Doctor Who #682: Remembrance of the Daleks Part 4

"The Daleks shall become Lords of Time! We shall become all--" "Powerful. Crush the lesser races. Conquer the galaxy. Unimaginable power. Unlimited rice pudding, et cetera, et cetera."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.26 1988.

IN THIS ONE... Davros has taken the Hand of Omega, but the Doctor programmed it to destroy Skaro's sun and the mother ship.

REVIEW: I won't call Part 4 disappointing, because it's really not, but it does have an awful lot of sequences with Daleks shooting at each other, which I find a lot less interesting than flesh and blood characters doing and saying things, despite the participation of the special weapons Dalek, a roving tank that's more turret than Dalek. The little girl getting into the fray in fact creates better "battle moments" as she zaps Ratcliffe and Mike, the latter with so much force it destroys the stairs' bannister in his mum's B&B. And when the Doctor talks the Black Dalek into self-destructing (a weaker moment because it comes off as slightly absurd, with the Dalek dancing on its heels on the uneven pavement), that little girl FREAKS OUT like something out of a possession film. It's incredible effective.

So let's talk about these characters. The Doctor is in excellent form, of course, facing off against a less-human-than-ever Davros, mocking his power lust with one of his most iconic speeches (above; the trick to a good 7th Doctor speech is ending your list with a mundane, every day element), but also playing on the despot's incredible ego. It's just reverse-psychology, but Davros is so convinced of his own superiority, it works believably. He uses the Hand of Omega to, he thinks, turn Skaro's sun into a power source (à la the Eye of Harmony), but it instead destroys the system the Daleks had just reclaimed (uh-oh, see Theories). That sounds incredibly harsh - what about the Thals?! (see Versions for one answer) - and by the ending, a funeral not a celebration despite the story's Anniversary stylings, you'll have forgotten this Doctor was ever a spoon-playing clown. (And yet, there's a fun bit of business with his umbrella stuck in the shuttle door, but you can't take the McCoy out of the Doctor completely.)

Ace boils the Dalek civil war down to a case of racist blobs, which is pretty amusing, but is otherwise relegated to feeling betrayed by Mike and exclaiming "wicked" at the perfect time for the editor to cut to something that is. The guest cast tends to disappear in all the action, especially Gilmore, though Rachel and Allison are in the background thinking about retirement or wondering how all of this works. Mike could have escaped to seek redemption, but sadly, that would be too simple and cartoony. He rallies back to Ratcliffe's cause and is killed while threatening Ace at gunpoint. That's perhaps a more fitting end for him, and thus endeth the comparison to Mike Yates.

THEORIES: It's not clear when the destruction of Skaro occurs, since it's specifically said to be in a time zone different from 1963. The presumption is that it's in Davros' time, although he's undergone a lot of body mods since last we saw him, so that could be a long time after Revelation of the Daleks. Then again, the Dalek civil war is still going on. We should remember the Dalek/Movellan stalemate though, which implies two Dalek factions would have similar trouble out-thinking each other, so this conflict too could have been going on for ages. The reason I'm even trying to figure this out is that Evil of the Daleks, the so-called "final end" of the Daleks occurred on Skaro in an unspecified future. How can it be destroyed before then? There are various possible answers. The simplest is that it was not the final end and that some Daleks escaped to fight another day. Mission to the Unknown does mention that Daleks have been inactive for a thousand years or more, which could indicate the need to rebuild before The Daleks' Master Plan happens in the 41st century. Alternately, it WAS the final end, and Davros is using time travel to reclaim Skaro after Dalek civilization was destroyed in Evil. Or, and in light of the new series, this theory has gained momentum, Skaro's destruction is part of the Time War, so not only planetary Armageddon, but also a corruption of the Daleks' timeline. My evidence? Davros talks about wanting to attack Gallifrey, and Daleks in Manhattan mentions Skaro was a casualty of the War. The only question that remains is whether the War was already ongoing (from Genesis of the Daleks on) or if the Doctor just then declared it.

