Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks
(4 episodes, s25e01-e04, 1988)
Returning to where it all began.
The opening teaser reveals a large and foreboding spacecraft approaches Earth. Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, students arrive for classes at Coal Hill School while the Doctor and Ace discuss the anachronisms in Ace’s clothing, boombox, and a nearby van. Ace goes in search of food while the Doctor investigates the motor vehicle (and a strange little girl). The Doctor meets Professor Rachel Jensen, the van’s monitor, and Ace meets up along with Sergeant Mike Smith as the whole group rushes to the local junkyard.
I. M. Foreman’s junkyard, to be precise, at 76 Totter’s Lane.
Group Captain Gilmore shows Jensen and the Doctor to a corpse. The Doctor determines that soldier died after being shot by an energy ray, and he tracks the source to a nearby shed. Gilmore’s hand-picked troops arrive and take up positions. The soldiers engage as the hostile opens fire, but their bullets are no match against an armored Renegade Dalek.
The Doctor is (once again) disgusted by the military mindset while Ace marvels over their explosive firepower. The Doctor uses Ace’s supply of Nitro-9 (on a ten-second fuse) to destroy the Dalek. The military team (including Allison Williams, Professor Jensen’s assistant) investigate the remains while Ace and the Doctor borrow the van for a brief tutorial on the history of the Daleks. The Doctor believes that they are on Earth at this point not to conquer but to acquire the Hand of Omega.
Back at headquarters for the Intrusion Countermeasures Group (presumably the predecessor to UNIT), Gilmore meets with Mr. Ratcliffe while Jensen (the group’s scientific advisor, which makes her the Doctor’s predecessor) confers with Williams. Ratcliffe’s team takes possession of (read: kill the guards and steal) the Dalek’s remains and move it somewhere safe. That “somewhere safe” is exactly where Davros (or someone who looks like him, because Davros leads the Imperials, not the Renegades, right?) is hiding out.
Back at Coal Hill School, the Doctor and Ace investigate and meet the very strange headmaster. In a chemistry classroom (which looks a lot like the Third Doctor‘s lab at UNIT) they find evidence of a spacecraft landing. Ace questions if people would notice and the Doctor reminds her that no one paid attention to the “Yeti in the Underground” or the “Zygon gambit with the Loch Ness Monster.”
This classroom is the same classroom where Ian and Barbara started things with Susan. Note the book on the French Revolution. These two stories must have just barely missed each other.
The Doctor and Ace continue their investigation, eventually ending up in the cellar. They find a transmat device and sabotage it just as a Dalek is materializing. (The effect is pretty neat since we get to see the biological creature first before the shell arrives.) The pair is immediately ambushed by an Imperial Dalek (which can climb stairs!) and Headmaster Parson (who is working with the Imperial Daleks!). The Dalek recognizes the Doctor and nearly exterminates him, but Ace saves him after knocking out Parson.
Does this mean that the Imperial-Renegade Dalek War is coming to a head?
The Doctor and Ace find an army truck outside with anti-tank rockets, and after (fraudulently) signing for the artillery they return inside to destroy the transmat. Instead, they encounter a Dalek and destroy it, then encounter Gilmore’s unit. Ace stays with the Jensen’s team while the Doctor leaves to deal with his past, finding advice at the local deli.
The next morning, the Doctor visits a funeral parlor and inspects a large casket. The funeral director calls “the governor” and reports the Doctor’s arrival, noting that he was expecting an older man with white hair. The Doctor orders the casket to follow him, and it does so by levitating and floating through the building. The Doctor leads the coffin to a local graveyard where his first incarnation has prepared a grave to hide the device. Mike Smith follows the Doctor to the graveyard, and Parson follows Smith before attacking the sergeant and demanding the location of the Renegade Dalek base. Smith defeats Parson, watches the Doctor bury the coffin, and then escorts the Doctor back to the team. The team (sans Ace) return to headquarters and prepare for battle. Ratcliffe and his mysterious Dalek overseer prepare as well. A frustrated Ace defies the Doctor and returns to Coal Hill to find the Imperial Daleks swarming the cellar.
I love how Ace is rejecting some of the more backward philosophies of the era: The sexism (“Back at six. Have dinner ready.”) and the racism (“No coloureds.”) hold no value for her. Also, what a fascinating Easter egg with the premiere of An Unearthly Child inside the Doctor Who universe.
The Doctor and his team return to Coal Hill where Ace (using a supercharged bat) is on the run from the Imperial Daleks. They find her cornered by three Daleks and save her with a combination of plastic explosives and a stunning device based on the Doctor’s adventure on Spiridon. While the soldiers storm the school, the Doctor and the scientists investigate the Imperial remains, noting that the Imperials have continued to evolve. They then head to the cellar and destroy the transmat.
While the team retires to the deli for lunch, Ratcliffe visits the graveyard and find the casket under a less-than-stealthy headstone marked with a lowercase omega (ω). When Ratcliffe meddles with the site, the Imperial Daleks in orbit detect the power signature and report it to the Emperor (who is looking rather goofy with a giant spherical head). Shortly afterward, the creepy girl from Coal Hill skips into the cemetery and watches Ratcliffe’s men unearth the casket.
