'Doctor Who' and the Perfect Antagonist Part 2


As we saw in an earlier article,‘The Daleks’, originally aired in 1963/4, came at a pivotal point in the development of Doctor Who.

Defying its creator Stanley Newman’s specific instructions, the script was very much a conventional sci-fi yarn about a post-apocalyptic world populated by semi-robotic mutants. It attracted audience attention by the millions, boosting the show into a top spot as far as ratings were concerned. But its key contribution was even more fundamental.

In these early days it was clear that the Doctor was developing as a villain. He is the character who creates the plot by sabotaging the Tardis so that the travellers have to make the journey to the city, leading to everything else that happens. He has already recklessly kidnapped the two teachers, Ian and Barbara. Now he places all their lives in danger out of rampant curiosity.

This all changes profoundly as we get a glimpse of a partly-concealed assailant moving towards a terrified Barbara with a menacing appendage at the cliff-hanger ending of the first instalment. In that moment of fade-out to a blacked-out screen, things change forever.

What happened?

What had occurred was the invention of a perfect antagonist. The Dalek, emerging from a time well within living memory of the Nazi atrocities of World War II, completely inhuman in its portrayal, with its catch-phrase the spine-chilling single word ‘Exterminate!’, was the ideal enemy for any protagonist.