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Is this Spearhead From Space, cause we’re in color now

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Jack Graham

Jack Graham wrote about Doctor Who and Marxism, often at the same time. These days he co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper.Support Jack on Patreon.

10 Comments

  1. Brightcoat
    September 6, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

    Of course, "WE are the Daleks" evokes Jubilee, (as well as "We are the Daleks!", the pre-Genesis Nation prose story from the Radio Times :p).

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  2. Anonymous
    September 7, 2014 @ 9:02 am

    Regarding Danny, I'd like to add that however good we're supposed to believe he is because of his emphasised tear, he trains children to be 'good' soldiers. For fun.

    I disagree somewhat about your reading of both Rusty and Journey, though. I don't think we viewers are meant to share the Doctor's disgust for the Aristotle soldiers. The way Clara gives Journey an apologetic smile, and the way Journey nods bitterly… I think we're meant to sympathise with her, to see the Doctor as hypocritical (or at least, self-loathing and blind to the truth) and unfair to her.

    As for Rusty, the episode really seems to make it clear Daleks have the potential of becoming good. The reason the Doctor's hopes are crushed is not that he was wrong for hoping, but that he wasn't believing in them enough. He is the only reason Rusty reverted to his killing machine mode.

    Admittedly, this reading is partly undermined by the fact Rusty already wanted to kill Daleks at the beginning of the episode, and says so with a very Dalek virulence. I wish they'd elaborated on how 'life prevail' translates into 'destroy the Daleks' because switching sides doesn't magically make a soldier good. However, it is still telling that Rusty uses 'kill' then, and 'exterminate' after the Doctor's intervention.

    What makes the final version of Rusty bad is not that he wants to kill Daleks, per se, it's that he wants to eradicate them for what they are instead of for what they do. That he wants to pursue them even as they retreat and are not a threat anymore.

    So I think the Dalek side of the plot works as intended without as much contradiction as you saw. Now the Danny side… That's a whole different matter.

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  3. Eric Rosenfield
    September 7, 2014 @ 9:44 am

    Wait, are you actually saying you have no problems with the Iraqi insurgents, many of whom are the same people who are now in ISIS and were Al Qaeda in Iraq. Say what you will about America's role in creating the modern Middle East, it doesn't necessarily make those fighting against us worth rooting for…

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  4. Matthew Celestis
    September 7, 2014 @ 10:21 am

    Which is such a blunt and clumsy moral point that it has nothing very much to say.

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  5. FlexFantastic
    September 7, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

    Good take. One thing, and maybe it doesn't so much contradict your points as offer a different way to look at things: since the Doctor's objections to soldiers doesn't come from violence per se, but from an objection to taking orders (which I took as shorthand for an opposition to rigid hierarchy), one could plausibly guess that he'd have no problem with, say, anarchist militias which attempt to resolve some of these issues.

    Given my political inclinations, this is obviously an attractive notion as to where the Doctor's sympathies may lie.

    Of course, it is utterly impossible that the show will be purposefully taking this reading overall but I think in an isolated context it can work for this episode.

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  6. Spoilers Below
    September 8, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

    I'm not sure I agree it's blunt or clumsy. I think "Why do you always assume you are correct, and always have the moral high ground? Why must everyone who isn't like you be enslaved or exterminated?" is the perfect starting point for a deconstruction of values. Or the perfect end result of the essay, encapsulating in a single phrase Jack's entire point. It might not mean much to people outside the target audience, but then, an essay about Marxist interpretations of Doctor Who already has a rather specific audience…

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  7. Anonymous
    September 10, 2014 @ 11:40 am

    nice distinctions here, and the dissonance rather than black and white 'happy' ending is part of the point.
    I think the Doctor's feeling of failure with Rusty was because of what it taught him about himself: he'd hoped to 'dose' Rusty with his own mind, and could hardly see it as victory that his 'cure' was contaminated.
    Maybe that's part of his stated anti-soldier stuff.
    The thing about crying being how civilians communicate with soldiers holds true for all 'collateral damage' whether by morally 'good' rebels/freedom fighters, or effectively 'good' obedient tools of an occupying force. As the african proverb puts it:
    'When elephants fight, the grass suffers.'

