Star Wars: Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy

As Star Wars games evolved and adapted throughout the late 20th century it was inevitable that eventually the games would take on a life of their own and become almost totally independent of the film series, and nothing is more telling of this than the success of the Jedi Knight series that focused almost entirely on characters that were never even mentioned in the original trilogy. Yet characters like Kyle Katarn, Jan Ors and Tavion have become just as synonymous with Star Wars for many fans as the likes of Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker are for fans of the movies.

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The Story

Both Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy have fantastic storylines set deep within the now ‘Legends’ canon – both games follow the story of Rebel Agent-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn and his fight against the Reborn faction, led by Desann and later Tavion. The development of Katarn’s character is one of ‘Legends’ canon’s greatest achievements, and makes these games all the more interesting as we follow the adventures of one of the Galaxy’s most legendary heroes. The main antagonists of both games are the various Dark Jedi associated with the Reborn faction, notably Desann, Tavion and Alora, and games are also filled with various minor antagonists, obstacles and puzzles to overcome as the player explores the world of Star Wars post-Return of the Jedi. An interesting feature in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy allows the player to create their own Jedi, who trains under Kyle Katarn in Luke’s new Jedi Temple on Yavin IV. Whilst Outcast‘s story is more linear, Academy allows players to choose their own missions whilst unravelling the game’s story and decide whether Kyle’s apprentice should stay on the path of the light or embrace the dark side, which gives Academy’s story two very different endings.

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The Multiplayer

By far one of the most memorable aspects of these games was the multiplayer, with maps like Death Star, Nar Shaddaa Streets, Vjun Sentinel, Taspir, Yavin Hilltops, and Coruscant Streets being among the more enduring and iconic maps in the series. Players have been able to use the game’s well-designed lightsaber combat system to create some quite interesting moves and strategies, which was further enhanced by Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy’s improved engine that allowed for double-bladed lightsabers and more advanced gymnastic Force abilities. Every map has a vertical element that can be used in conjunction with the almost limitless freedom that the hilariously overpowered Force Jump provides to take unsuspecting players completely by surprise, which is particularly rewarding in open maps with lots of ledges and platforms. As for the multiplayer setup, there are many different game modes to try, from Free for All to Capture the Flag, as well as modes designed around Star Wars battles in the movies like Power Duel and Siege. Even when playing solo, the game’s bots are challenging enough that it is still great fun.

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The Characters

A notable aspect of the campaign and multiplayer of the Jedi Knight series is the vast array of characters – particularly in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, in which an entire team can be made up of the various types of Stormtrooper in the game – and there are a fair few familiar faces from the Original Trilogy like Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and Mon Mothma. Like all good contributions to the Star Wars lore, however, the Jedi Knight series also has its own large cast of recognisable characters and this, coupled with Jedi Academy‘s character customisation option, means that players are never short of choice in multiplayer when it comes to characters. The voice acting in this game ranges from genuinely good to downright hilarious, particularly in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast that has some funny dialogue but even funnier combat dialogue for the enemies.

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The Combat

It has to be said that one of the greatest assets of the Jedi Knight series is its combat mechanics, and even later Star Wars games like The Force Unleashed were never able to capture the simple-yet-effective approach that the Jedi Knight series took with its combat system. Lightsaber battles flow well and feel authentic – rather than having the player and the AI simply bashing sticks at each other until one of them drops dead, the combatants will lock blades and scoring direct body hits requires skill and precision. This means that each combat encounter feels like a mini-duel in itself, making the Jedi Knight games one of the quintessential Star Wars experiences for lightsaber combat.

There are other forms of combat present in the game too, however, and in some levels weapons other than the lightsaber are useful or even necessary. Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy feature a diverse sandbox of weapons and each has a specific function – a Star Wars equivalent of a shotgun, sniper rifle and rocket launcher are all present to make the games accessible to fans of the first-person shooter genre. Like all good FPS games, gunfights in the Jedi Knight series are dependant on movement and good aim, but many of the guns are useless against lightsaber wielders. The game’s weapon sandbox truly shines in the campaign mode, particularly since players can either mince through legions of Stormtroopers with their lightsaber, use the various Force powers to easily sweep through encounters, or choose to play more fairly and switch to gunplay for a more challenging (but ultimately more rewarding) combat experience.

