I Won’t Explain Its Secrets To You, And Its Philosophy of Movement (Remembrance of the Daleks)
It’s October 5th, 1988. U2 are at number one with “Desire,” unseated a week later by Whitney Houston with “One Moment in Time.” This lasts for two weeks before Enya takes over with “Orinoco Flow,” a song that holds Kylie Minogue out of #1. Erasure, Bobby McFerrin, Milli Vanilli, Rick Astley, Phil Collins, and Pet Shop Boys also chart. Since Dragonfire The KLF has also charted, under the name The Timelords, with “Doctorin’ the TARDIS,” but we’ll deal with it next Pop Between Realities entry.
In real news, first to catch up, Perl was created by Larry Wall, perestroika began in the USSR, and Canadian Celine Dion won the Eurovision contest for Switzerland. And the Local Government Act became law, including Section 28, more about which on Friday. While during this story, Ian Paisley denounces Pope John Paul II as the antichrist while he addresses the European Parliament, bits of Spycatcher are finally published in the media, Michael Dukakis spectacularly flubs a question about capital punishment in a US Presidential debate, and the UK government bans interviews with IRA members, which the BBC deals with by hiring actors to play IRA members and read actual IRA members’ interview quotes.
While on television, at long last, it’s Remembrance of the Daleks. The first unambiguous, widely recognized classic of Doctor Who since Caves of Androzani. A tentpole of Doctor Who history. And in all likelihood, the Doctor Who story I’ve seen the most times – although The Curse of Fenric is quite a contender as well. I won’t pretend that I have anything resembling impartiality here. I love Remembrance of the Daleks. It’s one of the stories that is simply and straightforwardly why I am a Doctor Who fan.
But where to start with it? The beginning, one imagines – that is, after all, where it starts. One of the most obvious things about Remembrance of the Daleks is the way in which it returns to the iconography of An Unearthly Child to tell its story. On paper, of course, this sounds like unbearable fanwank. But this obscures the way in which the story works. Yes, it’s packed to the gills with references to the past. But they’re just that – references. There are no real ways in which this story relies on knowledge of An Unearthly Child beyond the twin facts that it’s the first Doctor Who story and it’s being referenced repeatedly by this story. Having seen An Unearthly Child is helpful only in catching the specific references.
But equally, this isn’t the sort of empty wink of Attack of the Cybermen either. There the references to An Unearthly Child were wholly extraneous – little more than an easter egg that the show was inexplicably self-congratulatory over. Here, however, it’s crucial that An Unearthly Child is being referenced, but only inasmuch as it is a major part of Doctor Who’s mythology. What matters here is that we have returned to the beginning of the series. The important thing is the symbolism of this return, not the plot mechanics as such.
Nevertheless, this return does include a honking big retcon to the origins of the Doctor. Not just the implications of the Doctor briefly acting as though he were one of the people working with Omega on the stellar manipulator, but the larger fact that Hartnell’s Doctor had, apparently, hidden a vastly powerful Time Lord weapon in London prior to An Unearthly Child, and the resulting implications regarding his departure from Gallifrey (which now appears to have included nicking the Hand as he went).
In this regard perhaps the most surprising thing is that this actually clarifies things rather than obscures them. An Unearthly Child always had a bit of a plot hole in the question of what exactly the Doctor considered so dangerous about letting Ian and Barbara go, and why he goes and kidnaps them instead. After all, the Doctor ought to figure that Ian and Barbara would simply be dismissed as lunatics with no proof. And yet he kidnaps them. The Hand of Omega, in this regard, is actually a fairly useful insertion, in that it actually explains what the Doctor was so afraid about: that in investigating him they might discover the Hand.
No, the thing that muddies the waters of the past isn’t the Hand but rather the Daleks. To phrase the question simply, at what point, exactly, did the Doctor decide to use the Hand against the Daleks. The fact that the Doctor has shown up with a plan already in place with elements that date back to the Hartnell era is striking. Indeed, it’s something we’ve never seen before. The Doctor has never entered a story with a pre-existing strategy. We’ll talk about the thematic implications of this later, but given how unprecedented it is it’s difficult, coming at the story fresh, not to get the sense that the Doctor was always planning on using the Hand against the Daleks, especially since the story gives no hints as to what else the Doctor might have been planning.
The problem, of course, is that the Doctor very clearly has no idea who or what the Daleks are in The Daleks, and that this image of Hartnell’s Doctor as being the sort of person who is rushing about time and space trying to defeat the Daleks is in stark contrast to how Hartnell, over his first few stories, develops the character into being a hero. In this regard there’s a strong reason to resist what this story is trying to do. Yes, of course, we can handwave the problems away, but let’s for the moment ignore what can be explained within continuity and focus on what the story is trying to tell us, which seems to be something that jars with the past.
All of which said, let’s cast our gaze back at past Dalek stories for some sort of precedent. Because there’s an obvious one. The last almost universally recognized classic Dalek story, after all, featured the Doctor going back and attempting to retcon the history of the Daleks. Here’s there revenge – an attack upon the history of the program and of the Doctor. But what’s interesting is what history it is that they actually attack. They do not, after all, make any move on the pre-Unearthly Child history of the Doctor. They attack the transmitted beginning of the Doctor – the start of his narrative.
Certainly the episode implies that this happens, in essence, moments after An Unearthly Child. Although there’s no reason for the book to be in the chemistry classroom the discovery of a book on The French Revolution speaks volumes. Yes, Susan brought it home in An Unearthly Child, but the fact that the camera lingers on it and flags it as a significant object is interesting. The only reason to flag it is to imply that it is, in fact, Susan’s book, forcing us to assume that the people making Remembrance falsely believed she left it in the classroom and that we’re picking up, essentially, the day after An Unearthly Child.
If we must insist upon an in-universe explanation, then, it appears that the Daleks have effectively followed the Doctor here. We could ask when, exactly, the Doctor knew that the Daleks would come here, but the question quickly becomes complex – after all, large swaths of the Daleks’ plans require them to have been in place for some time at the start of the story. In other words, for the first time the series is tacitly piercing the veil of An Unearthly Child, and what we are finding is that the space before the series began is positively lousy with Daleks.
The Daleks, then, are clearly a metatextual element here. They are attacking the Doctor in a space that does not make a lot of sense within the context of his supposed fictional biography, but that makes considerable sense within his thematic biography. To do so they must be taken to be at least partially aware of this narrative. And fair enough – if they’re the arch enemies of the Doctor then they ought to be entitled to at least as much narrative awareness as he is. But we must ask, what, exactly, are they trying to do to his narrative?
It’s not, after all, to kill him. We know that the Daleks have been buzzing around Coal Hill School and Totters Lane for ages while the Doctor and Susan were there and they didn’t lay a plunger on him. This is remarkable, particularly if you’re the sort of person who pays any attention to how Dalek chronology would have to work and recognizes that time traveling Daleks all come from late in the Dalek chronology, which means that somewhere in the vicinity of this story they were perfectly willing to try to hunt down Hartnell’s Doctor in The Chase. But here they’re actually seeming to take care to avoid the Doctor – note that one shows up around Foreman’s Yard for the first time only after the Doctor has apparently fled the premises, and that they skulk about in the basement of Coal Hill School until Susan is gone.
So what are they playing at? Back in Genesis of the Daleks we suggested that the central conflict was that the Doctor was trying to render the Daleks susceptible to history and to rewriting. If we take this story to be the reverse fixture, then, all of this makes perfect sense: the Daleks are trying to render the Doctor absolute. This is, after all, clearly what Davros implies when he suggests that now the Daleks will be Lords of Time – that somehow their use of the Hand of Omega will put them ahead of the Time Lords. The reason why this would be seems straightforward enough – they’ll have rewritten the Doctor.
And within the story there’s a continuing thread gesturing in this direction. After all, this is the first story since The Invasion of Time in which the Doctor’s knowledge and the audience’s knowledge do not develop even remotely in sync. This is significant. Most drama proceeds by steadily evolving the audience’s knowledge of what’s going on and the character’s knowledge. Dramatic twists and reversals are almost always versions of “and then he/she learns X” or “and then the audience discovers that Y has been going on all along.”
In Doctor Who the audience and the Doctor usually figure things out more or less at the same time. The Invasion of Time’s one really interesting idea was discarding that and having the Doctor acting in a way that made no sense based on audience knowledge, with the central mystery being what the Doctor knew that we didn’t. But that was a one-off dependent on the fact that the setting was Gallifrey and thus that the Doctor had good reason to know all manner of things the audience didn’t. When the Doctor returns to his pre-Unearthly Child place of origins of course he has knowledge we lack.
