Doctor Who #681: Remembrance of the Daleks Part 3

"It works. It works!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.19 1988.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor lets the Daleks get the Hand of Omega.

REVIEW: Aaronovitch (and Cartmell) are brazenly toying with the Doctor's identity here, and it's really kind of glorious. We've had Doctors who kept things too close to the vest before, most notably Troughton's, but when it's revealed this Doctor WANTED the Daleks to find the Hand of Omega, his secrets hit a whole other level. The Doctor is such a grand manipulator that his fear that he might have miscalculated is actually considered a viable cliffhanger. We're used to seeing him build gadgets on the fly (like this episode's glitter gun), but here he's laying traps, infiltrating one of the Dalek HQs, manipulating the military so they don't get hurt (there's still a good old-fashioned UNIT-style killing), mentoring Ace, and showing he's way ahead of the villains, all in the span of a single episode. And yet, there's always a variable he could not predict - in this case, a second Dalek faction - and that provides him with a weakness and us with some tension. The best laid plans of Lords and men... Other examples of the script toying with the Doctor's identity include an usual slip of the tongue that makes him a contemporary of Omega's (see Theories), the tombstone under which the Hand is buried marked with the LOWER case Greek letter Omega, which looks like a "w" (a coincidence), and his leaving, for the first and only time, a calling card with a stylized "?" on it. I know this annoys a lot of people, but it's a fun piece of business. He's basically trolling his greatest enemies who by now recognize the symbol as his.

Ace, as audience identification figure, gets to chase the Doctor around as require answers from him. Without her, we'd be a little lost. Just look at Rachel for a contrast. The Liz figure is pretty frustrated that her world has been turned upside down (shades of Liz's first meeting with the Brigadier) and that she's not getting a whole lot of answers (despite her and Allison being rather competent as action scientists). Somewhere in there, she finds the time to get asked out by Mike. Of course, he's soon proven to be a snake in the grass who's sold them out to the Daleks.

Though the Daleks don't make an impressive showing, shakily trundling down alleys and getting blown up, their gear is pretty sweet. The mother ship bridge set is big and neon cool. The practical shuttle makes a real landing with lots of wind and wires that could pass as antennae. The Emperor Dalek looks like a ball, just like in the Dalek comic strip. And I like the inversion of power after Ratcliffe talks about how people need a leader, intimating he's that kind of leader, only to realize he's been taking orders from the creepy little girl, whose imagination has been slaved to a Dalek battle computer. You were never the chosen one, Ratcliffe.

THEORIES: That brief moment in which the Doctor says "we" had problems with the Hand's prototype, then corrects it to "they" (as if to say "we, the Time Lords") has been used in the spin-off fiction (notably in the novel Lungbarrow) to justify the creation of "The Other", an ancient Time Lord who was a contemporary of Omega and Rassilon and who wound up throwing himself in the "looms" (the Time Lord genetic banks) from which he was reincarnated as the Time Lord we know as the first Doctor, millions(?) of years later. If you accept the controversial idea of the "looms", which are only ever mentioned in the spin-offs even if it appears all this "Other" stuff was part of Cartmell's plan for the character, you would also accept that at least SOME incarnations of the Doctor have (unusually, according to Lungbarrow) access to some of the Other's memories. This could be why the first Doctor brought the Hand to Earth (could it even have been stolen and thus the impetus for his escape from Gallifrey?). One could even say the Other's mind comes and goes, and has only recently been brought to the surface so the Doctor could take care of the Web of Time. The mastermind Doctor could be the Other, overwhelming the more clownish incarnation McCoy played in Season 24. This "personality" could even be responsible for the sixth Doctor's death. Think about it.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Keeps you guessing as far as the Doctor's plans are, which is its own kind of suspense.


Madeley said...

A rare case of not only a good Part 3 of 4, but an even rarer case of Part 3 Is the Best Part, to my mind.

Siskoid said...

Oooh big words!

I haven't (re)watched Part 4 yet, so I can't actually call it. I do seem to have a softer spot for Part 1s in general though, when it's all set-up, shiny and new and before the screw it all up.


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