I'm fairly new to Dr. Who, just having watched some of the newer episodes, and find Daleks rather, well, odd. The idea seems to be that they probably are cheesy villains by today's standards but weren't in the 1960s, and given that modern Dr. Who does have some really terrifying monsters, they are a bit out of place.

Still, even in-universe it's hard to glean their terror. They seem slow and dumb. Perhaps they're durable but maybe you can tip them over or something. In the scenes I've watched with Daleks the show of course takes it for granted that you, the viewer, are terrified. So, why should I be?

  • punch.photoshelter.com/image/I0000ZvleumhOmDo
    – Fruitbat
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:08
  • @Fruitbat exactly! edited in to question.
    – djechlin
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:09
  • youtube.com/watch?v=BdQ7RcfnMOU
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:15
  • 1
    Exterminate! - Kinda freaky, no?
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:27
  • 3
    The fact that Daleks are kind of funny in an out-of-universe sense yet we accept that everyone finds them terrifying in-universe is part of the appeal, I think. That said, the episode "Dalek" from the first season of the revived series did a pretty good job at helping viewers suspend disbelief about them being a serious threat to the characters, even if they're still kind of funny-looking.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 1:00

2 Answers 2


Assuming we are talking about modern Daleks (thus no need to worry about stairs and such):

  1. Nigh invulnerability. Seriously, everything thrown at them more or less bounces without a scratch.

  2. Very deadly. Everything from life forms to complex machinery are ground under their treads completely effortlessly.

  3. Absolutely evil. Emotions like love and empathy have been purged from their race. They exist only to sterilize the entire time stream of any non-Dalek life. They can't be reasoned with or argued with, they have no interest in any non-Daleks supremacy related issues whatsoever.

  4. Their voices. They're freaky and shrill.

  5. Intelligent. The Daleks are incredibly intelligent and have access to some of the most sophisticated technology that exists. With this intelligence also comes patience- they are absolutely willing to set something in motion now according to their calculations which will result in their victory in five hundred years.

  • 3
    Hands down, #4.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:29
  • #5 is very interesting and certainly not something you glean from screenshots and the like.
    – djechlin
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:31
  • 4
    @Mazura : "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"
    – Praxis
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:31
  • 2
    @djechlin it's not evident in every episode either but it's quite true. The Time War the Doctor refers to? That's between the Time Lords and the Daleks. And the Time Lords aren't the ones still running around causing trouble (as of the last time I watched when the Ponds stopped being on).
    – Broklynite
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:46
  • 1
    The Doctor has escaped the Daleks via the dreaded stairs on more than one occasion. They even allude to it with the Eccleston Doctor when they climb some stairs and he laughs that the Dalek can't reach them, before the Dalek engages it's hover mechanism.
    – Broklynite
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 22:41

If you haven't watched Series 1 Episode titled "Dalek", you should. I think it does a brilliant job on establishing the Daleks' nature and role in the Whoniverse.

The first time the character Van Statten finds the Dalek, he's not scared by it. The same for his whole staff, or even Rose. It isn't until the Dalek breaks free, and starts killing everything it finds that they start to realize the destruction machine that they had all along

It is further explained with this dialogue.

VAN STATTEN: I thought you were the great expert, Doctor. If you're so impressive, then why not just reason with this Dalek? It must be willing to negotiate. There must be something it needs. Everything needs something.

DOCTOR: What's the nearest town?

VAN STATTEN: Salt Lake City.

DOCTOR: Population?

VAN STATTEN: One million.

DOCTOR: All dead. If the Dalek gets out, it'll murder every living creature. That's all it needs.

VAN STATTEN: But why would it do that?

DOCTOR: Because it honestly believes they should die.

As usual, evil lies in the eyes of the beholder. They don't see themselves as evil, maybe as the opposite. They honestly believe they should kill any creature that is not a Dalek.

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