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

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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.

Cheers,
Danny

PS Oh, and everything I wrote above, goes for the Cybermen, too.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-04-19 12:55 am (UTC)
They are both pretty much one dimensional, one trick ponies aren't they? Yes and no. They can be standard inter-changeable villains, or you can do great things with them. Dalek Invasion of Earth, Death to the Daleks, and Power of the Daleks (which only exists on audio) all show different aspects of them - ruthlessness, ingenuity, and cunning. Tomb of the Cybermen, The Invasion, and Earthshock all show different aspects of the Cybermen.

The problem tends to be that any villain with too much exposure starts to suffer. In new Who, the Daleks in Journey's End are much less interesting than the one in Dalek. Also less threatening. We're told in Dalek that someone touching the casing with a bare hand got fried, but they're getting pushed around all over the place at the end of Journey's.

You can see the same degeneration with the Borg. First two stories, solid. Then we get Hugh the cuddly Borg and it all starts to go downhill, as they try for a Borg story every season.

Loved Martha at the start, but the moment she started pining after the Doctor, and then started moping after him almost every story, they killed the character for me.
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