Doctor Who – Know thy Enemy – Top Questions about the Daleks answered!

All too often do you see fans of Doctor Who nitpick the show to no end. I do it myself, as anyone who has read any of my previous articles will know. However, certain aspects of Doctor Who lore are often criminally misunderstood by both general viewers and die-hard fans alike, leading to pointless discussion or criticism that is based on simple misunderstandings. To keep things simple, I’m going to focus this article on just questions relating to the Daleks, but any more I do in the future will certainly branch out to other aspects of the show. So here are my answers to the most common questions and criticisms about the Doctor’s most feared enemy – the Daleks.

Why do the Daleks always shout ‘Exterminate?’ rather than just shoot people on sight?

This is a question you hear all too often about the Daleks. In the lore, the Daleks are supposed to be intergalactic mass-murders who destroy cities, fleets of warships and sometimes even entire worlds in their spare time, and yet when you see them on-screen they appear to dawdle and get caught up screaming ‘Exterminate’ over and over again rather than actually just shoot people. Why is that?

Well, for a start, that isn’t necessarily the case 100% of the time. There are plenty of examples of Daleks shooting on sight, mostly to kill nameless characters or anyone not relevant to the plot. You could say then that the real explanation for the Daleks’ inconsistent behaviour is due to a classic case of plot armour – the Daleks can’t just shoot the Doctor, because then there’d be no Doctor Who, and wouldn’t that be a tragedy.

In-lore, however, there are actually two other possible explanations for this, the first makes its appearance in The Witches’ Familiar, in which Missy finally explains why the Daleks shout ‘Exterminate’ all the time – their weapons channel hatred, and their battle cry is how they reload. It’s an interesting concept, and it’s great that it comes from Missy – the Doctor would be much more likely to try and explain the Daleks’ ways in a more philosophical sense, whereas Missy just gets to the technical ins-and-outs. This not only provides a great insight into how Dalek technology functions (as well as perhaps paying homage to the psycho-kinetic mobility systems that are explored in their very first episode, The Daleks) but it also covers for several instances in Dalek episodes in which they seem to get stuck like a broken record, shouting ‘Exterminate’ over and over again until some convenient plot device comes in to save whoever is in danger (usually the Doctor).

The second explanation for this is slightly more simple, and relates to a concept that, for better or worse, is introduced in Asylum of the Daleks, which relates to how the Daleks view the concept of hatred itself. The Daleks admire anything that can hate as much as they can, and since the Doctor hates the Daleks, they actually admire him for it. Not only that, but they work themselves up into a frenzy over it – imagine each Dalek who tries to kill the Doctor agonising internally over whether or not to kill their greatest enemy, or spare him simply because of the raw untapped hatred that festers within. This can count for any hate-filled species, which might also explain the Daleks’ initial poor luck in their war against the Movellans – but we’ll get to that later.

Why were the Daleks set back by 1,000 years in Genesis of the Daleks, when all the Doctor did was blow up some fish tanks and collapse a corridor?

This one is interesting, to say the least. In Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor fails in his mission to destroy the Daleks before they are even created, but he does achieve one small victory – he manages to destroy their embryonic growth tanks, and also destroy the one entrance into the Dalek bunker, effectively trapping them inside. But he then says that he estimates that these two actions have stunted Dalek development by a thousand years, which seems unlikely, particularly given their persistent nature. So why is this?

Essentially, it comes down to a cascading effect, and also relates to the death of Davros. In destroying the Dalek embryo tanks, the Doctor wipes out all of the Daleks growing inside, and also destroys their means of reproduction. Since the Daleks also kill Davros, their creator, as well as all the other Kaleds, they have no means of procreating, and basically have to start from scratch. Given the limited resources available, it’s a small wonder that the Daleks don’t just die out there and then, and having to rebuild a delicate and precise genetics laboratory with no arms is no simple task.

Why do the Daleks always seem to lose, when they have such a fearsome reputation?

Another common criticism of the Daleks is that they lose too much. I can definitely get behind that, it would be nice to see some proper Dalek victories on screen, even if it does blow the entire BBC CGI budget for that year. Whilst the obvious answer to this question is that ‘if the Daleks won all the time, there would be no show’, I like to look for potential lore explanation for problems like this rather than just take the easy option, so let’s break this down.

The Daleks aren’t invincible, even if they don’t realise it, and despite this, there is plenty of evidence on-screen to suggest that they have conquered a significant portion of the galaxy. We see humans in conflict with Daleks in the future in plenty of classic Doctor Who episodes, and we also see the Daleks subjugating alien races too, like the Thals, the Aridians and the Exxilons. We see an example of a Dalek prison camp in Destiny of the Daleks, giving us an idea of how the Daleks treat the residents of the planets that they conquer. But they never actually manage to destroy the human race. In The Parting of the Ways, the humans on Satellite 5 know of the Daleks from legend, but claim that they ‘died out’ thousands of years ago, relative to their time period of 200,100, obviously to fight in the Time War.

So the Daleks are spread out across the Galaxy, fighting what is essentially a war with infinite fronts – it is in their nature to attempt to destroy everything that they encounter, which is no easy task, even for them. And then you must take into account the instances where, by pure fluke, the Dalek expanse was halted or reversed, such as the Movellans devious virus, the Dalek Civil Wars, or their mass exodus out of time and space to throw all of their resources at Gallifrey’s planetary shield at the conclusion of the Time War. If the Daleks hadn’t suffered these setbacks, judging by what we have already seen on-screen, there is no doubt that they would have conquered the Galaxy.

Why do the Daleks change their appearance over time, when they regard themselves as the pinnacle of all evolution?

Again, the real-life answer for the Daleks’ changing appearance is due to the evolution of the BBC’s production values and materials, similarly to how the Borg in Star Trek change their appearance over time despite existing in their original form for millions of years. In-universe, the Borg appear to adapt when they encounter a race that benefits them, and the same can be said for the Daleks.

