Daleks, and the Art of War
An Analysis of Dalek War Tactics
Michael James Valdivielso
Earthlings look upon the War as an art. The Daleks look at is as a way of life. MOST of their culture has been focused into the art and science of making war against other races. The Dalek plan is to dominate the Universe by conquering the weak and destroying the strong that might try to stop them. Once again, my work is based on the TV Daleks.
Strategy: Winning the War.
Dalek strategy seems to be based on the idea of multiple attacks by different methods. In the ‘Planet of the Daleks’ we get the perfect example as the Dalek High Command is developing deadly germs, invisible screenings and a massive army of Warrior Daleks after the Master, with help from the Ogrons, failed to get the Earthlings and Draconians to start fighting each other. Without help from the Doctor the Thals would have, most likely, had thawed the massive army out of storage and would have been killed in the end. The Daleks would have launched the attack against the planets of the Human-Draconian region of space. After bombing the planets there is little doubt that the invisible Dalek army could have crushed anything in its path.
The advantage of numbers, NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) weapons and secret weapons are all part of the plan. If the Daleks CAN’T win is it most likely they will wait for the time when they CAN win such as during the period of time before the Dalek-Movellan War when both sides were posed and ready for a conflict BUT neither side could insure victory. It is not that the Daleks are cowards, but they are logical beings (which is always a theme when it comes to Daleks stories) and one should always look for an advantage BEFORE starting a fight. Germ bombs and time machines are just some of the tools of their trade. Daleks are more than willing to use agents and allies from other races. They have used Earthlings as Robomen and even allied themselves with the Master (who is only the second Time Lord to ally with them). Ogrons, while not very swift, are fearful enough of the Daleks to obey their every command. Humans can be bribed or threatened as while as any other alien race. In ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ it seems like the races of much of known space PLUS Mavic Chen (a human) and the Meddling Monk (a rogue Time Lord) are helping the Daleks. Add the army collecting on Kembel and the Daleks’ Time Destroyer and you have a very complex plot to take over the universe. Of course anything so complex is easy to mess up and the Doctor, even the First Doctor, is more than capable of messing up the Daleks’ plan.
Yet for every defeat we get hints of victory. In ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ the slave labor force is a mixture of human and non-human races captured from all over. The Dalek war machine, even when facing the threat from Movellan battle fleets is still able to feed the slave labor camps with prisoners of war and the factories with raw material to keep such industries going. Let us put together a hypothetical invasion of a planet. The planet we, as Dalek scouts, must select must be worth invading in the first place. Either the planet has a populace with slightly advanced technology or has a resource we think is important to the Dalek cause. In ‘slightly advanced’ we mean a civilization that has reached what Earthlings would think of as Medieval levels or Pre-industrial levels. Roads are linking the cities that are just starting to become centers of trade and industry YET not so advanced that they might put up a fight OR have ideas about freedom and revolution. A Medieval level of culture is perfect, as the labor force is centered in small areas, the people are use to being ordered about YET are still heavily dependent on farming. Any more advanced and the natives might put up a fight with standing armies and gunpowder. But not advanced enough and we, as Daleks, end up chasing native hunters and gatherers while trying to make factory controls simple enough for them to handle. In a feudal system the Daleks can come in, using little in the way of force, and cut off the top layers and take over as the new rulers. Of course, they might find a feudal system which has lasted through the changes, to develop a world government with postindustrial levels of technology, like the Draconians, in which case the Daleks have to find other, less frontal, ways of dealing with the invasion of the planet or planets.
Of course sometimes a planet is worth taking no matter what the level of weaponry the natives might have or how uncultivated the planet might be. In the later cases, such as in the invasion of Spiridon and Exxilon, part of the local population may ally themselves with the Dalek invaders.
For example, on Spiridon, many of the tribes sided with the Daleks and became very loyal. Not only did these slave-laborers become valuable to the Daleks, capturing Thal spies, but the Daleks even decided to make their slaves immune to the germs they were developing on the planet suggesting these Spiridons would be used as labor on the newly conquered planets of Human-Draconian Empires. Could it be these Spiridons were loyal because they use to be the lower class or members of weaker tribes and the invasion changed the balance of power, allowing the “have-nots” to become the “haves”? On Exxilon the religious city-worshipers offer to supply the Daleks with labor if the invaders hunt down and kill the Exxilons who refuse to worship the city. The Daleks agree to this deal as they plan to kill all the Exxilons anyway (and therefore, they DO plan to fulfill their part of the deal — the rebels who fight the Priesthood will die). This is more of a clear-cut case of the current “Powers That Be” trying to destroyer troublemakers.
