My 10 Favourite Dalek Variants
Doctor Who's 59th anniversary draws near and I'm here with yet another Doctor Who related blog post to celebrate the occasion. This one is a celebration of the show's most iconic villain and by far the most popular character that ever came from the franchise. I am of course talking about the killer pepper pots themselves...the Daleks.
With their iconic designs, electronic voices and propensity to yell "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" whenever they kill someone, the Daleks are a pop-culture icon for the ages and remain very much an example of Doctor Who at its scariest, something that hasn't changed since the 60's. Created by Terry Nation and first appearing in 1963's serial The Daleks, the mutant monsters were an immediate hit and were pretty much to children in the 60's what Pokémon was to children in the 90's. They were EVERYWHERE and you just couldn't get enough of them back then. While the Daleks aren't as big as they were in the 60's, they still remain easily Doctor Who's most iconic villains ever and the main reason we tune in for this show.
For me, I make it no secret that I am a MASSIVE Dalek fan. These things were what got me to watch Doctor Who in the first place and their episodes tend to be the ones I look forward to or enjoy the most. I love everything about them from their distinctive designs to their awesome voices to their Nazi-inspired roots and especially how the stakes immediately get higher and higher whenever they show up. They never fail to entertain me and I'm always happy to see these guys whenever Doctor Who is on the telly.
So to show my love for these awesome aliens, I'll be counting down 10 of my favourite Dalek designs and variants we've had through the years. This list is in no particular order as it's not a Top 10 list, just a list of 10 Dalek designs that I like. So sit back, relax and enjoy as I unveil my 10 Favourite Dalek designs. You will read this list or be exterminated!
1: The Time War Dalek
Yeah, sorry to be so obvious but how can I make a list of Dalek designs and NOT include what is objectively the best design they've ever had?
These are easily the most popular and iconic Dalek designs ever created and the very idea of trying to change them is considered downright sacrilegious by the fandom. And for good reason too. This is THE definitive Dalek design and should never be changed, though I'm always up for experimenting with different colour schemes at least. Debuting in 2005's Dalek, this design truly brought the evil pepper pots into the 21st century and made it possible for the audience to take them seriously again. The design looks very solid and chunky, the larger ears look more striking than the short stumpy ears of the classic era, there's more detail in just about every part of the Dalek to make them look more authentic and real and they just look amazing whenever they're onscreen. These things actually look like they could take over the universe with how strong and powerful this design makes them look and the bronze and gold colour scheme gives them a strangely beautiful look, like they're beautiful killing machines if you get what I mean. XD Of course, the best looking version of this design is easily Dalek Sec with his mostly black colour scheme. Can't get a cooler looking paint job than that.
I especially love the glowing blue eye. It makes the Daleks look as if they have an icy stare as they gaze upon their victims before they exterminate them and it just gives a great effect whenever they're in the dark as like this single blue light watching you from the shadows. It's creepy and I love it! They also make it a neat call-back to the 60's era Daleks in where the light in their eyestalks could shrink or grow in size to make it look as if the Daleks are focusing on something with these Daleks being able to do the same with their eye lights.
I also think another reason why this design sticks with us so is that it was THIS design that finally killed the "Daleks can't climb stairs" joke. Yes the Imperial Daleks from Remembrance of the Daleks did it first but very few people remembered that. Dalek gave off a far more memorable example and with this design being the one that cemented that Daleks CAN actually climb stairs, it just gave Dalek fans more of a reason to love it in the end.
Iconic, well-designed, striking, beautiful and powerful looking, this is THE definitive Dalek design and I'll be happy to see it every time in this show.
2: The Special Weapons Dalek
It's a Dalek with a BFG. What more needs to be said? XD
Debuting in Remembrance of the Daleks, the Special Weapons Dalek was introduced in Part 4 as the Imperial Dalek's secret weapon against the Renegade Daleks and needless to say, it leaves a VERY memorable impression. It doesn't say a word throughout its entire screentime and yet it doesn't need to. It trundles down the road as this big lumbering tank on top of a Dalek skirt base and is able to blow up two-three Daleks with a single shot. The sound its gun makes when it fires is awesome!