Ratcliffe returns the casket to his hideout and notifies his agent, who turns out to be Sergeant Smith. After his men move the Hand of Omega into position, the Renegade Daleks execute Ratcliffe’s team, and his overseer reveals himself… or rather herself since she is the creepy girl, better known as the Battle Computer.
Meanwhile, the Doctor tells Ace the story of Omega, the advent of time travel and Time Lord society, and the stellar manipulator called the Hand of Omega. With it, the Daleks can harness the power of the Time Lords, and the Doctor wants them to have it to avoid mass casualties, but he didn’t count on there being two factions competing for it. They leave the school and go to Ratcliffe’s yard where the Doctor confers with the Hand. They find the Battle Computer’s chair and the Doctor explains that the Daleks use the chair to harness a child’s creativity as an advantage in war. The Doctor disables the Time Controller and leaves a calling card, forcing the Renegade Daleks to pursue as they run through the streets of Shoreditch. The Doctor is gambling that the Imperial Daleks will destroy the Renegades in their search for the Hand of Omega.
The chase leads them back to Coal Hill, but a slip of the tongue reveals Smith’s role as a double agent. The soldiers engage the Renegades as the Imperials descend on the school. The Imperials engage the Renegades as the Doctor plots a little piracy and Ace confronts Smith. The sergeant is taken into custody shortly afterward, but he manages to escape and return to Ratcliffe’s side. As the fight intensifies, the Imperials deploy a Special Weapons Dalek which wipes out several Renegades in one shot.
The Doctor storms the shuttlecraft, disables the Dalek pilot, and studies the computer to find Skaro. He then repairs the transmat before heading back to Ratcliffe’s yard.
Across town, the Imperials storm the yard, providing the humans a chance to steal the Time Controller. Ratcliffe dies as the little girl channels her inner Emperor Palpatine and zaps him with hand lightning, but Smith carries on. The Imperials seize the Hand of Omega and return it to their shuttle, and Ace follows Smith and the Time Controller. The Battle Computer skips away without a care in the world.
Ace tracks Smith back to his home, but the sergeant gets the upper hand by gunpoint. Soon enough, the little girl arrives, zaps Smith, and confronts Ace.
The Imperials return to their mothership and the Doctor uses the transmat to make contact. After a lofty declaration of his credentials – that explains where the new Doctors get that particular trait – he gets the reveal we’ve all been waiting for: The bubble-headed Emperor Dalek is really Davros. After some imperial speechifying and beautiful verbal jabs from the Doctor, Davros activates the Hand of Omega. But there is a wrinkle in the plan as the Doctor has sabotaged the device to destroy Skaro, the feedback of which destroys the mothership. The Hand returns to Gallifrey and Davros escapes in a lifeboat.
The Doctor finds and confronts the Dalek Supreme. The logic of being defeated overloads the Dalek and its destruction kills the Battle Computer in the little girl’s head. The girl is traumatized but alive, and the planet is safe once again.
We have come a long, long way since Genesis of the Daleks. The Fourth Doctor asked if he had the right to destroy an entire race before they enacted their genocidal agenda across the universe, and here the Seventh Doctor tricks the same race into destroying themselves. I don’t know where the line is… has the Sixth Doctor’s darkness changed the Doctor overall, or since the Daleks pulled the trigger on the altered weapon, does the Doctor not share responsibility for the potential genocide?
Even the Doctor recognizes that he can’t call this act inherently good.
In terms of internal chronology, I wonder if the sabotage of the Hand was performed by the First or Seventh Doctor. It makes more sense that the Seventh did it, but I could see a case for the First Doctor setting things in motion. This also marks the end of the Imperial-Renegade Dalek War, and the Doctor has directly ended the Renegade line by working the Dalek Supreme into self-destruction. Again, a darkness rears its head in this incarnation of the Doctor.
External to the chronology, I love the nods to the franchise and its twenty-fifth anniversary. This was a fun and exciting way to kick off the celebration.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.
20 thoughts on “Timestamp #152: Remembrance of the Daleks”
This story is wonderful and a sign of things to come. I would personally say that the first Doctor didn’t set things in motion, because he didn’t recognize the Daleks in the second serial. That meant that he took it from Gallifrey for others reason sand the 7th Doctor just made use of it.
It’s definitely a darker turn for the Doctor, but keep in mind that not every Dalek was living on Skara at the time. They’re a spacefaring species, so it isn’t genocide. This Doctor definitely has the mindset that if the bad guy pulls the trigger, willing to wipe out someone else, then fair is fair that they get wiped out instead. After all, he did beg Davros not to do it.
One thing that you may have missed is the Doctor’s slip of the tongue when talking to Ace about Omega. He says “we” had an issue with the prototype (speaking of the Hand). Ace questions him and he corrects it to “they”. You can certainly argue that he meant “we” in the “my species” sense, but this feeds into the Cartmel Masterplan about why the Doctor is different from other Time Lords. More on that later.
This is the one novelization that I’d recommend to everyone even if they’ve seen the TV story. While most novelizations are basically the TV show in novel form, writer Ben Aaronovitch added so much background and detail in the novelization for this story that it’s well worth reading on its own.
Ace is wonderful isn’t she?
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