Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 5

The Daleks: The Expedition

Daleks The Expedition

One of the earliest scenes in this episode is seen through the eye of the Dalek. This clearly sets up the theme of this part, the moral ambiguity that can exist even here. For this is possibly the first story in which there has been a clear divide between good and evil. This doesn’t significantly change after this, rather it calls on us to understand some of the twisted logic of the Daleks’ and to question the actions of our travellers.

On the latter group first, we saw that only moments before they were happy to leave the Thals to their fate when it did not affect their journey. Now they need the Thals as an army they are determined to change their minds. It is a particularly interesting choice that Barbara, the chief humanitarian is the one determined the Thals must fight, even going to the extent of guilting Ian with the prospect of her own death in order to spur him into action. Ian is originally much more concerned about the fact that they cannot be made to fight if they do not wish to:

What victory are you going to show these people when most of them have been killed? A fluid link? Thank you very much, this is what you fought and died for?

And it is not to see the Thals’ side of the argument, it was a war between them and the Dals that destroyed everything before. Why would they want to start that up again?

But when Ian is finally spurred to make that action by Barbara he is really cruel in his method. He could have tried to make a more logical argument but he goes for kidnapping Dyoni and promising to give her to the Daleks for experimentation. Even though Alydon does not believe Ian would do that, the actual contemplation of Dyoni being tortured and forcing Alydon into a crisis of conscience is a hard action to 100% defend.

On The Doctor’s front this really represents a shift from his non-meddling stance. Yes, he has become involved but here he is actually determined to lead them himself. More than just brokering a compromise or stopping something he may have caused, he is now actively leading events in Skaro’s history. Whether this will have any consequences for the future remains to be seen but we have to assume there are reasons why they did not wish for interference other than just being old fashioned.1

I do not think this is a flaw in the writing. For whilst our travellers are once again becoming more ambiguous the Daleks themselves are also getting more depth. Whilst the Thals before were willing to accept their fate if required, the Daleks are determined to survive and reclaim the planet at any cost. How will they do that? Well they need radiation to survive, this is dropping, and anti-radiation drugs will kill them. So simply releasing another neutron bomb seems the most sensible solution.

Whilst this could seem like overkill, they believe that it will not be long before the Thals attack them. Now without the travellers arriving this might not be the case and the Thals would have died earlier or simply left. But we have now seen how Ian has convinced them to fight and The Doctor is determined to lead them. Whilst they may be off in their reasoning slightly their conclusion on this point is not incorrect. The solution, though may well be. They are continuing to refuse to change “We do not have to adapt to the environment. We will change the environment to suit us.”

Now they could of course have reached out to the Thals and the travellers and the three groups work together to create a mutual solution. But that of course requires mutual trust, not mutual enmity. But this is not trying to tell us the Daleks are justified, nor that our travellers are wrong, rather that the situation is not simply black and white, it is one which likes to fade into the greys.

The final part of the story which I have not touched on is the titular expedition. This opens up interesting questions about the Thals. Alydon has stated that their pacifism is purely idealistic and not motivated by any fear. Yet we have Antodus and Ganatus who have lived only due to them running away from the lake, leaving their friends. This is not something to look down on, rather it adds to the idea that they are complex as well, not the perfect gods Susan sees.

And so the battle lines are drawn now thanks to all of their hates and fears and personal desires; It does not look like many people will die. Whilst Ian and Barbara and the Thals are on an expedition which feels like it is once again out of a fantasy story,2 The Doctor is leading his troops to the city and the Daleks are preparing a bomb. Whilst it would be great if they would all just talk it seems that it is too late for that and the real war is beginning once again.

1 I haven’t mentioned much of Susan but after her great roles in the last few episodes, she is rather diminished here. Her main purpose seems to be to show how much faith she has in all the adults around her. Whilst it is nice to have the cohesion of the travellers it is also a shame to see her not really have a role again

2 I am sure I cannot be the only person who watches this and is reminded of the Mines of Moria and The Watcher in the Water. Although as the rest of the story does not bare as many similarities it is hard to tell if Nation would have made the same connections.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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