I just love how this think looks as this giant mobile gun turret and that it looks like it could easily blow holes through buildings with ease. Its grungy, dirty appearance also adds more character to it as it suggests this Dalek has been through a lot of battles and has been used quite a lot. Naturally this thing's presence has me asking why Davros doesn't just make every Dalek he creates like this as he could easily conquer the universe with an army of these things but given apparently this thing went insane after copious amounts of radiation would saturate its cells whenever it fires its gun, maybe it's for the best there's only one...
Regardless, the Special Weapons Dalek is an iconic design for a reason and easily one of the coolest Dalek designs ever created. This is one Dalek you NEVER want to be cornered by...
3: The Red Supreme Dalek
This is easily one of the most beautiful and grand looking Dalek designs ever.
This variant appears in The Stolen Earth, Journey's End, The Magician's Apprentice and The Witch's Familiar and is easily the grandest looking Supreme Dalek design we've had in the show. The general Supreme Dalek design is just a black and silver Dalek variant but this one takes it a step further. It's now a glorious red and gold colour with three lights on its dome instead of two and four huge golden struts around the midsection. It almost looks regal in that sense with its three lights sort of resembling a crown and its red and gold colour scheme is evocative of royalty. It's like this Dalek is a king on his throne and that is just a perfect way to depict a Supreme Dalek.
The golden struts around the mid-section are a little bulky and probably weren't needed but I don't mind them overall. They give this Dalek a much larger appearance that only ends up making it look even more intimidating as a result. It just has that look that tells you you don't want to mess with it or you'll be exterminated and a good Dalek design should do that if you ask me.
With its grand, majestic appearance, deep booming voice and intimidating appearance, the Red and Gold Supreme Dalek is the most supreme looking of them all and is more than worthy of earning a spot on this list. I think I've EX-PLAINED, EX-PLAINED, EX-PLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINED quite sufficiently on why it's so good. XD
4: The Peter Cushing Daleks
There was once a time the Daleks were movie stars. Yes really. Mind-blowing to think about, isn't it? XD And they really went out of their way to make them look good for the big screen.
These designs were featured in the 1960's Dalek movies starring Peter Cushing with one based on The Daleks and the second based on The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Keep in mind that back in Doctor Who's heyday, colour was still rare and TV shows weren't able to use it yet so these films were the first time that audiences could actually see the Daleks in colour and needless to say, they really took advantage of that . These Daleks look really pretty onscreen with their various colour schemes from the blue, silver and gold drone Daleks to the red and gold second-in-command Dalek and the fabulous black, silver and gold Supreme Dalek. They all look so good in these colours and I especially love the black, gold and silver's colour scheme with the gold and silver spheres around the skirt section being an interesting colour choice. The second movie even gives us a gold Dalek along with the black and red Daleks we get here.
These designs are also an upgrade from the 60's design with a taller, chunkier appearance, larger ear lights and the practical addition of a claw in place of a sucker for most of the Dalek props used here. For the time, this was the way to bring them into a movie and they truly made them look so good. Though it is a bit hard to take them seriously when they shoot people with...smoke from their guns. XD They were supposed to be flamethrowers but for obvious health and safety reasons, that had to go. Still, they could've used a beam effect I'm sure instead of smoke projectors. XD
When it comes to which Daleks have the better colour scheme, I prefer the colours of the ones in Doctor Who and the Daleks over the ones in Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD as they look more striking to me. I dunno, I just feel the colour schemes look a bit duller in the second movie compared to the first and not as shiny. Still, these Dalek designs were a great way to bring the Daleks to the big screen and are easily among the best Dalek designs of the classic era.
5: The Defence Drone Daleks
If the bronze Time War Dalek design had to be retired and replaced at all, I wouldn't mind if these were the new Dalek designs going forward.