But what happens when you wish to invade a planet that is advanced both in ideas and weaponry, such as Earth during the Twenty-Second Century? In that case, you use everything you have. First comes the bombardment of the planet with natural looking bombs that help you delivery biological agents to the surface. Once the planet is in chaos, the Daleks come down, using nuclear missiles and firebombs to secure footholds in the urban centers. Warrior Daleks pour out of the shuttles and saucers to overwhelm the last pockets of organized defenders. Leaders, either elected or not, will be shot and any unneeded natives are killed. Some tamed natives might be put into leadership positions and others could be used to trap or hunt down stubborn rebels. Police units made up of natives or imported aliens, such as Ogrons, might be created to help keep the ‘peace.’ Slythers could be looked at as either an alien ally or a biological weapon depending if it is a pet trained to act as a ‘guard dog’ or a genetically engineered creature programmed as one. By now the planet is secure and the exploitation can begin. Daleks will strip the planet of ANYTHING they can use. Metals, minerals, food, water, medicine, radioactive material, slaves for use on other planets and information. Devices have been made by the Dalek that can pull data right out of a subject’s mind (which they used on the Third Doctor in ‘Day of the Daleks’). They’ll squeeze it like a grape and then squeeze some more till the person is empty. A less damaging version, more of a lie detector, was used on Romana in ‘Destiny of the Daleks.’ These devices might be based on Darvos’ earlier lie detector used on the Fourth Doctor in ‘Genesis of the Daleks.’ When there is nothing else they can take from the planet, they collect any useful slaves and leave, most of the time making sure that the planet is lifeless and worthless to their enemies. For an example, just look at Skaro when the Daleks decided to return to it.
Tactics: Winning the Battle.
Sometimes we get to see the Daleks in a battle, rolling towards the enemy, blaster sticks blazing. These battles usually use what we would call “small unit tactics” and we rarely get to see the massive battles that must take place almost regularly in the Dr. WHO universe. Still, we can look at these examples and try to find some gems of information among them.
In combat it looks as if the Daleks like to work in small units of either two, or three, Warrior Daleks. These units, as in ‘The Chase’ when the Daleks had the Doctor cornered in a cave on the planet Mechanus, seem to prefer attacking the target from more than one direction AND also prefer to keep their distance from one another. No doubt this allows them to cover more ground, creates crossfire AND keeps them from accidentally getting into each other’s way when the battle is joined. In crowded areas, such as combat in an urban area like the Thals’ dome or the streets of an English City, two or three Daleks are going to be able to move about much faster than a unit of ten or twenty Daleks.
Daleks also prefer volley firing as opposed to firing-at-will. While this almost Napoleonic tactic might seem outdated, especially against organized resistance, it should be pointed out that by the time the Warrior Daleks are deployed in an invasion of a planet there shouldn’t be ANY organized resistance left. Also their advanced hull design allows them to get in the first volley without having to worry about enemy fire from most standard weapons, such as missile launchers and machine guns. Anything more advanced should have already been knocked out. Lasers, for example, need lots of energy and relay heavily on computerized targeting systems. A nuclear air-burst should zap power cells and damage computer circuits making the most advanced military weapons nothing but very expensive pieces of junk.
Daleks are NOT good at hand-to-hand combat and prefer to use their guns even at close ranges. Yet sometimes they even surprise me. In ‘Planet of the Daleks’ the Doctor and a Thal is trying to force a Dalek into an ice pool. The Dalek is able to knock the Thal off his feet by hitting him with its EYESTALK! This either shows that the Dalek had some skill had close combat or that the Thals are truly wimps. I pick the latter.
Failure is Death: The Generation Gap.
Why is it that Daleks are sometimes killed (or pick suicide) when they fail? Surely, if all Daleks think alike failure would be the fault of the Daleks as a race, not as an individual. Yet maybe Daleks DO become individuals in a very limited sense.
All Daleks have the same goal; Dalek Universal Rule. Each Dalek starts off with an updated version of Dalek history and policy inside its brand new travel machine’s computer. Its carefully selected genes mold its own attitude and attributes.
Once a Dalek leaves the factory it starts to change. A Dalek, whether in times of peace or in war, will start to collect new data based on direct stimulus. The goals are still the same and will NEVER change, but as the Dalek deals with enemy races, lives on strange planets and runs into new problems it will start to generate ideas on how to get to the goals. As a Dalek gets older the memory of past events that IT lived through will start to have more weight than records of Dalek history that came to it second hand. Sooner or later it will start to make decisions based on its own life experiences. For example, it will realize that tactics that work when fighting Thals don’t work against newer foes like the Movellans.