VERSIONS: The original Region 1 release replaced the period songs with generic music, but the Special Edition restores them. Both versions of the DVD include deleted scenes, among which one finds the Doctor paying for his tea with a 1991 coin, Rachel showing silent distaste for Mike's casual prejudice (I love this moment from Pamela Salem), the Doctor healing Ace using pressure points, Dalek voices in the Headmaster's ear, and the Doctor suggesting he's more than a simple Time Lord. The Target novelization includes a prologue featuring the first Doctor, and a lot more backstory for each of the characters. The Doctor has flashbacks about Omega and Rassilon, and hypnotizes Rachel into forgetting the future tech she's seen. Rachel was romantically involved with Gilmore when they were young, and is Jewish. Mike remembers serving in Malaya and being a child in bombed-out London where he was indoctrinated by Ratcliffe. Gilmore's group is specifically named as UNIT's precursor. The Daleks have lots of little servo robots working for them and name their ships. They believe they've finally exterminated the Thals in their "present", and think of the special weapons Dalek as an "Abomination". Ratcliffe impressed Mike with foreknowledge of the Kennedy assassination. The Hand of Omega is semi-sentient and even gets POV scenes. The priest, Rev. Parkinson, was blinded at Verdun, another reference to the war.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Daleks shouting and firing at each other may be fun for the kids, but the episode is best when it sticks to its human(ish) characters.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: High - Wow. A total reinvention of the 7th Doctor, references to the show's history that don't sink to the level of fanwank, and great lines, bits of business, guest characters and revelations in every episode. One of Who's best.

11 comments:

snell said...

I thought the fact that Davros turned out to be the Emperor was a nice twist, given that last time we saw him he was a prisoner and his "new" Daleks destroyed. I always wondered what had happened to bring about a the complete reversal of fortune for both sides...

Timothy Brannan said...

I rather liked this episode myself. It seems to be one of the ones the the new generation of Who gets a lot of mileage from.

Toby'c said...

"the trick to a good 7th Doctor speech is ending your list with a mundane, every day element"

Well, any character can pull that one off (see Arson Murder and Jaywalking at tvtropes.org), and he does it in reverse at one point in Ghost Light (burnt toast).

Still, that speech is one of several dozen reasons why Remembrance of the Daleks will always be a top-fiver from the classic series for me.

Siskoid said...

Snell: Extracanonical sources try to patch the holes. After Revelation, the Dalek ship crashes in Big Finish's The Juggernauts where he tries to build a new cyborg species based on the Mechanoids. The comic strips have him getting tried on Skaro (so he was picked up again, or ignore BF and skip straight there), but before that could happen, the 6th Doctor released a virus and rescued Davros, dropping him on Spiridon where he reconnects with a Dalek force. The Skarosians come back to get him, he blows up the planet, and wakes up in the Emperor mod shell. On to Remembrance. I'm reading off a synopsis, so it doesn't sound like a great explanation.

Tim: It may just be the best bridge between New Whovians and the classic series we have.

Siskoid said...

Toby: Someone on the 'net had made movie posters for each Doctor Who story - I don't remember who or when now - and the poster for THIS story was just a bowl upon bowl of rice pudding. Brilliant.

CiB said...

Personally what I loved about the speech wasn't so much what it said, but that it was really about time the Doctor interrupted Davros mid shout and ridiculed him for his silly shouting.

As for the Thals- I'm of the opinion that sooner or later the Daleks would have exterminated them totally. As the Daleks "grew up" to the point of feeling ready to take on the Time Lords, it seems unlikely they wouldn't have destroyed the (comparably) weak Thals by then.

Also, I seem to recall in one novel the Doctor claiming that keeping up with Dalek history was really hard because it keeps changing. I always got the impression that once they got time travel they weren't hugely responsible about it (and probably would try to "undo" all of their previous "final ends"- which would explain why despite having had a "final end" in the Evil of the Daleks, the Time Lords still perceive them as a potential threat worth destroying preemptively in Genesis.)

Siskoid said...

The Daleks are definitely the reason the Time Lords think it's a bad idea for anyone but them to have time travel, of course, they tried to corrupt the Dalek timeline too, so (pepper)pots and kettles. It makes sense for these to be the opposing sides in the Time War.

snell said...

The extra-canonical explanation seems a wee bit convoluted. easier to believe his pulled another reversal on his captors a LA Resurrection...

LiamKav said...

The twist with Davros works especially well, because they've already done the tease in the earlier episode with the girl in the command chair.

Two thoughts: The Doctor becomes a mass-murderer in this episode. You could try and argue that it's Davros that does it, but the Doctor masterminded the whole thing and is responsible for the death of millions of sapient beings.

And possibly related to that point, notice that he doesn't go into the Church at the end.

LiamKav said...

I also always thought it was a shame that after keeping the same four Dalek bodies going since the very first episode (with a lot of repair work in between), they finally spring for some new Dalek bodies, and it's the final time they get used!

(I quite like the Imperial Daleks designs. Like the 2005 new-Who design, they realised that the basic form was pretty perfect, and it just needed a couple of tweaks, such as the slots on the suction arm to make it look, well, less like a suction arm.)

Siskoid said...

Mass murder: Ergo, all the time war guilt 2 incarnations down. He can comfort himself by thinking that he did tell Davros "Please Davros, don't use the Hand!"

 

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