Sunday 15 November 2020

Inspirations - Remembrance of the Daleks

This story marks the beginning of the programme's 25th season, and what a difference since the last significant anniversary. It can be difficult now to comprehend just how far the programme had fallen in the opinion of fans, general viewers and BBC bigwigs in 5 short years. 
However, this is Andrew Cartmel's first full season in complete control of the scripting department - and he has a plan...
Yes, Remembrance of the Daleks sees the beginning of what has been called the "Cartmel Masterplan" - though never by the man himself.
Cartmel had decided that there was too much background known about the Doctor, baggage which could get in the way of good storytelling. He wanted to put some of the earlier mystery back into the character, and we see the first inkling of that here.
Cartmel also disliked the randomness of the Doctor's travels, preferring that he arrived where he did for a reason. From this point on, many stories will see the Doctor going somewhere because of some unfinished business, or because he has heard some disquieting rumour.

As the opening story of an anniversary season, Remembrance spends a lot of time looking back to the series' history. We have direct references to the very first story - An Unearthly Child - and to a number of older Dalek stories.
The setting is Coal Hill School and its surrounding area - including the junkyard in Totter's Lane (although this appears to have transformed itself into a builders merchants, rather than a junkyard). The suggestion is that this story takes place just after Ian and Barbara left the area with the Doctor and Susan in the TARDIS. It is supposed to be the winter of 1963, although the weather suggests otherwise, and it is far too bright for a new science fiction TV show to be screening at 5:15pm.
Ace finds a history text book in a science laboratory, one covering "The French Revolution". If they think that we believe this to be the one Barbara lent to Susan, then they're wrong. The cover is a different colour, and Susan took Barbara's book with her when she went home on that last evening in London.
The Doctor who left the casket containing the Hand of Omega at the funeral parlour is described as being a white-haired old man - obviously implying it was the First Doctor.
Of course, this doesn't match anything we know about the series' earliest days. There's no suggestion that the Doctor had a Gallifreyan super-weapon on him back in 1963, and why would he rush off with Ian and Barbara if he was supposed to be looking after such a thing? Also, there's no indication that he knows the Daleks when he first meets them on Skaro, let alone that he has left some elaborate trap for them back in London.
Other old stories referred to by the Doctor include The Web of Fear and Terror of the Zygons, as the Doctor talks about how humanity has a way of forgetting about uncomfortable events.

The story acts as the latest sequel to Genesis of the Daleks, in that it shows us the continuing adventures of Davros, and what he has been up to since his last appearance in Revelation of the Daleks. That ended with hi being carted off by the Supreme's Daleks to be tried by his creations.
Clearly he has managed to evade Dalek justice, and instead has actually managed to stage a coup. He is now in charge, and has declared himself Emperor. He has created a new casing for himself, which suggests that he has relinquished the remainder of his crippled organic body.
The new Dalek Emperor, with its spherical upper section, is clearly inspired by the gold Dalek Emperor from the TV Century 21 comics (although a closer design inspiration might be a roll-on deodorant).
The notion of a Dalek civil war has been seen before - not just since Davros started to kick back against the Supreme's leadership of the species by creating a whole new race of Daleks loyal only to him. 
We had civil strife in those Dalek comic strips, where one Dalek started to question orders and to challenge the gold Emperor; and then we had the consequences of the Second Doctor's meddling on Skaro in The Evil of the Daleks. There is also a reference to Planet of the Daleks, when the Doctor mentions having previously created a device which scrambles Daleks' minds on Spiridon.

Something else from established Dalek history is their focus on racial purity, and the parallels between Daleks and Nazis. This story has a lot to say about race - be it the "No Coloureds" sign in the B&B, the reason for the Dalek internecine conflict, the Doctor's conversation with the café worker, or the inclusion of Mr Ratcliffe and his "Association". Ratcliffe is clearly a one-time supporter of Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts, mentions how he feels that the UK supported the wrong cause in the last war, and of how he and his friends were locked up for the duration.
Back in The Daleks, Ian Chesterton explained the antagonism from the Daleks towards the Thals as "a dislike for the unlike". Terry Nation based the Dalek Invasion of Earth on the Blitz and what might have happened had the Germans invaded and taken over. We even see them making Nazi style salutes as they parade around London's landmarks. The Daleks talk of "extermination", "final solutions" and cultural subnormalcy. Genesis of the Daleks takes the Nazi parallels further - just take a look at Davros' henchman Nyder, or listen to what General Ravon has to say about the war.

As far as the "Cartmel Masterplan" goes, we have the Doctor speaking to Ace about the origins of the Hand of Omega - where he suggests that he was around when it was created, even though it was supposed to be in Gallifrey's ancient past. When she notices this, he clams up. Later, he tells Davros that he is no ordinary Time Lord, though this scene wasn't broadcast. He does claim on screen to be President-Elect of the Time Lords, despite him having turned down the role last time it was brought up (at the conclusion to Trial of a Time Lord) - perhaps suggesting a missing adventure?
We also have the first sign that this Doctor likes very long-term plans and is a bit of a schemer.
One non-Doctor Who reference worth mentioning is Rachel speaking about Bernard and the British Rocket Group - which implies that the Quatermass universe is part of the Doctor Who one. Nigel Kneale would never have approved.
Next time: it's the late 1980's, so it's about time we had a story that dealt with Maggie Thatcher...

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