The Seven Faces of Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks

April 18, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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So here we are at last at the end of our journey through the classic series. Last week we looked at the turmoil that was the Sixth Doctor’s era and now we take a look at the aftermath of that. Sylvester McCoy’s first year as the Doctor wasn’t exactly what one would describe as universally praised and the show was very much still trying to rediscover itself at that point. In the following two year however it knew what it was and took the Doctor in a much darker direction than he’d ever been in before, portraying him as clownish and silly on the outside but dark and manipulative on the inside. Unfortunately, tough scheduling and a poor reputation meant that not many tuned in to watch this new Doctor as thus he only lasted three years. The precise reason as to why the show was cancelled at the end of the eighties is unclear but during the wilderness years that followed the fandom was kept alive by novels, audio dramas, comics and a one off TV movie before the programme’s eventual return and reinvention with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper by his side as Rose. Anyway, the story I have chosen to represent these final years of the original series is Remembrance of the Daleks which was written by Ben Aaronovitch, directed by Andrew Morgan and featured Sophie Aldred as fan favourite companion Ace. I thought it was a fitting choice as the story has a strong feeling of coming full circle which is quite poet as this final review also brings us full circle by looking at another Dalek story. It also shows just how manipulative the Doctor can be and you can find out why that is in the synopsis that follows.

It all begins in nineteen-sixties London where the Doctor has some old business to attend to. Back in his first incarnation the Doctor left something behind and has now returned to put it to good use. That something is the Hand of Omega and he’s not the only one who’s after it. Two factions of Daleks have also arrived to claim the Hand of Omega and the two quickly start a civil war in the heart of London. The Renegade Daleks, the original Daleks who obey the Dalek Supreme, eventually capture the Hand of Omega but the Doctor is able to manipulate events so that it instead ends up in the clutches of the Imperial Daleks, the new race of Daleks who obey their creator Davros. It is then revealed that the Hand of Omega is actually a device used by ancient Time Lords to customise stars and that Davros plans to use it to turn Skaro’s sun into a source of unimaginable power. The Doctor tricks Darvos into activating the Hand of Omega which then turns Skaro’s sun into a supernova, destroying Skaro in the process. The Hand of Omega then returns and wipes out the remaining Daleks on Earth. With the Daleks seemingly completely wiped out, the Doctor and Ace move on to their next adventure.

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Now I’m going to start off by saying that I absolutely love this story and it’s one of my favourite Dalek stories of all time. I mean it’s a Dalek civil war and what’s not to love about that. This means that the second half of the story especially is very action heavy and there are loads of great actions scenes done with some very real and very large explosions. Some may argue that the classic series was all wobbly sets and poor effects but this story proves otherwise. Some of the effects are still very much of their time such as the Hand of Omega but that doesn’t mean they’re as bad as a lot of people make them out to be. While they’re by no means perfect they still work quite well. Probably the most breathtaking moment is the landing of the Dalek Shuttle in the school playground which was actually lowered by a crane which means it is very much real and it looks much better for it. But this story isn’t all flash and no substance, there is very much a plot behind there too and it’s a strong one at that. It added some mystery to the Doctor’s character that hadn’t been there for quite a while and also linked back into the shows history in a way which didn’t feel irritatingly forced. The pacing is also very well constructed as well and builds up over time rather than either being constant or all over the place. This means that when you get into the second half while it is most definitely quicker it’s not necessarily noticeably so because it has sped up over time. There are also some nice little slow moments which aren’t necessarily crucial to the plot but just compliment the piece as a whole and give it an element of humanity. My favourite scene is one of those moments which is the Doctor having some tea in the cafe. The conversation he has with the cafe worker is very well written and the cafe worker himself is really well characterised despite the fact that he does not actually play any role in the overall storyline whatsoever. It’s nothing much but I personally love it.

And with that said it now seems like the perfect time to move on to characters and there are quite a few to talk about here. Ace is going to be our first port of call as she is one of the most (if not the most) well developed companion in all of Doctor Who and she is played wonderfully by Sophie Aldred. It’s only her second story and she’s already settled in very well and has a wonderful dynamic with her co-star Sylvester McCoy that continued to grow following this. She’s very much a fun loving kid in this story and is yet to mature like she would in the stories that followed but that is far from a bad thing as something called character development and both sides of the character are likeable. In this we get to see her beat up a Dalek with a baseball bat which is something no other companion can claim to have done and overall she is just a joy to watch. Next up we have the Seventh Doctor himself and this is the first instance where we get to see his much more dark and manipulative side. Sylvester McCoy does a very good job portraying this side of the Doctor but there is still a fun side to the character so there is a sense of balance as well. Then we move on to the supporting characters such as Group Captain Gilmore, Rachael Jensen and Allison. These three are wonderful together and serve as a bit of a call back to the Third Doctor’s era as there’s the military leader, the scientific advisor and the assistant and so the dynamic is pleasantly familiar while the characters themselves are very unique. Another supporting character is Mike Smith who is very much there to provide an interesting subplot for Ace and while all that is nice it does feel a bit rushed in the first half but that’s made up for by the wonderful scene where Ace finds out he’s a traitor. Although after that he begins to feel a bit superfluous to the plot although at the same time I feel that getting rid of him there would’ve felt too sudden and messy. And finally there’s Davros who is kept hidden right up until the end which provides a nice little surprise when you’re least expecting it (although admittedly it is a little easy to predict) and it’s also good that he’s kept out of proceedings up until then to allow the Daleks themselves to dominate their own story for once as a lot of Dalek stories before this focused a little too much on Davros but thankfully this one is a nice change of pace. However, some could argue that it may be a step too far in the other direction.

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In conclusion, Remembrance of the Daleks is undoubtedly a ten-out-of-ten because it has the right balance of basically everything that’s important in a Doctor Who story. It’s one that comes highly recommend by me and I think that it provided a fitting end to this blog series that I thoroughly enjoyed writing and I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed reading. Now we continue the long wait for series nine which looks to be shaping up quite well but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the story in the comments below.