David Whitaker was one of the most influential writers in Doctor Who’s long and varied history. He was the shows first script editor, then called story editor, and was in fact partially responsible for the creation of the series itself.
Whitaker would also go on to write many stories both during and after his time as script editor on the show. Among those he wrote included “The Edge of Destruction” which introduced the idea of the TARDIS being alive. This would become an important feature and plot point in many subsequent stories, including Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctors Wife” and the first season finale of the New Who “The Parting of the Ways”.
The idea of the TARDIS being alive also helped to shape the dynamic of the show itself in some ways. It helped add a somewhat more fantastical aspect to the Doctors character that his ship was in many ways almost as much a character itself. The TARDIS is really like the Doctors horse or trusty steed. Its not like the USS Enterprise that can be destroyed and another can take its place, such as in the film series. The TARDIS can never truly be replaced as it is unique.
This was just one of many important elements that Whitaker brought to the show, yet sadly he continues to be somewhat overlooked. Still among hardcore fans at least he is revered. In 2003 he was voted the third greatest Doctor Who writer of all time. One place above Terry Nation himself!
However among general fandom he is sadly a somewhat obscure figure which is a real shame as in some ways he is as important a figure as Verity Lambert herself. I must admit I was annoyed that he wasn’t mentioned in the otherwise excellent “An Adventure in Space and Time”. I understand that they couldn’t have included everybody, but they could have at least name dropped someone as important as Whitaker and for that matter Raymond Cusick the designer of the Daleks.
Whilst Whitaker made many contributions to both the shows success and its lore, arguably his greatest where the ones he made to the Daleks.
Whitaker loved the Daleks. He even once mentioned that he considered them to be on the level of Jules Verne. I think that what made him such a great Dalek writer was the fact that he had such enthusiasm for them, much like Russell T Davies and of course Nicholas Briggs.
I think in order to be a really great writer for a character you need to have a real enthusiasm for them. Eric Saward for instance disliked the Daleks and thus whilst his stories for them were good, unlike Whitaker he didn’t really do anything with the Daleks themselves and simply either pushed them to the background or wrote them as grunts.
Whitaker contributed to the Daleks success from the very beginning. He was the one who actually commissioned Terry Nation to write the first Dalek story and he alongside Verity Lambert championed the story against Sydney Newman, the creator of Doctor Who, who initially didn’t want to do it.
Whitaker also made important rewrites on the first and second Dalek serials that he served as script editor on too. For instance he was the one who actually wrote the famous “One day I shall come back yes I shall come back” speech that the first Doctor delivers to Susan before leaving her.
In addition to this he also wrote a large number of spin off material involving the Daleks. The famous tv Century 21 comics featuring only the Daleks and not the Doctor were all written by Whitaker. They were credited to Nation as the magazine wanted to use Nation who was a big name at that point to sell it, however Whitaker was the ghost writer on the comics.
Whitaker also wrote the first ever Doctor Who stage play “The Curse of the Daleks” alongside Nation, though again the bulk of it was written by Whitaker. Like the 21st Century comics this did not feature the Doctor.
Whitaker also wrote the novelisation of the first Dalek story titled “Doctor Who in an exciting Adventure with the Daleks”. He also even contributed to the script of the second Cushing Dalek film “Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD”
However it would not be until the Second Doctors era that he would finally get a chance to write for Skaro’s finest on tv in “The Power of the Daleks” a story that is sadly completely missing from the archives except for a few clips, but is still often regarded as one of the all time greatest ever Doctor Who stories.
Its no exaggeration to say that Whitaker completely and utterly reinvented the Daleks in just two stories “The Power of the Daleks and “The Evil of the Daleks”.
The Daleks in these two stories are nothing like the Daleks that Nation wrote. Indeed I’d say that they were in some ways the complete opposite in almost every respect from Nations Daleks.
With this in mind its not hard to see why Nation disliked Whitakers take on the Daleks so much as they were so different to what he had intended for them to be. Whitakers Daleks in some ways were more effective and in some ways less effective than Nations.
