For a while now there have been several discussions on
how to reconcile the two major Dalek origin stories as presented in “The Dead
Planet” and “Genesis of the Daleks.” It occurs to me however, that
the simplest and most likely explanation isn't addressed. I study ancient
history, so I know how stories (even history tales) evolve, and I would therefore
propose the following:
The Thals (and Daleks) in "The Dead Planet" are wrong about their own history.
After all, the origin story from that episode is told as a story. How much
do most people "remember" about the First Crusade, which occurred a thousand
years ago? The average storyteller telling a historical tale about a period
centuries past will have to simplify the story - and most likely won't know
most of the details, anyway. A to of the chronology will simply be wrong.
The name change from Dal to Kaled is also easily explained as a product
of language shift. Again, after centuries, the language the inhabitants of
Skaro use may not resemble the language used during the war. The name of
the race could be different in the same way that a French person will call
himself "Francais" while an English speaker will call him "French." (The
difference is even greater when identifying a German person - Deutsch, German,
allemande, etc.) The Doctor and his companions don't notice language shifts
because everything is translated for them by the TARDIS - but this probably
wouldn't include proper names, which would be passed through the "translator"
unfiltered. Hence the Doctor heard "Dal" the first time he was on Skaro and
heard "Kaled" when he went back in "Genesis." "Badly remembered history"
is the most likely explanation given how the origin story from "The Dead
Planet" is structured. For one thing, as it has been pointed out, it is a
morality tale. That's the biggest clue that it's been shaped over the centuries
to fit a particular purpose.
Second, the origin story is extremely truncated and deals only with the
apparent direct cause of the mutations: a neutron bomb. The war is described
as being very short, probably because no one remembers how or why it was
waged in the first place. In "Genesis" the idea that the war has waged for
centuries is almost just a rhetorical device on the part of the combatants.
The "Hundred Years War" on Earth was actually just a sequence of shorter
wars that were somewhat connected "thematically." (The decaying level of
technology in "Genesis" is mentioned in the first episode, but after that
it's mostly ignored. The two sides claim that it's because the war has raged
for so long, but that's rather a silly answer historically speaking. More
likely it's that small pockets of combatants ran out of modern weapons and
ammunition and had to resort to "museum" pieces - temporarily. After all,
Davros and the scientists are still producing technology; why in the world
would the fighters have to suffer with popguns and muskets, unless it was
just a “temporary” supply shortage?)
The Thals would have some knowledge of the destruction of the Thal dome
(from Genesis), but it could easily have changed and refocused (given the
need to make a morality tale) until it became the salient feature of the
war. Hence, a short war with a neutron bomb solution - bang, the Thal dome
is destroyed. The destruction of the Kaled/Dal city by explosives would be
forgotten; the storytellers would assume that it had been destroyed in the
same neutron explosion.
As it turns out, the easiest discrepancy to explain is the period of mutation
that turned the Dals into Daleks and the Thals into the "perfect human beings."
The story is a morality tale: the Thals "remember" that they used to be warlike
and the Dals used to be peaceful. They know that after the war they slowly
changed into a peaceful culture. They believe that they mutated physically
as well - but as "Genesis" shows, they did not mutate at all. (They were blonde-haired
and blue-eyed back then, too.) They would undoubtedly make the same error
with respect to the Dals/Kaleds: they knew they had been peaceful, but eventually
became warlike. None of them ever saw a mutated Kaled (in "Genesis" only
briefly, if at all). They would naturally assume that the Dals/Kaleds didn't
start mutating until after the Thals' genocidal ancestors had pushed the
Dals into a corner. The neutron bomb was not an act of evil, but an act of
desperation; it wasn't until much later that the Dals mutated physically
Another argument with the discrepancies between the two stories has to do
with the fact that if a little more effort was put into the production to
make the machines look like their original counterparts (or even earlier versions
based on Ray Cusick's drawings), and mention was given to the use of static
electricity as a power source, then it would be possible to reconcile the
two stories fitting together better.
I tend to agree here. I was always impressed with how well thought-out the
original Dalek technologies were, even if they were "primitive" as far as
science fiction goes, especially since it enabled the show to teach children
about electromagnetism and the power of logical deduction. The scene where
the Doctor and Ian figure out how to open the locked door (From “Dalek Invasion
of Earth”, is a fantastic teaching moment. On the other hand, I don't
have a problem with the shoulder slats/static electricity conundrum.