Debuting in Revolution of the Daleks, these Dalek designs were the result of Jack Robertson and Jo Patterson teaming up to create what they dub as "Defence Drones" which are meant to suppress riots in the UK. The Defence Drones are an awesome new look for the Daleks in which they keep the classic Dalek image but have a more "modern" appearance that makes them look like something that could've come straight out of the 2010s-2020s decade. They have a slimmer more streamlined appearance and have this factory-produced look to them, which fits how they came into existence in the first place, and their all black colour schemes and blue lighting that turns to red once their true nature is revealed is just badass looking. They look so visually striking, especially when filmed at night as we see during the climax of the episode. This image of the four of them in front of Downing Street announcing their conquest of Earth is one of the singular most epic images featuring the Daleks and I never get tired of it. The one design feature I question though is their appendage in place of a sucker. What is it meant to be exactly and what does it do?
I also like how these designs have some call-backs to previous Dalek stories. Their voices sound closer to the Imperial Daleks from Remembrance of the Daleks, the design itself is a more refined, sleeker and stronger take on the Reconnaissance Dalek we saw in Resolution and the black colour scheme might be a reference to Dalek Sec from the RTD era. It's a pity that these designs were killed off as quickly as they appeared as I would've loved to have seen this design of the Daleks appear again in the future. Ah well, got to show off the supremacy of the Time War design. XD
Nevertheless, the Defence Done Daleks are a great modern take on the classic Dalek design and their appearance may be a one-off, but it's still a memorable appearance and a design we won't forget anytime soon...
6: The Imperial Daleks
Can't have a Dalek design list without including these guys at some point.
The Imperial Daleks first appear in Revelation of the Daleks but the design I'm including on this list is the design we get in Remembrance of the Daleks as I feel that's the superior design. In Revelation, the Imperial Daleks are just the standard 80's Dalek design painted white and gold. The designs in Remembrance on the other hand have a bit more going to them. They have a few redesigned elements and aren't just white and gold versions of a previous Dalek design. There's even more gold on these designs with the gold mesh in the neck section, the sucker arm is completely golden and has a more unique design to it, the eye stalk is completely gold with a clear lens and the ear lights are completely circular.
All this makes for one striking Dalek design and a face of their own so to speak and the white and gold colour scheme just looks gorgeous. It gives them a very grand appearance, fitting for a race of Daleks loyal to Davros, and when you consider the Daleks are based on the Nazis, it seems eerily appropriate to colour them white when you think about it... And as mentioned before, Remembrance of the Daleks was the actual first time we saw the Daleks climb stairs and it's this design that pulls it off not once, but TWICE in the story with the first time making for one of Doctor Who's most iconic cliffhangers. That alone gives this design a memorable impression and makes it a Dalek we won't forget about easily.
The Remembrance Imperial Dalek design is one of the best and most beautiful Dalek designs we've ever seen in the show and I would love to see a modern version of this design make an appearance in the revival era. It would be quite a treat to see...
7: The Silver and Black Daleks
Death to the Daleks is among the worst Dalek stories ever made. A pity too as this story has one of the best looking Dalek colour schemes out there.
There's not much to say about these designs other than it's the standard 70's Dalek design which doesn't differ much from the 60's Dalek design aside from the painted on eye in the eye stalks and a slightly bigger fender base. When it comes to the 70's Dalek design, I always find these Daleks to be the best looking of the bunch. Something about silver and black just makes for a striking colour combination and they always manage to look cool when they're on camera. I also found it a neat idea that with the four Dalek props they have, they gave at least one of them orange lights to signify that as the leader. It's a tiny detail but it works for me and I think the orange lights stand out nicely against the silver dome.
And as you may remember, these Daleks are the ones that have to use bullets as their lasers don't work in the planet they're on and I'd say that the design of the gun arm works for depicting what a Dalek with a projectile weapon would look like. I find it so funny that they literally test their new guns on a toy police box. Do the Daleks do that all the time when doing target practice? XD
So yeah, not much to say other than I love the colour scheme these Daleks have and I only wish they could've used it in a better story. Maybe someday this Dalek design will get redeemed...