Whilst I overall do prefer Nation’s take on the monsters I do think that it was good that Whitaker brought something new to their characters. That’s the only way that a character can remain fresh is if they are reinvented from time to time.
However having said that obviously you can’t change a character too much as then what is the point? If the character is completely different to the point where they are unrecognisable then you might as well invent a new character. Whitaker still kept up the Daleks defining trait, their xenophobia as well as their ruthlessness, allowing them to still be believable as being the same villains.
Nation as we saw in the last article enjoyed making the Daleks weak physically. His Daleks were the perfect allegory for men like Herman Goerring or even today Nick Griffin, pathetic, weak little men who ironically despised others because they viewed them as weak. Whitaker however was really the first to make the Daleks virtually unstoppable.
Where as Nations Daleks needed help from their Robomen to rule a Dalek ravaged earth, and were incapable of launching an attack on Earth by force and instead had to use chemical warfare. Whitakers Daleks in comparison were so dangerous that the Second Doctor stated that one of them would be powerful enough to destroy an entire earth colony by itself !
This is a huge shift in the way the Daleks are portrayed. They go from being weak, frail creatures who are at their most terrifying when in larger numbers to being a villain who now works best when there are only a few or even one of them. “The Power of the Daleks” only features two working Daleks throughout most of it, but they are every bit as terrifying as Nations army of Daleks in “The Daleks Masterplan”.
Aside from making them more powerful Whitaker also made the Daleks more manipulative and sly than Nation ever did. Nation generally tended to focus on their inhumanity more than anything else, but it was Whitaker who really focused on their cunning. That’s not to say that Nations Daleks couldn’t be crafty. They could in stories such as “the Daleks Masterplan”, but it wasn’t to the same extent as Whitaker.
Whitakers Daleks were always manipulating people. They were able to trick the colonists of Vulcan into thinking they were docile, harmless even helpful creatures. In “The Curse of the Daleks” meanwhile we also see them manipulate the main villain of the piece who believes that he has them under his control. The Daleks allow him to think that they are his loyal servants until they are able to harness their own power source. Finally “The Evil of the Daleks” is practically nothing but a game of manipulation between the Doctor and the Daleks from start to finish.
Whitakers more manipulative Daleks were the perfect match for Troughton’s more manipulative Doctor. There are a number of fascinating parallels that can be drawn between the Second Doctor and his mortal enemies.
Both of them to start with do not look menacing. The design of the Daleks whilst unique obviously, is not menacing. Its small, cumbersome and even quite cute. However Whitaker takes advantage of that, by having the Daleks use this to their advantage. They use the fact that they do not look threatening like say the Cybermen to lure people such as the colonists of Vulcan into a false sense of security. Only the Doctor who knows what they are really like doesn’t underestimate them, and thus none of their usual tricks that fool other people work on the Doctor.
At the same time the Second Doctor also looks harmless too. He wears clothes that are too big for him, his hair is scruffy and unwashed, he panics and screams at the first sign of trouble. Of all the Doctors he seems the most ineffective and bumbling on the surface, but underneath he is arguably one of the most cunning, and uses his bumbling facade to throw his enemies off. Most of the Second Doctors enemies greatly underestimate him and think him a fool. The Daleks however who again know him as well as he knows them, know how dangerous he truly is and thus none of the Doctors usual tricks that fool his other enemies such as the Cybermen work on the Daleks.
This not only creates a rather interesting similarity between the Doctor and the Daleks, but also allows the Daleks to stand out among the Doctors many enemies at that point as the most dangerous. When he goes up against them he knows he can’t use his usual tactics, he will have to go that extra mile.
We see this more clearly in “The Evil of the Daleks” which as I said is essentially just the Daleks and the Doctor playing games with one another, whilst using everybody else, including even the Doctors companion Jamie as pieces on a chess board against one another.
We also saw the second Doctor get more genuinely scared as opposed to the act he normally puts on in Evil when many of his tricks fail to work. Personally I found the Second Doctors interactions with the Daleks to be the most interesting of any Doctors.
