The Daleks get a lot of crap, both from people who don't watch Who and people who do. And I get it. They do look like giant pepperpots. They have a toilet plunger and a whisk for arms, and they're super whiny. But despite enjoying the occasional Dalek-mocking myself, I still think they're terrifying, and here's why.
A lot of it is what we don't see. What we do see can be pretty laughable. Daleks screaming about impaired vision and falling off ledges. Most of the time we see them, the Doctor defeats them. So they've got a little bit of that "inept bad guy" thing going on.
But the Doctor takes them seriously. There's a reason he's so scared of them. "Just one Dalek is enough to destroy this entire colony," warns the Second Doctor in "Power of the Daleks." Replace colony with city to get the Ninth Doctor's line in "Dalek." The Daleks are powerful. Damn powerful. And technologically advanced: as early in the series as "The Chase" they were shown to have time travel technology to rival the Time Lords – their ships were even dimensionally transcendental, like TARDISes. So combine their strength with an ideology of hatred for the unlike and a penchant for genocide, and… well, you've got super-powerful and more successful Nazis. Across all of time and space, the Daleks have wiped out and enslaved many, many races. Conquered many planets. Destroyed countless civilizations. They are effective. The Doctor can't always stop them. Even the decimation of the Time War didn't wipe them out. He wins battles, sure, but never the war. In the words of the Fourth Doctor in "Genesis of the Daleks:" "They have been defeated, but never utterly defeated. The Dalek Menace always remains."
Daleks are unbeatable Nazis. And that's damn frightening.
So when I'm watching a new episode and see a Dalek rounding the corner, or listening to an audio and first hear the screech of a Dalek voice, I get scared. Because I know things are serious now.
Originally posted on Who PhD.