Command Daleks, whether they control a warship or run a science lab, MUST not be allowed to develop their own ideas about HOW to solve the problems that face Dalek conquest of the universe. Thus, when a Dalek fails it must be assumed that it allowed its individualism to cloud its judge. Of course, it could also be bad luck, BUT by making an example of failures the Dalek High Command insures that the rank and file will continue to follow the proper procedures while individualism is kept in tight control. In a race, like the Dalek, individualism would damage the unity of the culture’s effort towards their goals. Like ants pulling the same rock in all different directions, Daleks cannot be allowed to stray off the pathway, looking for solutions that waste energy and resources.
Individualism may become more and more of a problem as the organic being within the shell changes, drifting away from the original blueprints that Darvos designed, and becoming something else.
Allies: The Daleks have few allies. This is NOT a surprise, as the Daleks are both xenophobic expansionists AND militaristic industrialists.
Ogrons are a race the Daleks discovered which was both very stupid and easily controlled. This made them a perfect race to act either as shock troops or police on planets the Daleks had taken. They proved to be tough fighters and capable to using simple infantry weapons. Ogrons seem to be well fed and well dressed when compared to the slave races.
Earthlings prove to be dangerous allies. They are smarter than Ogrons, and greedy for power over other humans, making them perfect spies, torturers and administrators for the Dalek Empire. Yet they also had a habit of turning on their masters. The very fear of humans turning on the Daleks make the Daleks treat them with distrust and open hatred. This treatment, of even the upper class slave, means that the humans ARE most likely going to turn on their masters sooner or later. Even cloned and brainwashed humans (or paid mercenaries) can prove dangerous. Even worms turn.
Other allies (if unwilling races such as the Aridians, Spiridons and Exxilons could be called allies) or sometimes single individuals (such as the Master or Commander Lytton) usually end up worse off than when they started.
Enemies: The same factors that bring few people to Dalek recruitment offices are the same ones that generate so much ill will towards them. Their list of enemies would fill a library. Here are a few.
The Thals are the oldest of the Daleks enemies (next to the Doctor) but they are also one of the most pitiful. They can’t seem to agree on a course of action when action is most needed, their weapons are inferior and their first spaceships looked like, flew like and landed like badly designed bricks. While at one time they may have been great warriors their time as pacifists has changed them into a race barely capable of any organized fighting at all. When we last saw them (in the Dalek time line), in ‘Planet of the Daleks’, they still thought Earth was a legend, which suggests that they have yet to make contact with any of the more powerful civilizations yet. The ONLY reason they have NOT been wiped out by now is because of the Doctor (and as we haven’t seen them since the Third Doctor we don’t REALLY know if they are still alive or not).
The Moroks have only appeared in ‘The Space Museum’ yet seem to be linked in some way with the early civilization of the Daleks (as one of their displays IS a Dalek). The Moroks we see are members of an empire in decay, yet their museum shows that they are still proud, aggressive and continue to have high standards in every thing they do. One Morok repairs some equipment and states that it should last for another thousand years. The fact that the museum is on a planet they took over suggests they still know how to make war.
The question seems to be, for me, when did the two races first meet? Did the Moroks encounter the Daleks when the Moroks’ Empire was at its height or when the two empires were both equal in power? I believe the Moroks ran into the Daleks early in Daleks’ space age and caused them some problems, maybe even cutting the space faring Daleks off from the planet Skaro but this is all based on one Dalek shell in a dusty museum belonging to a wishful civilization.
Movellans on the other hand are a different story. Very advanced, very beautiful androids with well designed ships and powerful weapons, this race is more than a match for the Daleks. Their development of an anti-Dalek virus allowed them to end the stalemate between the two empires in their favor. Their humanoid appearance and almost gentle manners would allow them to interact with other races in peaceful ways. I see no reason why some races would not become willing allies with the Movellans in the war against the Daleks.
The only flaw I see is in their handguns. The hand weapons they use are very small but don’t seem very powerful. When the escaped slaves used them on the Daleks there seemed to be little or not effect on the advancing Warriors. As other races can also use this gun, this makes it perfect (if useless) gift for giving to new allies, if the Movellans choose to do so.