As far as the casings are concerned, the Daleks undoubtedly incorporate new materials and techniques into their design as they encounter them, such as the Metalert that was accidentally discovered and absorbed by the Dalek scientist Zeg, which was later used to create the casing for Dalek Sec. Although the Daleks constantly view themselves as supreme, they are not above altering certain aspects of their design when they feel that it was make themselves even more ‘supreme’.

As far as the actual physical appearance of the mutant is concerned, there is a simple in-universe explanation for this as well, although it requires some explanation. Although the Daleks central philosophy is maintaining their own genetic ‘purity’, their physical form does mutate over time. This stands to reason, as they were created using nuclear radiation, and it is very possible that by the time the Daleks go off to fight the Time War, they are practically a different species to the Daleks we see in the city on Skaro. This is proven by the alterations to the Dalek physical form that we see in Remembrance of the Daleks and The Parting of the Ways. One thing that is clear, however, is that following Victory of the Daleks, the Dalek Empire has returned to its original, ‘pure-bred’ state after surviving for years as half-mad hybrids or derivations, which the new Daleks dramatically destroy in the climax of that episode.

Why would a race like the Daleks ever fight a Civil War?

Speaking of Remembrance, that episode and its two predecessors, Resurrection and Revelation, introduce a fascinating new aspect to Dalek lore, and that is the concept of an all-out Dalek Civil War. It seems odd that a race as single-minded and fanatically loyal as the Daleks would ever fight such a war, since Dalek rebellions or dissent among the ranks are unheard of given their nature. But the seeds for this idea were sowed as far back as Evil of the Daleks, in which the Second Doctor causes a civil war to break out in the Dalek city on Skaro by infecting a significant portion of the Daleks with the ‘Human Factor’, making them able to express emotion and question orders.

In terms of the actual full-scale Civil War to follow, however, one must look to Destiny of the Daleks for the first stages of the answer. The Movellans, who are able to effectively combat the Daleks due to their development of a synthetic virus which is the only disease which affects them, reduce the Dalek Empire to rubble overnight, cutting dozens of Dalek holdouts off from each other, which continue to exist even after the Movellans are eventually wiped out. Cut off from the main Empire, and believing themselves to be the only survivors, these Daleks go on to adapt and change for the same reasons discussed earlier, leading to several splinter factions who regard all of the other factions of Daleks as inferior.

And then Davros gets thrown into the mix, and he takes this a step further by actually creating Daleks from different template species, such as humans, and also altering the Dalek base design by incorporating far more cybernetic elements to make them obedient to him, basically creating a race of Daleks that are more machine than organic. The result is a Dalek Civil War on many fronts, with many factions, that lasts for centuries as the main Dalek Empire focuses on wiping out all of the smaller splinter factions, which they consider to be an affront to their existence. It is even implied in Remembrance that the Daleks hate non-pure Daleks more than they hate humans, which certainly explains why they get so caught up in constant in-fighting rather than focusing on destroying humanity.

And finally, arguably the most pressing question of all…

Why do the Daleks have a toilet plunger?

Ah, the quirks of 1960s prop design. I suppose the idea of a totally inhuman appendage that defies our understanding and is made of the most terrifying substance known to man – rubber – must have scared people back then. In truth, the toilet plunger is a bit of a weird choice to have opposite the gunstick, and I’m frankly amazed that it has been retained, particularly in the new series. The Americans did away with the plunger for their Daleks, instead preferring a more sinister silver claw, but we Brits like to stick to our guns – or, rather, cleaning utensils.

In fairness, the revival did wonders for actually trying to make this appendage seem scary – it looks less like a toilet plunger with its detail, but still retains the same shape, and it is revealed in Dalek that it can not only morph to fit around panels and buttons to use a an actual manipulator, but it can also form a tight seal around a human’s face to suffocate them to death and also apply enough force to crush a man’s skull like it was polystyrene.

The in-lore explanation for the manipulator arm, as it is officially named, is that it is a catch-all device for performing as many tasks as possible with one standard attachment. The problem with the Daleks having a claw is that this is a recognisable human shape, a hand, and that detracts from the Daleks’ most chilling aspect which is their utterly unapologetic non-humanness. When one takes into account the fact that it can change shape, it actually makes a lot of sense, especially since the Daleks aren’t likely to carry spare tools around with them. It also doubles as a scanner, a brainwave-extractor, a tea-tray-carrier and, if the situation requires it, it can make quite an effective close-range weapon for ripping people’s faces off. I think I’d prefer a quick extermination, thanks.

So there we have it, the most pressing questions about the Daleks, finally answered. I hope you learned something, and maybe this explains some of those nagging doubts you had about the nation’s favourite genocidal cyborg warrior-race. Thanks for reading, and expect more articles like this soon!

Opinion Piece: Time and Rose Tyler – Russell’s biggest problem

I recently wrote an article essentially slamming David Tennant’s Doctor for his out-of-character moments that really throw me off the Ten-love bandwagon, and I stand by everything that I said in that rant. However, I feel like there is another aspect to his era of Doctor Who that actually makes me dislike Russell’s era even more, and that is the character of Rose Tyler.
Again, I would like to reiterate that I’m not writing these articles with the intent of being a hater – quite the opposite in fact. I merely want to balance the books, so to speak, in that there are a hugely disproportionate number of people who seem to view Tennant’s era as the best era Doctor Who has to offer, and I firmly believe that this attitude is damaging to Doctor Who as a whole. There is so much more to Doctor Who than the years 2005-2010, and I know that a lot of Tennant fans do know this – there is nothing wrong with liking Tennant’s era, I grew up with Tennant as ‘My Doctor’, and his era will always hold a special nostalgic place in my heart as a result, but unlike a lot of sickening Doctor/Rose shippers I am not blind to the facts, and here they are.

Rose was an awful person and she had a terrible influence on the Doctor.

