Continuity of the Daleks
Guest contributor Elliot Thorpe examines the tangled history of the maniacal pepper pots.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all scratched our heads to try to make some sense of the story logic of Doctor Who, when the writers to some extent (certainly during the series’ original run) simply made it up as they went along. But most of us live in a world where our fictional universes have to make sense, none more so than Doctor Who and, UNIT dating aside (and I don’t mean either of the bespectacled Osgoods on the hunt for a prospective partner), the history of the Daleks is probably one with most conflicts. So let’s see if we can look into the tangled webs weaved on TV by those maniacal pepperpots.
For the purposes of remaining sane, we’ll ignore Big Finish and other mediums for the moment. And remember, this is all an opinion and there’s no hard and fast rule, so agree or disagree at your leisure. It’s part of the fun.
We’re likely all agreed that ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ is the best place to start, and quite obviously, too. We see a brand new Mark III Travel Machine designed and built by nutty Kaled scientist Davros to contain the eventual atomically-mutated forms of the Kaled race itself. It’s not called a Dalek at this stage: it’s very primitive but undeniably one all the same. At the pinnacle of the epic story, the Doctor has delayed their development by some few centuries, Davros has apparently been overthrown and killed by his creations and the first Daleks themselves remain on Skaro, trapped inside the Kaled bunker, waiting for the right time to emerge and take their rightful place as the supreme beings of the universe.
‘Destiny of the Daleks’ serves as a sequel to ‘Genesis…’ for Davros’ own narrative, but it is not satisfactory from a linear perspective, so this is where it all gets a bit wibbly-wobbly.
So, back to ‘Genesis…’: we have basic, unadorned Daleks living on Skaro. As they develop and grow, they don’t look to the stars, instead focusing on where and what they are. They rebuild the Kaled bunker, turning it into the Dalek City and so 1963’s ‘The Daleks’ occurs next, showing an race reliant on static electricity to get around and the radiation of the planet’s prior atomic war to exist. These aren’t advanced Daleks. They don’t even appear to be initially conscious of other worlds beyond their own – but the finale of the story sees them aware of extra-terrestrials, albeit devoid of all power and apparently dead.
Now we have a gap in the story, and it’s only at the second tale in their long complicated lives. We’ve not seen how they re-energise themselves, mobilise their internal power sources and leave Skaro to discover interplanetary travel. But clearly they do and an initial target is Earth in the 22nd Century for ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’. There’s nothing to indicate why they chose Earth, but we have to deduce that one of their scout ships found it to be a suitable planet for control and that its core is perfect to turn into a big engine! They also use a virus to wipe out Earth’s population beforehand and perhaps it’s this virus that turns the tables on the Daleks at the time of ‘Death to the Daleks’, and they battle to find a cure before their machinations can continue.
To establish what story comes next we have to look at the Daleks’ abilities themselves and the easiest aspect to consider is their time-travel technology. They didn’t always have it, as crude as it can be, but they were aware of it. That said, ‘Frontier In Space’ has to be the logical next step, with the gap between ‘The Daleks’ and ‘…Invasion of Earth’ and how they spread across the galaxy left to our imaginations. From here we have an element of continuity, with ‘Planet of the Daleks’ immediately following ‘Frontier…’ and the freezing of 10,000 Daleks in the ice volcanoes of Spiridon. Possibly due to events on the astral frontier, the Daleks capture the Master (in his time line, many centuries later) and attempt to execute him on Skaro in ‘Doctor Who’.
Again we have another gap so we can’t assume that the Spiridon-based Daleks are the only ones in existence. There is a Dalek City on Kembel, for a start, so there is every reason to assume that they have conquered multiple worlds by this time. During the time since ‘Planet…’, they have also gained an understanding of temporal science.
Time Corridor technology plays a part in the ‘Evil of the Daleks’, culminating on Skaro in what is considered to be the Daleks’ final end. But clearly it’s not because they see the logic in using this technology to try again to conquer 22nd Century Earth, this time from the 20th Century in ‘Day of the Daleks’. So Time Corridor use, while occurring far later in the series’ sequence of events, appears to be a basic means of time travel and the Doctor himself alludes to such methods as being rudimentary.
With the wounds of failure raw, the Daleks then have to contend with the Movellans and ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ picks up that story after two years (they could be ‘space years’) and again ninety years after that with ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’. Time Corridor technology is still in use but it’s something that the returned Davros isn’t necessarily aware of – or perhaps he is if he recalls his torture of the Doctor back in ‘Genesis…’. At the end of ‘Resurrection…’ Davros flees and the planet Necros is where he settles under the guise of the Great Healer. But the Daleks have followed and ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ sees the freshly-armless Davros captured and taken for trial on Skaro. There appears to not be an Emperor, for the Dalek Supreme is in power, so clearly the events of ‘Evil…’ still resonate throughout Dalek-kind.