Their ships alone make them powerful enemies. On landing the ship can bore into the ground, leaving only a small part of the top exposed, using the ground to protect most of the hull and at the same time camouflage it. The inside of the ship uses tiny airlocks to separate the rooms and the rooms are tiny, split level chambers. These properties make the Movellan ship a maze of death for any Daleks that tries to enter them. A Dalek even told Darvos that the hull could easily stand up to Daleks’ blaster guns.
While many people say that their different appearances suggest individualism I would point out more stolid evidence of individualism in their actions. They display curiosity many times during their interaction with the Fourth Doctor AND the fact that they developed a virus against the Daleks shows their genius in attacking the Daleks’ weakness (from the Movellans’ point of view). In other words, the Movellans found a way out of the stalemate by looking beyond the Daleks’ travel machine and attacking the creature within. Of course, without the Fourth Doctor drawing their attention to the organic side of the Dalek race, they may never have developed the biological approach to the problem.
The differences in appearance could just be an example of random selection on the part of the Movellans whose job is to design and build their fellow robots. A UFO taking a picture of a parking lot at a shopping mall would notice that cars all look different BUT I doubt the alien crew would announce that the cars were individuals without more proof.
While they do not have time technology, to our knowledge, they do seem to match the Daleks in all other fields of science and they may be just as ruthless in battle. We never got to really see them FIGHT any Daleks, as the Movellan who did run into a Dalek patrol was shot in the back. Yet being robots mean they can swiftly produce more of them selves to produce massive armies.
Who created them? Maybe a race who thought they would be the next step in evolution or maybe the Movellans are the final product of a race who slowly replaced every part of their body with plastic and steel? COULD they be a powerful Anti-Dalek weapon designed by the last of the Thals? Who else would make such a beautiful race of military robots for the purpose of war?
Time Lords, and I’m not just talking about the Doctor, have proven to be very dangerous enemies. By sending the Doctor to Skaro at the time that the Dalek race was created the Time Lords showed ruthlessness that almost out shined all other races. They were willing to change a million years of history, past and future, just to destroy one race.
Earthlings must also be placed near the top of the list of the Dalek enemies. They are flexible, always improving and changing their methods of space flight, government and war. No matter how many times the Daleks might defeat them, the humans of Earth keep coming back, like a bad cold. Colonies may be enslaved, battle fleets destroyed and germ released onto human worlds BUT the human race continues to fight the Daleks. In fact, in ‘Death to the Daleks’ one human character talks about the “last Dalek war” suggesting that there have been more than one. Remember, the Daleks once RULED mankind. Any race that can free itself from slavery THEN can fight a series of wars with the Dalek and still continue to expand into space is a tough one.
The Draconians, while their form of government might seem outdated, seem to be equal to the humans of that time period in both the sciences and in their toughness. In fact, in many ways, their leaders seemed to be slightly more open-minded and flexible than the current Earth government. I don’t see any reason why the Draconians would not put up a good fight. In fact, with their warrior heritage and strong sense of honor, I don’t see them EVER giving up the fight against the Daleks.
The Mechonoids, while being powerful robots, are somewhat limited in intelligence. As this group of robots seem to have no ships designed to go beyond their colonies, and are to be found only on certain planets that the humans have selected, they can’t really be much of a threat. Daleks could easily bypass Mechonoid planets or just nuke the Mechonoid cities. On the other hand, by marking where the Mechonoids ARE, they can plan future invasions of human colonies AFTER allowing the humans to develop the planet’s resources BUT before the humans increase too much in numbers.
Of course smart humans might allow the Mechonoids to continue to work along side the colonists, insuring a force of fearless defenders for the newly settled worlds. Maybe humans would even arm the Mechonoids with better weapons and increase their computer power, but we have nothing to suggest that it has happened or will happen.
Possible Enemies or Allies: There are a few races in the universe that would make either dreadful enemies or powerful allies for the Daleks. It all depends on how the public relations department on Skaro handles them.
The Cybermen are powerful beings, with many different weapons and just as many different types of space ships, from saucers to huge transport ships, who have been fighting humans and other races for the sole goal of surviving. They are strong, know how to use biological weapons and can even use hypnosis on humanoid races. They, like the Daleks, can use the cold to go into suspended animation. They can use human agents, promising power or wealth, and can even use some as laborers. They also use Cybermats as weapons of surprise and terror. The Cybermen, in their dealings with the Doctor, know of time travel but have YET to perfect it.
In same fields of knowledge, such as planetary engineering the Cybermen have proven to be equal to, or MORE advanced, than the Daleks. They, after all, were able to move and steer their home planet of Mondas back towards the sun after it wandered outwards to the edge of the Solar System.
