose. Wonder what Mickey will say? And von Stanton... he's brainwashed and dumped in a skid row of a city beginning with 'S.' Sorry to go on and on, but this jewel had a million great moments I had to mention at least a thousand of them.
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