Aside from bringing a more manipulative streak to the Daleks, Whitaker also made them more human as well. Nation had made the monsters completely alien as we explored in the last article. Whitaker however brought more human qualities to them. For instance in the tv Century 21 comics he gave a Dalek a name “Zeg”. Zeg also had an individual personality too. He wanted to take control of the Dalek empire away from the Emperor. This marked the first time a Dalek was shown to have any individual desires of its own, prior to this they had all been working towards a single goal with no individuality whatsoever.
Whitaker also had the Daleks possess a greater level of understanding of human beings as well. Nation always portrayed them as being totally unable to understand humanity in any way shape or form because they were so different. That was often how he showed how alien they truly were. Whitakers Daleks however were once again the complete opposite. They knew everything about us, every strength and every weakness of humanity they could exploit for their own ends. The Daleks in Nations time had been able to manipulate Mavic Chen, but that was only because he thought like them, was ruthless, callous etc. Whitakers Daleks however were able to manipulate anyone. They played on Bragen in “Power of the Daleks” lust for power, but they also played on Lesterson a good compassionate man’s desire to help those around him. In “The Evil of the Daleks” they also play on Waterfields love for his daughter. They need both Waterfield and Maxtible help. They understand that for a good man like Waterfield who would never help them willingly the only way they can gain his help is to threaten his daughter. Maxtible on the other hand who is greedy and corrupt they know they can bribe with promises of alchemy.
Nations Daleks could never have manipulated someone like Lesterson. They would not have understood his compassion or desire to help others. They also would not have understood or have been able to exploit Waterfield’s love for his daughter. Nations Daleks in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” didn’t even know what children were. They referred to them as our descendants. Contrast that with the Daleks in “The Power of the Daleks” who state “we understand the human mind”. They are a far cry away from Nations Daleks who can’t even comprehend pity.
Finally Whitaker also often did stories that saw the Daleks actually become infected with humanity. There was a strip in the TV Century 21 comic that saw a Dalek become mutated and develop feelings of compassion and even affection. This Dalek that is dubbed “The One in a Million Dalek” proceeds to decorate itself in flowers which it finds beautiful, before being exterminated by its fellow Daleks for being an abomination. Whitaker would revisit this idea in “The Evil of the Daleks” with the humanized Daleks “Alpha, Beta and Omega”.
Whitakers attempts to add humanity to the Daleks did ruin Nations attempts to make them completely alien, which had been a large part of not only what had made the Daleks scary, but also unique. However at the same time it also allowed the opportunity to tell new types of stories with them. It allowed them to be menacing in a new way. Here they were an enemy who could play on our weaknesses like greed, cowardice, etc, but also our strengths too like our desire to help one another and even our love for our children, all for their own sinister plans. Finally by bringing humanity to the Daleks Whitaker also allowed showed us the Daleks turning on one another. The humanised Daleks who weren’t pure Daleks. We had seen the Daleks slaughter and kill other life forms for being different, but to show them now turn on members of their own kind for not being pure Daleks was a true master stroke.
Despite only writing two Dalek stories on television I think that Whitaker’s Daleks have actually been more influential than any of Nation’s on subsequent Dalek stories and writers, particularly those by Big Finish and in the New Series.
That’s not to say that Nation’s influence has vanished from the Daleks. He invented their hatred for other life forms which has become their defining characteristic, also there are many Dalek stories that are in the style of Terry Nation too. “Rememberance of the Daleks” is very much a Terry Nation style Dalek story.
The Daleks in it are utterly inhuman, they are also not completely indestructable and generally tend to travel in large numbers. There are also parallels with the Nazi’s in this story, with the Daleks even working with a Nazi collaborator. Added to that the story is very fast paced and full of lots of action like Nations stories.
“The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End” is also very much a Nation story. Again we have parallels with the Nazi’s to the extent of the Daleks speaking German! The Daleks are also presented as totally inhuman creatures and are shown as an army, plus again it is also very fast paced and full of action.
A story like Dalek however is very much a David Whitaker style Dalek story. It revolves around the damage that one Dalek can do, it features a Dalek manipulating people, its much more slower paced and it also revolves around the idea of a Dalek becoming infected with humanity. All of the Daleks we have seen in the new series who have become infected with humanity or have seen the light, The Metaltron, Dalek Sec, Dalek Caan and Rusty can all be traced back to Whitakers “One in a Million Dalek”.