To an extent that same trick is used here, but there’s a difference, which is that the audience doesn’t have the same gaps in their knowledge. 1963 is a knowable time, and the iconography of this story is familiar, not strange. The audience has knowledge of what’s going on. And the Doctor isn’t acting inexplicably as such. Instead he’s acting explicably, doing thoroughly Doctorish things, but he’s doing it according to a logic that is obscure to us. And so instead of following the Doctor’s reasoning and knowledge as the story goes along we spend the story catching up to his pre-existing position while he remains largely, though not entirely, static. Or, to put it another way, the Doctor is, in fact, bordering on being absolute.
But equally important is the way in which the Daleks’ notion of absolutism is called into question. In one corner we have the Daleks, created by Davros to be the ultimate life form and the pinnacle of evolution – an absolute and teleological force. In the other we have the Daleks, created by Davros to be the ultimate life form and the pinnacle of evolution – an absolute and teleological force. These two groups, of course, hate each other’s guts. This is not merely a point about mutually exclusive absolute positions, but rather one about the eventual obsolescence of all absolutes. The Daleks, in putting themselves as absolutes outside the arc of history, have trapped themselves in a self-destructive absurdity.
This is used to create a wealth of parallels with racism in the 1960s. This is, of course, terribly heavy handed. But what gets missed in the observation that Remembrance of the Daleks is a stridently anti-racist story is its depiction of racism. Remembrance pulls off an interesting balance between moral certainty and an acknowledgment of genuine complexity. The key scene in this regard is the much-noted one in which Ace discovers the “No Coloureds” sign. Apparently the then Head of Drama, when Andrew Cartmel somewhat indecorously insisted on rewinding the tape of the episode to show him that scene when he missed it taking a phone call, noted that it was a good scene but that Ace should have torn up the sign.
Cartmel, in hindsight, disagrees, and good for him. His instincts were and are solid on this. Because what’s so interesting about that scene is the way in which Ace realizes that there is no stand she can take here that is meaningful. That she’s facing not an individual villain that can be whacked with a superpowered baseball bat, but rather systemic and institutionalized racism. What’s compelling is the way in which Ace begins to be flustered and righteously angry before stopping and realizing that there’s nothing she can do here.
And that’s what’s interesting about the racism in this story. Racism is treated simultaneously as morally simple and socially complex. This is a surprisingly difficult thing to do. The ease with which moral simplicity and conceptual simplicity can be conflated is a lynchpin of practical conservative politics. Aaronovich does a remarkable thing in showing an alternative – something that is morally straightforward (racism is, in fact, bad) and yet enormously complex in the material terms of how it manifests.
This leads into one of the more challenging scenes in the story, the “sugar” conversation. I will admit that this scene is not entirely successful – there’s something off about it, through and through – most obviously in the jarring and condescending transition to “my father, he was a cane cutter.” But the idea of the scene is fantastic because it gives the question of absolutes a new direction to work in. The Doctor, in this story, has become absolute, but everything about the story is screaming the fact that this is an illusion anyway. The sugar conversation stresses this – you can fix one point or signifier absolutely, but doing so unglues everything else.
This is the real problem the Daleks run into. They try to fix their identities as the terminus of history. But they’ve already been defeated. The retaliatory strike of fixing the Doctor’s nature does very little in the face of the Doctor having previously undermined their fixity by making them subject to history and to rewriting. In this regard the narrative collapse implied by this story is short-circuited. It’s a foregone conclusion. Absolute fixity is simply not something that the Doctor is meaningfully imperiled by.
But that does not mean that he’s not altered by it. This new version of the Doctor who doesn’t change over the course of a story is markedly, strikingly different. But for the most part it’s a compelling change. It’s part of a gambit Remembrance plays that is related to, though still distinct from, its maneuvering around the material reality of racism. On the one hand the move towards the Doctor confronting the Daleks with a pre-existing plan is a move towards the epic register in a big way. Setting this transition on the backdrop of the show’s beginning and adding in a spare ancient Time Lord weapon dials this up tremendously.
And yet despite that there’s an intense materialism to this story. In this regard Ace is invaluable to what the story is doing. This story is the one that really starts to add in the “urban teenager” dimension to her character. She still acts like a children’s television protagonist – and she is firmly the protagonist of this story – but she’s whip-smart competent. With the Doctor withdrawn to being an absolute force of nature in this story Ace becomes the character whose knowledge changes – note that she even gets to explain the plot to somebody. But the nature of her interaction with the story is very much different from what the Doctor normally does. She spends the story among ordinary people experiencing the material side of things.
The result is a story that transitions from an apparent narrative collapse into a Holmesian epic. The Daleks threaten the foundations of the series, yes, but the solution comes out of the purely material and pragmatic – from the way in which the larger themes of the Daleks echo into the mundane world. But this gives rise to the most troubling and fascinating part of the story – the Doctor’s destruction of Skaro.
We can, of course, engage in various justifications and handwaves. There’s enough ambiguity to decide that the Doctor does not, in fact, incinerate Skaro with Daleks on it. The Doctor’s line about Davros tricking himself carries some weight, perhaps. But why. Let’s be honest about this. The Doctor is reversing his famed position from Genesis of the Daleks. He now has the right.
Equally, this is not, to my mind, the sort of grave moral sin that some people want to make it into. Let’s not forget that the Doctor backs down from his original position in Genesis of the Daleks but is stymied in destroying them. Sarah Jane, arguably the moral center of the series at that point, argues passionately for destroying the Daleks. It’s not entirely clear that we’re supposed to side with the Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks, nor is it entirely clear that we’re supposed to side with him here. But it’s not a great departure. The Doctor has caused the destruction of huge numbers of Daleks before. Just two seasons ago we were supposed to overlook the genocide of the Vervoids. Troughton was never above wiping out a few species here and there. Including a pretty blatant attempt on the Daleks that included letting those with the human factor die. Yes, the Doctor obliterates Skaro. Let’s be honest. He does things like that.
But it’s still a striking and major change when taken with the immutability of the Doctor in this story. McCoy’s Doctor has established himself both as exceedingly powerful and as dangerous and unpredictable. It’s enormously compelling. It’s the most exciting the program has been in years. But it’s also terrifying, in that the way in which the Doctor has become more powerful and more dangerous is, in a very real sense, by becoming more like the Daleks – by becoming fixed.
To some extent this is the great tragedy of the McCoy era right here. This story sets up the mother of all narrative collapses. Yes, the Doctor survives the Dalek attack on his origins. But he is changed by it. He is not destroyed by his newfound fixity, but this is a different sort of character. He’s still mercurial, yes, but there’s an inherent moral tension now. And it’s one that should have gotten a payoff.
In many ways it does over the course of the Virgin books. But what’s infuriating is that it should have gotten one on television. It deserved that profile. And watching Remembrance of the Daleks, it’s very hard not to imagine an alternate universe in which it got one. Because this is, at long last, classic Doctor Who. With the Daleks, who were always a reasonable popularity booster. It’s easy to believe that with a real, genuine promotional effort that hailed a triumphant return to form that this could have restored Doctor Who to the status of “a show people take seriously.” And that this, in turn, could have led to a sufficient extension of the McCoy era to get to a story that eventually paid off the big moral tension at the heart of this era of Doctor Who.
But equally, what would that have looked like? Some story in which the Doctor renounces his manipulative ways? One where he finally, triumphantly, justifies his approaches? God help us, one where, for once and for all, the implications of all of this are fixed and rooted for good? How utterly dreadful.
No, the heart of this Moore-inflected revamp of Doctor Who is the decision to shift where the mercury is. Instead of a mercurial Doctor who unsettles fixed situations we have one who is terrifyingly constant, but who instead watches the ripples of mercury echo out around him, muddying an already complex situation. The mercury, in other words, is moved from being a property of the Doctor to being a property of the world that is brought forth by the Doctor. In classic Moore fashion this is not quite a radical reconceptualization of the character. Rather it is a different, previously unseen form of fealty to the character.
There is, in all of this, one major moment that I’m sure someone in comments will object to my failure to deal with. (There may be other moments, but this is the one I’m sure of.) That, of course, is the moment in which Doctor Who nearly comes on television. There are, of course, alternative explanations for this sequence aplenty. The show doesn’t have to be Doctor Who, and the “consensus” interpretation is that it isn’t. Piffle. The show is clearly meant to be Doctor Who. The entire reason the line is interesting is that it sounds like Doctor Who is coming on. Yes, it cuts out before it confirms it, but this isn’t some sort of 50/50 ambiguity. It’s obviously meant to be Doctor Who.
