Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 3

The Daleks: The Escape

Daleks: The Escape

This is an interesting episode as it does so many different things. Some new, some old. Some joyous some problematic.

Functionally speaking, for our travellers, this fufills much the same role as the end of the firemaker. Whilst they have overcome an immediate danger (Kal\Radiation Poisoning) they find themselves prisoners and have to escape from a heavily guarded prison. They, therefore, have to pool their skills and resources in order to devise a plan of escape. And once again it is a delight to watch them working together in their scheme. In fact they even try to play off the antagonism between Ian and The Doctor in order to mask their attack on the camera.1

What marks this out as different, however is the reaction of their captors. In The Firemaker I complained about how it required the tribe to have an added level of superstition that was not previously apparent in order to aid the travellers escape. In The Escape however, we see that the daleks are not fooled by their tactics. They know the travellers are keeping some of the drugs for themselves. They doubt the camera was broken by accident. They even consider killing them. They instead chose to let them do these things to give them a false sense of security2

The relationship between Susan and the Daleks is also an interesting one. Whilst Ian and Barbara seem to be primarily afraid of them, Susan appears to find them comical. At first I thought it might be a coping mechanism but here it appears to be that she genuinely finds them quite ridiculous. The daleks for their part appear to be willing to use her and do not threaten her quite as directly as they did The Doctor previously. Yet they also seem to underestimate her actual knowledge and at one point even physically shove her. It is hard to tell exactly what the reasoning for these reactions is (as we cannot see inside either of their heads) but I would like to speculate they both have a form of disdain for the other. Susan looks like a thal to the daleks but was not showing any sign of radiation poisoning. As a way of showing their superiority they are simply assuming she is unintelligent and that they can manipulate her easily. As for Susan, I think she may also have a disdain for the daleks as well. The daleks’ reactions also seem to turn back towards violence and death, for someone of her intelligence and her encounters with humans who have reacted this way before, she may see them as just another group of ridiculous savages. In spite of all their technology are they that different from the Za’s tribe?

Whilst the events at the beginning and end are a great source for tension it manages to slow down in an effective fashion in the middle. Whilst in other scripts this could appear saggy, this manages to be quiet and philosophical. Temossus literally sits down and ponders whether the natures of beings can change and if their species has lived too long. This could very easily have seen boring and heavy handed, to talk about what appear to be key themes of the story so openly. Yet the rhythm of the story has been composed as such that this seems most welcome.

I don’t think we can ignore the issue of the thals’ appearance. Whilst there is something interesting in the idea that an aryan race are seen as mutations by the daleks, them being presented as the example of goodness in contrast to the callousness of the daleks makes a rather problematic connection between racial purity and virtue. Even more problematic is Susan’s assertion that Ayldon is “perfect”.

I had been theorising before that the problematic language choices could be a result of their sojourn in early 1960s London. However, this seems to indicate a much more internalised form of ethnocentrism than I would imagine would be picked up by a few months stay in the past. Now this could just be a slightly odd expression resulting from her surprise that they appear to be healthy and functioning as we would expect a mammalian life form to do, but there is enough evidence to watch out if we should consider the home planet of Susan and The Doctor has some of these problems too. Perhaps that is the reason why they fled? Or could it be that, as in contemporary Britain it is largely unspoken but still extremely central to cultural and social fabric?3

But on what we see of the episode, it opens up for an interesting future encounter, as the three different groups now appear to be heading towards the same meeting point. The conflict between them seems inevitable. Unless Temossus is right and the daleks can be convinced to change. We learn they were once teachers just like Ian and Barbara. Can either of them return back to the classroom once again?

1.It does feel a little bit like they have just plastered over the disagreements they had earlier so it will be interesting to see whether this returns again or if they are just accepting a permanent truce.

2. The reason for this is not 100% clear to me as of yet. Perhaps this will come in to focus later on.

3 There is a further question as well of misogyny among the Thals where Dyoni says that Alydon should have given the drugs to a man, not a girl, but this could be explained away as jealousy. Which is still problematic but in a different way. Either way this is not something I want to address until we have more evidence one way or the other.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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