Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 2

The Daleks: The Survivors

Daleks: The Survivors

Last time I asked whether fear would divide or unite our travellers on “The Dead Planet”. I am not sure we get a clear answer here so instead I want to concentrate on the two very different reactions to their situation, those of Susan and Ian. Whilst it may be a touch disappointing that Barbara and The Doctor are largely incapacitated this episode, it gives the other two a chance to really show what they are made of.

As I noted previously, Ian appears to have this sense of old fashioned chivalry: not wanting to let the female members of the party do anything to put themselves in danger. At the time I thought it was just a touch of misogyny but here I think we see that it is something more. After his legs are paralysed, he finds himself in the position of no longer being able to be the action hero he so clearly desires, and he genuinely struggles to cope. He at first is determined to deny he is really injured, claiming he is getting better much faster than he actually is. Then getting angry and actually hitting his leg, as if that will suddenly give him enough feeling to walk.1 Now his front of being a hero is down as he is officially unable to help in any physical way. He cannot make anti-radiation drugs. He cannot go out to get them (even if he could walk, Susan points out that he cannot open the TARDIS). He cannot outrun or physically best the daleks holding them prisoner. And, as Ian says, “…even if they left the doors wide open, we wouldn’t have the strength to crawl through them.”

However, it is in this apparent despair that he discovers a much greater skill. Inspiring bravery in others. For whilst all his physical actions come to naught, his one true role in this is being finally willing to trust Susan and encourage her to face her fears.

And Susan does indeed seem terrified. Based on what we have seen previously, I am not sure if it is just the forest itself that does this (although being the only one to know there is someone else in it, likely the mutated thals, probably does not help). Rather the true terror seems to once again be in being separated from her grandfather. She herself is put in a situation where she is completely alone (even the daleks rangerscopes cannot find her) and not knowing who else is around her in the dark forest. And yet she goes on anyway, she doesn’t even put up a stiff rejection, she knows what she has to do and is willing to help out her grandfather and teachers.2

As much as the work done on Susan and Ian here is excellent, I cannot ignore the fact that we have a new alien race to talk about. In fact our first since the Foxes way back on Iwa3. This itself interesting, that a science fiction story which involves a ship that can travel anywhere is more concerned with the nature of humanity rather than other species. If that is a trend that continues it will deserve to be looked at in more depth.

For now, however, we are confronted with the Daleks and thankfully they are more than happy to furnish us with some information about their history4 but more importantly we get a real sense of their temperament. They appear to be struck with preconceived notions of what they expect to find and get angry when The Doctor attempts to contradict what they believe to be true. They are also extremely ruthless and only want the drugs in order to help themselves, not in order to save their prisoners.

Now given the theme of fear that has been running through these recent episodes I would almost be tempted to wonder if these daleks were afraid of the thals starting another war just like their forefathers had. However, so far at least, we see no evidence of fear, just mean spirited self interest. The question we don’t have an answer to is whether this is the result of being stuck underground and unable to leave the city for 500 years or have they always been this way? Is this ruthless streak what caused a neutronic war ages ago?

I am not sure if these are answers we will get but it is interesting to consider the statement of Old Mother from The Tribe of The Cave of Skulls:

Fire will kill us all in the end

Whilst they seemed determined that this is not Earth (although I don’t think we are yet certain this is the case) however, it is hard not to see this as the logical end point of the previous story. There we see the first demagogue gain control of fire, here we see a whole world that has been petrified. Whilst there are individuals that show that humanity is capable of good, Doctor Who seems to believe that they are generally on a path of self-destruction. Even our travellers are succumbing to the after-effects of this great fire. I doubt this is their final end but is it even thier fight? Will all things end in fire?

1. This is something I experienced recently. I was off-work for a considerable amount of time because I refused to rest when I became ill, being determined to keep working as if there was no problem at all. Like Ian I felt that letting myself heal is some kind of weakness rather than a strength.

2. It is a little bit disappointing to see Susan a much more seasoned traveller being so frightened. I can only assume her and her grandfather have not got separated often in previous unseen adventures on new planets. She did not seem that scared on Earth previously but we only see her once she has got significantly used to the environment and Time and Relative is technically her own account, so she may be downplaying some of her worry.

3. Of course if you mean non-human for alien then The Cold would also count as an alien race. However, it is a native of Earth and I was referring more to extra-terrestrial aliens.

4. I am making an assumption here that they are being honest with the events they describe as it does not yet appear they have a reason to lie and the facts seem to fit with The Doctor’s descriptions. However, we have already see them as deceptive which I think means it is fair to mildly suspicious of what they state.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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