What should we make of this sudden intrusion of the larger narrative structure into Doctor Who. In some ways it’s convenient – it allows us to be downright straightforward in the idea that the series is playing in the iconography of its first episode instead of literally re-intersecting its own past. But this is sophistry. More significant is the fact that Doctor Who is something that exists within Doctor Who. Even if this isn’t quite a narrative collapse story, it reinforces the idea of narrative collapse, making it a more natural and instinctive thing for the show to do. There’s a turning point in the series here where metafiction becomes the norm for it.
It is as though, having exorcised its demons, the show is now willing to make something of its own heightened self-awareness. This story marks a point of escalation for the show, both in quality and in thematic intensity. As of this point, Doctor Who is a substantially different show – one that is still unmistakably a version of itself, but that is something we’ve never quite seen anything like.
It’s sometimes easy to forget how good an idea the Daleks are. There are few enough truly great Dalek stories in the classic series. Even in the new series there are a fair number of clunking Dalek stories. But then there are stories like Remembrance of the Daleks. We have here a story where the Doctor faces down his greatest enemy, where he is pushed to greater heights, where the mercury crackles through every beat of the story in ways we have never seen before, and where the very nature of the series shifts. These things are only possible when you have a mythos as strong as Coal Hill School and Daleks are. This is what the past of the show is for: metamorphosis.
Stuart Ian Burns
July 11, 2012 @ 12:12 am
It's Professor X.
On related subjects, and I don't know if this helps, but in AHistory, Lance Parkin speculates that The Mutants/The Daleks is the first occasion the Doctor meets his foe, but their last encounter with him either one of the various time wars or having yet to be written.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:53 am
Any retcon of Remembrance of the Daleks has to convincingly explain why he didn't leave the Hand of Omega on Quinnis.
Am I right in remembering that (assuming that the Doctor lies) it's not entirely certain that the Doctor left it there? Is it possible that other Time Lords hid it there at another time? Or even that he organized for it to be hidden there when he was President, rather than before An Unearthly Child? There's a strong implication that this was all done by Hartnell, but as you say that would be very out of character for Hartnell.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:56 am
The announcer gets as far as saying 'Doc…'.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:56 am
I've always enjoyed trying to intertwine this with An Unearthly Child but I'd never before considered the fact that the Daleks were lurking around, hiding from the First Doctor. It makes An Unearthly Child even better when viewed with that knowledge.
A stunning essay/write-up here, Philip, and I look forward to more of Season 25. Indeed, my very favourite story is coming up next and I can't wait to read your analysis.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:58 am
If you want to stretch it a little, you could even assume it was something to do with Pertwee. The bloke in the funeral parlour mentions "an old geezer with white hair". Sure, it's definitely meant to be Hartnell, but it could be Pertwee if you want to come up with a seperate mad theory.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:59 am
Yup, sorry Stuart, but I don't see how that Professor X holds up. It's a ham-fisted retcon that doesn't fit with the "Doc—" mention.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:59 am
"After all, the Doctor ought to figure that Ian and Barbara would simply be dismissed as lunatics with no proof." — well, it depends who you think would be questioning them. Earth authorities, yes, this is right. But if the Doctor assumes that the Time Lords are after him, then he can't have people wandering around London talking about this crazy box they saw that was bigger on the inside.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:00 am
Unless you assume the announcer went on to say "Doc — sorry, I mean Professor X."
July 11, 2012 @ 1:11 am
But even if he was bothered, surely the Time Lords wouldn't be looking in such a specific place. Unless they have 'tabs' the phrase "bigger on the inside" or something that they can trace magically through time.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:11 am
Maybe in the DW universe, the long-running sci-fi show is Doctor Hugh 😀
July 11, 2012 @ 1:15 am
I've watched this twice now, once about 2 years ago, and once about 2 days ago. I never saw it on original broadcast or in the years intervening. On a fairly simple level I have found it difficult to sit through on both occasions, and originally I put this down to it not being very good television.
Certainly I don't think it's particularly well acted in places, particularly in McCoy's delivery of lines, and I find the story itself very shallowly-written, with huge plot holes – like how Rachel and Gilmore immediately accept the Doctor's presence with no justification other than the fact that he "seems to know what he's talking about". That grates on me horribly, although I realise that there's no room in the script for 10 minutes of the Doctor establishing his credentials (you can see that Psychic Paper was invented for just such a scene). Also the fact that Ace's anachronistic attitude and appearance is just handwaved away feels terribly false as well.
The music is dreadfully '80s, and to be honest although it's set in the '60s the story also looks dreadfully '80s too.
The Doctor's transition from flapping clown to mercurial manipulator also sits badly with me, as McCoy's performance doesn't make me believe this, and the story does feel very much of it's time in this regard – a triumph of style over substance, where arch glances and cryptic comments hint at mystery that is very rarely explained. Again very '80s.
But then I sit back and I try and look at it in context. Context of the time it was made and broadcast and (far more importantly) the context of a child of the 80s watching it for the first time. And there I can see the classic. There is the programme that children of the time watched with wide eyes, hidden behind the sofa (and why Phil cannot treat this story with any pretense of objectivism!)
The fear in the Doctor's eyes at the Part 1 cliffhanger must have been mirrored in a million children, and I recognise a glimpse of that. It's the same fear as I felt when Jon Pertwee was threatened by Silurians in 1970 or Patrick Troughton by Yeti in 1968. "Remembrance" does indeed have all the hallmarks of a classic Doctor Who story, and it would have scared and excited kids whether it was broadcast in the '80s, '70s, or '60s. In some respects it not only references the first story but also unashamedly nods to the UNIT stories of the 70s, with Gilmore doing a blatent Brigadier homage, and Rachel a pretty good Liz Shaw.
And that's the paradox of Doctor Who fandom. A story that I find almost unwatchable myself, I recognise and respect as beloved by other fans (notably) younger than myself.
In the spirit of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, "I can't find it in my heart to like your era of Doctor Who, but will defend to the death your right to enjoy it yourself."
Incidentally, I watched it first time round with my (then) 7 year old daughter, who sat spellbound through the whole thing. Go figure.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:27 am
One thing I've always noticed is Rachel in the opening moments of episode 1. Shot from the back, she's almost a Barbara lookalike!
July 11, 2012 @ 1:28 am
He doesn't know how close they are to him, who they're listening to, or what they might overhear. Naturally he panics.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:29 am
My daughter loves it too. The Special Weapons Dalek is her favourite.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:31 am
Fair comment! Hadn't thought of that before as the reason for the kidnap. Makes sense though.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:44 am
By a strange coincidence, the Big Finsih spin-off "Counter-Measures", featuring Rachel, Allison and Gilmore, was released today. I don't have anything particularly relevant to say about it, so consider this a public service announcement.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:59 am
The solution is obvious:
It's Inspector Spacetime.
July 11, 2012 @ 2:13 am
I've always maintained that any TV drama series can be seen as Science Fiction, because they're all effectively set in an alternate universe, where everything is the same…except for the lack of the programme itself on TV. Thus we get the situation where Coronation Street characters watch Eastenders and vice versa (in fact Eastenders is a special case, in which it inhabits the pocket universe of London E20, which seems to exist somewhere between Canning Town and Beckton).
As far as I know, this episode shows Doctor Who to be the only example of TV drama in which it does exist as a TV programme within itself. Ironically by my criteria above this is the one element of Science Fiction that Doctor Who therefore doesn't exhibit!
July 11, 2012 @ 2:18 am
It's not quite the same thing, but I heard a character on Neighbours recently refer to the singer Kylie Minogue.
July 11, 2012 @ 2:22 am
I agree. I want to like this story, I really do, there's so much in it that the seven year old me would have loved but he got spirited away by another police box in another Totters Lane in the 'real' 1963.
I get the whole narrative collapse as ultimate weapon thing Phillip but I'm actually surprised at how little you actually deal with that in this post. Compared with your game-changing positioning of the Doctor as Master of the Land of Fiction in the Mind Robber post this one seems to miss the wood for the trees. You predicted someone would bring this up and I won't let you down. The Doctor very nearly gets to see his own fictionality in that infamous continuity announcement. Surely that's the real threat the Daleks are wielding, as you do point out, they've forced the Doctor to enter his own narrative. (if Doctor Who canon contains everything except Noddy then it must also contain itself) How does the Doctor counter this? With The Hand of Omega – the biggest McGuffin in the universe and the Daleks fall for it hook line and plunger. By buying into the Doctor's attempt to overcomplicate his own narrative with the ultimate retcon they muddy the time streams, forcing Davros's hand (The Hand of Davros)who is then himself narratively retconned into the role of Emperor Dalek. (one of my favourite reveals of the whole series). I also like the idea that the destruction of Skaro is the first shot fired in the Time War and therefore the link to Nu Who. Yes it's almost impossible to discuss this story without getting mired in continuity porn and fanwank but of course that's its function, it's a meta-narrative trap for the Daleks devised by a Doctor who has finally accepted his role as Master of the Land of Fiction and is using his powers. (If we want to bring Alan Moore into this I hope you'll be discussing his Promethea series and the concept of the Immateria, or Idea -Space). The Daleks' retaliation for this is a long time coming and is called the Pandorica. (We're all stories in the end).
