THIS STORY TAKES PLACE BETWEEN THE TV STORIES "DRAGONFIRE" AND "THE HAPPINESS PATROL."
NEMESIS OF THE DALEKS
'REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS' SPECIAL EDITION DVD (BBCDVD2451) RELEASED IN JULY 2009;
OR 'THE DAVROS COLLECTION' DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD2508) RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2007;
AND TARGET BOOK #148 (ISBN 0-436-20337-2) RELEASED IN JUNE 1990.
THE DOCTOR RETURNS TO COAL HILL SCHOOL WITH HIS NEW FRIEND ACE, WHERE HE HAS UNFINISHED BUSINESS. HIS OLDEST FOES, THE DALEKS, ARE ON THE TRAIL OF TIME LORD TECHNOLOGY THAT THE DOCTOR HIMSELF LEFT BEHIND ON EARTH.
ENLISTING THE AID OF THE LOCAL MILITARY, THE DOCTOR MUST TRY TO PROTECT THE SECRET OF TIME TRAVEL AS TWO DALEK FACTIONS FIGHT IT OUT, WITH THE FATE OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE AT STAKE!
5TH OCTOBER 1988 - 26TH OCTOBER 1988
It feels like I’ve spent this last month living in 1988; at least so far as my telly viewing goes. I’d just finished wistfully working my way through the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 25th Anniversary box set when the special edition DVD release of Remembrance of the Daleks landed on my doormat.
Of course, this isn’t a new release as such. Back in 2001, Remembrance was one of the first Doctor Who serials be released in this format, albeit in a fairly basic form and with one or two tiny (but nonetheless significant) edits made to the main feature. Six years later, the serial was re-released as part of The Davros Collection in the same form as it is presented here – as a lavish two-disc special edition.
The serial itself is probably still my favourite today. Part of me can’t help but think that my reverence for this four-parter is coloured by the fact that its first episode was the first episode of Doctor Who that I can clearly remember seeing, one cold winter’s night back in 1988. I was enthralled from start to finish, and remember thinking to myself as that Dalek hovered up the staircase and my parents told me that it was “end of Part 1” that I couldn’t possibly wait all the way through the adverts to find out what happened next. Imagine my disappointment when it eventually dawned on me that the show was being broadcast on BBC1, and I that I’d have to wait considerably longer for the story to continue than a few minutes! I mean, how can you get better cliffhangers than those found at the ends of this story’s first two episodes? They are simply the best.
Above: My first Doctor Who cliffhanger!
Rose-tinted glasses aside, Remembrance of the Daleks is still just as brilliant in 2009 as it was in 1988. I was astonished to learn from the DVD that Ben Aaronovitch was just 25 years old when he wrote this script, as it is one of the most complex plots that I’ve ever seen in the series; so many different threads, all inexorably linked.
On the surface, we have a private little war between two antagonistic Dalek factions being waged on Earth. The white ‘Imperial’ faction is loyal to their so-called Emperor Dalek, Davros, and are bred from non-Kaled life forms – the fruit of Davros’s experiments on Necros in Revelation of the Daleks, no doubt. The so-called ‘Renegades’ are in fact the grey Daleks that appeared throughout the classic series, and are loyal to the Black Dalek and, I assume, the ‘true’ Emperor Dalek. Confused? Well the plot thickens...
The Daleks’ racism is then paralleled in the human ‘Association’, superbly represented in the story by Ratcliffe (George Sewell) and Sergeant Mike Smith (Dursley McLinden). And better still, this intolerance is even mirrored to a lesser degree within the Doctor himself. Whilst the Doctor isn’t a racist – humans are probably his favourite species, in fact - in this story his contempt for both Daleks and Humans alike is patent throughout. I love the way in which memorable characters such as the inglorious Group Captain ‘Chunky’ Gilmore (Simon Williams) and Professor Rachel Jones (Pamela Salem) are able to evoke such polarised responses from the Doctor – one minute he’s berating them, the next lauding them to the hilt.
Remembrance of the Daleks is also a watershed for the Doctor, not just in this incarnation but on the whole. Before this story he had always been a wanderer in space and time, never knowing where he would end up next; half of the time not even in control of his own TARDIS. The Doctor would merrily saunter into trouble, sort it all out, and then fly off again, to not-even-Doctor Who knows where. But in a explicit departure from previous stories, here the Doctor deliberately lands the TARDIS on Earth in 1963 with a very specific agenda. He intends to use the Hand of Omega (which followed him from Gallifrey when he stole his TARDIS back in his first incarnation, and which he subsequently left behind when he left Earth during the events of An Unearthly Child) to destroy the Daleks. The Doctor proactively seeks out his mortal enemies and actively plans their destruction – for once, the Doctor lures the Daleks into a trap!
