Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 1

The Daleks: The Dead Planet

Daleks: The Dead Planet

If fear makes companions of all of us, what does reckless arrogance make of us?

In the first 9 parts we saw fear driving the choices people made, whether on Iwa, in 1960s London or in the Stone Age. On “The Dead Planet”, we see that fear is no longer driving the travellers together. Ian and Barbara are afraid of being unable to get home, whilst The Doctor and Susan do not appear to have any interest in returning to their time and place. Susan is afraid of what is alive in the stone forest but only Barbara believes her.

The Doctor, however, does not appear to be afraid of anything on this world. As such this divide results in him deciding to create the problem with the fluid link in order to keep the travellers on the planet. Whilst I do not wish to entirely defend his actions, from his perspective he is in the right. Imagine you were doing a travelling holiday across the US, say from New York to Los Angeles. It was just meant to be you and one other person stopping to see the sights along the way. En route you pick up two hitchhikers. Originally you would take diversions to points of interest or spend whole days exploring towns. The hitchhikers start moaning you are taking too long and your passenger sides with them, arguing that you should simply keep driving along the interstates only stopping for 8 hours sleep at a time. This was the holiday you had planned but suddenly everyone else is changing it. Would a part of you be tempted to fake a flat tyre in order for you to spend a day somewhere you wished?

The difference, I think, is that most of us would either talk more about it to reach a compromise or agree with the majority and drive on. There is a further complication, in that whilst The Doctor sees them as unwanted passengers, Ian and Barbara see themselves as kidnap victims. Whilst they may be companions in fear, they have no reason to trust each other otherwise.

There is, of course, real danger. Firstly, the radiation they have still not seen. Secondly, that the city is not as deserted as it first appeared. If they were aware this was a real issue, they might be able to combine to a single purpose.

As I alluded to earlier though, the issue of communication is also stopping the travellers from becoming a team. The Doctor is never willing to show anyone else how to pilot the ship (not even Susan who he claimed was a pilot on Iwa). If they had done, Ian and Barbara might have been willing to let him go. This is very much like the fire for the tribe in the previous serial. If the pilot was the least important member of the team as they all knew how to pilot the ship, then they might be willing for The Doctor to travel down to the city for a short period of time.

Not that Ian is the strongest communicator on the team. He does not think to ask The Doctor and Susan what they eat and drink1, he simply uses it as an example of what The Doctor is not telling him, when we have already seen Ian is not likely to be able to comprehend anything on the panels. As neither is able to communicate properly with the other, it creates a real tension.

Barbara it seems is the best at facilitating communication, something The Doctor realises when he sends her to Susan. Susan is suffering this episode from not being listened to, having The Doctor dismiss her feeling in the forest as imagination and Ian destroying her flower. She seems to be able to indicate what upsets her and listen to other people’s points of view better than any of the others. Some of Barbara’s communication is unfortunately screaming (once again) but this is an interaction with her first alien lifeform2.

Barbara’s second encounter with alien life is probably the most interesting from a direction stand point. Whilst the Cave of Skulls was one kind of nightmare, being in a cave surrounded by skulls, it feels like it is going into the dangerous unknown but can also represent a rebirth or a beginning. In The Dead Planet the nightmare is a maze closing in around her, representing confusion and uncertainty. Christopher Barry seems to be determined to create this sense of disorientation and unease shooting the set at odd angles and allowing us to feel as lost as he is. Further we get a sense of paranoia added when we see one camera3 following her movements along a corridor and another time our view is obstructed by her hand covering another.

For myself the terror of this situation is much more real and strong. Even the view we see moving towards her is merely something on a stick, but the tension has been ratcheted, combined with the strange unearthly music, up so much, it’s terrifying.

Will this set of scares reunite the travellers again or will it divide them as we saw with Londoners in the 1960s?

1. As a science teacher you think he would be interested to know if they did indeed have a similar digestive system to humans.

2. Although I am a little disappointed with her declaration of ugliness on the metal creature. It does not look to me any stranger than many reptiles and I hope they learn over time not to have such a simplistic idea of ugliness and beauty.

3. We do not get any confirmation that this pointed device is a camera yet but that seems to be the logical assumption to make

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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