Tuesday, March 19, 2013

7H4 - Remembrance of the Daleks 4

Part Four of this story features one of the most memorable cameos ever in the form of the Special Weapons Dalek. Appearing in only a couple short scenes, this new entry into Dalek lore is part Dalek, part anti-tank cannon, and all powerful. It's also an easy out for the Imperial Daleks (and the writers) as it wipes out an entire squadron of Renegade Daleks with one cannon blast, and then obliterates a door leading to a large Dalek-on-Dalek battle that has been teased throughout all four episodes. The SWD is almost too powerful, and while it is way cool to watch here, it's so dominant that drama and story would surely be casualties in the carnage of any potential future appearances. (Though a dormant Special Weapons Dalek appears as one of the derelict pepperpots in Asylum of the Daleks. It is somewhat gratifying that such mass destruction weighs on the mind of even the most murderous of Daleks.)

Remembrance of the Daleks is surely one of the best Dalek stories ever made, and is certainly the best Dalek story made in the 1980s. It's also rightly seen as a defining moment in the Sylvester McCoy era, and is often called a shining beacon of late-80s Doctor Who. However, I've always had a problem with the fact that The Doctor not only knows too much in this story, he knows everything. Nothing surprises The Doctor in this story. The greatest surprise he encounters is when he discovers Harry is off shift when he visits the cafe in Part Two, but then he remembers that his wife is in labor with twins. Even when the Dalek shuttle landing catches him off guard, he only relents that he "might have miscalculated". Even Davros's "surprise" appearance towards the end of Part Four fails to impress him. The Dalek creator's appearance was, like most of the other events in this story, expected.

Every event that happens in this story occurs because The Doctor has engineered it. As we learn more and more about The Doctor's plan, it becomes less of a question of whether The Doctor can defeat the Daleks (both factions), and more of how stupid the Daleks will look when they play right into The Doctor's hands. After elevating (literally) the Daleks once again to their lofty heights not seen since the 1960s, the actions of the Seventh Doctor bring them, and their creator, Davros, right back down again. Davros was a brilliant, scheming scientist in his debut appearance in Genesis of the Daleks, then descended into a ranting megalomaniac in his subsequent stories before reverting back to a nefarious manipulator in Revelation of the Daleks. In Remembrance, though, Davros appears at the end only to rant again, and The Doctor quite easily tricks Davros into destroying Skaro by using Davros's stereotypical temper against him. And while one Dalek had a squadron of soldiers effectively pinned down in a junkyard in Part One, The Doctor merely walks up to the Supreme Dalek at the end of Part Four and talks it into committing suicide. In making the Daleks so demonstrably inferior to The Doctor, the Daleks are now more more easily thwarted than any staircase has ever managed to do.

The era of the Dark Doctor has begun, and with no great subtlety, either. However, this approach does give the series a focus that it hasn't had in several years, and the team of the Seventh Doctor and Ace starts strong as Ace is given lots to do, and even has a romance (with a traitorous, xenophobic, racist who dies horribly in the end) in her first proper story. Remembrance of the Daleks is also a story that most fans wouldn't feel embarrassed for, and, after the occasional pantomime antics of the past season, that is perhaps the best thing to say about it.


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