First of all, let’s discuss Mickey for a bit, remember him? The guy who probably had to buy a special brand of soap just to account for the amount of shitty ends of sticks he was handed throughout the course of Russell’s era? Rose essentially dumps him in the very first episode, despite the fact that he did absolutely nothing wrong, and proceeds to ruin his life. Yes, she does.
When Rose left with the Doctor at the end of the first episode, ‘Rose’, (seriously, Davies?) a quirk in the TARDIS navigation system causes her to be returned to her estate one year after she left, and in the meantime, things had gone sour for poor old Mickey. He was blamed for her disappearance, he was questioned by police on no less than 4 occasions, and Jackie even organised a hate campaign against him (no, I’m serious, look it up) and this is never properly explained, Rose never apologises, and she continues to act like Mickey is still her annoying baggage even after he proves his worth and helps save the day at the end of the Parting of the Ways. Just look at her reaction to Mickey asking to join the TARDIS crew at the end of School Reunion, she strops like a spoiled child when realistically she should be paying Mickey back for the year of hell that she put him through. No wonder he decides to stay in another universe.

But now we have to turn to the character of Rose herself. And whilst her initial development with the Ninth Doctor was interesting, particularly with the recurring theme of the Doctor showing her a better way of looking at the world and her learning how to deal with problems as a result, the long story short is that after Series 1 Rose gets no positive character development at all during her time as a companion. In fact, it seems as though she actually degenerates as a character throughout Series 2, although there are some odd little bits about her character from Series 1 that could be overlooked at the time, but now with hindsight seem to be signs of what was to come. Let us never forget that the massacre of the 200 or more GeoComTex staff in Dalek was Rose’s fault. The Dalek itself actually says this to her, and yet she seemingly feels no remorse for what has happened despite the fact that she instigated the whole thing, and the Doctor seems to completely overlook this. And, to be honest, I overlook this too. After all, she only helped the Dalek out of mercy, something that the Doctor would appreciate, and for the most part she had no idea what was going on and so therefore can’t be blamed. Series 1 era Rose gets a free pass as far as I’m concerned.

But then we get to Series 2, and all the charming, likeable traits of Rose rot and drop off revealing the narcissistic and selfish creature beneath. For a start, let’s address the elephant in the room and get that out of the way, and that is the Doctor and Rose’s romance that plagued Series 2 and most of Russell’s era from the minute it was first hinted at. I’m going to be brutally honest here and say that their relationship is frankly disturbing, particularly since she is only meant to be 19, and he is over 900, and I question why the Doctor reciprocates her feelings for him, especially since all of this occurs when Rose is at her absolute worst as a character. She drops everything else in her life for the Doctor, even her own mother, to the extent that in Army of Ghosts Jackie predicts that after 20 or 30 years traveling with the Doctor, Rose would have become a totally unrecognisable person. This is not healthy, and it certainly isn’t something the Doctor would condone, but he genuinely seems to love Rose back and I dread to think what the show would have become if they’d have actually carried out this idea. The character of the Doctor was almost totally derailed as a result of this romance, and he continues to mention Rose throughout Series 3 to the extent that she totally overshadows Martha, a character who is much more likeable at this stage.

And then we get to how Rose treats other characters in the show. We’ve already discussed Mickey, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The episode that really hammers home the extent to which Rose has deteriorated as a character is School Reunion. To say that I have a love-hate relationship with this episode is an understatement, I’d argue that it’s one of the few Doctor Who episodes that I cannot rank, because there are elements of this episode that are totally amazing (i.e. K-9, Anthony Head, Liz Sladen), and then other elements (i.e. nonsensical plot, child acting, and Rose) that make it almost impossible for me to watch nowadays without biting down on a wet flannel. Here’s my working:
When Sarah Jane Smith left the Doctor in The Hand of Fear, it was not entirely on her own terms. She was essentially booted out of the TARDIS due to an important errand the Doctor had to go on for the Time Lords, and this meant that she would have to be returned home. Although Sarah Jane had threatened to leave the TARDIS prior due to poor living conditions, she never expected the Doctor to actually make good of her threat and so she is, understandably, rather taken aback – but she takes it in her stride, because she is a strong and forward-thinking character, and leaves with a heartwarming farewell, only to find that the Doctor has dropped her miles from home, which she laughs off as she walks off into, presumably, a new life where she can put what she has learned through her time with the Doctor to good use to make the world a better place.
Except no, according to School Reunion, she actually then goes off to mope over the Doctor for 30 years over how he ruined her life and how nothing can ever top travelling with him so she might as well just give up and live as a hermit. (What? This isn’t Rose we’re talking about here Russell, did you get those two mixed up?)

So after that bombshell, Sarah Jane goes on to try and make amends with the Doctor but her attempts are confounded by Rose and her bitchy attitude to an ‘old girlfriend’ of the Doctor’s showing up to cramp her style. The Doctor even has to take Rose outside and explain the entire concept of the pantheon of companions to her like she is a six year old child, and she still doesn’t understand or accept the fact that other people are important in the Doctor’s life aside from her. This is a recurring theme in Series 2 for Rose – she reacts with childish jealousy to any other woman that the Doctor even looks at. Madame de Pompadour, Sarah Jane, even a random waitress at Parallel Pete’s party, all played for laughs even though it does irreparable damage to her character. Rose seems to think that she is the centre of the Doctor’s universe, and the worst thing is, he lets her keep thinking that. Rose has a terrible influence on the Doctor as a character, essentially derailing any chance David Tennant had at redeeming his performance after already turning him into a lovesick megalomaniac. And why does he even like her so much anyway? When Adam Mitchell got booted off the TARDIS in The Long Game, the Doctor says ‘I only take the best, like Rose’. But in the very next episode, Rose nearly rips time apart by selfishly ignoring the Doctor’s instructions and attempting to save Pete from a predetermined death, which almost ends up with both the Doctor and the TARDIS being wiped from existence, and that’s okay? Alright, sorry Series 1 era Rose, no free pass for you.

