“I’ve known many times,” says the Doctor, “some of them much more pleasant than others.”
“Well, I quite like it here, I must say,” interjects Jo to cover the awkward moment, “Everyone’s been most kind.”
The Controller (what a giveaway that title is) nods in appreciation of her remark.
The Doctor, however, is unimpressed. He swills more wine. He looks like an sozzled, opinionated guy at an unsuccessful party, spoiling for a fight.
“Well, I met some people today who were far from kind,” he says. He spent the earlier part of the day taking a forced tour of the Controller’s utopia, being subjected to the tender mercies of a surprisingly well-sketched terror state.
“That was a simple mistake, Doctor, I assure you,” says the Controller, his voice as smooth and silvery as his strange, quasi-robotic face, “You must not jump to conclusions.”
“Better than jumping from the crack of a whip from some security guard,” snaps the Doctor, “Do you run all your factories like that, Controller?”
We have been granted an unusual thing earlier in this episode: a glimpse into the productive centres of a Dalek-ruled regime. It looked like a gulag. People in rags lugged grain while being monitored at every moment. At one point, we cut straight from that to the Controller handing Jo a plate full of grapes.
Grapes make wine, of course. Wine is strangely present in this story. Back at the start, the Doctor raided Sir Reginald Styles’ wine cellar.
“That was not a factory, Doctor,” returns the Controller mechanically.
“Oh? Then what was it?” The Doctor looks still more like a half-cut guy, up for some aggro.
“A rehabilitation centre. A rehabilitation centre for hardened criminals.”
“Including old men and women, even children?”
“There will always be people who need discipline, Doctor,” says the Controller, as though the point is beyond debate… but then, to people like him, it always is.
“Now that’s an old fashioned point of view,” says the Doctor “even from my standards.”
I love that line, but it makes me feel sad. It dates this story far more than the mullets and flares and glam rock facepaint. I mourn a long lost time, before neoliberalism got to work on popular culture, when it was a mainstream assumption that we could dispense with crusty, reactionary stuff about some people basically being indolent animals who needed to be forced to work… so much so that even the Third Doctor could come out with it.
“I can assure you that this planet has never been more efficiently, more economically run,” says the controller.
Note that. It’s never been more efficient and more “economically run” than when the bloody Daleks are in control.
“People have never been happier or more prosperous,” he continues.
“Then why,” asks the Doctor, “do you need so many people to keep them under control? Don’t they like being happy and prosperous?”
This cuts right to the quick. It cuts to the delusion – still widespread on the left at that time – that ‘really existing socialism’ was in some meaningful way an improvement. …