Indeed many whole stories from the revival borrow huge elements from Whitaker’s two stories.
“Dalek” is very Whitakerish. It has one Dalek that is low on power that everyone underestimates except for the Doctor who tries to warn everyone how dangerous it truly is. There is even a scene in both stories where we see the 9th and the 2nd Doctor try to warn the ignorant humans that one Dalek is capable of destroying an entire planet. “Dalek” also deals with the idea of a Dalek gaining human emotions too like “The Evil of the Daleks”
“Bad Wolf/ The Parting of the Way’s” see’s the Daleks led by an emperor the leader of the Daleks that Whitaker created for them in the tv Century 21 comics and “The Evil of the Daleks”.
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday features four Daleks with names an idea first dreamt up by David Whitaker, Dalek Zeg.
“Daleks in Manhatten/ Evolution of the Daleks” is almost a remake of “The Evil of the Daleks”. Both stories are Dalek stories set in the past where the Daleks who are now desperate to survive try and integrate human qualities into themselves in order to become stronger. However both plans are abandoned as they fear that doing so will make them less Dalek and not pure, so instead they attempt to inject Dalek qualities into human beings and even turn several human beings into Daleks. Both stories also apparently see the Daleks be completely destroyed by their plans as their servants defy them and exterminate them.
“The Stolen Earth/ Journey’s End” also though primarily a Nation style Dalek story does also have certain Whitakeresque elements in it too. Dalek Caan follows on from Whitakers One in a Million Dalek and the three humanized Daleks formula. A good Dalek that turns on its fellow Daleks because of how evil they are.
“Victory of the Daleks” is basically a remake of “The Power of the Daleks”. Both stories revolve around Daleks who pretend to be servants of human beings whilst the Doctor tries to warn everybody about how evil they really are.
“Asylum of the Daleks” also features a Dalek that turns against the rest of its kind. Though Oswin is slightly different to the One in a Million Dalek in that she was a human turned into a Dalek who rediscovers her humanity.
“Into the Dalek” meanwhile again features another one in a million Dalek in the shape of Rusty who turns on his kind and even becomes an ally of the Doctor.
Its also worth noting that Whitaker was even the first to come up with the idea of the Time War. Seriously he was. In the original draft for Power of the Daleks it was revealed that the Doctors people had been destroyed in a war with the Daleks and that he was the last surviving member of his kind. Ultimately this idea was rejected from Whitaker’s final script much to his annoyance, but Russell T Davies would later resurrect the idea for the new series in the story “Dalek” which as I have pointed out already bears a number of similarities to Whitaker’s two Dalek stories already.
Finally Whitaker was also the first writer to try and draw a parallel between the Doctor and the Daleks. The new series does this all of the time in stories like “Dalek” and most recently “Into the Dalek”. Whitaker was the first to really do this in both “The Power of the Daleks” and “The Evil of the Daleks” by casting both the Doctor and the Daleks as more manipulative characters who use everyone else around them for their own plans. He showed us a darker side of the Doctor this way as he showed us how the Doctor was prepared to risk the lives of even his companions in order to commit genocide against the Daleks.
Whilst I do think some of the writers of the new series namely Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat came up with their own take on the Daleks, I still think they all take a lot from Whitakers two Dalek stories which considering of the two of them only episode 2 of “The Evil of the Daleks” still exists, is pretty incredible.
The New series Daleks are definitely by and large more David Whitaker’s Daleks than Terry Nations Daleks. Sadly however Whitaker cannot appreciate the depth of his influence on the current generation of Who writers as he passed away from Cancer at the age of just 51 in 1980. Just before his death he was all set to novelise his second Dalek story “The Evil of the Daleks”.
Whitaker never got a chance to write for the Daleks again after Evil. Though he did write many more stories right up until the Third Doctors era, including one for the Cybermen “The Wheel in Space” I don’t think he ever quite matched his two Dalek masterpieces. With “The Power of the Daleks” and “The Evil of the Daleks” Whitaker achieved something truly remarkable. He managed to completely reinvent an iconic character and consequently have a greater influence in terms of how they would be portrayed than anyone else for the next 50 years.