So then we get to Doomsday, and Rose’s inevitable departure. Rather than redeeming her character by letting her put everything she has learned with the Doctor to use in some big heroic sacrifice as she does in Series 1, she gets ejected into a parallel universe after messing up what should be the simplest thing ever, pulling a lever. And this leaves the Doctor to mope over her for an entire series after burning up a sun, an entire stellar body, just so he can almost say ‘I love you’. (Russell, I don’t know what fanfiction you think you’re writing here, but I’ve read Doctor/Davros ship stories that do the character of the Doctor more justice than this tripe). Speaking of fanfiction, why do so many people think that the ultimate point of Doctor Who is that the Doctor needs to go back for Rose? Not content with leaving, she managed to come back in The Stolen Earth only to be subsequently abandoned (again) with a… human version of the Tenth Doctor that she can just be with forever. (Russell, are you ill? Is this a cry for help?) Rose gets to be one of the few companions in the history of the show to get a big dramatic comeback, isn’t that enough? And the worst thing is, everyone still loves her. She was even once voted the greatest woman in the entire show. Sorry Romana, sorry Zoe, sorry Sarah Jane, sorry Donna – guess even after all fantastic things you have all done for the show as positive role models for women, the fact that Rose weely wuvs the Doctor supersedes any positive traits you could possess.

So overall, that’s Rose Tyler for you. And yes, of course, I’m talking in huge generalisations here – as is the nature of Doctor Who, there are plenty of episodes in which Rose is great as a character and as a companion (most of them being episodes that weren’t written by Russell, I might add) but overall her character is, to sum it up in one word, overrated. If she had left at the end of Series 1 after her Bad Wolf arc was completed then I would have nothing but fond memories of her but, as is the case with a more recent narcissistic control-freak of a companion that I could mention, she definitely overstayed her welcome. Fight me, Doctor/Rose shippers.

Continue reading “Opinion Piece: Time and Rose Tyler – Russell’s biggest problem”

‘The Man Who Never Would’ – The unpopular truth about the Tenth Doctor

David Tennant’s Doctor is, without doubt, one of the most popular Doctors of all time. You would be hard pressed to find a ranking of the Doctors that doesn’t have Ten in at least the top three, if not the top two, and it’s not hard to see why. David Tennant took over as the Doctor at the most opportune moment – Christopher Eccleston’s first series of NuWho brought Doctor Who back in a big way, and so when Tennant came along the show already had a huge following, and it certainly helped that he had the likeable charisma and his good looks. The show was never more popular when he was the Doctor, and for a lot of newer fans he holds that special place as ‘My Doctor’, and that’s okay – Tennant was the Doctor for most of my childhood, and I look back on his era of Doctor Who fondly. However, what I and many older fans do not view fondly is that the Tenth Doctor seems to have his own independent rabid fandom – a relatively small group, but not so small that they are unnoticeable, that loved his Doctor so much that they genuinely hope one day he will return, go back for Rose, and then remain as the Doctor forever. They’d happily sacrifice everything that makes Doctor Who what it is for the sake of more Ten/Rose shipping. It may sound sickening, but it is important to remember that these people exist, because the truth about the Tenth Doctor might just shatter those Rose-tinted spectacles.

The Tenth Doctor is a hypocrite who plays God and murders people. And this was established from his very first episode, The Christmas Invasion, in which he sends the leader of an invading race plummeting to his death on the grounds that he is now the kind of man who gives ‘No second chances’. I’m not joking, he actually says that, and he shows no remorse or disdain for what he has done despite claiming to be ‘The Man who Never Would’. Not only that, but he then goes on to outright devastate what he himself described as an important era in human history by deliberately toppling Harriet Jone’s government, despite claiming earlier that it was usher in a new ‘Golden Age’ for Britain. And why does he do this? Well, he does it because he… feels like it?

Okay,in fairness, PM Jones does blow up the alien ship as it’s retreating. The Doctor would not stand for that at all, but honestly, can you blame her? She just witnessed him brutally murdering their leader, and she is charged with defence of this country. And yet the Doctor decides that actually, it’s alright for him to commit uncivilised acts of barbarism but if anyone else tries it, well, guess the entire course of human history has to change! So much for preserving the timelines. And this isn’t even an isolated incident – Tennant’s Doctor seems to love playing God and pretending that he’s some kind of omnipotent warrior prince who goes gallivanting off around the Galaxy leaving a path of total destruction in his wake. Anyone remember when the Doctor was just a dude who had a time machine and liked to save people?

But hold on a second, surely this isn’t fair on Ten. Other Doctors have done weird and sometimes outright cruel things too, like the time when Three murders an Ogron. And who could forget Seven’s obsession with causing a mental breakdown in Ace every other episode? Well, I’ll admit, there are several instances of this in the Classic series, but nowhere near as many as in NuWho, and the thing that gets me about Tennant above all the other Doctors is the level of consistency with which he carries out these deeds. Some of them are just plain weird – like the time he botches the resurrection of Elton Pope’s girlfriend and she ends up half-fused with a paving slab. Or the time following a traumatic attack of a Werewolf that leaves scores of men dead, including the husband of a woman present in the scene, that Rose and the Doctor burst out laughing because Queen Victoria says ‘I am not amused’ and then laugh off the fact that she might have been infected with lycanthropy. Imagine if any other Doctor had had a companion who even tried anything as ridiculous as this, they’d have been booted out of the TARDIS Adam Mitchell style before they could say ‘I don’t want to go’.

But there are other, perhaps even darker aspects to Ten’s personality that, upon reflection, really don’t sit right with anyone – even the creators of the show themselves. There is a reason why mind-wiping has been brought up so consistently in Peter Capaldi’s era, both with Clara and Bill, and it’s because it has occurred to many fans online that Donna’s departure from the show is all kinds of messed up. For context, Donna managed to absorb the Doctor’s mind, thereby becoming as intelligent as he is, at the price of burning up her own mind. To save her, the Doctor decides to wipe her memory, and at the time the scene seemed both poignant and tragic – Donna loses everything she had gained through her time with the Doctor and is cruelly reverted back to her original role as an insufferable caricature. Think about it – Donna had the Doctor’s mind inside hers, and she even says that she understands the consequences of what is happening and insists she wants to stay. She makes the conscious decision to die as who she is rather than go back to being what she was, and the Doctor simply overrules her. He ravages her mind without her consent, even as she is begging him not to. Ten may as well have quoted the Twelve’s insane state and said “The Doctor is no longer here, you are stuck with me! And I will end you and everything you love!”