It has been argued that the idea that the Daleks losing the shoulder slats
over time "makes no sense," but I think I have a reasonable explanation of
how this could come about. I reconcile the difference in technology levels
by guessing that the Dalek's deliberately regressed their technologies after
the scientists were killed and the Thals’ explosives entombed them. "Genesis"
seems to suggest that there weren't that many Dalek-ready mutated Kaleds when
the war ended. (We only saw half a dozen Daleks and a couple growth tanks.
Budgetary constraints served the story in this case!) If that were the case,
the Daleks would have had to expend much of their power supply increasing
their numbers. Unlike in the case of the last two episodes of the 2005
season, where we learn that the Daleks had adapted human biomaterial, the
Daleks didn't have a ready supply of living creatures to adapt - the Thals
had already gone into hiding by the time the Daleks got out of their tomb.
(The Daleks are shocked to discover that something survived when the TARDIS
arrives, not earlier. So they must have thought they were the only survivors
of the ancient war.) Therefore, considerable resources had to be focused
on reproduction and genetic development, if the species was to survive.
The next issue was the power supply itself. In all likelihood the power
grid was badly damaged, if not completely destroyed, when the Thals detonated
their explosives to entomb the Daleks. The surviving Daleks would have had
to scramble for some kind of renewable power source before their own supplies
(to power the surviving encased Daleks) were exhausted.
While the Daleks aren't exactly a hive-like culture, it's clear that they
are not independent individuals. They are highly bureaucratic and are dependent
on a hierarchical political system (so much so that the Imperials in "Remembrance"
have no clear reason for their hatred of the rebel faction other than the
fact that they are rebels). With the development of a centralized (political)
power structure, distribution of (electrical) power would have been controlled
by the central authority. The Daleks in "The Dead Planet" are still very much
an expansionistic culture, suggesting a continuity of political goals, but
the "Genesis" Daleks have been entombed; for a time, at least, they cannot
escape. Therefore any power grid they developed would not need to be scalable:
once they had powered the underground levels sufficiently, they could stop.
So there were two factors: first, they had to focus their efforts on perpetuating
the species and rebuilding a power grid; second, their need for electrical
power was finite and easily calculable. Once they had solved these two problems
they could direct their attention to breaching the walls of their tomb.
Radio wave power (as in "Dalek Invasion of Earth"), which is most efficient
when there are signal towers and repeaters that can distribute over a wide
area, would have been the least efficient method, given their real estate
limitations. The building materials of the underground levels are conductive
- they have to be in order to transmit staatic electricity. Such pervasive
conductivity would interfere significantly with any radio wave power system.
At the very least, it would warp the electromagnetic fields around almost
everything, causing problems for the equipment the Daleks needed to grow their
species in vitro.
In addition they do not seem to have any drilling equipment to start with
(or else they would have gotten out easily), so they can't tap natural gas,
fossil fuels or thermal energy. No wind power (no wind), no hydroelectric
(no water). All they have available to them when they start building a power
grid is the conductivity of the walls and floors and access to electromagnetic
discharges in the atmosphere (which they can tap into because of the city's
conductivity), from storms and such. The natural solution, then, is to harness
the static electricity in their environment. As a stopgap measure, they retrofit
themselves to be able to take advantage of that energy source, and then pragmatically
turn their attention to species perpetuation.
This is a conundrum however, in the fact that the Dalek main power source
is, of course, nuclear energy, which in fact, indicates a logical error in
the story itself: either the nuclear reactor transmits power to the Daleks
(in which case the floors are electrified and deadly) or it doesn't (in which
case the Daleks draw from the static charge). But if it doesn't, then destroying
the nuclear reactor should have no effect on their mobility. It's termed
"static electricity" in the story to avoid the problem of the "third rail"
- the Doctor and his companions should be electrocuted the moment they step
into the city, but for some reason the electricity in the floor isn't dangerous
to them, just like static electricity.
Taking this into account however, the rest of my solution more or less holds
up, I think, even if the Daleks are powered like bumper cars. The nuclear
reactor is a centralized power source and the grid still doesn't have to be
scalable when the Daleks are focused on solving the radiation problem, so
they would have no need to develop radio wave power or a battery system. They
must have been under "bumper car" power in "Genesis" as well, since my hypothesis
about how they could have regressed depended on the "Dead Planet" Daleks
getting their power from atmospheric electricity rather than a nuclear reactor,
and that is clearly not the case.
By the time the TARDIS arrives, the Daleks have breached their tomb.
Conceivably, they could use new sources of energy, but they don't. They still
don't have any need for it: they believe they are the sole survivors and their
primary concern is inoculating themselves against the radiation.