“Oh Davros. I am far more than just another Time Lord.”
Part of Andrew Cartmel’s agenda as script editor was to try and darken the character of the Doctor and bring back a sense of mystery to the role. And after a shaky start in Season 24, Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor comes into his own in this story. This story sees the first hints dropped that the Doctor may be more than just another Time Lord - when he explains to Ace about what the Hand of Omega is, he even slips and says “and didn’t we have trouble with the prototype,” implying that he was one of the pioneers of the remote stellar manipulator back in Gallifrey’s Old Time.
Moreover, amongst the deleted scenes on the DVD can be found an extended version of the Doctor’s showdown with Davros in which the Doctor claims “I am far more than just another Time Lord.” It’s a brilliant line, and in watching the deleted scenes there are also a few others that would have helped heighten this sense of intrigue, yet they ended up inexplicably on the cutting room floor. Perhaps the production team didn’t want to give too much away at once – I know that’s the main reason that Marc Platt’s script for Lungbarrow was shelved in favour of Ghost Light the following season. Of course, Virgin’s New Adventures (and Lungbarrow in particular) would later verify all of these little implications, but that’s another story altogether.
As the first serial in the series twenty-fifth season, it seemed fitting that Remembrance of the Daleks should begin in the same location as the very first episode of Doctor Who did - the old junkyard on Totter’s Lane - and chronologically almost immediately afterwards. IM Forman (sic) and The French Revolution aside, this story contains another less obvious nod to the series’ first episode in the form of the ‘unearthly child’ enslaved to the Renegade Daleks’ Battle Computer, which we are led to believe is Davros until the big reveal in the final episode. This little girl lends the story a very unnerving quality, and is responsible for probably the most disturbing scene in the whole story when she kills Mike in cold blood.
“…this isn’t your past. You’ve not been born yet.”
Turning to the Doctor’s new companion, to say that this is Sophie Aldred’s first proper outing as Ace she is absolutely fantastic; it’s as if the Doctor and Ace have been travelling together for years. Right from the word go, Ace feels like a character that is really going to grow - in this one story, for instance, she falls for Mike (who turns out to be not only a member of Ratcliffe’s Association, but also an unwitting Dalek agent!) and is hurt very badly. She also works well as the explosively violent foil to the pacifist Doctor much in the same way that Leela or even the Brigadier did – Ace has no qualms about blowing up a Dalek with a bazooka… which brings me to my next point. The ‘pacifist’ Doctor.
The Doctor has always been a pacifist, but I’ve lost count of the times that he could not find “another way” to solve a crisis and therefore had to resort to violence. His slaughter of the Earth Reptiles in Warriors of the Deep and his killing of Shockeye in The Two Doctors stick in my mind particularly, but there are doubtless far better more examples. I don’t have any problem with this as the Doctor is not perfect, nor is he supposed to be. But here, on top of blowing up a Dalek with Nitro-9, at the end of this serial the Doctor does the unthinkable; he effectively destroys an entire planet with the Hand of Omega. This feels different to his previous violent actions because this time his actions are pre-meditated. He might not have pulled the trigger himself, but the important thing is that he programmed the Hand of Omega to destroy Skaro sun. He used the Hand of Omega as bait for the Daleks, and then he let them destroyed themselves with it.
“…even they, ruthless though they are would think twice
before making such a radical amendment to the timeline…”
The fourth Doctor asked, “do I have the right?” when he was offered the chance to wipe out the Daleks forever. The seventh Doctor has apparently decided that he does. And whilst we may not all agree with his apparently newfound proactive principles in this story, it certainly revamps our interest in the Time Lord and his motivations and even makes us just that little bit wary of him.
Like it or not, this story is the turning point for the Doctor. He will do what must be done. He will plan things centuries ahead in order to thwart evil, the beauty of Cartmel’s characterisation being that in taking this vigilante attitude the Doctor is always walking the narrow line between good and evil himself; a true master stroke by the classic series’ final script editor.
Above: Former Big Finish Supremo Gary Russell in the Davros Connections DVD documentary
Turning to the bonus material on offer, I immediately found myself drawn to the forty-three minute Davros Connections documentary; without a doubt the most opulent special feature that I have come across to date on any Doctor Who DVD. I take it this is why The Davros Collection originally retailed at £99.99!
