Gah, real life. I hate it when you want to take a few days for yourself, but outside pressures force you to do stuff. Ah well, such is life. I have been having more time to watch classic Doctor Who, so today’s thoughts are about “Remembrance of the Daleks.”
Spoilers, of course.
“Remembrance of the Daleks” was the first episode of the 25th season, which was the second to the last season of the classic show and the second season of the Seventh Doctor. Now, I haven’t seen previous Seventh Doctor episodes (except the regeneration episode “Time and the Rani,” which was terrible), so this was my first real introduction to the Seventh Doctor. I had some idea what to expect, since I’ve read a lot about all of the Doctors, and I also knew that this episode is very highly regarded and very important to the overall history of the show.
I was not expecting it to be as mind-blowing as it was.
First, you have to realize that I watched it soon after seeing “Horror of Fang Rock,” and the show jumped decades ahead production-wise. Very few scenes (if any) were filmed in a studio, and the on-location scenes were crisp and clear, unlike the blurry outdoor photography that plagued the older seasons. Because they were filming in real locations, the actors were much more dynamic, probably because they weren’t afraid of knocking over the set, and the action sequences felt far more real. However, I think that just in general, the camerawork, direction, and choreography was just far more modern, since I was jumping a full ten years from the Fourth Doctor to the Seventh Doctor.
The main thing about the episode, though, was the characterization of the Seventh Doctor and the story. In November, 1963 (yes, the same day that the first Doctor Who episode was broadcast), the Doctor returns to Totter’s Lane and Coal Hill School with Ace. He discovers that the Daleks are invading, searching for an artifact called the Hand of Omega that he hid nearby (when he was the Harnell Doctor). He spends the first half of the episode trying to prevent the humans from getting killed and finding out about the Daleks plans. He then starts putting his own plans into motion, and this is the catch: he’s not trying to stop the Daleks, and in fact lets the Daleks take the Hand. His plan is to let the Daleks use the Hand and, as they don’t know as much about it as he does, when they activate it, it destroys their home planet of Skaro.
If I understand correctly, this is the first glimpse we see of the Seventh Doctor’s scheming, manipulative nature, and it’s jarring. Up until now, the Doctor has always met his enemies head-on, looking to stop their plans directly. This Doctor is different, and you can see that the rest of his run is going to be far different – and possibly far more interesting – than anything we’ve seen before.
We also have the benefit of hindsight here. First, the complexity added here affects his later incarnations: as the Tenth Doctor said to Wilf, “It’s not like I’m an innocent. I’ve taken lives. I got worse. I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own.” He’s not talking about this particular incident, but we can see that it started here. Second, the destruction of Skaro sets in motion the series of events that starts the Last Great Time War, and we all know how that turned out. It’s chilling to think that all of the horrible events of the war and the scars it left on the Doctor were caused by the Doctor himself.
This was a fantastic episode, with heartwrenching twists as we watched the Doctor scheme, despair as his plans had unforeseen consequences, and ultimately attempt to genocide the Daleks (something he didn’t regret). It’s made us really want to see the rest of the Seventh Doctor episodes right now, which is very exciting. You know, I really love this show.