BUT they need human or humanoid races to make more Cybermen, which means that much of the time they are low in number. They also do not have emotions or individualism among their ranks. The fact that gold, no matter what the form, can kill them is their greatest disadvantage.
As allies they could be used as infantry against the Movellans and the Daleks could supply the Cybermen with subjects to turn into other Cybermen. As enemies they would prove to be very dangerous, maybe even becoming allies of the Movellans if they thought it would help them survive against the Dalek war machine. Like humans, they have a habit of coming back from defeat, again and again.
The Sontarans are a tough, smart and ruthless race of humanoid aliens with VERY advanced and compact ships. Military specialists who have been fighting a war against the Rutans for thousands of years, they have developed many weapons, including hypnotic devices for dealing with lesser races. They have even, at one point, invaded Gallifrey and have enough knowledge of time for limited travel within it as seen in ‘The Time Warrior.’ A soldier of the Sontarans has knowledge in many fields of science, like metallurgy, physiology and even alien psychology. They feed on raw energy, which they can get directly from their ships, and the power plug or vent in the back of the neck is the only weak point they have. They also use robotics, but for nonmilitary purposes, such as in ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ where a robot was used to capture, and keep track of, human subjects. Those experiments show that while very militaristic they do prefer to take the time to prepare the way for invasions by gaining as much information of the target races as they can before hand.
The Rutans are a tough, smart and VERY arrogant amphibious race of aliens with a jellyfish appearance that has a shape-changing ability and they, like the Sontarans, live directly off energy. They can also use the energy in close combat, electrocuting their enemies. The only Rutan ships we have on record seem to be a substandard design when compared to the Sontarans, their ancient enemy. The Rutan’s scout ship, in ‘Horror of Fang Rock,’ crashed onto the planet Earth, the mother ship being destroyed by a laser made from a diamond and a lighthouse light.
Of course, these ships could have been designed for stealth and not for front-line combat. The Rutans, after all, don’t want the Sontaran detectors to pick up their exploration of what might be an important planet in the future military operations of the Rutan race. At one point, in the future, the Sontarans also decide the Earth might be a useful planet for their continuing war against the Rutans.
To judge the military might of the Rutans from those two ships would be like the US military during World War Two calculating the Japanese Imperial Navy’s strength totally on the equipment they found on the midget sub that washed up onto the beach at Hawaii. YET is does show that the Rutans also choose to gain as much data on target worlds, just like their enemy, before trying to invade.
Our information about the Rutans is limited but they MUST have military technology that is advanced enough to deal with the Sontarans on an equal footing. They may or may not have time travel but they may have enough basic knowledge of time to block any Sontaran attacks using time technology. Maybe a time blocker or scoop, somewhat like the Dalek time scoop used in ‘The Day of the Daleks’?
Both the Sontarans and the Rutans would prove valuable allies but VERY dangerous enemies. If one side ever wins in its war against the other race they would became a threat to the universe even GREATER than that of the Daleks.
Note: Some of the symbols have question marks because sometimes I am not too sure that it fits. For example, are the Time Machines in ‘Day of the Daleks’ truly a Secret Weapon when we knew the Daleks had time travel technology before this second invasion of Earth? Can the Hand of Omega be looked at as a Dalek Secret Weapon when, by using it, they destroy themselves in a trap laid by the last Doctor?
The First Age: Pre-Space Travel
The Genesis of the Daleks
The Daleks (N)
The Second Age: Space Travel
The Dalek Invasion of Earth (B/H/A-Slythers?)
Day of the Daleks (target) (H/A/S-Time Machine?)
The Space Museum (?)
The Power of the Daleks (?) (#/H)
The Third Age: Time Travel
The Evil of the Daleks (H/S-Dalek-Factor Machine?)
Day of the Daleks (source?)
Frontier in Space (A/S-Fear Machine?)
Planet of the Daleks (#/B/A/S-Invisible Screening)
Death to the Daleks (H/A)
Mission to the Unknown (B-Varga Plant/A)
The Dalek MasterPlan (#/H/A/S)
The Chase (A/S-Robot)
Destiny of the Daleks (A)
Resurrection of the Daleks (H/C or B-Gas or Germ bombs used?)
Revelation of the Daleks (H)
Remembrance of the Daleks (source) (H/S-Hand of Omega?)
Key to Abbreviations
# = Numbers
B = Biological Weapon
H = Human allies or agents.
A = Alien allies or agents.
N = Nuclear bomb
S = Secret Weapon
C = Chemical Weapons
Article © 2002 Michael James Valdivielso/Visagraph Films International.