Ten’s further hypocrisy is also revealed in this very same episode, in which he berates the Meta-Crisis Doctor for destroying all the Daleks, despite the fact that he himself has more blood on his hands than anyone else in the universe, and I’m not even talking about the Time War. Remember that time when the Tenth Doctor senselessly commits genocide against an ancient race of spider people? He floods the Racnoss Queen’s chamber with Thames water and murders all of her children right in front of her, and then finishes her off for good measure. And yet he berates Meta-Man for killing Daleks? It doesn’t stop there. In Human Nature, Ten dooms the Family of Blood to individual and eternal torture methods that separate them and keep them trapped in their own personal hell for all eternity, because they… wanted to live. Admittedly, they were trying to prolong their own lives by stealing his regenerations, but in Journey’s End Ten aborts a regeneration in order to keep his vanity-stricken face the way it is, essentially killing a potential Doctor incarnation so that he can live a bit longer.

And then we come to The End of Time, in which Ten decides he actually enjoys the power trip that being the ‘Last of the Time Lords’ or ‘The Time Lord Victorious’ gives him, and sends all of his own people ‘back into hell’, including, potentially, his own mother. Just think about that for a second. Ten had a gun, he could have shot Rassilon in a way that just made him regenerate – Twelve later does this to the General in Hell Bent, and to those fans who deplore this act as murder, remember that the consequences of Twelve’s actions are laid bare in this episode. The plot can be summed up as: ‘The Doctor breaks his moral codes, and then faces the consequences’. The moral and ethical implications of what he is doing are picked apart, and he is forced to come to terms with the fact that he may not be a good man. The closest Ten gets to an episode like this is The Waters of Mars, and even then, he’s only upset by what he’s done in the end because he thinks it means he’s going to die. He is never truly held to account for his actions, and all of his so-called ‘Children of Time’ (seriously, Davies?) are happy to stand there and let him lord over the lives of ordinary people as the ‘Lonely God’ who slaughters his enemies as he sees fit, but unleashes his rage on anyone who dares to try and emulate him.

So overall, I suppose you’ll be expecting me to denounce Ten as a failure of a Doctor who ruined the show forever. That is not so. Ten may have been a slightly… odd… incarnation of the Doctor, but hey, so was Seven, so was Twelve, and remember that time when Three murdered an Ogron? I’m still not over that. The fact is, Ten is still the Doctor – he still does Doctor-y things, and for the most part in his earlier episodes he stays within the boundaries of who the Doctor should be. But to those who say that he is ‘the one true Doctor’, or ‘The Best Doctor’, or even, God forbid, ‘THE ONLY DOCTOR WORTH WATCHING’, I leave you with this immortal quote from the ‘greatest Doctor ever’ himself:

“Look up genocide, you’ll see a little picture of me there.”

Continue reading “‘The Man Who Never Would’ – The unpopular truth about the Tenth Doctor”

Doctor Who – Will the Daleks return in Series 11?

Doctor Who fans worldwide are once again grappling with an age-old question that every Doctor Who fan asks themselves before a new series airs, and that is: ‘Will the Daleks be in this series?’ Unlike any other of the Doctor’s enemies, the Daleks have appeared in every single series of the revival and so it may seem obvious that they will return… or does it? And if the Daleks do return to antagonise Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and her trio of new companions, will they fill a prominent role? Or will they take to the sidelines? To answer this question, it might be useful to just recap how the Daleks were used by various showrunners throughout Doctor Who’s history.

The Classic era of the show used the Daleks relatively sparingly – in over 150 stories only 16 were dedicated to the Daleks, and that includes both Mission to the Unknown and Frontier in Space. The Daleks were often held back for big reveals and a great deal of effort was put in to keeping surprise appearances a secret, unlike in NuWho. Remembrance of the Daleks even goes to the trouble of using the pseudonym ‘Roy Tromelly’ to hide the presence of actor Terry Molloy in order to keep the eventual reveal of Davros a secret. This sparing use of the Daleks led to long gaps between appearances that would sometimes span as long as 5 years, particularly since Tom Baker’s era has only 2 Dalek episodes out of 41 total. After taking over as showrunner, John-Nathan Turner seemingly limited the Daleks to one appearance per Doctor, either by accident or design, keeping Dalek appearances in the 80s limited. But when the Daleks did appear, fans could be certain the episode in question would be dark, violent and sometimes even horrific.

When crossing over the vast canyon that is the Wilderness Years to the idyllic oasis of NuWho, however, an obvious change in the utilisation of the Daleks in Doctor Who becomes apparent. Russell T. Davies certainly succeeded in revitalising the Daleks with a much-needed redesign and excellent first reveal in Dalek, but after that a pattern seems to emerge. It is worthy of note that there is not a single series of the Davies’ era that does not contain a Dalek two-parter, and whilst this was fantastic for my 10-year old self, this means that the shock factor of a Dalek reveal that was present in the classic series as well as the first series of the revival has now considerably diminished. Russell seemed intent on the Daleks being the ‘big baddies’ of the series, which in itself is a logical direction to take the show in, but it did introduce one significant element to the Daleks that they could definitely have done without – predictability.

It is for this reason that, upon reading the title of this article, a common reaction would probably be “Of course the Daleks are going to return, they always do!” and you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that – Russell even included a line in Evolution of the Daleks in which Dalek Thay states “We always survive.” It’s as if at some point off-screen Russell had turned up in the Dalek base and read them the script for the next series in advance. But Doctor Who has been without Russell T. Davies since 2010, so how has Steven Moffat handled the Daleks in his era of the show?

The answer is, with all due respect to the Moff, that he has handled them badly. Very badly indeed. In 2010, Moffat stated that he intended the Daleks to be ‘retired’ for a few years, in similar fashion to the brief hiatuses of Dalek activity in the late 60s and the late 70s. However, he did not follow up on this promise. Instead what we got was an era of Doctor Who peppered with sparse and meaningless Dalek cameos, and although some of the later ones were done right (as I have discussed further in another article entirely), the end result means that Matt Smith’s era of Doctor Who can be described as ‘almost Dalek-less’, since we don’t talk about Asylum of the Daleks. If Moffat had truly removed the Daleks from the show then as he originally intended, we would have been set for an epic and long-awaited return of the Daleks during Peter Capaldi’s era which would have given Moffat the time necessary to complete the 14 rewrites to the script of Asylum that were necessary to make it watchable, and it might have been good – maybe even awesome.

