Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 7

The Daleks: The Rescue

Daleks Rescue

If only there’d been some other way

This is what Ganatus wishes and it is that one line that makes the episode significantly more interesting than it could have been. For this is put together as a rip-roaring adventure serial. The villain giving a countdown to nuclear annihilation, the heroes kept tied to a wall, their friend descending on ropes to rescue them. But it is the cost this victory comes at that makes it very bittersweet.

We have to go back a couple of episodes to Ian’s speech:

What victory are you going to show these people when most of them have been killed? A fluid link? Is this what you’re going to hold up to them and say, ‘Thank you very much. This is what you fought and died for’?

Now the victory for the Thals is not just the fluid link but the agricultural equipment they have captured and that they no longer face nuclear annihilation. But Ganatus lost his brother pointlessly and many others died in the ensuing battle. They may now be able to once more turn their swords into ploughshears1 but they will still have to live with the knowledge that the plants they are growing were built on genocide.

Was there another way they could have gone? By this point it does not appear so. The Doctor is willing to offer them knowledge of his ship (which seems to be the most precious thing to him, after only perhaps Susan) in exchange for stopping the killing and they are simply uninterested. He has tried moral reasoning with them before but they still see the others as unlike. The problem seems to be the Daleks’ own obsession with their superiority, they cannot believe anyone is smarter than they are so are unwilling to accept help. If they let the Doctor and the Thals in, they might be able to find a way for them to survive without the need for radiation. And it is their arrogance that also leads to their downfall as they leave their backs unprotected. How do you breakdown such prejudice when the other side are unwilling to listen? This is not a question that I have an answer to, and neither does it appear that our travellers do either. Perhaps all we can do is rage against this senseless evil killing and fight it head on?

Yet at the end the Daleks once again seem pitiable. For whilst their methods were so disgusting and they have no pity for the Thal corpse, they genuinely were trying to survive. What has to make us different from them is that when the last Dalek is pleading for help, we want The Doctor to find a solution of some kind. And the tone in which he delivers his line:

Even if I wanted to, I don’t know how

Strongly implies to me regret. Even though he is chipper as he walks off with Ian, I do not feel he is feeling particularly victorious, that he would have wished that they would also have another way.

At the same time, however, I do want to say there does seem to be this sense of a divine to this story. Not an explicit way but more that there may be some kind of guiding hand in all this. First of all we have the serendipity to the lamp dying, which allows them to find the way into the pumping station in the Dalek city. Secondly, is the Doctor’s advice is to search for truth. Now the way he states it, to me at least, does not appear to be a general point about rejecting facts that are not verified and being objective in all matters. Instead in looking for a more philosophical idea of revealing greater truths about who we are and what our purpose in the universe is. Now the Wikipedia entry alone on truth is over 12,000 words long so I cannot really do justice to the concept here but I get the sense of the Doctor here as an agnostic and a seeker of wisdom. Finally, we have the whole scenario. If the Doctor had arrived only a few days earlier or later there would have been no Thals in the area and both groups would have been doomed. Only together could either have survived. Which asks a question I imagine we will have to look at going forward, why does the TARDIS arrive where it does when it does, given The Doctor does not appear to be controlling it fully himself?

The final point I want to cover is the little ceremony at the end, the exchanging of the gifts. From the Thals’ side, we see gifts of clothes for Barbara and Susan. Now the fact that the women were given clothes is a little bit of an eyeroll moment, but I think it is also important. That in the midst of the carnage they give something constructive and beautiful. In fact Ganatus says to Barbara:

The dress you make from this won’t be suitable for swamps and caverns

They are no longer at war so they no longer need to worry about pure practicality. Instead they can now concentrate on making things that are beautiful in themselves. From the travellers’ side, as well as the various different parting customs we see,2 what the Doctor is able to give them is hope for the future.

So whilst this is a dark adventure it is one where there is still a shaft of light in it. What has happened to our travellers after that explosion, however, we will find out soon.

1At least for now, but The Doctor seems to predict they will have other wars to fight. It is possible he is referring to more abstract wars, against hunger and poverty and ignorance, but the implication seems to be he sees warfare as a natural state for sentient beings. A further rather depressing thought for this end part.

2Once again I am casting shade on whoever thought ladies’ first was a more important custom to bring up than handshaking. I am still blaming Ian as the mostly likely suspect.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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