8: The Black and Gold Supreme Dalek
Funny I mentioned the Peter Cushing Dalek designs earlier as this Supreme Dalek design from Planet of the Daleks was actually modified from one of the props uses in the movies.
Due to it being a reused prop from the movies, it has the same positives I mentioned for the design earlier in how it looks taller and bulkier with larger ear lights but this Supreme Dalek keeps the plunger arm and has another new feature in where its eyestalk actually glows when it talks along with its ear lights. I really love this feature as it looks so cool to see its eye flashing like a torch whenever it speaks. And naturally, black and gold always looks awesome and the golden dome with the purple lights and flashing eye stalk looks very eye-catching. It's just one really awesome look for a Supreme Dalek.
I don't have much else to add other than it's a cool looking Dalek and it'd be nice to see it again in the future, especially redesigned to fit in with the modern Dalek design.
9: The Dalek Emperor
Russell T. Davies was a master at taking old obscure characters from Doctor Who's past and making them new again and his take on the Dalek Emperor is no exception.
Appearing in The Parting of the Ways, this version of the Dalek Emperor leaves a considerably better and stronger impression than the one from The Evil of the Daleks in where it just stood around looking imposing. This Dalek Emperor has a serious god complex and proves to be one scary boss for the Daleks with how it can battle philosophically with the Doctor and boasts about being immortal. All of this is amplified further by its incredible design. This is like no Dalek we've ever seen before and it only makes sense to have such a unique design as it's the Dalek Emperor. It is colossal in size, easily towering over our heroes and the standard Daleks that surround it and it looks like this giant immobile station that houses the mutant itself that can be clearly seen in its tank. The mutant itself is a fantastic practical effect and its casting proper makes it look like a towering giant standing tall on its throne and ruling over its worthy subjects like a tyrannical king leading his armies to commit mass slaughter. Combine that with Nicholas Briggs giving the Dalek Emperors a deep, booming voice and you have a Dalek design that will forever leave a lasing impression.
Some of its design features also leave a scary impression too. You have that huge dome section with its large eyestalk just staring at you and making you wonder how long you'll last before you're exterminated, the mutant in the tank could be considered creepy looking and then you have those claws protruding from the bottom of the tank. What are they for exactly and why does he have them? I don't think we want to know...
If you're going to give the Dalek Emperor an impressive look that befits its status as the "God of all Daleks", this is what it should look like and it's a brilliant upgrade from an older more obscure character from the original 60's era of Doctor Who. As the Dalek Emperor himself would say: "THIS-IS-PER-FECT-ION."
10: Dalek Alpha
This is a design that we've only seen in the comics and as a toy (which I have) but I still think it deserves a spot on the list.
Dalek Alpha actually first appeared in The Evil of the Daleks as one of three Daleks that the Doctor gave the Human Factor to. This turned it and the other Daleks he named Beta and Omega into good Daleks and they turned on the Emperor and his forces at the end of the story. Dalek Alpha survived that story and would go onto appear in the comics with an altered design. Now sporting a lovely red and silver casing with a Greek"a" symbol on its dome, Dalek Alpha looks very distinctive amongst other Daleks and its cool how the comics sort of gave Alpha its own identity with thise design. Yes it's just the typical 70's Dalek design but red and silver but it still looks cool and the Greek A symbol is a unique design choice that sort of gives Alpha its own ID tag so you know who this particular Dalek is.
It's a pity we've only seen this Dalek as a toy and in comics as it would've looked cool to see this variant in the show. Still, Dalek Alpha has a design to call its own and with this great colour scheme and symbol to make for easy identification, this Dalek easily deserves to lead the colony of humanised Daleks...
And so here we are. Those are my 10 Favourite Dalek designs. I hope you enjoyed this countdown showcasing the best of the Daleks and feel free to share your thoughts down below. Which Dalek designs are your favourites? I'd love to hear what you have to say.
Join me again later this week as we return to the world of Pokémon in another battle analysis essay where I analyse Ash vs. Leon and deduce how good it was. See you then!