So this brings us to 2017, and after 7 years of pitiful Dalek appearances, how will Chris Chibnall handle the Daleks? Surely they will at least cameo in the series for the eleventh time in a row? Well, perhaps not. Recent evidence has come to light that suggests that Chibnall may be going Dalek-lite for Series 11, for better or for worse. Following the sacking of longtime Dalek operator Nicholas Pegg for hiding an offensive message in his a column published in Doctor Who Magazine, the BBC claims that Pegg was not due to be involved in Series 11 anyway, and there has still be no news as to whether or not the voice of the Daleks himself, Nicholas Briggs, will be involved either. Could this be a clue suggesting that the Daleks will be absent in Series 11?

Well, probably not. Even if Chris Chibnall is taking the series in a radical new direction, chances are the Daleks will still appear in some form or another, particularly since this series of Doctor Who has proven controversial for some and Chibnall will need to gently convince fans that this is still the same Doctor Who that we know and love by bombarding them with imagery of innocent people slaughtered by alien death machines. For the Daleks to succeed as effective villains it is vital that Chibnall, unlike Moffat, decides on how he wants to use the Daleks and sticks with it – either a Russell-style epic Dalek finale or an extended period of Dalek absence could benefit Terry Nation’s creations, and Chinall certainly has the writing skill. Let’s just hope he puts two and two together to either bring the Daleks back in an epic space-opera style episode that they deserve, or to give them much-needed downtime in preparation for whoever takes the reigns next.

 

 

My Top 5 Scariest Doctor Who Monsters

Doctor Who has a reputation for terrifying children and adults alike for decades, and holds a special place in the hearts of many as a show that can dish out a surprisingly diverse array of horrific creatures for a BBC family-orientated TV show. But for all the creepy creatures that have graced our screens since Doctor Who first aired in 1963 there are but a select few that continue to scare me even to this day. And what better time to showcase these frightful fiends than the spookiest day of the year! So let’s get started:

Number 5 – The Weeping Angels

No list of scariest Doctor Who monsters would be complete without Moffat’s Lonely Assassins, who’s debut episode Blink is now considered to be one of the scariest (and also one of the best) episodes of Doctor Who of all time. Had that been their only appearance, the Weeping Angels might have ranked a bit higher on this list, since their frightful abilities and ominous presence made them the perfect standalone villain for a particularly unorthodox episode. Their only drawback is that with frequent reappearances the fear factor of the Angels has been reduced somewhat, particularly due to the fact that their abilities seemed to change from appearance to appearance. Moffaaaat!

Number 4 – The Silents

I promise this will be the last Moffat monster. Maybe. Despite their confusing arc that baffled fans for the majority of Matt Smith’s run, the Silents (Silence? Silents?) have to make this list simply because I have vivid memories of the aftermath of seeing The Impossible Astronaut – The Silents made an impact on me, that much is certain. I was staying at a family friend’s house at the time, and the unfamiliar environment I was in coupled with the Silent’s unique memory-altering traits meant that I was doubting myself for days, and constantly doing double-takes to see if I had actually caught a glimpse of one of the creepy-looking creatures in a mirror or down a dark corridor. So the Silents did exactly what a scary Doctor Who monster should do – they left a lasting impression.

Number 3 – The Mondasian Cybermen

This may be a slightly odd entry given that this is a monster from the 1960s, but I have always found the Mondasian Cybermen creepy as heck. Even though its pretty obvious that the costumes are made of cloth and plastic, there’s just something about the faces of these original Cybermen that makes them scarier than all of the other variants – personally I find the soulless, staring blank eyes and the perpetually expressionless mouth to be sinister enough, but when they talk, they don’t even move their mouths – it just opens. And then there’s the way they actually talk – their monotonous voices are just a little less robotic than later versions of the Cybermen, and yet the way they put emphasis on the wrong words in every sentence really makes it seem as though these creatures are no longer human. They may toe the line between scary and ludicrous, but after some suspension of disbelief they are perfectly chilling.

Number 2 – The Empty Child

I couldn’t do it, I know that’s the third Moffat monster on this list, but what can I say? The man knows how to scare people, and there aren’t many Doctor Who episodes scarier than the 2005 two-parter The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. In fact I often consider these two episodes to be the scariest episodes of Doctor Who of all time – this may seem confusing since the child himself is only second on the list, but I’ll explain later. Undoubtedly the creepiest thing about the Empty Child is the purported innocence with which he goes about on his killing spree – not only does he appear as a desperate child crying out for his mother, he also possesses the ability to manipulate seemingly innocent household objects to broadcast his cries for help, creating a truly chilling scene in which the Doctor is accosted on all sides by the child’s whimpering calls – all whilst the Empty Child’s silhouette lingers at the window. This, coupled with the iconic World War II setting, makes The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances truly spooky.

Honourable Mention: The Clockwork Robots

These guys are creepy, there’s no denying that. Again, another Moffat villain, but the Clockwork Robots, scary though they are, seem to me to be a slight re-invention of a classic Doctor Who monster that, to me, could be the scariest monster of all time, and that is…

Number 1 – The Autons

Well I did say could be the scariest, and I mean that literally – the Autons could well be the scariest monster Doctor Who has produced, it’s just that they’ve never really been used effectively in that way in the handful of episodes in which they have appeared, either in NuWho or Classic Who. And yes, there are a few token scenes in Doctor Who in which the Autons do have some pretty chilling moments – the horrendous plastic doll assassin created by the Master in Terror of the Autons springs immediately to mind, as does a brief scene in Rose. Interestingly enough, this scene in Rose is almost exactly what I would want from an episode that used the Autons properly, since they are doing what they do best – being disguised as plastic shop dummies and doing generally creepy things. For me, nothing is creepier than a mannequin and the Autons are basically just mannequins that are alive, evil, and are very good at staying still when you’re looking. In a way the Autons need to be almost like a cross between the Clockwork Robots and the Weeping Angels – able to blend in to their environment, stand stock-still to avoid detection, and then striking with robotic and merciless efficiency. If an episode of Doctor Who could write the Autons in this way and truly seize their creepy potential, then it could well be one of the creepiest episodes of the show to date.

