Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 6

The Daleks: The Ordeal

Daleks Ordeal

Now we reach our most action oriented episode to date (in spite of not seeing a single Dalek gun fire)1. However, that also makes it one of the hardest ones to write about, for example there is very little to discuss on the ravine crossing apart from that it is a good looking set piece. Compounded on this is that it seems to be clearly doing some serious blocking for the showdown next week, so it is hard to judge how well much of the action turns out.

The real exception to this, I would say, is The Doctor and Susan. In spite of their relationship seeming to be so central to the ongoing story, we have not been able to really see them in a “normal” situation for long. On Iwa Susan was captured, in London they were largely following their own paths and, since leaving, the Doctor’s combativeness with Ian and Barbara has largely overshadowed Susan. Here we are able to see the two of them working together again as they must surely have done so many times before but we had been unable to see. And it is a delight.

For in the face of danger The Doctor is gleeful that he gets to show off his cleverness, and whilst Susan is indeed protective of him, she also seems to be happier than at any time I can recall that we have seen or read. In spite of her protestations that 1963 was the happiest time of her life, there seems to be at least some part of her that is just as happy as The Doctor in travelling around through time and space and trying to devise solutions to fiendish problems.

Now, of course, it does need to be noted that this cleverness is mixed with too much pride that causes his downfall to some extent. Whilst it may only be a short while the Doctor is insisting on showing Susan how immensely clever he has been, it does not seem inconceivable that some of the reason for his capture was the result of this. And when we get to the Daleks’ capture of them, the story takes a significant tonal shift. The Doctor is angry and Susan horrified:

That’s murder.

No, extermination.

Whilst the meaning is similar just the change to the Daleks dehumanising2 the Thals totally demonstrates their hatred for the unlike. Whilst in the previous episode we saw things from a Dalek perspective that they want to survive and need the radiation to do so. Here we see it go a step further, that other lives are merely pests. Genocide is no different than getting rid of insects.

In fact here we get them moving into very explicit Nazi parallels. Not just the dehumanisation but we even have them raising their left arms and chanting they are the Masters of Skaro. Not subtle but often when dealing with fascism being out in the open is the best course of action. Interestingly The Doctor, Susan and the Thals’ tactic is one of distraction to keep all their rangerscopes pointed in one direction until the attack can take place from behind3. Does keeping them focussed on the wrong goal so they can be destroyed from within mean they don’t realise the real danger? We will soon discover.

There is not as much to say about the other team as so much of it is merely preparing them for the next episode (including setting up a literal cliffhanger to resolve). The two most significant scenes seem to have an interesting setup but the pay-off is poor due to the need for drama.

Firstly, we have Barbara lowering Ganatus, specifically distancing herself from Ian’s instruction. Now in doing so she does actually help them find the way but by accident. The script seems to indicate that she failed as a result of not wanting to listen to Ian.4 Secondly, we get Antodus being forced to go on, in spite of being terrified, not only by his brother but also by the mountain collapsing on top of them. I can’t help but feel that these really should have gone somewhere further.

However, as I said, this episode is predominantly about setup. What happens in the next part will allow us to see where this is all going and if these threads, themes and questions really come together.

1I am not 100% sure of the reason why the Daleks capture Susan and The Doctor rather than just kill them apart from plot convenience. I guess they might be useful as hostages or something but then why not capture some of the Thals in the ambush and use them to ensure the rest of the group enter the city? Perhaps it will be revealed more clearly in the final episode

2 I am using the term fully aware it is probably not the correct term for all sentient life. Whilst I assume someone has invented one it has not been instituted into the canon of the show as of these episodes so far. As I am sure it will likely come up again I will endeavour to use it once this becomes the case

3 Once again, I cannot help but feel The Lord of the Rings parallels are here. To quote the movie version of Return of the King “Not for ourselves. But we can give Frodo his chance if we keep Sauron’s Eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves.” What to make of this apart from that it is interesting, however, I do not know.

4 As an aside it appears the Thals now know about the custom of “ladies first”. This logically seems to only have come from Ian but they have only been staying with the Thals for one night. Rather than attack plans or knowledge of their history he seemed to think it was a priority to teach them mid 20th century conventions.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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