‘Mission to the Unknown’ and ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’ tell the story of the Daleks’ aim to conquer the Solar System using the Time Destructor and the Daleks now also have time-travel capsules, leaving behind the stolid Corridor method. This may be Davros’ influence and genius that allowed these capsules to be created.
Not long after Davros’ trial, a new Emperor is appointed and the Daleks declare war upon the Time Lords, sending a squad to eliminate the Doctor in ‘The Chase’. Is it not unreasonable to see the cogs of the Time War turning here and because the Time War is far into the Doctor’s own future, he has know knowledge of why he is suddenly being targeted (when for him he has only confronted the Daleks twice before). There is a Dalek pod on Vulcan that is also bigger on the inside but while the Doctor makes no mention of it has being a time capsule per se, the Daleks in ‘Power of the Daleks’ have to have been a unit from ‘The Chase’ that crashed out of time, leaving the rest of the Dalek race to converge on the Time Lords and eventually Gallifrey itself in ‘The Day of the Doctor’.
The Time Lords resurrect the Master to be an instrument in the war just as the Daleks use Davros (complete with a shiny new robotic hand). We know the Time Lords won and the Daleks were defeated but ‘Dalek’ shows us a survivor of the Time War with, later on, the Emperor being another. The Cult of Skaro, a triumvirate of free-thinking Skarosians, also escape the Time War, at the same time collecting the Genesis Ark, a Time Lord prison for millions of Daleks. The Emperor alone created a new race of Daleks from human DNA and therefore no longer pure in their blobbiness. We see the results of his biology experiments in ‘Bad Wolf’ and ‘The Parting of the Ways’ but Rose wipes every last one of these stinking Daleks out of the sky.
The Cult of Skaro arrive on Earth having hidden itself in the Void. While the Doctor eventually forces these Daleks back into the it, the Cult itself uses an emergency temporal shift to escape to 1930s New York for ‘Daleks In Manhattan’ and ‘Evolution of the Daleks’. During this encounter Cult member Caan states his home-world was destroyed (and not necessarily atomised) in a great war that we have to consider is the Time War and we see a ruined Skaro later on in the series.
Just as the Cult’s new army is wiped out, Caan uses the same emergency temporal shift to escape, but his actions cause him to go mad, even though he rescues Davros from the Time War – actions explained in ‘The Stolen Earth’ and ‘Journey’s End’. A new race of Daleks created from Davros’ own DNA is destroyed and Davros appears to be consumed in the destruction of his ship the Crucible. A Dalek vessel escapes and arrives at 1940s Earth with the Daleks aboard intending to recreate the purest Dalek race ever with the Progenitor Device. The resultant Paradigm Daleks escape in ‘Victory of the Daleks’.
‘The Pandorica Opens’ and ‘The Big Bang’ aren’t specifically Dalek stories but the fact that they feature Paradigm Daleks means they sit here. But don’t ask from what point in time the Time Lords scooped the Dalek that appears in ‘The Five Doctors’ – but by its casing, its peers have to be from ‘Resurrection…’.
Explicitly Dalek-y is ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ and we see Skaro at ground level for the first time since ‘Destiny…’. All manner of Daleks from all eras make an appearance and this cements this story as happening deep into the Daleks’ history. However, with the Doctor wiping the Daleks’ knowledge of him from their hive mind during this adventure, we have to assume that some centuries (and battles) have passed until we reach ‘The Time of the Doctor’, because they seem to know him again pretty well on the Fields of Trenzalore.
The Twelfth Doctor will likely be on the hunt for Gallifrey during his tenure and the Daleks will be following. But there is one event we’ve not yet mentioned, and it is a return (not ‘the’ return) of Davros in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’. It’s placed here at the end of this feature simply because a) the Doctor mentions Davros’ finally discarding the last vestiges of his human form (still not an improvement) and Skaro being blown-up. There is also an allusion to the Hand of Omega being the Daleks’ quarry since the beginning of the series (could this be a link to ‘The Chase’ and the first strike in the Time War?) and once again using Time Corridors. Perhaps Davros intends to use it to finally perfect time travel in revenge for the Daleks’ defeat in the Time War. But where would he have got all his Daleks from, Daleks loyal to his cause? Well, there were 10,000 frozen on Spiridon for a start.
So that wraps up a theory. It’s one that works for me and at some point I might even attempt to weave in Big Finish’s wonderful additions to the canon and revisit this article.
But not today. I’ve Doctor Who to watch.