July 11, 2012 @ 2:50 am
A Purple Rose of Cairo moment.
July 11, 2012 @ 2:54 am
I can see two possibilites here…
Firstly… We know that the Doctor is a figure of legend within the Dr Who universe (see Clive's researches, for instance). What would make more sense than that the BBC might choose to make a Saturday teatime drama about such a figure, much as they have done about Robin Hood or Merlin?
Secondly… If (as Phil speculated in his piece on The Mind Robber) the Doctor's origins lie within the Land of Fiction, doesn't this imply that there is some fiction within the Dr Who universe in which he's a character? Maybe an early evening BBC family sci-fi show?
These two ideas are not necessarily exclusive.
July 11, 2012 @ 3:00 am
As you say, the Doctor's not entirely an absolute here: for one thing Ace affects him. This is the first occasion on which he asks her to give him the nitro-9 she's not carrying. This is the first time since Leela where we see a companion who knows what the Doctor's moral judgements are and makes her own choices anyway. (Leela was in the Invasion of Time: in some ways this could be Invasion of Time done right?) And in this case the Doctor reluctantly endorses Ace – when the two disagree, Ace isn't always wrong.
Also, the first time we learn that the Doctor has a plan is when we learn that something has happened that he didn't expect (the wrong sort of dalek).
I think the sugar scene works better than you allow. Or at least that there are levels on which it does work at which few sf series have ever thought about working. The kind of semi-non-sequitur that the cane cutting comment represents doesn't feel wrong for the kind of late night conversation that it is; what would be clunky moralising in a context in which everything was being spelled out is left in the air in a conversation which is about something different. And it indicates a level of interiority that the Doctor just hasn't had before. I think that as far as the Doctor is concerned his plan is still open to reconsideration at this point.
One thing to note: McCoy, on being told that Harry's wife is in hospital, says 'twins'. Clearly he's learnt about Harry's future. But he doesn't imply that either of the children will go on to do marvellous things or be influential – there's no indication (ala the TV Movie that Didn't Happen) that he knows about them because they affect the historical record. So either McCoy's Doctor has done exhaustive research into the people in this area before starting his plan, or else he's looked up people he knew as Hartnell to find out what happened to them. Either way, he's interested in the human scale.
July 11, 2012 @ 3:06 am
The music is dreadfully '80s, and to be honest although it's set in the '60s the story also looks dreadfully '80s too.
I remember worrying about this in the 90s, but the last time I saw Remembrance it didn't bother me at all – I think "eighties" as a flavour is now old enough that it's moved beyond "dated" and just feels "period". Even borderline "classical".
July 11, 2012 @ 3:12 am
First suggestion: I like it! This is now canon.
July 11, 2012 @ 3:17 am
So as well as revisiting the Unearthly Child (and more covertly Invasion of Time) it's also blatantly revisiting Spearhead from Space.
Gilmore and Rachel/Allison are clearly stand-ins for the Brigadier and Liz. And to a lesser extent for all the sixties characters who let (mostly) Troughton's Doctor show up and take charge (as in Seeds of Death). I don't think it's my imagination that they talk more like they're out of sixties Doctor Who than, say, Mike does.
And the dalek coming up the stairs is just so much more effective than the equivalent moment in Dalek.
July 11, 2012 @ 3:20 am
There was a genuine promotional effort hailing a triumphant return to form – for the twenty-fifth anniversary story Silver Nemesis.
July 11, 2012 @ 3:41 am
"There was a genuine promotional effort hailing a triumphant return to form – for the twenty-fifth anniversary story Silver Nemesis."
J. L. Webb
July 11, 2012 @ 4:21 am
I like to think of McCoy's Doctor as being the culmination of the trajectory of the first two Doctors, a combination of the intrinsic power and authority of Hartnel, and the mercury of Troughton. By this logic the forced regeneration at the end of The War Games sent the doctor's development somewhat off course. I don't mean this as a slant against Pertwee's Doctor, i rather like him, but he seems to be a character striving to define himself through his quirks (the velvet, the cars, the karate, etc.), understandable given how his identity was forced on him from above, the next swing is away from the suave, and into bohemian eratticism, an attempt to return to the mercury and correct course, but the pendulum swings too far, T.Baker's Doc is so mercurial that he can even inflict mutability on the Daleks, and so in the other direction, Davison's doctor; more mild, more restrained. But this humility brings only death, and in one last violent explosion the ego returns with a vengeance. C.Baker's doctor is almost the epitome of this destructive uncoiling of The Doctor's nature, a poisonous inversion, all the meanness Hartnel outgrew returning, all the mercury of Troughton soured. But against this The Doctor's inner good strives, he fights as a hero, betters himself somewhat, and if he is to one's tastes may still be a well loved character.
then here, with McCoy, we return to a balance. Still fluctuating prior to this story, though mixed aphorisms are a far more bearable quirk than The Coat. Now it is The Daleks who return the doctor fully to himself, installing the fixity other Time Lords acquire so easily but which due to their meddling he raged against. They cannot understand mercury, and how it survives all things, believing fixity to be it's polar opposit they 'fix' The Doctor. only to find that the mercurial and the stating may entwine to become the Odinic, a new aspect to their nemesis, which he may forever after use, but which is strongest in him in this lifetime (indeed it shall prove too strong).
of course this is imposing a grand narrative on the literary, editorial, executive and arbitrary decisions of a shifting bunch of BBC types, but that's sort of what we're doing anyway.
and of course it all gets thrown of course by the cancellation, but then looking at Matt Smith it seems that things have come back around, The Doctor has reculminated, and sometime soon we shall find out what comes after Odin.
J. L. Webb
July 11, 2012 @ 4:32 am
July 11, 2012 @ 4:36 am
"Equally, this is not, to my mind, the sort of grave moral sin that some people want to make it into."
People like Alan Stevens?
July 11, 2012 @ 5:06 am
One thing to note: McCoy, on being told that Harry's wife is in hospital, says 'twins'.
Which I took as a bit of a metaphor. There are two Dalek factions, nearly identical, and in the end there's Davros twinned as the Emperor and the Little Girl posing as Davros. And there are two human factions, with Ratcliff and Gilmore in charge on either side. The Daleks threatening to become Time Lords, and the Doctor responding with Dalekish force.
July 11, 2012 @ 5:10 am
Doctor Who is coming on Doctor Who. This is another twinning, but what I really love about it is the suggestion that The Doctor has breached our reality from the realm of fiction, like a god.
July 11, 2012 @ 5:12 am
I actually found this a well-written, complex, fascinating story with good acting when I watched it again as an adult, and it (and Fenric too) have become my most rewatched Doctor Who stories. The drama of Ace's relationship with Mike and the sheer weirdness of the Doctor's plotline uncovering and then hiding in plain sight the Hand of Omega, and his interactions with the Daleks to me are all top-quality Doctor Who. There are certainly imperfections — the Daleks themselves do look kind of cheap at times, and the soundtrack can be annoying — but the story as a whole more than makes up for it. I can't understand the viewpoint which would call this a bad story.
Listen to enough contemporary indie rock, and you'll know that the 80s are back now, even synth-filled music with Peter Hook bass lines all over it.
July 11, 2012 @ 5:16 am
I think Cartmel has learned an important element of how Doctor Who storytelling works: if you show up and act like you own the place, people will assume that you do (as stated in Silver Nemesis, which, having watched again for the first time since childhood, I actually found better than its reputation).
July 11, 2012 @ 5:21 am
I first saw this one as I was finishing up at university, and thought it great fun at the time. But then, I never experienced Doctor Who as a tyke. I saw my first episode when I was thirteen (The Hand of Fear, Part 3) so I was never afflicted with the nostalgia of a child.
July 11, 2012 @ 5:21 am
Doctor Who appearing on Doctor Who? Basically the same as the time in the second part of Don Quixote, when Don Quixote and Sancho Panza read the first part of Don Quixote.
There are worse inspirations.
