What Keeps Daleks the Monsters They Are

Updated on April 4, 2019
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.


Daleks are two of the biggest foes on Doctor Who. These inhuman creatures are typically bred from lab cultures, though at least a few episodes show humans mutated into these creatures minus most of their body. The Daleks can be described as brains in tanks. What is interesting is all the ways they’re engineered, physically and socially, to keep them going as merciless killers of all other life.

Son and Daleks at a Doctor Who Convention
Son and Daleks at a Doctor Who Convention | Source

The Physical Controls Over the Dalek’s Mind

In one Doctor Who episode, a Dalek is saved and studied because it values life. It witnessed the birth of a star and felt awe and wonder at the sight. The Doctor realizes that there is a piece of equipment connected to the Dalek that is malfunctioning. The purpose of this device is to suppress any thoughts that distract the Dalek from its purpose. The Dalek’s surprising compassion was the result of the device’s malfunction. There is a literal mind control device in every Dalek to prevent unacceptable (for a Dalek) thoughts.

The Purity Protocols

A defective Dalek is killed by its own kind unless it is simply so mindlessly berserk they put it on an asylum planet. I imagine the asylum planet is where they put the brain-damaged killers that cannot control themselves to follow orders in the vain hope they could be repaired and returned to service.

Daleks that are less than pure are seen as defective. They’re killed by other Daleks. The Dalek that repairs itself using Rose’s DNA but becomes emotionally attached to her dies because of built-in genetic controls. Mutation is unacceptable. It may lead to changes in the Dalek species they don’t want. (Along those lines, random procreation is forbidden, too.)

Hybridization is discouraged, too When the Dalek Sec combines itself with a human, the other cult members restrain it and adjust the process to create pure Daleks. The hybrid version of Dalek Sec dies protecting the Doctor, proving their fear of hybrids being corrupt is correct.

In another Doctor Who episode, defective Dalek specimens harnessed Doctor Who’s testimony to activate a Progenitor device to make pure versions of their kind. After they had his testimony that they were Daleks, activating the device on their command to create more Daleks, they killed themselves. Their purity protocol therefore includes suicide. Their species would consider it akin to cancer cells committing suicide.

If they didn’t kill themselves, the “healthy” specimens would act as an immune system and kill them. We know this because they concocted a complex plan to get the Doctor to admit they were Daleks to create better Daleks, knowing full well it would lead to their destruction. In that regard, they were very much in line with Dalek thinking.

The Social Controls

There are some interesting social controls that seem intended to keep the Daleks on track. Doctor Who was surprised that Dalek masterminds, the Cult of Skaro, had given themselves names. This means the rest of the Daleks do not have individual names, though they may have a unique identification number. You’re not an individual but simply a member of the collective.

Another form of social control is their limited vocabulary. They know the word mercy but not compassion nor many other terms for positive emotion. If you don’t comprehend these terms, you can’t react to them when someone else uses them. It renders their pleas for life and peace into nothing but background noise, easily ignored while you kill them. I can’t say if this is also a form of alien Sapir-Whorf theory, the idea that if you don’t have a word for it, you can’t think or feel it. Daleks do feel hate, rage, disdain and triumph. This isn’t a failing, since these emotions are fitting for a violent, warring race.

In fact, the emotion is apparently required to fuel their weapons. This may be intentional. If the Dalek is not in the right mindset for a murderous alien in a tank, it can't fight back if its peers realize its failing and kill it.


We can see that there are a number of controls in place to keep the Daleks on task with wiping out every other form of life in the universe. This is why they are such successful and consistent villains in the Doctor Who universe.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Tamara Wilhite


    Submit a Comment
    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      14 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks, Tamara. That's cool to know. Love both universes. Again, superb job. May your weekend be peaceful.

    • tamarawilhite profile imageAUTHOR

      Tamara Wilhite 

      14 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      Tim Truzy I think the Cybermen of Doctor Who were the inspiration for Star Trek's Borg.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      14 months ago from U.S.A.

      Tamara, this is wonderful. I've always been a Dr. Who fan, and the Daleks are some of my favorite "bad guys." It's interesting how they have a hive mentality, and I wonder how much they influenced the creation of the Borg. (Yes, the Daleks want to destroy, but the Borg famously "assimulate." That in itself is a not so subtle way of destroying.

      As I read this, too, Tamara, I pondered how much the thinking that went into the Daleks came from how the Nazis thought or even Communism.

      In any case, I loved it. Thanks for giving me more insights into these incredible returning adversaries of the good Dr. Who, our favorite Time Lord.

      Much respect and admiration,



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)