Many who played the Jedi Knight games regard them as among the best of the Star Wars video games, and for good reason. Whilst it may no longer be part of the Star Wars canon, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy remains an essential Star Wars experience.

 

Star Wars: Obi-Wan – Original Xbox Game Review

Star Wars games are like Star Trek movies – they’re either really good or monumentally bad. Occasionally, though, you get something like Star Trek: First Contact, an exception among the norm of polarising quality that is good in some ways and terrible in others. For Star Wars, undoubtedly that distinction goes to Star Wars: Obi-Wan. Released in 2001, this game has been brushed under the rug for the most part in the wake of the release of later Star Wars games like Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars: Battlefront and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy that far outstripped it in terms of quality and fan reception. Nonetheless, there are still aspects of this game that are unique and it is perhaps not entirely deserved of its status as a really bad Star Wars game. But before elaborating on the aspects of this game that are good, the elephant in the room must first be addressed.

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The Controls and Mechanics

This game suffers from terrible controls and mechanics that, if corrected, would increase this game’s fun factor and replay-ability immensely. Some of the major issues include the fact that Obi-Wan himself injures far too easily, health is often hard to come by, many encounters leave the player overwhelmed and out of options, the lightsaber controls are awful (and were thankfully never repeated in any other Star Wars game on consoles), and the camera controls were prehistoric. Of these, one of the most important is the lightsaber controls – the idea of using a thumbstick to swing a lightsaber is interesting, and given more time and better execution the idea could have made the game something truly special. Unfortunately, the mechanic is implemented into this game without any real thought or care, and it often makes encounters far harder as that extra layer of precision needed to effectively block and swing often cause unnecessary damage to the player. Speaking of which, the health system in the game required the implementation of a ‘Force Heal’ ability – many levels are made far too difficult with the lack of flexibility and overly harsh punishment of bad strategy.

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The Level Design

Moving on from the obvious Achilles Heel that this game suffers from, the level design throughout is actually quite good. Aside from a few clunkers around the Naboo sections in which it can be difficult to easily see which is the correct path, often the levels are large and expansive enough that exploration is rewarded, something that is often valued in action-adventure games. The is also some great variation in the location and style of the various levels – one is set on a skyscraper and involves a lot of vertical gameplay, another is an expansive exploration of a sinister swamp, and of course the iconic locations of Naboo, Tatooine and Coruscant make an appearance. There are several instances of the level design showing considerable neglect, however, such as the the missions in the Trade Federation Control Ship that essentially amount to repeating corridors and the dozens of times you are catapulted back to Coruscant to face several functionally identical Jedi Masters in the same bland arena.

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The Story

Interestingly, Star Wars: Obi-Wan tries to expand on the story of The Phantom Menace, to the extent that it is several levels in before we reach the opening of the first Star Wars prequel. The game adds in a few interesting plot developments, such as how the Black Heth and the Jin’ha are in secret cohorts with both each other and the Trade Federation, how Queen Amidala was briefly kidnapped by Tusken Raiders whilst Qui-Gon first encountered Anakin, and how Obi-Wan and the others managed to sneak back into the Naboo city so easily. The game also adds other tantalising mouthfuls of pre-prequel lore in the form of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s conflict with the Black Heth and later the Jin’ha. An odd quirk with this game is the voice acting – Obi-Wan has a Scottish accent and talks like he has a blocked nose for some reason, and many of the game’s NPCs sound as thought they are delivering their lines at gunpoint. Then again, it is that easy to accidentally kill NPCs that maybe they are right to be scared of this poorly-rendered Obi-Wan imposter.