July 11, 2012 @ 5:37 am
Yes, the Land of Fiction angle is there, but I don't like to revisit the Mind Robber post when all I can do with it is point dramatically and say "See! I had a good idea there, didn't I!" It's my most popular post still, and so doing so feels kind of like spiking the football.
And in this case I don't think it adds much. The Doctor emerging from fiction theory is, at the end of the day, another theory that doesn't quite mesh with everything, as most explanations of Remembrance are. Which is why it's so miring in continuity porn – in a way that Attack of the Cybermen, ironically, isn't. It references the past left right and center, but that's all it does: reference. In the end it's telling its own iconoclastic story, and it doesn't give a damn whether the past fits it literally or figuratively. So in the end any theory explaining Remembrance's relationship with the rest of the program fails what is, for me, the major test of any retcon theory: it fails to mesh well with the story it's most directly explaining.
In the end the cut-off broadcast is another moment of Remembrance's over-arching point, not a centerpiece for interpretation: the Doctor simply cannot be turned into fixed certainty. It won't work.
July 11, 2012 @ 5:54 am
I took the meta-fictional elements of Remembrance of the Daleks in a different direction than you did, Phil. To me, the story has three levels.
Meta-Fictional. There are really two levels of reflection here. The Daleks want to rewrite their own history and the history of the show to make themselves lords of time. The Doctor combats them by rewriting his own history, and that of the show. The original Hartnell Doctor was an old man who became a hero, but now the McCoy Doctor appears at a key moment of his own past, and makes the Hartnell Doctor a hero from the start.
The Doctor also gets meta-fictional moments like his chat with Davros over a television screen, Doctor Who coming on the tv, and the episode three cliffhanger, when the Dalek shuttle lands in the schoolyard and he tells the audience "I think I may have miscalculated." Even McCoy's opening credits climax with his staring at the audience with a serious face, then winking mischievously at us. All these serve as signifiers of the Seventh Doctor's tremendous powers over the narrativity of himself and his show.
Battle of the Gods. The real conflict of this story is the epic battle among the Dalek factions, with the Doctor in the middle, a three-way battle among Davros' Daleks, the Renegade Daleks, and the Doctor, fighting using weapons that the humans can describe only with cartoonish words like "death rays," that can destroy whole solar systems, and "crack this planet open like an egg."
Material. All the people like Gilmore, Rachel, and Allison are completely meaningless in the above conflict of gods. The Doctor's main goal regarding the proto-UNIT team is to keep them all out of trouble and alive. In many ways, Gilmore's unit is UNIT, but without the knowledge of the extra-terrestrial world that the Brigadier's crew had to be functional actors in the Doctor's world. UNIT could punch above their weight to put Time Lords in prison and fight the devil. Gilmore's crew only just manages to get enough explosives together to take out a Dalek task force with the help of a weapon the Doctor designed, and that he wasn't even sure would work. Even then, they only learn what's really going on when Ace, the real bridge between the quotidian and the gods, finally explains to Rachel and Allison the nature of the Dalek civil conflict.
The only humans who take a genuinely proactive role in the battle of the gods are Michael Sheard's enslaved schoolmaster, the little girl controller, and Ratcliffe's National Front crew. And their proactive nature gets them all killed or traumatized for life. Ratcliffe only gets involved because he thinks the Daleks are neo-Nazis like him, and so natural allies. In a way, it's meta-fictional nod to the inadequacy of Terry Nation's original vision of the Daleks as space nazis. The Daleks do parallel Nazism, but their plane of existence is so removed from ordinary human life that there's no such thing as a natural ally between Daleks and humans.
Ace bridges the material and godly world because of her friendship with the Doctor. She's still a rookie, and still human, so she needs the Doctor's help with the Baseball Bat of Omega and his scrambling device, but she understands the world of gods that the Doctor and the Daleks move in, and can work in it. Yet she's still removed from the meta-fictional battle, which the Daleks sort of understand, and where the Doctor has become a master.
She also serves as a moral heart of the human level of the story, I think most clearly in her reaction to Mike's justifying his alliance with Ratcliffe. Mike sincerely believes what he says about keeping the outsiders out, and thinks this will make perfect sense to Ace. But she just screams at him to shut up, because she knows she can't convince him with arguments that his racism is what caused his betrayal in the first place. She can only remind him of the force of that betrayal.
October 19, 2022 @ 7:02 am
“All the people like Gilmore, Rachel, and Allison are completely meaningless in the above conflict of gods. The Doctor’s main goal regarding the proto-UNIT team is to keep them all out of trouble and alive.”
This is the bit where the whole premise of the story falls apart though. There is no reason why the Doctor had to set the whole plan up to happen on Earth. He could have fetched the Hand Of Omega, returned to the TARDIS, set course for, say, the Moon of Charon around Neptune, and lured the Daleks to there to fight over it, and then not let any humans get caught in the crossfire. The rest of his plan would still not essentially have to change in any way, and in practical terms would be no less likely to succeed.
It’s almost as if the Doctor realises that his plan to commit genocide, which is what it is, is fundamentally unethical, and so he needs to have the humans in harm’s way so that he can still view himself as the hero for “saving” them from a threat he brought upon them himself.
July 11, 2012 @ 6:08 am
Of course, it's the drama and comedy of the ordinary folks that makes this story truly gripping. The moments when the moral relevance of the story comes into focus are the drama of Mike's betrayal, the comedy of Gilmore, Rachel, and Allison trying to make sense of the Doctor and Ace ("What did he mean, you haven't been born yet?" "Is the ship nuclear-capable?" "Some space vagrant!" and Allison's little hop down to the main floor of the Dalek shuttle), and the comedic drama of Ace's explaining the Dalek civil war as a conflict over proper standards of blobbiness.
The tragedy of Mike is that he's a decent, handsome, nice guy whose racist beliefs get him wrapped up in a conflict in which he ends up squashed like an ant. The comedy of the Gilmore-Rachel-Allison trio keeps us entertained, and along with Ace gives the audience a set of witnesses to help this battle of gods make sense to us. I get a wonderful sense throughout the story that the Doctor just loves talking to ordinary humans, especially when he's deactivating the Dalek shuttle pilot, so annoyed at its monotonous barking.
July 11, 2012 @ 6:44 am
Steven Moffatt's first Doctor Who work, the short story "Continuity Errors", briefly suggests that the (Seventh) Doctor inserts himself into the popular culture of the societies he interferes with as part of his unfathomable plans.
July 11, 2012 @ 7:08 am
Really? Amazon told me the copy I pre-ordered wouldn't be with me until early August.
July 11, 2012 @ 7:40 am
Yes. It is available for download now. They'll probably post stuff out in the next day or so. Dunno when Amazon will get their copies though.
July 11, 2012 @ 9:13 am
If anything, they should've pushed the season back to have "Remembrance" actually coincide with the 25th anniversary; appropriate (especially within the context of the story), no? 😉
July 11, 2012 @ 10:14 am
The biggest mistake of the Pertwee era was Shaun Sutton telling Pertwee to "be himself".
We could've gotten another great role from Pertwee the eccentric character actor; instead, we got real-life Pertwee, and all the baggage that entails.
In retrospect, Sutton should've kept his mouth shut. 😛
July 11, 2012 @ 10:19 am
About Time suggests that we were going to get a flamenco guitar playing Doctor before Pertwee took the "be yourself" route, so I don't mourn too heavily here.
July 11, 2012 @ 11:27 am
The connection between racism and the desire for fixity is also made by Sartre, in his book Antisemite and Jew and short story "Childhood of a Leader" (especially the bit in the latter about the young fascist longing to see his own back), where the desire to escape from responsibility by thinking of oneself as an object, hard and unchangeable, with a prefab identity, as opposed to a free being shaping one's own identity, is offered as an explanation of the desire to identify with a racial group. (FWIW, I discuss this, in a comparison of Sartre's and Rand's analyses of racism, here.)
July 11, 2012 @ 11:36 am
Yes, the Doctor obliterates Skaro. Let's be honest. He does things like that.
To quote the Shalka Doctor: "I don’t like the military, but I have so many friends in it. I say I do not kill, but then I exterminate thousands."
July 11, 2012 @ 11:37 am
By the way, these captchas are getting harder and harder. Pretty soon, only robots will be able to prove they're not robots. At that point, Skynet takes over.
July 11, 2012 @ 11:58 am
Unless you assume the announcer went on to say "Doc — sorry, I mean Professor X.
Actually the announcer is Ace's evil twin Mace, who always insists on calling Professor X "Doctor X."
July 11, 2012 @ 12:02 pm
If you want to stretch it a little, you could even assume it was something to do with Pertwee.
