Doctor Who: Why the New Dalek Paradigm Failed

Perhaps the most controversial decision made since Steven Moffat took over on Doctor Who from Russell T. Davies was the introduction of the New Dalek Paradigm in ‘Victory of the Daleks’. The new designs were supposed to replace the popular bronze Daleks seen throughout the Russell T. Davies era, and we would see a new form of clear class system from the alien pepper pots – red Daleks were drones, blue were strategists, white was the Dalek Supreme etc.

And yet, as the series has gone on, we’ve seen less and less of the “Paradigm” designs – in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, for example, we see a few of them spread out, but overall mostly mixed in with the bronze design; in ‘Time of the Doctor’, we only saw bronze Daleks throughout the entire episode, and even in trailers and images we’ve seen for Series 9, we see a whole mixture of Dalek designs (including 60s!), but none from the Paradigm.

So what happened?

Personally, I think the idea of the New Dalek Paradigm is a good one – exploring a Dalek class system could’ve been interesting (especially as we never found out just what the “Eternal” Dalek was for!), and could have helped to highlight the Daleks’s “genius for war”, as described by Mavic Chen in First Doctor story ‘The Daleks’s Masterplan’.

We’ve already seen hints of a Dalek class system with the black Daleks in the classic series which were usually ranked as “Supreme”, and the incredible design of the Emperor really stands out, both in ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ and in ‘The Parting of the Ways’. So by itself, the idea isn’t a bad one.

However, there was one significant factor that held it back: the design.

I consider myself to be something of a Dalek fanatic. I’ve enjoyed a great deal of their stories, and I love it when I see a new design…at least, when it’s done right. And the design seen in ‘Victory of the Daleks’ was definitely not done right.

For one thing, they’re far too plastic. It’s not just a step away from the bronze design of the previous era, but even the Daleks of the classic series looked far less fake and tacky. Because out of all the designs I’ve seen, the New Paradigm Daleks are the ones that look the closest to merchandise within the actual show. Especially with their colours.

Oddly enough, I don’t have a problem with the idea of Daleks being different colours for their different classes. It sounds exactly like what a military focused race like the Daleks would do. However, one big problem is that the colours are just too bright. Shortly after ‘Victory’ was first broadcast, I rapidly lost count of the number of Power Rangers parodies and memes that sprouted up all over Facebook.

It probably didn’t help that, rather than seeing thousands of drones, a few strategists and one Dalek Supreme as we should have seen, we were instead introduced to one of each. As a result, the whole introduction of the New Dalek Paradigm felt less like a bold new start for the Doctor’s greatest foes and more like extremely heavy marketing for a variety of Dalek action figures.

But I think the worst thing about the Paradigm is that it changes the most crucial part of the whole Dalek design – the shape. Throughout all the previous designs, with obvious exceptions like the Emperor, the core basic shape of the Dalek has always remained the same. And it just isn’t the case with the Paradigm. While some key features like the eyestalk, the plunger and the egg-whisk weapon are the same, too many other details were changed, such as the shape of the grills just underneath the dome.

But the worst change of all was the back – for a reason that wasn’t made clear on television, the backs of the Paradigm Daleks had been extended outwards, taking away from the smooth, distinct pepper pot shape that made them so memorable and giving them more of a hunched look. While a reason may have been planned to be given on screen, the fact that none was presented in the episode made such a large change look completely unnecessary.

It’s a real shame the New Dalek Paradigm didn’t work. In concept, a clear class-based system for the Daleks, even one by colour, could’ve worked out really well. Instead, due to crucial design flaws that simply strayed too far away from what made the Daleks so great in the first place, it’s arguably one of the biggest disappointments since the show came back.