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The Enemies

Star Wars: Obi-Wan has a vast variety of enemies spread across its various levels, from Battle Droids to Tusken Raiders. If this game does anything well, it’s keeping the encounters varied and interesting. The earlier levels see Obi-Wan go up against simple thugs, which later evolves into a conflict with the more advanced Jin’ha soldiers. By the time the player encounters the Trade Federation, they will already be veterans with the game’s unique combat system, and even after the game intersects with the story of The Phantom Menace it finds ways of introducing new enemy varieties – the Tatooine section that pits Obi-Wan against Tusken Raiders is a notable example of the game throwing a curve-ball at the player with its unique variety.

To Conclude

Maybe Star Wars: Obi-Wan isn’t as bad as everyone remembers. Whilst it does definitely suffer from poor mechanics, the game is enjoyable if it’s flaws can be overlooked. Although it is not among the best of the Star Wars games, it is still among the more interesting side of the Star Wars game pantheon.

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Doctor Who – Who is the ‘Best Doctor’?

Looking around the internet for polls or lists on the topic of ‘Best Doctor’ in Doctor Who is essentially the equivalent of opening the Whovian equivalent of Pandora’s Box. Not only will any given list undoubtedly be wrong because it contradicts your own predetermined idea of who the Top 5 Best Doctors actually are, but any such list or poll that has a readily accessible comments section will, without fail, erupt into a war zone of competing opinions. But ultimately, is this all totally futile? How can anyone determine who the ‘Best Doctor’ actually is? What criteria do you use? Surely anyone who tries to rank the Doctors will be confounded by their own personal bias? To analyse this issue, I will be focusing on several trends that I often see in these lists that, whilst not necessarily unpopular, can be criticised nonetheless. To begin, a trend that disappoints me more than any of the others…

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The 80s Doctors are Always at the Bottom

The more mainstream lists on outlets like WhatCulture and the Radio Times obviously try to stir up as little controversy as possible with their lists. Unfortunately, this also means relegating the more unpopular Doctors to the bottom of their lists, notably Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. At first glance this does seem to be the most logical move – their eras were mired with production issues, inconsistent storylines and direction from a certain John-Nathan Turner that ran the show into the ground thanks to the extreme bias of Michael Grade, Margaret Thatcher’s puppet in the BBC. But when assessing who is the ‘Best Doctor’, should outside factors like production value and relative success of the seasons factor in? After all, anyone who has seen any of Sylvester McCoy’s episodes will agree that he makes a fantastic Doctor – in fact in the 1990s, during the wilderness years, he consistently topped polls of ‘Best Doctor’ because fans of the show were genuinely devastated that it had been cancelled – Seasons 25 and 26 were a notable improvement over their predecessors and it has essentially been confirmed now that Grade cancelled Doctor Who in the 80s based primarily on his own personal bias against the show, and little more.

Similarly, Peter Davison enjoyed a fairly successful run as the Doctor, with episodes like The Caves of Androzani, The Five Doctors and Earthshock being among the shows most popular DVD releases, even today. He was almost the ‘David Tennant’ before David Tennant was the Doctor, in that he was a younger, more energetic Doctor who was popular among female fans. Interestingly, David Tennant himself has stated that Davison was his primary inspiration for how he handled the role of the Doctor, and maintains that Davison is one of his favourite Doctors, so it seems ironic that he would consistently come at the bottom of more recent ‘Best Doctor’ polls. The oddball in all of this is Colin Baker who, unfortunately, is more justified in coming near the bottom of the polls – whilst he enjoyed an excellent run of Big Finish audios, it is understandable that they do not factor in as audiobooks are arguably the most niche of the Doctor Who expanded media, and his televised episodes are among the classic shows weakest, although there are some standout entries. The question remains – why the bias against 80s Doctors? It could mostly come down to taste – whilst 80s Who has some fantastic storytelling, the production values do let the show down in the eyes of many fans, and in the end the decision comes down entirely to personal taste. John-Nathan Turner’s campy style of set and costume design do not sit well with modern audiences, particularly compared to the more extravagant NuWho. One cannot help but shake the feeling that Doctors like McCoy and Davison coming bottom in the polls is down to little more than ignorance, however, since fans of NuWho are less and less likely to give their eras the chance that they deserve.