I forget how old the funeral guy is, but unless he's very young, he wouldn't naturally describe Pertwee as an "old geezer." (Unless it was Dimensions In Time Pertwee.)
July 11, 2012 @ 12:02 pm
Well, it would've been in the vein of the recorder, at least… 😛
July 11, 2012 @ 12:23 pm
If I may take one more stab at the "Doctor Who is on television within Doctor Who" topic, it would seem to me this is a clear evolution of a theme that's been kicking about the series since at least the Graham Williams era, if not the Pertwee era. Many of my esteemed commentors have touched on the gist of it above but, in short, it seems obvious to me this is The Doctor taking his ability to invade other stories and reshape them to the logical limit and invading and reshaping Doctor Who itself. This ties in perfectly with the myriad of other references to the show's past in "Remembrance", particularly to "An Unearthly Child". This is the essential drama of this story: The Dalek factions and The Doctor are fighting for the future of Doctor Who.
All this play with the show's history and iconography also seems to me to hint at some motifs about transience and laying the past to rest. There's a sense that while the past must be Remembered, we cannot and must not attempt to recreate it wholecloth lest we bring about catastrophe: Take, for example, the key moment where The Doctor allows Emperor Davros to initiate his plan to "rebuild" Skaro using The Hand of Omega, and in doing so allow him to bring about its destruction. Also note how The Doctor first refers to The Hand as his own past, and a major part of his plan involves interring it with full burial rites. This scene is mirrored, in another example of the "twinning" theme Jane so wonderfully highlighted that also evokes "The Ribos Operation", in the final scene as the Sergeant is laid to rest.
Doctor Who then is duplicated within Doctor Who to force us, just as it did in "Ribos" to re-evaluate the show's relationship to itself and The Doctor's role within and without it. Knowing this, I think "Remembrance" can very easily be read as Cartmel's rejection of the approach of his immediate predecessors and a strong statement of purpose for his whole tenure, as well as being a somber contemplation of the show's mythology.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:27 pm
he seems to be a character striving to define himself through his quirks (the velvet, the cars, the karate, etc.)
But no little purple space dog.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:36 pm
In many ways, Gilmore's unit is UNIT, but without the knowledge of the extra-terrestrial world that the Brigadier's crew had to be functional actors in the Doctor's world.
It would have been a nice if this show had established that the 7th Doctor was indirectly responsible for the founding of UNIT.
In a way, it's meta-fictional nod to the inadequacy of Terry Nation's original vision of the Daleks as space nazis.
I don't see that. There's nothing un-Nazi like about one group of racists being hostile to another group of racists; if I think my race is superior I'm not going to be a natural ally of someone who thinks their (different) race is superior — quite the contrary.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:39 pm
I too am a fan of the sugar scene, for the reasons David outlines above. Also, if I recall correctly, I think I read somewhere that scene was written to tie into the so-called Cartmel Masterplan and was meant as a bit of a call-forward.
As I mentioned in an above comment, I love Jane's twinning reading of this serial.
One thing I have to admit I'm grappling awkwardly with is this concept of the Daleks "fixing" The Doctor and making him static. It's not like The Doctor had never shown a more manipulative and unreadable side before: Both Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker had moments of extreme coldness and distance. And, as Phil mentions, the core trick here is showing different ways The Doctor can be mercurial. I have genuine issues with the way both Virgin and the New Series seem obsessed with how this side of The Doctor is "wrong" or "dangerous" and how they both go out of their way to problematize this. I think the intent as of "Remembrance" is less that the Doctor is becoming more threatening to hint at a looming moral dilemma as much as it is subtly shifting his role and the way he interacts with the narrative a bit and I think the televised Cartmel era handles this just fine.
July 11, 2012 @ 12:45 pm
Actually, the references might grate.
As a fan, the French Connection book is a "nudge nudge wink wink" moment for the fans, much like how a Hooters employee might remove part of her outfit to appease the drunken clientele. But as a casual viewer, watching from the outside-in, one would go "What's the relevance or point to that waste of time?"… regarding both scenarios.
Especially as this history book is left in a wholly relevant place such as, oh, a science lab that's otherwise pristine in appearance and it's usually the instructor who's last to leave. Nor is it Susan's book…
The "Quarter past 5" in-joke would have had more… okay, ANY, poignancy, if they referenced JFK instead of shattering all credibility by having the show refer to itself in such a truly tacky way.
Granted, other scenes work wonders – the "How many schillings are there in a pound" IS brilliant because it's historically relevant as much as being a small set-piece in "An Unearthly Child". The dialogue telling it feels authentic as well.
Oh, the script for "Remembrance" is by and large BRILLIANT and I agree with a lot of your writing, but some of these fanwank bits – at least from my chair – do nothing except to annoy fans, while detracting from the point of the story that in turn confuses casual viewers.
As for the Vervoid comparison, each Doctor is a polar opposite of his predecessor. Doc6 felt he had no choice and felt remorse over a species that is as ruthless as the Daleks were, or more so – the Vervoids would never use humans as slaves or lackeys to do any dirty work. Daleks have, many times, and even hire mercenaries (which shows how lame the Daleks actually are, but in their defense they lack the mobility and dexterity of the Vervoids or even the Voord… 🙂 ). Yet Doc6 felt terrible about having no other option but to kill them to save everyone else. Doc7, on the other hand, and half-understandably, goes out of his way to wipe out every conniving critter he's every come across without as much an iota of concern. Pure polar perspective from each persona. Yet the Time Lords don't go after him despite the difference between "first degree" and "second degree" genocide. Doc7 often acts out of revenge and not self-defense. The Valeyard being the amalgamation of the Doctor's darker side would indeed start to blossom with #7, and only by #11 would the pattern start to subside…
July 11, 2012 @ 1:08 pm
Perhaps one could make the case this has something to do with The Doctor invading Doctor Who-Either The Doctor himself has retconned "An Unearthly Child" and his "canon" biography beforehand, or this is a different Doctor Who, which would also be a neat case of the show taking the repercussions if its lengthy history and central premise and literalizing them within the text. This would also explain why Ace can pick up the book Susan clearly took with her in the episode as aired.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:36 pm
The only reference I found grating was the Doctor picking up the "Doctor in the House" book, another gratuitous literary reference that seems nothing more than a joke. And, actually, as a joke, it doesn't really grate that much. 🙂
July 11, 2012 @ 2:15 pm
this is The Doctor taking his ability to invade other stories and reshape them to the logical limit and invading and reshaping Doctor Who itself
When you put it that way, I'm surprised this entry included no references to semi-sentient metafictions.
July 11, 2012 @ 3:10 pm
Quarter past 5, and yet it's broad daylight outside, and the next scene is the characters having lunch. Time's gone wibbly.
And I love the Doctor's "Doctor" books. He had one in Dragonfire too.
July 11, 2012 @ 6:08 pm
"As a fan, the French Connection book is a "nudge nudge wink wink" moment for the fans"
Sylvester McCoy as Popeye Doyle.
July 11, 2012 @ 6:25 pm
He could've very easily broken off from UNIT and opened his own Tawdry Quirk Shop! 😀
July 11, 2012 @ 6:28 pm
…or as Popeye, in general. 😛
"I YAM WHAT I YAM… but WHO I yam, ya ain't feendin' oot."
July 11, 2012 @ 8:03 pm
The Jeep as K-9!
Swee'pea as Susan or Adric
Castor Oyl as Ian or Harry. (actually, he'd make a great Rose…)
J. Wellington Wimpy as the Brigadier
Olive Oyl as alternate peril monkey / tough protofeminist — Tegan? Victoria / Sarah-Jane cross?
Alice The Goon has the expressiveness of any given era's budget-limited monster, she could be a Voord, Alpha Centauri, a Silent…
July 11, 2012 @ 8:14 pm
That may be the silliest thing I've ever read on the topic of Doctor Who. And I have the novelization of "The Twin Dilemma."
July 11, 2012 @ 11:04 pm
Especially as this history book is left in a wholly relevant place such as, oh, a science lab that's otherwise pristine in appearance and it's usually the instructor who's last to leave.
Well, they've just had a science teacher and a history teacher go missing. They may not have replaced them yet. So no one's taken charge of the science teacher's lab or tracked down the history teacher's missing books.
As for the Vervoid comparison, each Doctor is a polar opposite of his predecessor.
Surely too strong, as nothing can have more than one polar opposite — which would mean that all the even-numbered Doctors would have to be alike, and all the odd-numbered Doctors would have to be alike. In particular, McCoy would have to be just like Hartnell, Davison, and Pertwee.