The documentary examines Davros’s history chronically, right from the childhood depicted in Big Finish’s I, Davros mini-series all the way up to his descent into utter insanity in the eighth Doctor audio Terror Firma. Those such as Eric Saward, Joseph Lidster and Gary Hopkins who have written for the Lord and Creator of the Daleks each have fascinating contributions to make, as do both of the surviving actors responsible for bringing the character to life in the classic series, David Gooderson and Terry Molloy. I particularly enjoyed the final sequence in the programme which sees the contributors speculate about what might have happened to Davros after Terror Firma. They were all well wide of the mark, as it happens (this feature was made well before The Stolen Earth went before the cameras), but Lidster’s idea about Davros ultimately becoming just a normal Dalek drone really piqued my interest. That would certainly be a fitting end….
Above: Davros, gloriously animated by Daniel Reed and Rob Semenoff for Davros Connections
It’s wonderful to see the Big Finish audio dramas woven between the television stories here too; to see them being recognised as being an official part of the series’ mythology. I think what really makes Davros Connections so extraordinary though is the animation of Daniel Reed and Rob Semenoff. Obviously just listening to audio clips (even Big Finish audio clips) on a television documentary wouldn’t have been very dynamic, and so I was delighted to see pivotal scenes from numerous Davros audio dramas brought to life through some stunning CG animation. The birth of the first Dalek (from I, Davros: Guilt) is particularly well done.
The next most sizeable feature is the half-hour Back to School documentary which focuses on the making of Remembrance of the Daleks itself and, rather fittingly, is bookended with Grange Hill-inspired titles. Given my love affair with this serial, the chance to go behind the scenes of its creation is a real joy; I was particularly enthralled by Aaronovitch’s anecdotes concerning the making of his first television script.
Above: Sylvester McCoy and company go Back to School for the special edition DVD
Remembrances is also exclusive to the special edition release. This fifteen-minute stroll down fanwank lane identifies many of the continuity references and subtexts found in the script, and then wallows in them shamelessly. Particularly for those like myself who appreciate the odd wink and nod, this little featurette will come as a real treat - metafictional gags and all.
The rump of the bonus material was featured in the 2001 release and includes an enchanting commentary track featuring McCoy and Aldred; a comprehensive selection of extended and deleted scenes; some remarkable multi-angle shots; an isolated score; as well as a collection of continuities and trailers. The photo gallery has been reworked and extended for this release though - it is now full-screen and set to apposite music.
My only complaint about this special edition release is the absence of a ‘special edition’ of the serial itself. When the Season 26 four-parters were released on DVD, extended movie compilations (including all of their respective deleted and extended scenes) were included on the discs. And given that Davros Connections only uses up a fraction of the second disc of this release, there was certainly room for a movie version of Remembrance of the Daleks here. I suppose that I’ll just have to wait another four years, when no doubt a 25th Anniversary Edition release will hit the shelves including an extended movie version…
Still, I’m sated for now. The bonus material on offer here is of a superlatively high standard, and the quality of Remembrance of the Daleks itself is beyond compare. I really sympathise with McCoy when he says that when the series was cancelled they had the feeling they were just on the verge of “hitting pay dirt,” “striking gold” or whatever, because with stories like this one, they already had.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006, 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design
and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
Ben Aaronovitch’s novelisation of his Remembrance of the Daleks script is one that truly stands apart from its peers. It’s longer, for one thing, and darker for another. Most remarkably of all though, it set the standard for the hundreds of original Doctor Who novels that would soon follow in its wake – and it set that standard high.
The book doesn’t feel much like a Target novelisation at all. There isn’t a whimsical chapter title in sight, as Aaronovitch favours titular dates and times instead, lending the proceedings a sense of compression and urgency. What’s more, rather than see plot threads excised to accommodate the page count, Aaronovitch actually elaborates on his plot, using his prose to expound and even expand on what was seen on television. Now I know why Ace wasn’t exterminated on sight at the end of Part 2, and why the doped-up and schizophrenic Dalek Supreme was such easy pickings at the end of Part 4. Most palpably of all though, here the gloves are off. Everything is gritty and brutal. I can’t say for sure, but I’d wager that this is the only Target book to see someone have their head taken clean off by a Dalek death ray.
By his own admission, Aaronovitch’s prose style is sparse, but I didn’t find it lacking. Having watched the television serial so many times, I’m familiar enough with the look and feel of the story to be able to look past any descriptive omissions, not that I’d say there were that many. Like the author, I was much more interested in getting inside the characters’ heads, looking at the story from each of their unique perspectives and examining each of their motives. Of them all, only the Doctor remains inscrutable here, but even he is subject to a partial lifting of the veil, as his infamous lecture to Ace on ancient Gallifrey is interrupted by flashbacks to the Old Time – flashbacks that see the other make his first, albeit uncapitalised, appearance.
