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My LiveJournal Letter to Steven Moffat [Apr. 18th, 2010|11:28 pm]
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[mood |sillysilly]

I'm not talking about any particular dalek story here. The latest one has mainly been a catalyst for making me want to put these thoughts out there again. Naturally Steven reads my LJ, and values my opinion, so I'll be expecting a reply from him any day now.


Dear Mr. Moffat, I'm not going to beat around the bush here - I love the Daleks. They are my favourite villains. So I would like to request fewer Dalek stories in Doctor Who, please.

I'm not going to talk about Victory of the Daleks here. It has things I like and things I don't like. And my feelings about less is more with regards to the Daleks were firmly in place before this story. I'm going to be telling you lots of stuff you already know, but I feel it needs restating.

Right, here we go!

The Daleks are Event Villains. They work best after a bit of a gap. Hold off on showing them and you build expectation. Hold off on using them and you can take the time to put together a cracking story, one that holds together without gaping plot holes, silly ultimate plans, or deus ex machina endings.

And being Event Villains means that you don't have to make every story a huge one. Cleverness is way better than scale. Having both now and again would be nice, but if I need to choose between an army of 10,000 Daleks or a very small group of Daleks being very clever or desperate, then give me the latter.

Now, as a rule, the Doctor has to win. And that's cool, he's the hero. But if every time the Daleks have a big, huge, universe-shaking plan it gets defeated, it makes them look a bit useless. Play the small group of Daleks against a much bigger conflict, a galactic war, whatever. Have the opposing forces on the ropes but fighting back, and a small squad of Daleks up to something that will break the back of their enemy, and have the Doctor beat those Daleks. The war is still continuing, the losses will still be appalling, but by the end of the story, the good guys have a chance against the enemy.

Have them being full of guile and cunning, have the twists and surprises, make their plans clever, without stupid resolutions or ways of defeating them. Make the Doctor work really hard to beat them. If the Doctor can talk a Dalek to death, that's a rubbish enemy.

But, and I can't stress this highly enough, don't bring them back until you think you have a story worthy of the Doctor's greatest foe. Don't sit there and say, "What are we going to do with the Daleks this year?" Instead start talking to writers, nutting out storylines, and when you feel you've got one that is going to be an absolute ball-tearer, then schedule the thing. Quality, not quantity. If it takes two or three years to come up with a story that has people glued to the screen, biting their knuckles, wracking their brains, or hiding behind the sofa, do you really think they'll complain about having had to wait?

Yes, I know, the Beeb likes the Daleks. There's bums on seats, merchandise, and so on. But in the end, if the Daleks become less of an enemy through overuse, that hurts all those things too.

Personally, I'd rather have not had a Dalek story for the third season, than get the Daleks in Manhatten two parter. I'd have been happy without The Chase, or Day of the Daleks for that matter. Don't get me wrong, these stories all have things I like about them, but are they genuinely good Dalek stories? Not really.

The Eleventh Doctor has had his Dalek story. Now maybe you've already got one in the can for later this year, or you've started the planning on one for next year. That's great. But then can we please have a break? Give me enough time to make me happy that there's another story coming rather than hearing one's coming and wishing it wasn't.

That was my first reaction on hearing Matt had a Dalek story, which is sort of a shame.

Thanks for taking on the world's most impossible show. It's a tough job, and I'm glad you're the one doing it, because I have faith in you to do it right.


PS Oh, and everything I wrote above, goes for the Cybermen, too.

[User Picture]From: ghoath
2010-04-19 12:37 am (UTC)
Throughout Dr Who history, there has been plenty of Dalek stories, and as you said they have been used to affect to revive the series at times.

But now it is boring because you know they will show up, everyone will run around screaning and then the Doctor will defeat them...boring.

BTW: As much as I used to be a fan of Dr Who, nothing and no one has convinced me to sit down and watch all the new ones, despite them being thrust in my direction by numerous sources i.e. it's not the fact that it is difficult for me, it's that I honestly can't be bothered. I believe that this is because, as far as a sci-fi event goes, from what I can tell we're not pushing new ground, just playing with modern special affects etc. I'm nog going to watch something *new* just because it is Doctor Who, because there is plenty of other good Doctor Who stuff to consume, that you nkow will be of value.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-04-19 01:13 am (UTC)
With the new series, there is some truly good stuff. Best thing to do is take advantage of the people you know with similar tastes and say, "So which ones are the must sees?"

My quick and dirty list of what's worth a look would be -

The End of the World
Empty Child/Doctor Dances
Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways
Christmas Invasion
New Earth
Tooth and Claw
School Reunion
Girl in the Fireplace
Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel
Impossible Planet/Satan Pit
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
Runaway Bride
Smith and Jones
Human Nature/Family of Blood
Partners in Crime
Fires of Pompeii
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
Turn Left
Stolen Earth/Journey's End
Waters of Mars
(so long as you stop it the moment the crucial shot is fired, it's good)
Eleventh Hour
Beast Below

You can skip Victory of the Daleks. And naturally, there will be those that disagree with this list :)
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[User Picture]From: ghoath
2010-04-19 01:53 am (UTC)
In the interestes of full disclosure, I should also mention that in what I have seen, I've never been able to accept Rose as a fair dinkum companion, which makes it pretty hard to accept the start of things, and by the time I had recovered, she was back again.

Speaking of which, they managed to make Sarah Jane somehow love struck starry eyed which I was disappointed with. Granted, I can appreciate why the companions would fall in love, but they don't have to all be pathetic by default, especially Sarah Jane. I suspect it was an attempt to be obvious about something, which made things look too squishy. Maybe I came in on some weird bias or had missed some context, as it was one of those this is what's on the tv therefore I'm seeing it moments.

Thanks for the encouragement. I know you must think some of it is worth it, if you are bothering to make a list.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-04-19 07:13 am (UTC)
Over all, I still prefer the original series. I usually didn't spot the plot holes in the old one until after the episode had finished. I often find them to be glaring in the new show, and spotting plot holes the first time I'm watching will always lessen my enjoyment.
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