So there we have it, the spookiest of the spookiest that the pantheon of Doctor Who monsters has to offer – and yes, there are dozens of other scary creatures that didn’t make this list, either because I don’t find them as scary as other people do or because I find other monsters scarier. Indeed, there are many Doctor Who monsters that do not appear that scary on the surface but, if you think about it, are actually quite horrifying. The good news there is that there is no shortage of scary episodes to enjoy on Halloween!

 

 

Action Man – Robot Atak – Why am I watching this again?

So this is something a little different, I’m posting more of a review/analysis of this quirky little animated ‘mini-movie’ for the simple reason that my sister and I watched this recently out of pure nostalgia since we first saw it years ago as children, and there was just so much I wanted to talk about, so don’t take this one too seriously and let’s analyse this masterpiece.

So the rather oddly titled ‘Action Man – Robot Atak’ (with a seemingly deliberate spelling mistake) begins with a nice few shots of a man, presumably Action Man, on his motorbike speeding through the city. So far, so good, at least until Action Man decides to careen through the window of a bald, weirdly animated gangling professor (Who is not Doctor Gangrene). As it happens, all is not quite as it seems, since Action Man speaks in a voice that sounds like an actor for an Orc from The Lord of the Rings is doing an impression of what he thinks a half-Russian, half-Cockney person might sound like. It turns out that Action Man is actually a villain in disguise, he kidnaps the professor, and they leave. Now is probably the time to point out that plot points progress very quickly in this short film, and cuts between scenes are often sudden and accompanied by a little animation to let you know that one scene has ended and another has begun. In this case, the villain kidnapping Professor… Moron (Is that really his name?) is followed suddenly by a warmly-lit shot of the real Action Man and his team. You know its the real Action Man this time because he doesn’t stand around creepily not talking for ages even when directly addressed.

Oh wait, he does. And it’s really weird. Why does it take Action Man so long to say anything? And when he does speak, boy is it weird. I thought the dead giveaway of the last ‘Action Man’ being a fake was that his head was malformed, he spoke weirdly, and generally acted like a freak but this real Action Man is not much better. For a start, his companions address him by the rather awkward acronym of ‘AM’, so it sounds like they’re ending every statement to him with ‘Ey, Em’. Secondly, since Action Man is a British product, Action Man himself is also British. This has never sat right with me, even though I am British I have always considered Action Man to be American and it seems to fit his more gung-ho attitude. Having him have an RP voice makes him sound like he is a villain, and given that his introductory scene is so weird we’re left thinking ‘is this guy even the real Action Man?’ I suppose we shouldn’t expect class-A acting from a plastic figurine.

Speaking of plastic figurines, Action Man’s two compatriots seem to act as nothing more than these during this entire film. They act like pre-programmed robots with set phrases, usually praising Action Man for how cool he is and spouting expository dialogue about the plot. All we really know about Flynt (yes, again, it is spelt that way) is that he is Australian and likes to do stereo-typically Australian things and all we really know about Redwolf is that he is Native American and likes to… be bored? This definitely comes to a head in two of the few scenes where all three characters are sat around doing nothing action-orientated. I’ve already discussed the first one, where we first see Action Man and the whole thing is boring and weird. The second one, however, is perhaps even more awkward and out-of-place. Having been on an adventure, the scene begins with the team chilling in the back of the Team Truck, only for Flynt to start reeling off a list of prior feats that the Team has accomplished (even accompanied by little 2-second-long interspersed shots of said feats) purely so that the audience can see that they have been busy killing robots. Why not just montage the shots of the various battles and just let us know that way?

Regardless, one of the worst scenes in the film is here. This scene, and indeed the character it introduces, ruins the entire show for me. After managing to fool Doctor Moron, No-Face goes ahead and reanimates his master, Doctor X, ranting incessantly about how awesome he is (like two other characters we already know) and makes a big deal about his return that was inevitable anyway since he’s the villain. But honestly, until Doctor X comes along, things seem to be going pretty well for No-Face. He’s fooled everyone into thinking Action Man is a criminal and, in the process, kidnapped a brilliant scientist who he assumes can make him ‘mind-control gas’.
So why bring back Doctor X? He seems to be doing pretty well on his own. As it happens, No-Face reveals that he brought Doctor X back so that the mad scientist can make him a new face. The poor bastard just wants a new face, since he appears to have swapped his skin for a load of purple and green play-doh, and Doctor X is apparently the only person who can make him one. So why didn’t he just rebuild Doctor X as a head and then bribe him? Or threaten to never rebuild him again if he didn’t make a new face?

Whatever, No-Face is no longer the villain, now Doctor X is in charge. And boy, is he terrible. From almost the first scene he is in, this guy hams it up to the max and he just looks ridiculous. No-Face was threatening and almost menacing with his trench coat and face bandages but Doctor X looks like the end boss of a level from a Japanese shoot-em-up game. And his voice is hoarse and, at times, quite shrill, so on the whole he isn’t very threatening at all. It’s obvious that they had to put Doctor X in the movie since he is the main villain and this just so happens to be the design that Doctor X had at the time in the toy line, but they could have at least tried to beef him up with more to do than stand around ranting, being beaten up, and having his awful plans foiled. His first scene, his opening scene in the film where you see the main villain for the first time, has him being unceremoniously ripped apart by a gorilla and his limbs scattered around the room. Imagine a world where Darth Vader’s first scene in Star Wars: A New Hope is him having his arms and legs popped out of their metal ball-joints by an obese primate and tell me if that still makes him intimidating.

