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No Such Thing As A 'Good Dalek'

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To look at what makes a ‘good Dalek’.

Preparation and materials


  1. (Show image of Dalek.) I have no doubt you know exactly what this is. A Dalek, from Dr Who. Daleks have a catchphrase; does anyone know what it is? Exterminate! 

  2. Here is a little bit of Dalek history for you. The Daleks are extraterrestial robotlike creatures, created by a Kaled scientist called Davros to save his race from eventually being unable to get around and then dying out. The bit we see is a travel machine – a Kaled is inside, operating it. Davros’ final modification was to remove the Daleks’ ability to feel pity, compassion or remorse. They view themselves as the supreme race in the universe and so are on a quest to achieve universal domination, exterminating those who get in their way. 

    So, Daleks are killers. They exterminate people. They have none of the qualities that make people sensitive to the suffering and pain of others. They see other races as simply things to be removed, destroyed. 

    Play clip from Dr Who, if using.

  3. When Clara says, ‘A good Dalek?’ and the Doctor responds, ‘There’s no such thing‘, he is saying that they are evil and irreversibly so. They have been created to be without a conscience, without compassion, without emotional awareness. 

    In this episode, however, they discover that one Dalek is different, aware that it is the Daleks who should be exterminated because of their evil and hatred.

  4. The Doctor has difficulty believing that this Dalek is actually different. His experience of Daleks is such that he has nothing but contempt for them. For him, it is impossible for a Dalek to be good. He thinks this Dalek’s thinking is simply a malfunction in its core and, when pushed, it will revert to type – that is, need to destroy and exterminate.

  5. So, if something is created bad, can it never be good? Can it ever change? Does a leopard ever change its spots?

  6. This Dalek began to be more aware as a result of radiation affecting its circuits and and the resulting expansion of consciousness this enabled when it saw the birth of a star and could appreciate its beauty, which it was unable to before. Similarly, then, it seems we must accept that, in life, it may be possible for something bad to be made good. 

    Indeed, one of Jesus' key teachings is that sinners or wrongdoers can be forgiven and can reform if they are truly sorry. He also teaches that if someone is metaphorically lost and then is found, that is also a reason for rejoicing. We see this in Jesus’ parable of the lost coin in Luke 15.8–10 (NRSV).

    Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. 

    There is always joy when someone who was lost finds his or her way.

  7. So we see that a Dalek can be good if it is sincerely sorry for what it has done and decides to live in a different, new way, with compassion and awareness.

Time for reflection

I wonder if you ever think or act like a Dalek – without compassion for others, just enforcing what you want?

I wonder if such moments will arise today. How could you be a good Dalek?


‘Let there be love shared among us’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 430, 2008 edition)

Publication date: December 2014   (Vol.16 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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