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  8. Verblet
    September 15, 2014 @ 7:35 am

    Lots of good points, as always, but I feel you're being more than a little ungenerous.

    Into The Dalek isn't about Good Soldiers vs Bad Soldiers, more subtle things. It's about the differences between goals and reasons when going to war, about how all soldiering, regardless of justification, turns people into something unquestioning and unkind, and about the fundamental incompatibility between being a soldier and being a companion to the Doctor.

    To start with the thing you're most wrongest about (why not!), it is obvious to me that the Doctor thinks The Rebels are in the right. He always supports 'The Rebels', even when he distrusts the hierarchy, authority, macho bluster, and blind obedience that often comes with them. He supports these Rebels completely in their fight against the Daleks, and never once stops to moralise against the importance of their fight, even when he dislikes them personally.

    Rather than being about Good vs Bad Soldiers, there are a few dichotomies in this episode that raise interesting questions (that aren't adequately answered over 45mins, but I'm not so bothered about that):

    * Journey vs Rusty – Is it good enough just to fight the Daleks, or do you have to fight them for the right reasons? You get the sense that the Rebels are defending an existing society – that there is a future with them – but what does Rusty stand for? What would Rusty build in place of the Daleks' racially pure universe? Nothing. With Rusty there's still only hatred. And while hatred is okay (the Doctor and Journey have it in spades), hatred isn't enough.

    * Rusty vs The Doctor – Is the Doctor simply the Anti-Dalek? The line at the end about the Doctor being a 'Good Dalek' is brilliant, on the surface simply calling back 9 years to Dalek, while simultaneously subverting its meaning. The Doctor is no longer being described as having sufficient hatred to be a Dalek, but rather being the moral equivalent of a Dalek. The fact that it is the Doctor's hatred of the Daleks that, in effect, makes the Dalek 'good' (and in turn saves everyone's life) is the bow that ties it all together.

    * Journey vs Danny – I find this more difficult to deconstruct. Perhaps because at this point to we don't know enough about Danny to make many ethical inferences, whereas the Rebels are a complete package delivered over 45mins. Regardless I cannot stress how important it is that we are presented with a British soldier character who immediately has to justify who he is and what has done, and struggles to do so. Clara doesn't reject him completely for his soldiering past, but doesn't pull punches either. To have a character say "moral soldiering, is that when you kill someone and cry about it afterwards?", in 2014, in such an atmosphere of militaristic sanctity that typifies Britain today, is refreshing. I don't know where they're going with this, but I'm not going to assume it will all be "Danny Was A Good Soldier, Leave Him Alone".

    * Journey vs the Doctor – The Doctor isn't a solider. Until he needs to be. Or needs the help of some. So why not have Journey as his companion? Not because Soldier == Bad, but because Solider =/= Companion. Not to jump ahead too far, but as we later saw in Listen the Doctor does not need someone who will take orders. Taking orders from the Doctor will get him, and you, killed. And regardless of how brave and good a person Journey is, being a soldier has changed her into someone who takes orders without question, motivated by hatred and grief. And being motivated by hatred and grief makes you akin to the Doctor, but not a good compliment to him.

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  9. Bar
    September 15, 2014 @ 10:18 am

    Thanks so much for this thought-through post.
    It is nice to have an ongoing theme rather than just the annoying story arc. Whether 'Dan the plastic soldier man' – someone so brave he doesn't need a gun – is more than a passing token I don't know, but Clara handed it on to him before he made it through the Academy and took the name Doctor.
    It's worth re-listening to the differences between her speech to the young Gallifreyan, and his to young Rupert 2000 years later.
    Instead of complex arc plot twists this season we're getting lots of nice character layers we can unpack to our geek hearts' content.

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    March 12, 2016 @ 5:48 pm

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