Like many novelisations, Remembrance differs quite significantly from the script in several significant respects. Aaronovitch doesn’t just novelise the shooting script; he incorporates ad-libs and interpretations from the broadcast serial and riffs upon them – even Gilmore’s “Chunky” handle finds its way into the book in an unfamiliar context. Some of the basics are revised too – Allison isn’t Mike Smith’s daughter, for instance, and the understated sparks of attraction between Professor Jensen and Gilmore here blossom into full-blown romance. As the book’s final pages delight in revealing, “he calls her Rachel and she calls him Ian”. Rachel’s Jewish background is gently explored too, and juxtaposed delectably with Mike’s ignorant racist barrages.
Now as much as I love the televised story, I must admit that the world built by Aaronovitch here is a richer one. The curt relationship between Mike and Ratcliffe was a fairly straightforward thing on television, but in the book it becomes a seedy tale of chocolate and grooming – one that is paid off much more satisfactorily, as Mike realises that he’s been played and resolves to murder his manipulator. The fires of Ghost Light can also be traced back to this novelisation, as the racism that Ace encounters triggers memories of her friend Manisha’s immolation at the hands of racists, betraying, for the first time, why Ace had to mould herself into a young woman who would “fight fire with fire”. We then get to take a step further back still and look at Ace through Allison and Rachel’s eyes. Here their realisation that this girl is from the future is explicit, and the thought terrifies the two scientists. After all, what sort of future could produce a girl like that? The answer is far closer to home than either woman would care to believe.
What makes the Remembrance novel so extraordinary though is that Aaronovitch applies the exact same principles to the Dalek protagonists as he does to the humans. For the first time we have Daleks with distinct personalities – personalities accessible to the reader, yet indubitably alien. Just when we think that we’ve got the Dalek race pegged and nothing can surprise us, Aaronovitch offers us windows into their alien culture. Imperial Daleks aren’t just Davros’s drones, but children of the renaissance; the Ven-Katri Davrett. Their ship isn’t just a “mother-ship”, hyphenated or otherwise, it’s the Eret-Mensaiki Ska. The Special Weapons Dalek is not just a formidable war machine, but a tortured, insane creature who’s reviled as the “Abomination” even by its own race. Every time it fires its devastating ray, the backwash saturates its whole body with radiation, making it just that little bit madder. At the other end of the scale, Imperial infants whiz about the streets of London at thirty k/ph, their immaturity causing them to fall foul of the grizzled Renegade veterans. The author even dares to dip into the harrowing past of the Daleks’ creator, depicting both the accident that crippled him and its aftermath. The grotesque blend of melted flesh, Tungsten wire and mooted euthanasia would prove such a potent and dramatic one that Lance Parkin would steal it to open his acclaimed Davros audio drama more than a decade later.
Indeed, probably the most remarkable thing about this book is its significance. So many enduring ideas can be traced back to this slim grey tome: Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart gets her first mention, Gallifrey’s ruling triumvirate is first glimpsed, the Doctor becomes the Ka Faraq Gatri, and Davros is crippled. To think that the author only included such things as “padding” is as frightening a notion as any decapitating death ray.
And so, whilst it’s far from representative of the Target range, Remembrance of the Daleks ranks amongst its finest titles. It services Aaronovitch’s script admirably, polishing it, riffing upon it and going off on lengthy digressions that would unwittingly shape the future of Doctor Who fiction. When I think of my favourite Target books, I inevitably picture piles of Terrance Dicks’ early second and third Doctor titles, but if I were pressed to pick one title that stands head and shoulders above the rest, then this grey-clad renegade would be it.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design
and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
The later novel War of the Daleks would put forward the mind-bogglingly fanciful theory that Skaro wasn’t destroyed in this adventure - the Doctor had tricked Davros into destroying the planet Antalin, which both had believed was actually Skaro! To say that this bizarre theory hasn’t proved popular amongst fans would be understating things quite considerably, nevertheless when considering War of the Daleks’ place in the canon, it should be noted that Dalek Caan’s dialogue in the new series episode Daleks in Manhattan heavily implies that it was indeed Antalin that was destroyed in Remembrance of the Daleks, as Skaro apparently survived the classic series to be destroyed in the Time War. That said, one could of course argue that Caan was actually referring to the events of Remembrance of the Daleks as having been part of the Time War, or that the homeworld he refers to (he does not name it) was a subsequent Dalek settlement (after all, Gallifrey was destroyed in The Ancestor Cell only to be reborn and then destroyed again in the Time War), but then we’d be getting as bad as War of the Daleks’ author, John Peel.
It may come as consolation to some that the later novel Unnatural History suggests the under the influence of time-travelling voodoo cult Faction Paradox, the Doctor tricks the Daleks into tying their subjective history in such knots that it would eventually collapse in on itself…
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