July 11, 2012 @ 11:05 pm
It's obvious that hiding the Hand Of Omega was only a secondary concern and the Doctor's real purpose in 1963 was selling his life story to the BBC.
July 12, 2012 @ 12:11 am
If you want to make it all work in a single consistent history, then you choose Pertwee, and have the planting of the device happen some time shortly after The Three Doctors. He plants it near Totter's Lane because that's somewhere he keeps returning to (q.v. Attack).
And if it's not the first Doctor who planted it there, then we can say that the first Doctor didn't visit 1963 at all, but 1965. That then explains why the kids in Remembrance have school uniforms but the ones in An Unearthly Child don't (they got rid of them in the intervening time, possibly after the change in headmaster), why Ian knows the words to Ticket To Ride (it was on the charts when he was still on earth) and why Ian & Barbara left when they got to 1965 but not New York in 1966 (they were back in their actual home time and wouldn't have to explain a gap).
July 12, 2012 @ 12:54 am
Ah but how does he get hold of the Hand after the Three Doctors? He gets his memory back and the ability to pilot the TARDIS again, but he doesn't seem to go anywhere near Gallifrey to pick up the Hand. Unless he had it in the TARDIS all along, but then if that was the reason the Time Lords were after him in the first place, you'd think they'd have retrieved it after they got their hands on his TARDIS at the end of The War Games.
Even if he did have it all along then why wait till his 3rd incarnation to hide it? Why not do it the first time he's there? Which just leads us right back to the beginning.
July 12, 2012 @ 1:02 am
Admirable reticence to blow your own trumpet there, blimey you really are almost a Brit! I see your point, but the Mind Robber theory IS 'a good idea' possibly the best theory of the show I've read so it seemed a shame especially in this case to not reference it. Personally I hate the idea of Daleks lurking around Coal Hill while Ian and Barbara were there, it somehow lessens all their subsequent adventures to think they might as well have stayed where they were rather than follow Susan to Totters Lane and they'd have met the Daleks and the Doctor anyway. The alternative, that the Coal Hill the Daleks are invading and where the Doctor hid the Hand is a fictional construct called 'Doctor Who' is far more exciting. As others have pointed out this obviously isn't the 'real' Coal Hill School as evidenced by the pupils uniforms and the book being still in the classroom. Of course the 'real' reason is the writer's stab at a post-modern joke like 'what do the characters in Coronation Street see if they watch ITV on a wednesday night?' and as such is slightly jarring.
July 12, 2012 @ 2:01 am
Also, Andrew, Ian and Barbara explicitly state in The Chase that "[they're back], 2 years late but [they're] back". Otherwise, nice theory.
July 12, 2012 @ 2:03 am
Or, alternatively, timey wimey shenanigans have slightly altered time.
July 12, 2012 @ 10:35 am
Obviously what's happened is that the daleks have gone back in time at some point and changed the timeline. (Since uniforms are associated with authoritarianism, that would explain the uniforms.) Only the daleks can do that, because they were almost there anyway (which is why Davros has to stay on the mothership). Cybermen at Totter's Lane would just be silly.
Henry R. Kujawa
July 12, 2012 @ 11:26 am
"Nevertheless, this return does include a honking big retcon to the origins of the Doctor. Not just the implications of the Doctor briefly acting as though he were one of the people working with Omega on the stellar manipulator, but the larger fact that Hartnell's Doctor had, apparently, hidden a vastly powerful Time Lord weapon in London prior to An Unearthly Child, and the resulting implications regarding his departure from Gallifrey (which now appears to have included nicking the Hand as he went)."
And yet… it's been suggested very strongly by some that every time The Doctor "name-drops" he's making it up to impress people. I personally do think he had many adventures before we first met Hsrtnell. But this doesn't void the possibility that he became a "runaway renegade" shortley before we met him. All those TARDISs had to be built to be used, and I'd bet he used them a lot. But then, something happened and their use was outlawed. And something else happened, and he wound up stealing one. And maybe it did involve The Hand Of Omega, trying to keep it out of the wrong hands. After all, look what happened with The Master and The Doomsday Device. Gallifrey wasn't exactly the most secure place in the universe- no matter what they'd have you believe.
Tieing this in with his pararnoia and kidnapping of Ian & Barbara does nicely fill a long-gaping plot hole. But in the long run, I don't believe it had anything at all to do with The Daleks. Somehow, at some point, they learned of The Hand's existence, he found out they knew, and decided he'd had enough of them. If they were gonna make a play for it, he'd get there first– and program it to do what HE wanted, as soon as they tried to activate it. Like handing someone a booby-trapped gun, which won't explode unless they try to fire it. (Mike Hammer would have approved.)
there's enough in this story that if it were a 6-parter, it wouldn't feel a bit padded. But at 4 parts, there's tons that are never explained right. Even so, this is better than most stories going years back. And it's a HELL of a lot better than "SILVER NEMESIS", the other "bookend", which has twice as much plot as this one crammed into only 3 episodes.
a friend of mine in Wales has pointed out to me that while America did have institutionalized racism into the early 60's (when the civil rights moviement was really gaining momentum), it did not exist in England as suggested by this story. The fear of outsiders, however, was real, but had less to do with race than with "foreigners" flooding into the country fro other cultures, some of whom, according to my friend, didn't even know what bathrooms were for.
Apart from The Doctor becoming pro-active at last (it really makes sense here since it concerns The Daleks), and the "nostalgia" of seeing a pre-UNIT style story (with its own Brig, Liz AND Jo–isn't Allison a cutie?), and the pacing and level of excitement in the action scenes… the best surprise of this story for me, was how much it made me like Ace! I genuinbely hated her in "DRAGONFIRE". Only one story later, I got to like her. Wow. What a turn-around!!
"The Baseball Bat of Omega"– I guess that's a bit of a switch from "The Baseball Bat of Rassilon".
Regarding the DOCTOR WHO tv series.. It's a JOKE!!!!! (Geez.)
Henry R. Kujawa
July 12, 2012 @ 11:27 am
"I like to think of McCoy's Doctor as being the culmination of the trajectory of the first two Doctors, a combination of the intrinsic power and authority of Hartnel, and the mercury of Troughton. By this logic the forced regeneration at the end of The War Games sent the doctor's development somewhat off course. I don't mean this as a slant against Pertwee's Doctor, i rather like him, but he seems to be a character striving to define himself through his quirks (the velvet, the cars, the karate, etc.), understandable given how his identity was forced on him from above"
LOVE it. Looking back, Hartnell is The Doctor after he got so old he forgot half of what he knew. Troughton is The Doctor renewed. Pertwee is the Time Lords' idea of what they would like The Doctor to be… but eventually (by "THE TIME WARRIOR") the real Doctor begins to shine thru. So McCoy is the "real" Doctor, all over again. Tom Baker came close, but there was always something TOO whacked out about him. I think the "real" Doctor shines thru the most in him in Seasons 16 & 17!
"McCoy's opening credits climax with his staring at the audience with a serious face, then winking mischievously at us."
Jane Badler had a variaton of that in the opening credits of her episodes of "MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE!" (She's my all-time fave M:I girl.)
July 12, 2012 @ 3:47 pm
I just rewatched this because I knew you'd be writing about it soon. I loved it in general; I'd remembered it as a bit crass and yes (though I hate this word), fanwanky, but today it seems well done to me.
I got the impression the Daleks weren't after the Doctor as such, but the Hand. They don't seem to spend any serious effort trying to attack, kill, or otherwise fix in time the Doctor himself — all their attention is focused on obtaining the Hand, keeping it from their rival faction, and eventually using it on Skaro's sun. (Why they think they can use this inscrutable, semi-living device is beyond me. Do they program it? If so, how can they not see or suspect that it might have an override? Do they just ask it nicely to do what they want, then cross their pseudopods?) Am I missing the signs that they're on 1963 Earth for the Doctor himself, as opposed to (somehow) tracking the last known location of the Hand? Or is that all in the realm of interpretation?
I also notice that the Doctor is not only manipulative here but actually kind of an asshole. He's far more patronizing to pretty much everyone than I'd remembered, and he's openly contemptuous of the military despite using all their hardware with great enthusiasm and little hesitation.
Henry R. Kujawa
July 12, 2012 @ 6:14 pm
Regarding those stairs… my friend in Wales told me today that he's a fan of The Daleks, but, mostly for the comic-strips. The Daleks could always hover using anti-gravity in those. I suppose fans of the strips were waiting more than 2 decades to finally see it on TV. What a shot! The Doctor runs up the stairs, Michael Sheard locks the door, The Doctor turns around, and… the Dalek is FOLLOWING him up! YIKES!
