“We waited here in the dark space,” booms the Dalek Emperor, “damaged but rebuilding. Centuries passed, and we quietly infiltrated the systems of Earth, harvesting the waste of humanity. The prisoners, the refugees, the dispossessed. They all came to us. The bodies were filtered, pulped, sifted. The seed of the human race is perverted. Only one cell in a billion was fit to be nurtured.”
So, In Russell’s rewrite of ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ (which would be a better title for this story than it was for Saward’s script), the Daleks are no longer harvesting the elite. Brought to the brink of extinction, they have been forced to resurrect themselves from the ‘dregs’… which seems to be synonymous with the contestants who lose game shows. The Daleks take the people who get knocked out before the finale. Because the Daleks have become TV producers. They’ve become the people who run Big Brother and Trinny & Susannah and The Weakest Link. They’ve become the bosses of reality TV. They’ve become Simon Cowell. (Which is kind of an insult to the Daleks, if you ask me.)
Big Brother, in our polity, in our system of media signs, is no longer Orwell’s omniscient totalitarian leader; he’s now the eternal, ever-watching viewer. He’s us. Just like the Daleks are now us.
“So you created an army of Daleks out of the dead,” says the Doctor.
Again, the gothic, the monopoly, and the zombie labour.
“That makes them half human,” mutters Rose… as always, she is straight to the quick.
“Those words are blasphemy!” bellows the Dalek Emperor.
The Daleks chant in unison…
“Do not blaspheme! Do not blaspheme! Do not blaspheme!”
“Since when did the Daleks have a concept of blasphemy?” asks the Doctor.
“I reached into the dirt and made new life. I am the God of all Daleks!”
The Daleks chant in unison…
“Worship him! Worship him! Worship him!”
Bringing back the Daleks in 2005, four years after 9/11 and the start of the ‘War on Terror’, two years into the conquest and occupation of Iraq, Russell T. Davies makes them religious fundamentalists. The world is in the middle of an apparent ‘clash of civilisations’, with religion as the supposed organising logic. But are these new fundamentalist Daleks – ‘Fundamentaleks’ – supposed to be Osama and Al Qaeda? Are they Bush and the neocon Christian crusaders? Both? Two sides of the same coin?
To me, they look more like another kind of fundamentalism, a more prevalent and destructive kind.
They run a massive media system based on ruthless competition. The housemates who lose the battle for popularity get ejected into nothingness. The Trinny & Susannah bots encourage people to carve into their own flesh in order to look right. The weakest links get zapped, and the strongest link is the one who most effectively and ruthlessly competes, who must callously fucks over his competitors. Society has become “a charnel house” in which people compete in competitions of spectacular triviality which are framed as epic battles. You have to step on the other poor schlubs in order to win. This system is publically fronted by celebrities reconfigured as hollow, inhuman monsters. It is run by ordinary people who do evil things not because they’re personally evil, but because they are employed by a systemic evil. And it’s all owned and controlled by Daleks who have absorbed a feverish and callous determination that can best be described, at least as far as RTD is concerned, as fanatical religion.
The Daleks have become neoliberals. Capitalist crusaders, ruling a resurgent yet insane system, presiding over a world divided between the starving and the obese who “just watch telly”, absorbing the working body utterly and assimilating it into themselves. And the logic behind it all has penetrated human culture to the extent that TV runs the world, and relentlessly pushes an ideology of total competition, total dog-eat-dog. (That this is, essentially, the world we live in is obvious since RTD uses shows of the present day, projected into the future.) Survival has finally been formally and openly marketised. The spectacle is omnipresent and it brazenly expresses the relations at the base of society: compete with each other so that your rulers can profit.
The Daleks have become market fundamentalists.