The trouble with constant intervention across time and space is that
the historical progress, or ‘timeline’, of those species that exist across
many solar systems and many millennia can be compromised to the point where
it becomes very difficult to identify a stable succession of events. Within
‘Doctor Who’, the Daleks featured in stories from the program’s inception
in 1963 to its penultimate season in 1988. The good Doctor’s repeated interventions
caused many alterations to the course of Dalek history. These ‘shifts in
the sands of time’ have led to key questions:
- Why was there no reference to Davros prior to Genesis of the Daleks?
- How did the Daleks survive their apparent annihilation in Evil
of the Daleks?
- What was the relationship between the Dal and Kaled peoples?
- In Destiny of the Daleks, where was the Dalek City and why had
Davros been abandoned for millennia?
These questions can never be conclusively answered. However, it is
possible to draw upon evidence from Doctor Who and make informed &
reasoned speculation about the course of Dalek history. This article
makes two core assertions about Dalek history:
- The Daleks experienced two separate histories as a result of the
intervention of the Time Lords.
- Both Dalek histories were dominated by the activities of the Daleks’
creator – Davros.
Throughout its history, Doctor Who was concerned with the impact of
interventions in the course of events across space and time. The 1969 story,
The War Games
, ended with the Doctor being tried by his own people,
the Time Lords, for breaching their laws on non-intervention in the affairs
of other civilisations. After that seismic event in the development of Doctor
Who, the Time Lords opted to use the Doctor to carry out selective interventions
where they felt they were necessary.
The 1975 story, Genesis of the Daleks
, was a case in point.
Possibly out of fear for the future of Gallifrey, or perhaps out
of genuine concern for other civilisations, the Time Lords commissioned
the fourth Doctor to intervene at the very outset of Dalek history. This
was an intervention with the potential to alter the course of galactic
history for millennia. But what was the impact of the Doctor's intervention?
There are two main points in the story where the Doctor's intervention
may have had a serious impact:
- By alerting senior Kaled politicians to the way in which Davros
was developing the Daleks, and triggering their intervention, the Doctor's
actions led Davros to betray the Kaleds and facilitate the Thals' successful
nuclear attack on the Kaled domed city. This further compelled Davros
to launch the prototype Daleks into an attack on the Thals. At this point,
the prototype Daleks were, in Nyder's (Davros' senior security officer)
words, 'unstable'. The psychological effect of engaging in mass extermination
of the Thals may have been that the new Daleks decided to take control of
their destiny and reject the authority of Davros.
- The Doctor was interrogated by Davros. The Doctor was compelled
to give an elaborate testimony about future Dalek history. Davros may have
been able to make changes to the Daleks to prevent future defeats.
Would either have a significant impact on the course of Dalek history?
This is a subjective debate. However, there is sufficient evidence
to suggest that the events of Genesis of the Daleks
do change the
development of the Daleks. The Daleks did not re-appear until the
1979 story Destiny of the Daleks
. But their reappearance revealed
a Dalek empire that was a shadow of its former self. These Daleks were
unable to outwit a race of androids, the Movellans, and appeared to be
nomadic 'robber barons' without a capital city on Skaro. Something had
happened to the original 'timeline'. Prior to Genesis of the Daleks
the Daleks had time-travel facilities and a devious mindset that led them
to alter Earth's history (Day of the Daleks
). Now the Daleks lacked
the wit to defeat an army of robots; if they had time-travel capabilities,
they would surely have used them to defeat the Movellans. The way
in which Davros' remains had been dumped in the ruins of the Kaled bunker
were also indicative that some very fundamental shift had affected the Dalek
'sands of time'. It would be almost inconceivable that a Dalek empire that
had risen to the heights witnessed in stories such as the Dalek Master Plan
and Planet of the Daleks would have simply abandoned the mortal remains
of its creator.
What was Davros' role in Dalek history? In an attempt
to reason with Davros, the Doctor asked him if he would be willing to unleash
a virus capable of extinguishing all life. Davros' response was instructive:
'Such power would place me amongst the gods; and through the Daleks, I shall
have such power.' Davros' outburst was hardly indicative of someone
with limited career horizons. His subsequent conduct indicates a desire for
supreme power over time and space. Remembrance of the Daleks
(1988) witnessed a Dalek bid for supreme power on a scale not seen since
their high-point in the 1960s. Davros had managed to supplant the Supreme
Dalek and install himself as Emperor Dalek. Why had Davros chosen this title?
There are two explanations:
- Davros sought political legitimacy by drawing on the collective
Dalek memory of the original Emperor (destroyed in The Evil of the
- Alternatively, there were two separate Dalek timelines. In both
cases, Davros declared himself to be Emperor.
What evidence is there to support the assertion that Davros was Emperor
Dalek in both Dalek timelines? There is a good deal of conjecture in this
theory. However, it is not unreasonable to accept it as a working hypothesis.
One point about alternative timelines is they tend to share a good
deal of common ground. In both Evil of the Daleks
of the Daleks
, the Doctor is confronted with an audacious plot to seize
supreme power over time and space. In both stories, the Doctor manages
to trick the Emperor Dalek into its downfall. It is important to consider
the almost 'non-Dalek' nature of the Emperor Dalek in The Evil of the
. It spoke very differently from its subordinates and was able to
engage in a quality of dialogue that other Daleks could not even begin to
The very title of 'emperor' denotes a different sort of personality.
Hierarchy was central to Dalek political culture with the Supreme Dalek
at its apex. But a title such as 'emperor' carries connotations of personal
grandeur that are perhaps difficult to equate with the Daleks. It
is therefore, reasonable to suggest that the two Emperors were, in truth,
Davros. Each existed within one of the two Dalek 'timelines'. The parlous
state of Dalek power witnessed in Destiny of the Daleks
to what would happen to the Daleks without their creator.