Now, the crazy thing is, this was actually the 2ND we saw a Dalek hovering on TV, not the 1st. But the shot was done SO BADLY, I watched "REVELATION OF THE DALEKS" 3 times without ever realizing that's what it was. After I read about it in the magazine, I watched again, and realized that's what it was, and said to myself, "Oh man– what a BOTCH-job!!" Which is ironic, when you consider how well the rest of that story was shot. (In fact, not only can't you clearly make out the hover shot, but the perspective of the shot is all messed up. The way Orcini and Davros are composited, it looks like someone really wasn't paying attention to scale at all. Like I said, what a BOTCH-job!)
It's too bad they didn't use hovering earlier. The last time I watched "DESTINY", it hit me… imagine the scene where Tom Baker is sitting in the air shaft, taunting the Dalek by saying, "If you're supposed to be the supreme being in the universe, let's see you try climbing up this shaft." Wouldn't it have been a real jaw-dropping moment, if it HAD? (And I can picture Baker's eyes bugging out, as he'd mutter, "Romana, I think we're in trouble…") It should have been relatively simple to do a shot like that.
October 19, 2022 @ 5:11 am
It’s at least the third time in fact. A Dalek is seen flying way back in the First Doctor’s era; check out the 1965 serial “The Chase.”
July 12, 2012 @ 7:19 pm
"a friend of mine in Wales has pointed out to me that while America did have institutionalized racism into the early 60's (when the civil rights moviement was really gaining momentum), it did not exist in England as suggested by this story."
July 12, 2012 @ 8:02 pm
The thing I always notice about this story is that the most striking and iconic moments are blows against absolutism. The Daleks get to play trump card after trump card by doing what you don't expect them to do, given the rules of Daleks in the narrative established by 25 years of Who; the Doctor appears to be safe because he's on the stairs, but then the Dalek climbs it, the Dalek factions appear evenly matched, but then the Special Weapons Dalek arrives to be the first (and to date only) major revamp of the Dalek design, and Davros utterly defies narrative by being not the besieged human figure we see from behind, but the triumphant Emperor Dalek. It's as though he himself is evading the rules of a narrative that would see him as the loser in this battle.
And then the Doctor blows up Skaro. He does what the hero doesn't do, defying the absolutism of his own heroic archetype by simply wiping out the enemy and its entire home planet. He's not simply brutal and ruthless for its own sake, he's brutal and ruthless because he knows that in terms of the narrative, it's the one thing he cannot be, and by doing it he defies the scripted ending to the story.
(And having tossed all that in, I'm going to point out the secret narrative collapse inserted in retrospectively: According to the novelization, the Special Weapons Dalek remembers fighting in the Time Wars. So this logically must take place for the Daleks after the Time Wars had at least started, making it defy canon as well as narrative. How cool is that?)
October 19, 2022 @ 4:55 am
Isn’t all that really just a nice-sounding way of saying bad or inconsistent characterisation?
July 12, 2012 @ 9:57 pm
'Regarding the DOCTOR WHO tv series.. It's a JOKE!!!!!'
What? The whole series? I've wasted my life!
July 13, 2012 @ 5:32 am
'a friend of mine in Wales has pointed out to me that while America did have institutionalized racism into the early 60's (when the civil rights moviement was really gaining momentum), it did not exist in England as suggested by this story. The fear of outsiders, however, was real, but had less to do with race than with "foreigners" flooding into the country fro other cultures, some of whom, according to my friend, didn't even know what bathrooms were for.'
Henry, with the greatest of respect to you and your friend in Wales. Please take it from someone who grew up in London in the 1960's as part of an ethnic minority and spent a good deal of the 1970's and 1980's opposing the National Front there certainly was racism in England exactly as suggested by this story.
To cite an apocryphal and unatributable racist myth about 'foreigners not knowing what bathrooms were for' just isn't good enough sorry.
End of rant, now lets get back to arguing about meta-texts in Doctor Who. 🙂
July 13, 2012 @ 8:56 am
It's we Americans who don't know what bathrooms are for. We think a bathroom need not contain a bath but must contain a toilet, whereas the Brits know that a bathroom need not contain a toilet but must contain a bath, hence the name BATH ROOM.
July 13, 2012 @ 9:00 am
he's openly contemptuous of the military despite using all their hardware with great enthusiasm and little hesitation
See my Shalka quote above.
July 13, 2012 @ 11:38 am
I think Moffat's redesign is a major revamp & IMHO not in a good way. However, I love the Special Weapons Dalek & I also have a soft spot for the Imperial Dalek design.
July 13, 2012 @ 10:53 pm
The British, of course, have no idea about what a bidet is for, except that, being Continental, it is something vaguely seedy.
July 14, 2012 @ 6:59 pm
I think a discussion of this story would not be complete without mentioning the novelization of Remembrance of the Daleks. While the TV story is a true classic in my eyes the novelization, again IMHO, is the best in the Target series & is even better than the TV version.
It is usually a good thing when the original author pens the novelization, but in this case Aaronovitch takes a classic & elevates it to the next level. The additional material is what makes this story, but my favorites are the back stories of Davros & Special Weapons Dalek.
I have heard some describe this story as the first New Adventure & I have to agree, because I love this story as much as my favorite NAs.
May 22, 2013 @ 7:45 pm
"It would have been a nice if this show had established that the 7th Doctor was indirectly responsible for the founding of UNIT."
In the novelisation, this is made explicit.
September 15, 2013 @ 7:38 pm
I notice you missed the gag of the UNIT crew tooling around in an alien-tracking vehicle that's disguised as a license-fee van. (I can't think of any other way to describe it.)
Don't worry; as an American who first saw this story after buying it on eBay in 2005, I didn't make that connection until a little while later…can't think of WHERE I made it…
What else? Oh! I think I can explain the Hand of Omega: The Doctor just wanted it as far away from the Time Lords as possible. I can't think of a reason why other than "he suddenly got a bad vibe upon thinking about it." Like when I go back and re-check something I did upon second-guessing it…if I leave it, it'll bug me for the rest of the day.
May 5, 2014 @ 4:19 pm
"Regarding the DOCTOR WHO tv series.. It's a JOKE!!!!! (Geez.)"
I'm glad to see that someone recognised this instead of taking the reference too seriously and giving it far too much deep and meaningful significance.
January 30, 2018 @ 10:40 am
An entry where pointing out some interesting things is overtaken by overthinking the whole thing.
It’s a fairly good script, with decently written characters. My one criticism is that it’s occasionally a little bit perfunctory, not dwelling on moments that could have had more impact if they were lingered on. Apparently the scripts of all the episodes, and the initial edits, ran over time so that probably explains it.
So for me, not an all-out classic, but there was never any reason to wince in embarrassment. Also, the explosions people clearly had a great time.
October 19, 2022 @ 4:52 am
The contrivances in the plot and the weak performances of the two leads are considerable shortcomings in Remembrance, but the aspect of it that I find inexcusable is the shockingly poor morality that Ben Aaronovitch promotes as “cruel necessity,” when, if you stop and think about it, it is not necessary.
For one thing, why does the Doctor set up this trap for the Daleks on Earth? Why not take the Hand of Inexplicable Plot Device to an uninhabited planet and lure the Daleks to there, and keep innocent lives out of the firing line? He is endangering the entire human race for reasons that in no way advance his plan, by choosing to bring the Daleks to Earth.
And how does the Doctor allow himself off-the-hook for a clear and scarcely-provoked act of genocide? The idea that he is not the one who does the killing because Davros activates the device is nonsensical; the Doctor is the one who deliberately programmed it to backfire. And he is also the one who – with very obvious premeditation – provokes Davros into activating it (with his hopelessly unfunny “rice pudding” etc references).
The Daleks, who are in the midst of a civil war and therefore are not really posing much apparent threat to anybody else anyway – raising severe doubts as to whether the Doctor’s scheme really is necessary at all – are lured into a trap of the Doctor’s making. He intentionally sets it up so that they effectively blow themselves up. But he is still the one doing the setting up, everything is happening according to his design, everything is happening as he intends it to. The Doctor is trying to destroy Skaro – including all the other, non-Dalek species on the planet – so he is still the killer.
To suggest otherwise is like arguing that a car-bombing is not an act of murder but an act of suicide, because the unwitting victim was the one who turned the key in the ignition.
While I appreciate some of the action in it, which is about as good as it ever gets in Classic Era Who, for the reasons I outline above, I get very, very uncomfortable watching Remembrance Of The Daleks. For a supposed anti-racism parable, its solutions are remarkably Nazi-fied.