Here’s a complete timeline of the Daleks in Doctor Who. Unfortunately, continuity has never been Doctor Who‘s strong suit, and frankly, that’s a feature, not a bug. Showrunners have always been wary of pressing concepts like continuity and canon to heavily, taking the view that history can be rewritten. The various incarnations of the Doctor have often been responsible for these rewrites, sometimes in quite dramatic fashion.
The Dalek timeline is, particularly, problematic; there are two conflicting accounts of the Dalek origins, and their homeworld of Skaro has been destroyed multiple times as well. In February 2021, the BBC published Dalek: Mark III Travel Machine Combat Training Manual, a guide to all things Dalek, that includes an attempt to fix some of these continuity problems. It features an official timeline, one that places the various Doctor Who stories into a rough chronology, and explains that the Daleks used their time travel technology to change history in order to avert some of their greatest defeats – explaining how Skaro has been destroyed and restored multiple times.
The BBC’s timeline only covers the Doctor Who TV series itself, not the countless tie-ins, although these are alluded to in the Combat Training Manual. So here’s the official Dalek timeline as it now stands, with all its inherent complexities and contradictions from the show itself. Surprisingly, it just about works – although the book itself acknowledges it is sequenced in chronological order “as far as is possible.“
The story of the Daleks begins on their homeworld Skaro, a planet inhabited by two rival races – the Kaleds and the Thals. These races became locked in a thousand year war, one that culminated in the detonation of neutronic bombs that left Skaro inhospitable and irradiated. Shortly before this time, the Twelfth Doctor visited Skaro and stumbled upon a young boy named Davros, who he rescued from a minefield even though he was aware of the child’s destiny (“The Magician’s Apprentice”). Davros dedicated himself to securing the future of the Kaled race, and in doing so he became creator of the Daleks. The Time Lords send the Doctor back in time to avert this in “Genesis of the Daleks,” but he chose not to do so; his actions did delay the emergence of the Daleks, however.
The Daleks developed space travel and launched so-called “Reconnaissance Daleks” into the depths of space to establish footholds on other worlds. One of these landed on Earth in the 9th century, when it was almost destroyed but was awoken in the 21st century (“Revolution”). A cloned version of the Reconnaissance Scout used Earth technology to create its own Dalek army, and it was wiped out by Daleks summoned from the time vortex (“Revolution of the Daleks”).
Here is where the Daleks timeline becomes particularly interesting; it appears to suggest the Daleks split into two factions at this time, one dedicated to space exploration and the other remaining on Skaro. The spacefaring faction invaded Earth in the 22nd century, planning to transform the planet into a mobile headquarters by replacing its core with a massive engine. They were stopped by the First Doctor (“The Dalek Invasion of Earth”). According to the BBC’s new Dalek timeline, it was actually shortly after this that the Doctor visited Skaro for the first time in his own timeline, helping the Thals destroy the Daleks in their city on Skaro. This had previously been treated as a rival Dalek origin story, but apparently that’s no longer the case (“The Daleks”).
The spacefaring Daleks began experiments with time travel, attempting to create a new timeline where their invasion of Earth had succeeded (“The Day of the Daleks”), and sending a Dalek execution squad through time in pursuit of the First Doctor (“Frontier in Space”). Meanwhile, they continued to expand through space, working with the Master to foment a war between Earth and the Draconian empire in order to weaken both races (“Frontier in Space”), and amassing troops on the planet Spiridon (“Planet of the Daleks”). All these efforts were foiled by the Third Doctor. They subsequently put the Master on trial for his failure, and believed him exterminated (Doctor Who: The Movie).
Although the Daleks considered themselves the supreme beings in the universe, they were nonetheless aware they could not conquer every race in the cosmos – not without treachery. They attempted to secure the only cure to a disease ravaging the outer worlds, intending to hold the galaxy to ransom, but again they were foiled by the Third Doctor (“Death to the Daleks”). The Daleks subsequently assembled their allies on the planet Kembel in order to plan their attack on Earth (“Mission to the Unknown”), but their crucial weapon – the Time Destructor – was stolen by the First Doctor, who they once again pursued through time (“The Daleks’ Master Plan”).
Two Second Doctor stories apparently fit at this point in the Dalek timeline, with a crashed Dalek ship discovered on the planet Vulcan (“The Power of the Daleks”). The Emperor Dalek then tried to spread the Dalek Factor throughout history, making the human race behave like Daleks; he was stopped by the Second Doctor, who instead gave a number of Daleks the Human Factor and caused a Dalek civil war (“The Power of the Daleks”).
The Daleks entered into a war with an android race known as the Movellans, and they believed they needed an advantage – Davros, their creator, who had been kept in suspended animation all these years (“Destiny of the Daleks”). This seems to have been the time when they realized the Time Lords had interfered with their history, and in “Resurrection of the Daleks” they worked with Davros to use time travel to infiltrate 20th-century Earth with duplicates of influential people, and to assassinate the High Council of the Time Lords on Gallifrey.
Davros subsequently went rogue, creating a new strain of Daleks on the planet Necros (“Revelation of the Daleks”). The two factions of Daleks soon wound up in a civil war, visiting Earth in 1963 in order to acquire the legendary Time Lord weapon the Hand of Omega. Davros was tricked by the Seventh Doctor into using the Hand of Omega to destroy Skaro, although the planet was saved when the Daleks rewrote history using their time travel technology (“Remembrance of the Daleks”).
This led to the Time War, a conflict between the Daleks and the Time Lords that set all of history ablaze. The final battle of the Time War was fought over Gallifrey itself, and it would have led to the planet’s destruction if not for the interference of multiple incarnations of the Doctor. Gallifrey was banished into a bubble universe, and the Dalek fleet was apparently destroyed (“The Day of the Doctor”).
The Doctor has often likened Daleks to cockroaches, and they were able to endure the Time War. A lone Dalek that survived the Time War was discovered on 21st century Earth but committed suicide when its genes were rendered impure (“Dalek”). The Dalek Emperor survived, and attempted to create a new Dalek army, but was defeated by the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler (“Bad Wolf,” “The Parting of the Ways”). But the most significant survivors were the Cult of Skaro, four Daleks who had been hidden away in a Void sphere between realities as a failsafe against destruction, and who emerged on 21st-century Earth (“Doomsday”).
The Cult of Skaro went to shocking lengths to restore their race, creating a human-Dalek hybrid (“Daleks in Manhattan,” “Evolution of the Daleks”); one of them, Dalek Caan, ultimately managed to travel back into the heart of the Time War to rescue Davros. And Davros built a new generation of Daleks, who intended to destroy all of creation with a Reality Bomb (“The Stolen Earth,” “Journey’s End”).
Three of Davros’ Daleks used a device called the Progenitor to successfully spawn a new Dalek paradigm (“Victory of the Daleks”), and it was not long before a new Dalek Empire spanned the stars, even allying with other races in an alliance to trap the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”). They rebuilt Skaro, and the Doctor first got a real sense of the scale of their new empire when they ensnared him to send him on a mission to the Dalek Asylum (“Asylum of the Daleks”). When the Daleks realized the Time Lords may be about to return, they laid siege to Trenzalore to prevent it, along with many other races (“The Time of the Doctor”).
The Twelfth Doctor’s various encounters with the Daleks mostly slot into the timeline at this point, with his causing a damaged Dalek to malfunction and declare war on its own race (“Into the Dalek,” “Twice Upon A Time”). But the Doctor’s final encounter with the main Dalek race in terms of their own chronology is apparently the two-party story “The Magician’s Apprentice” and “The Witch’s Familiar,” in which Davros tricked the Doctor into returning to Skaro once again.