Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks

Doctor Who Story 133 – Resurrection of the Daleks

Written by

Eric Saward

What’s It About?

An army from another time is gunned down by police on an abandoned industrial block in London. When the TARDIS crew arrives, they discover the British military has set up a camp in one of the buildings—a building where Daleks occasionally appear via time portal.

You Are Soft

The Doctor aims a gun at DavrosTo me, the most important development in “Resurrection of the Daleks” is not the establishment of Davros vs. Daleks factions but the toll this story takes on Tegan and, thus, on the Doctor. This story is a turning point in the Fifth Doctor’s development, one that sees him shifting to a darker personality. I’m stealing a bit from Ben Herman here, but I really like his theory, which (as I adopt it) goes like this:

During this past season, the Doctor has increasingly been exposed to a bleak and cruel universe. “Warriors of the Deep ended in a massacre. “Resurrection” sees the Doctor trying to decide if he should assassinate Davros. The moral choices he faces are becoming more difficult, and the Fifth Doctor, who started energetic and more domestic (he took part in an Edwardian costume party after all, something other Doctors would have found uninteresting) cannot handle these situations. He is the wrong Doctor for these stories, the wrong Doctor for a Saward universe. That’s not to say Davison is a bad Doctor or that the stories are all bad. But the Doctor increasingly realizes that he is taking emotional blow after emotional blow. He lacks the elitism or sense of superiority of earlier Doctors. He has been around humans for a long time and is become one of them in temperament. The Sixth Doctor, who is only two stories away now, is a darker, more brutally realist Doctor. He is the hard heartedness that the Fifth Doctor needs but can’t manifest. “Resurrection of the Daleks,” to my reading, is Fifth’s first realization that he cannot handle this universe. Tegan, the last remnant of a simpler time, has abandons him for a normal, quiet life. As she said, “It’s not fun anymore.” (Something Saward didn’t observe about his own conception of Doctor Who.) This comes as a blow to the Doctor, and this dynamic will play out over the next two stories as he tries to adopt a harsher attitude, fails, and is forced to regenerate into a Doctor who can handle the Saward universe. (This is quite similar, I think, to the recently released mini-episode Night of the Doctor.) So, essentially, thank you, Mr. Herman, for your fascinating perspective.

It is hard for me to not read the new series Time War into this story. There is a Doctor Who confidential episode in which Russell T. Davies marks “Genesis of the Daleks” as the origin of the Time War. To review, a member of the Celestial Intervention Agency (according to one fan retcon, a generic Time Lord otherwise) forces the Doctor to go to Skaro during the Davros’s creation of the Daleks. The Doctor is supposed to stop the Daleks from ever being created. He fails, but he does (depending on your perspective) alter Dalek history (maybe). But the key piece of information here is that the Time Lords chose to interfere in history by preventing a race from existing. Said race would, understandably, hold a grudge. (Not that the Daleks needed the excuse.) Along the way, the Daleks got involved in many other wars (specifically the Movellan War), but by the time of “Resurrection,” their focus was on the Time Lords. They had suffered great losses during the Movellan War, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to take on the Time Lords by creating a duplicate of the Doctor who could assassinate the Time Lord high council. By this point, formal declarations of war are only a matter of time.

“Resurrection of the Daleks,” then, fits into to broader narratives: one developing the Doctor into a darker personality and one which sees the escalation of Time Lord/Dalek conflict. This escalation can be seen in many early Big Finish audios. (Which, interestingly, were made prior to the new series, leading me to wonder if the Time Lord/ Dalek war was floating in the collective consciousness of Doctor Who fans, or was a strong theory at the time that Davies wove into the new series. I was not a part of fandom in those late 90s/early 00s years [arguably, I’m in my own corner of fandom right now, but not a part of larger fandom movements], so I’m not sure what ideas were floating in the ether. Also, I live in America, which is a slight insulator from larger DW movements.)

All this said, “Resurrection of the Daleks” is an interesting approach to the Daleks. It is a pivotal piece of Doctor Who’s on-going mythology. Despite all this, however, I am somewhat indifferent toward it.

My Rating


2 thoughts on “Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks

  1. Thanks for the kind words!

    As far as building up to a conflict between the Time Lords and the Daleks, (and I’m working from my shaky memory here, plus the fact that I only read a handful of them) the Eighth Doctor novels published by the BBC in the late 1990s did have this as a major theme. Beginning in the 1997 novel “Alien Bodies” by Lawrence Miles, there was this long-running subplot about the Doctor discovering that at some point in the future the Time Lords were going to become embroiled in a gigantic conflict with some unspecified Enemy (the original plan may have been to use the Daleks, but rights issues apparently prevented that). As this war progressed, the Time Lords became more and more ruthless, Eventually (and I don’t know the specifics) Gallifrey ends up getting destroyed (at least for a while), leaving the Doctor the apparent last Time Lord. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    In regards to Resurrection of the Daleks itself, it had never been a favorite of mine. Besides the extremely downbeat tone, it just doesn’t hang together too well, there are a lot of plot holes, and it’s too damn gruesome. People complained that the next season was too violent & bloody, but for me Resurrection is a worse offender. Ever since I first saw it as a kid, I thought the gas attack on the space station, which horribly disfigures its victims, was much too graphic and unnecessary.

    1. Your theory is my new favorite theory about Doctor Who. It works to explain a lot. I don’t know if Saward or JNT had a view of regeneration similar to your own, but I think your reading fits quite well into what we are given in this and the next two stories. This season largely moves from brutality to brutality, which is odd as it followed “The Five Doctors” which was as far from being bleak as one could get.

      I haven’t read many of the EDAs (although Alien Bodies is one of the few I have read), but I’m passingly familiar with the Time War from the series (or the War in Heaven as it is now occasionally called). I am a fan of Miles’s writing, and I know that he didn’t conceive The Enemy as Daleks, but there is what Miles planned and there is what the editors and writers did. But since this is the fandom background out of which RTD emerged to work on Doctor Who, I’m sure he took elements from the novels (I point to Human Nature as my primary evidence of this). Ultimately, I think it may have been a good move, although it does cast a very different focus on the show, not just because we no longer have Time Lord stories (we don’t really need those, after all) but because it constitutes a new approach to in-universe mythology, specifically as it relates to character and plot development versus static characters in ever-changing adventures. Plot and theme continuity are suddenly more important than ever before, but that is what sci-fi television has become since DW was off the air. DW is now speaking the language that many contemporary sci-fi viewers understand, just as it did back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s (with varying degrees of success). What fascinates me is that RTD took the pieces that were already in play and they fit together surprisingly well. I can’t wait to watch his era with a new approach.

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