All extraneous wartime elements of the "Genesis" Daleks were modified in
order to reduce mass and reduce the draw on the power grid – hence the absence
of shoulder plating on the "Dead Planet" Daleks. Even the Dalek guns ticks
changed: whereas in "Genesis" they were some sort of coherent beam weapon
(with the massive power requirements that most such focused energy devices
have), by "The Dead Planet" they had been replaced by a technology better
suited to their situation. They are a wide-effect weapon, without focused
targeting, blanketing an area with what is probably a discharge of modified
static electricity stored inside the Dalek unit or in the hemisphere nodes
of the outer casing. They are considerably less deadly: victims can survive
being attacked by them. (Indeed, many only suffer temporary paralysis, which
is one of the possible side effects of a natural lightning strike - in other
words, static electricity.)
If we assume that "The Dead Planet" was not the *end* of the Daleks (despite
what Terry Nation apparently intended), we still have a bit of technological
history to explain. The destruction of the “power source” at the end of "The
Dead Planet" was only a temporary setback: eventually, the lower city
would recharge on its own because it was still highly conductive and the atmosphere
still had an electrical charge. The Daleks were delayed, not defeated; despite
the impressive lightshow that everyone outside observed when the city's upper
levels blew up.
After realizing their dependence on radiation in "The Dead Planet," which
meant that their travel vehicles were as leaky as cracked porcelain tubs,
the Daleks stopped looking for an anti-radiation drug and set their sights
once again on expansion. Now the power grid had to be replaced with a highly
scalable and transportable system; now the weapons had to regain their original
potency; now the extra bulk of the shoulder plates had to be accommodated
for defense purposes. Thus the Daleks developed the radio wave power grid,
which freed them from their main city and allowed for a much greater electrical
load that could improve their weapons and make the mass of the shoulder plates
a negligible issue. Given their sudden freedom, however, they naturally focused
on mobility first. The invasion of Earth was their first test.
It is also possible that the shoulder plates in "Genesis" and the shoulder
plates in other episodes serve different functions. In "Genesis" they were
probably armor meshing, but in other episodes they may have been radiation
collectors. By the mid-22nd century on Earth, it is likely that the ozone
layer was so depleted that solar radiation easily penetrated the atmosphere,
and the Daleks didn't need to modify their outer casings in order to absorb
it. (As we know, the Daleks can't live without fairly regular exposure to
radiation, maybe not even without constant exposure.) On other planets, though,
this may not have been the case, and the Daleks had to develop collectors
so that the Dalek casing interiors could be bathed in radiation. I'd argue
that the original shoulder plates served the same function, except Davros
and the scientists used chemicals to cause mutation, not radiation, so there's
no good reason to assume that at this early stage the Daleks had become radiation-dependent.
(At the very least, this shift - from chemical origins to radiation dependency
- helps explain the Dalek [and Thal] belieef that they mutated over time. They
did mutate, just not in any visibly detectable way. Their mutation was to
adapt to their toxic environment.)
As for the "primitive" label with the 4th Doctor gives the Daleks when he
first sees them, this may have had more to do with how the Daleks were controlled
than with how they looked. Davros initially has to use voice control to make
the Daleks move (and his comments about the novelty of voice control implies
that they were previously controlled by joystick or some other equally dependent
means). The first time the Doctor sees a mobile Dalek in "Genesis," it's only
slightly more threatening than a radio-controlled saltshaker. Only later does
the voice control become more abstract, when Davros can give general orders
rather than basic movement commands. At that point the Dalek's self-control
reaches the slightly more advanced stage of "salt shaker zombie." Up until
the point where Davros is betrayed, the Daleks never exhibit intelligence
beyond that of a well-trained dog. They don't even get a monologue until the
betrayal, and everything they do say up to that point is meant to express
an interpretation of Davros' orders.
At the end of the day, the "Dead Planet" origin story is a morality tale
that serves the needs of the Thal culture, and should not be treated as if
it were historical, objective "truth." It does not carry the same weight as
the "Genesis" origin, which we see "as it happens" rather than in storytelling
"flashback." I would argue, therefore, that there is no need to reconcile
the two stories at all, so long as one understands the function of the "Dead
Planet" origin tale.
Article © 2006 Kevin
A. Munoz/Visagraph Films International.
"The Dead Planet" and "Genesis" Dalek images taken from http://www.themindrobber.co.uk/doctor-who-dalek-3d-models.html