After a substantial dose of ‘capture-and-escape’ involving a ridiculously incongruous boxing match, a missile silo and a very flimsy harpoon cable we finally get to our final confrontation between Action Force and Doctor X. For some reason, they decide not to bring the gorilla with them this time and smash through the walls of Doctor X’s base in a heavily armed and armoured battle truck, only to step out of the truck and challenge Doctor X and his henchman to a… duel? I think? Whatever the motivation, they all start fighting, and after a long fight scene Flynt redirects the mind-control missiles (of which apparently there are only three). It is here that we must ask a vital question – does the mind control gas even work? It was never tested, and Professor Moron didn’t seem too sold on the idea of making it in the first place. Doctor X seems to think that three missiles full of this stuff is enough to allow him to conquer the world though, and he clearly has a good noggin on his shoulders (except for the numerous times in which he doesn’t) and anyone with the confidence to shape an entire previously undiscovered Eastern-Pacific island into a clumsy representation of their most aggressive-looking initial could probably take over the world regardless of what’s in the damn missiles. Nonetheless, Flynt decides to redirect said missiles – back to the location from which they were fired, namely, the room in which he is standing. They all die horribly, and the movie ends with the credits rolling silently over a black screen.

Nah, not really. They all escape and it’s only Doctor X and No-Face who die horribly. Except they don’t, since this is a cartoon, they survive (somehow) and vow revenge. But shouldn’t they be mind-controlled? I guess the missiles were just missiles after all, maybe Doctor X got confused. He was ripped apart by a Gorilla earlier that day. So the movie ends, just like that, with the heroes victorious – or does it?
I propose a theory that Action Man was Doctor X all along.

Only Doctor X would hire someone as incompetent as Flynt to carry out technical and demolitions responsibilities on a team carrying out high-stakes missions like Action Force do. Flynt is unwittingly working for the bad guy all along.

Doctor Who and Gothic Fiction – Part 1

For a piece of fiction to be Gothic, what criteria, if any, must be met?

When one thinks of Gothic, often our thoughts go to one of two things – Gothic Horror, and Gothic Architecture. But whilst both of those things derive from the essence of what the nature of Gothic is, neither fully explore or explain what truly makes something Gothic, because there is no clear method of distinguishing one way or another. Gothic architecture is Gothic because it conforms to a set of styles commonly associated with the architectural style, a Gothic Horror is a Gothic Horror because it uses one or more Gothic elements in it to define what it is and how it appears to the audience. But getting to the root of the topic, defining what Gothic actually is, can be difficult.

It is because of this that many pieces of fiction can be described as Gothic even if the work itself contains none of the stereotypical Gothic tropes such as gargoyles, castles, ghosts or graveyards. For something to be ‘Gothic’, it must inspire a particular feeling in the viewer, as Gothic fiction creates an atmosphere of unease, tension and even paranoia, and deal with dark themes with deep psychological undertones that aim to give the audience something to think about. Often Gothic stories will feature a monster, usually male, pitted against some form of Gothic heroine – but even this is not clear-cut, as heroines in Gothic fiction can be anything from a damsel-in-distress to a sociopath.

So how does this link to Doctor Who? Well, in more ways than you might expect.

Doctor Who is a very Gothic work of fiction. It has used Gothic elements almost since its first episode, and there have been periods in Doctor Who’s history where the show seemed to turn from whimsical science-fiction adventure to haunting Gothic-horror style tales of monsters, dark deeds, terror, and betrayal. As is the nature of Doctor Who as a show with a perpetually changing identity, Gothic elements haven’t always been at the forefront of how the show presents itself, and there have also been periods in the show’s history where it seems as if it couldn’t be any less Gothic. But deep-rooted in the show’s collective consciousness there is a drive to constantly return to a ‘neutral-state’ of Gothic horror, to the point that episodes that are less Gothic feel that little bit less like ‘true’ Doctor Who.

To map out the evolution of the relationship between Doctor Who and Gothic fiction, it is necessary to isolate three distinct phases in the show’s history in which Gothic elements are at their most obvious. The first phase began when the show was in its infancy, and only appeared sporadically in the turbulent times of Seasons 1 and 2 when the show was first finding its feet. Despite being a program designed specifically for children at the time, William Hartnell’s era of Doctor Who dabbled a fair amount in the genre of Gothic Horror. This may come as a surprise to modern viewers, many of whom have come to consider Hartnell’s era boring, outdated, or at the very worst, irrelevant. And yet here, in the show’s earliest days, there are examples of a genuine Gothic feel to Doctor Who that began here and spanned over 50 years.

Of all Hartnell’s episodes, one in particular stands out as truly Gothic. The first is The Rescue, a short but shocking two-part story in which companion-to-be Vicki, having crashed on a hostile planet rife with danger, must care for the only surviving crewman whilst simultaneously tolerating the constant demands of a local alien warrior. Vicki fits the profile for a Gothic heroine – she is an orphan, trapped in unfamiliar territory by a monster who appears half-man, half-monster, and she appears helpless to resolve the situation and so must constantly sit by the radio of the ship and hope for rescue. The ship itself also embodies many elements of a Gothic setting. The warped hull, rotting and torn-down panels coupled with collapsed beams and a claustrophobic interior make it an ideal Gothic setting. The final act of the story sees the Doctor facing off against the alien in a cavernous underground occult church and, for the native aliens and the humans, the reveal at the end of the episode cast doubt over who is really man and who is monster.

This is only one example of many early Doctor Who stories that are driven by unmistakable Gothic elements, with other examples including The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Crusade, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The War Games, and of course The Dæmons. In its early days, however, Doctor Who still for the most part adhered to the pretense of being a show for children but, during the transition between the Third and Fourth Doctors in 1974, the writing team decided to take the show down a different route. Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes began an era of Doctor Who that is most certainly Gothic, and is often considered to be the first Golden Age of Doctor Who for its quality of scripts, actors, sets, but most importantly, atmosphere.

In Part 2 of this article, I will discuss in depth the Gothic elements present in Seasons 12, 13 and 14 of Doctor Who and discuss what it is about the Gothic nature of this era that makes it so well-remembered, well-loved and well-respected even now, over 40 years later.