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The Relative Positions of Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee

This one is entirely dependant on the list in question, since some revere the position of Hartnell’s Doctor as ‘the one that started it all’ and others are based solely on fan voting input, which unsurprisingly gives Troughton a boost. In many ‘home made’ lists, however, particularly those made by fans who have self-confessed to never having seen any Classic Who, Hartnell and Troughton are used as ‘filler’ for the lower end spots despite their relative popularity. Whilst this may come as a surprise to some, Patrick Troughton in particular in one of the most popular Doctors, despite the fact that his era has huge gaps due to missing episodes. Stories like The Power of the Daleks, The Tomb of the Cybermen, Fury from the Deep, The Mind Robbers, The Invasion, The Evil of the Daleks and several others are considered essentials of Doctor Who’s monochrome era, and yet Troughton’s position in polls fluctuates more often that Steven Moffat’s script quality. Why is this?

Again, it comes down to simply ignorance. Many fans are put off by Classic Who as it stands and so are even less likely to watch Classic Who in black and white, regardless of how well the episodes are received. Still, at the end of the day, it’s their loss, and the relative position of Troughton on ‘Best Doctor’ lists has become a sort of litmus test for stalwart 60s Who fans to determine the extent of Classic Who that the creator of the list has actually seen, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, a similar occurrence mires Jon Pertwee’s era, which is due in part to the format changes that occur during this time – grounded on Earth for his first few seasons, Pertwee’s Doctor foregoes a lot of the space-time exploration to instead hold his ground on Earth, working with UNIT to fight off many alien invasions. The show morphed into more of a James Bond meets X-Files theme, as Pertwee’s Doctor took a more physically violent approach to dealing with menacing aliens, most notably his use of kung-fu and the occasional stolen alien blaster to dispatch his foes. Pertwee’s era also introduced us to fan-favourite companions like Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith, so the impact of thie era cannot be underestimated. Another factor to consider in his era is the introduction of The Master, and Roger Delgado expertly fills the role of the Moriarty to Pertwee’s Holmes. It’s great fun, but again, it comes down to personal taste – and it would seem that more recently the odds have not favoured the Third Doctor in fan polls, despite some genuinely fantastic episodes in his era like Frontier in Space, Terror of the Autons and The Time Warrior. 

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David Tennant at the Top

One of my previous articles on David Tennant may have given the impression that I don’t rate him very highly as a Doctor, but that isn’t the case. David Tennant was the Doctor that I grew up with, along with Eccleston and McCoy, so in many ways he is ‘My Doctor’, and I look on his era with fondness, despite the disproportionate amount of criticism that I dish out against it. Regardless, it does not sit right with me that Tennant regularly tops lists of ‘Best Doctor’ – obviously he is a lot of people’s favourite Doctor, that much is clear, but it seems that a lot of lists put him at the top to avoid controversy rather than to actually celebrate him as a Doctor. After all, his run was good, but was it consistent? Tennant took the Doctor to a dark place, essentially transforming him from a simple space-time traveller into an allegory for Space Jesus, with prophetic (and shamelessly and tediously repeated) arc words of his death, many episodes before it actually happened. Russell treated the end of his run as if Doctor Who itself would die with the Tenth Doctor, and unfortunately as a result many fans turned off when Tennant left, buying into the hype.

David Tennant played the Doctor well when he was actually playing The Doctor, but a big problem with his characterisation is that he would often forget who he was playing. For the self-proclaimed ‘Man Who Never Would’, Tennant’s Doctor dabbled in an inordinate amount of genocide, cold-blooded murder and insane megalomania, which in many ways unravelled his mandate as the Doctor in a way that most other actors who played the role did not have to contend with. It is also impossible to ignore that whilst Tennant had a handful of stellar episodes like The Girl in the Fireplace and Midnight, he also played host to many of Doctor Who’s most embarrassing episodes, ones like Fear Her, Love and Monsters, The Unicorn and the Wasp, Partners in Crime and New Earth. Again, this is down to personal opinion, but if people who have never even seen the majority of Doctor Who can attempt to rank the Doctors based on anecdote, rumour and affirmed negative consensus, then I can objectively rank episodes of David Tennant’s run that I feel are bad, thank you very much. Is Tennant a popular Doctor? Yes. Is he a good Doctor? Yes. Is he the best Doctor? Doubtful.