I would still rank Nation as my favourite Dalek writer however. I think a lot of people tend to write the Daleks more like Whitaker because his take on the creatures is a lot more easy to write. To start with his Daleks are more human and thus more relatable. Its quite hard to right a villain that is completely alien like Nations Daleks. The fact that Whitaker’s Daleks can imitate human behaviour and even have names and individual personalities obviously makes them more easy to relate to. Finally I think due to how powerful they are Whitaker’s Daleks are the obvious choice to go for when reintroducing the characters to modern audiences. Nations Daleks I actually find to be the most unnerving because of how alien they are, but Whitaker’s who are more powerful are going to be a more kind of obvious scary, Nation’s are more subtle.
Still whilst I prefer Nation’s Daleks I would still rank David Whitaker as one of the greatest Dalek writers, second greatest in fact after Nation and I will always appreciate him for being able to completely reinvent them and not just emulate Nation’s style. I would also rank “The Power of the Daleks” as the second greatest Dalek story ever made.
Best Dalek Moment/ “I Am Your Servant/ The Power of the Daleks
One of the most chilling moments in Doctor Who history. This scene perfectly demonstrates how perfectly matched the Daleks were against the Second Doctor as we see the Daleks manage to manipulate everyone here by pretending to be docile whilst the Doctor in a panic desperately tries to warn everyone, only for the Dalek to screech over him “I AM YOUR SERVANT”. It shows how the two are able to trick everyone else but not each other as both instantly despite the Daleks benevolent act and the Doctors regenerated form, recognize one another and how dangerous the other is. Its also the perfect Whitaker Dalek moment as it demonstrates just how sly and machiavellian they are too.
Worst Dalek Moment/ “Dizzy Daleks”/ The Evil of the Daleks
This isn’t as bad as Nation’s worst Dalek moment. Its not that bad to be honest, but its the worst moment from Whitakers Dalek stories. Seeing some humanized Daleks spin round going “dizzy Daleks, dizzy Daleks” is not quite as menacing as “I am your servant”.
On the problems involved with getting the first Dalek story made and what he thought of it.
“Ironically, Terry Nation didn’t want to write for us, considering it rather demeaning that he’d even been asked. However, in the end, something – I think the collapse of another job – persuaded him to go ahead and do something for the show. That turned out to be ‘The Daleks’, and with it came two things, first a row and then audiences of an incredible number. The row came when it was thought that the Daleks would drag the show down to being puerile rubbish. One of our prime intentions was to keep an educational slant to it, and Daleks were felt not to be in the right mould at all. Actually, that Dalek story was educational in a subtle way – it showed the dangers of war, pacifism and racial hatred. It contained many admirable and idealistic truths in it, and it was also a jolly good adventure story.”
On the success of the Daleks
“We were allowed to go ahead with ‘The Daleks’ simply because none of the other scripts had been finished. When it was shown, not very long after being recorded, we were, and I don’t mean this to sound smug, proved quite right. Terry Nation then came up with another story for us and he has been writing on and off for the programme ever since – rather like me! One interesting thing was that we weren’t actually intending to bring the Daleks back. I felt very strongly that we should try constantly for new ideas and treat new unexplored ground. As it turned out, their popularity ensured, in fact rather blackmailed us, into commissioning a sequel.”
His opinion of the Daleks
“The Daleks were a smashing invention, and I took to them at once. I would say they’re worthy of Jules Verne.”
On “The Evil of the Daleks” and it being the last intended Dalek story.
“The Evil of the Daleks had a lot to it, and it included a theme I’m very fond of – the lure of alchemy. It was as good opportunity to write an atmosphere story, and I had some pleasing characters to work with. It still suffered from re-writes, however, and although it was intended to be the final Dalek story, as Terry wanted to launch them in America, I didn’t really think they’d be gone for good.”
Join me tomorrow when I will be looking at Russell T Davies’s take on the Daleks.