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Baker and Smith, the old Second Best

In light of the ‘Tennant Problem’, more self-aware lists have deliberately denied him the top spot in favour of an equally safe alternate choice for number one – Tom Baker or Matt Smith. The word ‘overrated’ is often thrown around to refer to the trio of Baker, Tennant and Smith, but this isn’t entirely fair – all three have legitimate reasons for coming in the top five, as they are all brilliant actors – if anything the continual reappearance of any of these three in the top spot has just become annoying, mostly because, as anyone who has seen most of Classic Who will tell you, all of the Doctors are played by brilliant actors. After all, this entire issue comes down to personal opinion, both in how you rank the Doctors and also how you decide the criteria for ranking the Doctors. Target Audience is a massive factor too – ask a group of hardened Big Finish fans to rank the Doctors and Tennant will undoubtedly come near the bottom, with Colin Baker usually appearing near the top. Ask the same of a group of NuWho fans and the positions will be reversed. So why not shake things up a bit?

If it has just become the norm to always put Tennant at the top, Smith and Baker in second and Davison, McCoy and poor old Colin at the bottom, then what is even the point of doing a ‘Best Doctor’ list at all? Fans could debate endlessly over the fact that McCoy is an underappreciated gem, or that Colin Baker is much better in the audiobooks, or that David Tennant is overrated, or that NuWho is better than Classic Who, or whatever the debate happens to be, but at the end of the day, there will never be a consensus. And why is that?

Well, its because Doctor Who is so vast and so diverse, and it spans such a colourful and controversial history that it has attracted fans of all different walks of life from all over the world, and getting such a huge amount of individuals to agree on such a widely spanning range of different factors is simply impossible. After all, how many other shows have such a diverse audience? To many, the Doctor Who fandom comes across as more like a religious cult than a fanbase – and their religion has many different sects, each with their own unique beliefs and customs. Big Finish fans, NuWho fans, Moffat fans, Davies fans. Classic fans – they are all fans of Doctor Who for different reasons, they all enjoy the same franchise via radically different mediums, and many cross over many of these – I consider myself to be a member of all of these creeds, some more than others, so within the fanbase I find my loyalties divided – but at the end of the day, one must remember that all of these factions come under the monolithic umbrella-term of simply being a Doctor Who fan – something that requires dedication but is an enormously rewarding experience. So if NuWho fangirls love Tennant, let them. If Big Finish fans love Colin, let them. And I’ll happily enjoy Sylvester McCoy episodes in spite of where he might rank on ‘Best Doctor’ lists, like many more who are certain, regardless of what anyone else says, that whoever happens to be ‘their Doctor’ is the best.

So there’s my rambling thoughts on the idea of the ‘Best Doctor’, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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.

 

Death to the Daleks! – Are the Daleks still relevant in the 21st century?

When listing monsters from Doctor Who that are considered ‘scary’, there are dozens of examples of original monsters that are specifically designed to invoke fear in the viewer. Monsters like the Silence, the Weeping Angels, the Haemovores, even the Cybermen in their original form (although I’ve already done an entire article about that). However rarely will you ever hear anyone in the modern era list the Daleks among their picks for scary Doctor Who monsters. It is true that the Daleks used to be scary: the infamous ‘hiding behind the sofa’ catchphrase that is often seen in the papers when referring to Doctor Who is said to have come about due to 1960s children and their fear of the Daleks. This seems almost comical by today’s terms: the Daleks don’t look scary, but even something as ridiculous looking as the Stormtroopers from Star Wars can appear menacing if they are used correctly, and the Daleks have been menacing in the past, even in NuWho. But scary? Not really. But why is that the case?

One of the most important things to consider when assessing any villain is what kind of message the writer of the story is trying to relay to the audience through their villains. A villain can be used to demonstrate the worst of a political or religious ideology, they can be used to critique society through their actions, or they can be used as a means of forcing the audience to face the mirror, to see how humans affect the environment, animals, or indeed each other. When Doctor Who first aired in 1963, Britain was a very different place from what it is today. The Second World War was a recent memory; for many it was an experience that affected them personally in some way or another. The aftermath of the war lingered over the heads of the citizens of the nation for decades, and the Daleks perfectly captured a very specific fear that had begun to root itself in the hearts and minds of the British people: a fear of Nazism.

The creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation, was very specific about the exact nature of Dalek psychology and philosophy. The Daleks are driven by a pure, unadulterated hatred of all living things that are not Dalek. Their hatred of all other life parallels the classic representation of the Nazis, and Terry Nation harnessed the national fear of Nazism that erupted as a result of World War 2 to essentially create a fictional representation of the ultimate form of Nazism – and in so doing made the Daleks perfectly terrifying for audiences of the day. The Daleks were scary because they killed people – without mercy and without cessation. The Dalekmania that gripped the nation in the 1970s seems almost obscene to those in the know, since the Daleks essentially represent the ultimate in racial cleansing – their doctrine does, after all, involve total extermination of all life.

But times change. And as times have changed, the Daleks have not. Their physical design has been updated, the effects are better, the voices sound clearer and more menacing, and they have appeared in NuWho almost as much as in the Classic series – but they have adhered to the same ideology that Terry Nation wrote for them in 1963, and for whatever reason, people being mercilessly killed doesn’t seem to scare people the way it used to. So as a result of this, the Daleks – and their menace – faded from the public consciousness. To a 21st century child, the Daleks are not scary – and that in itself is pretty scary. You can argue that a child in the modern era will never be scared of a bulbous, practically immobile talking wheelie bin, but the physical appearance of the Daleks is irrelevant. They could just as easily be black-clad armoured troopers, or axe-wielding psychotic maniacs, or take the form of the Easter Bunny: it is their motives that makes them scary. Like the Blackshirts, the Nazis, the Klan or the Stormtroopers, the Daleks don’t care that people think they look stupid – one even says so in Doomsday. They just want to kill you. Whoever you are, wherever you live, no matter your race, gender, appearance, religion – they just want to kill you. How is that not scary?

The answer is apathy. People today – particularly children – have lost the fear of Nazism that was so quintessential to the British way of thinking in the 20th century. We see this all the time, with Nazis and other fearsome 20th century factions being seen today as a comedic device. Even Doctor Who itself is guilty of this. Anyone remember that episode where they crashed the TARDIS in 1930s Berlin and stuffed Hitler into a cupboard? The fear factor is gone, and in a way it’s our own fault. We laughed at the Nazis during the war out of fear; we laughed at the Nazis after the war out of relief. We laugh at the Nazis now out of apathy, a sheer ignorance to their true nature. And the same can be said for the Daleks.

So how can this be reversed? And more importantly – why should it? Surely its a good thing that the world has moved on, and that we have reached a point in time where we can live free of fear, free to point and laugh at those evil, stupid-looking fools from a century long departed. Perhaps. But we must also be cautious that fascism doesn’t take advantage of our lapse in fear and take the opportunity to sneak back into a society that firmly rejected it nearly 100 years ago. At the beginning of this article I spoke briefly about how if a good villain is used right then it can plant seeds of ideas in the minds of the audience, and the Daleks should be used in this way once again. They have proven they can be menacing, but we need them to be truly scary again, now more than ever, and that is where the relevance of the Daleks in the 21st century lies. They exist as a cautionary tale, regardless of what era you watch them in, but what is required now is for the writers of Doctor Who to take responsibility for this, to amp up the fear factor of the Daleks using any means necessary so that they can truly fulfill their function of making people fear Nazism, and indeed any extremist ideology – as Terry Nation intended, and as our society today desperately needs them to.