Five Hundred Eyes

The Survivors

To my mind, one of the greatest strengths of the first Dalek story is its presentation of the Daleks as a race of intelligent, rational, thInking beings. In subsequent stories their characters were reduced to the lowest level of ranting exterminators, the perhaps necessary evil enemy, but for their introductory serial (at the time, of course, intended to be their only appearance) Terry Nation not only allowed the Daleks the ability to think intelligently (this was a feature of some later stories) but also a logical pattern of reasoning that could be used to understand their motives and actions, if only one could be bothered to take the time to do so.

The Daleks have for so long been regarded as totally evil, but in fact In The Dead Planet (aka The Daleks) they are shown to be quite rational in their thought processes. The Daleks aren't so much evil or immoral as amoral. "Pity" is one word that is not programmed into their "vocabulary banks", but there are many niore "human" concepts that are not present in the Dalek mentality, such as the difierence between good and evil. Davros had intended his creations to survive - ihroughout the story this Is what they are trying to do. All their actions, all their "senseless, evil" killings, are towards this end. There is no malice in what they do - they are merely attempting to survIve the threat posed towards them by the Thals and their new-fotind allies, the Doctor and his friends.

The Daleks are frightened, How real the threat posed by the Thals is, is irrelevant what matters Is how it appears to the Daleks. They were "invaded" by the Tardis crew: despite the poor health of these "Thals", they must be considered a potential threat to Dalek survival. For perhaps the only time In the story the Daleks seem to exercise less than total rationality as they try to exterminate the surviving Thals; they don't think it through, they just blast away like frightened children - indeed, in many respects, despite their advanced culture, this Is all that they are.

Later on, however, once they have had a chance to study the Thals at greater length, the Daleks are more rational about the threat. They are still frightened, but from their point of view they have good reason to be. They know that the Doctor and his companions have met up with the Thals. In all probability the two groups will join forces to attack their city. The Thais have intelligence, the Doctor even more; the Doctor's party have already shown their belligerence as far as the Daleks are concerned, there is no reason to assume that they will not attack (asa, indeed, they later do). The Daleks fear the Thais, the Thais fear the Daleks : it is a mutually-sustaining relationship of distrust and antagonism. Without the introduction of the Doctor's party Into the proceedings the cataclysmic events might never have taken place. The Daleks wn,,Id nn' have felt threatened and the ThaIq would have left well alone. instead the interference of a supposedly "non-interventionist" Doctor, to get himself out of a situation which he placed himself in, only exacerbates the potential conflict. A later Doctor might have tried to find a peaceful settlement (which, after all, is what the Thals want), but the first Doctor, particularly at this early stage, is not interested in that, only in the safety of himself and Susan (Ian and Barbara are considered but, in the final analysis, disposable). He uses the Thals to get what he wants - they may benefit from this, but that is merely incidental. The moral Influence of Ian is there, but it is a certain kind of morals, blinded by prejudice and arrogance and fear. His desires are the same as the Doctor's, if for different reasons. Thus, without any restraining influence, the Doctor acts in the somewhat selfish manner that he does, a manner which would be almost alien to later incarnations. The Doctor is no better and no worse than the Daleks. Both are trying to survive, both do not bother to understand the situation of the other. Yes, certainly the Doctor Is shown hostility, but he never stops to ask why. Instead he fights like with like, and responds with equal hostility, Just as ruthless as the Daleks In pursuing his alms. Survival overrIdes any kind of moral perspectIve.

Neither Is the viewer encouraged to understand. Always it Is the Tardis crew, and in particular Ian and Barbara, that are in the right; the Thals are presented as the natural allies of our heroes. The Daleks are evil, malevolent and "monsters" to be feared and despised. In terms of drama, this Is all well and good, the classic opposition of good and evil, but If one looks closer, it just doesn't work like that. You aren't expected to question the seemingly clear-cut situation presented to you, but if you do you may see anomalies in the bohaviour of the Doctor, the humans and the Thals. From their perspective they are doing the right thing, but similarly from the Dalek point of view the Daleks are equally right. Of course, this latter perspective Is never offered as an alternative - It would complicate the narrative and maybe disrupt the conflict-drama but it is much more interesting. What we have here is not so much a battle between forces of good and evil, but rather a conflict of interests, an apparently Insoluable situation. This latter picture is far more realistic, reflective of the world in which we all live, a world where war is common, where sides try to resolve their differences by force, where Intolerance and fear breed hatred, and where senseless killings occur in the name of survival.

Survival is the name of the game. It is the overwhelming instinct that motivates both sides, the Daleks and the Tardis crew. For the Thals, survival is Important, but not enough to sacrifice their principles for - it is only the Intervention of the Doctor and Ian that distort this notion and instill in the Thais too the concept of survival at all costs. Survival to the Daleks means radiation. At first they try to use the Thals' drug to combat the lingering traces of the neutron bomb that devastated their planet, but when this proves fatal they realise that they have evolved In such a way that radiation is now necessary to their continued existence. At one time the news that the radiation level was rapidly falling would have brought hope that they might be able to leave their protective casings - now they find that such a fall means certain death to the whole of their species. The only solution they can see Is to increase the radiation level, In the long term by exploding a neutron bomb, but for immediate effect by pumping their radiactive waste into the atmosphere. After hundreds of years of changing to suit the enviroment, they are able, through their technology, to change the enviroment of Skaro to suit themselves. When the Doctor accuses them of murder they reply that it Is extermination - a necessary killing to ensure their survival : "Without radiation the Dalek race is ended". The Doctor (not completely devoid of morals after all) asks why they have to destroy; the answer comes back that only one race can survive (another relic of Davros' programming) - they wish to escape captivity, to go outside and rebuild their planet. Theirs was once a great civilisation, as the Doctor himself admitted in the second episode, and they wish it to be one once more. The Doctor argues against this "senseless" killing, but offers them no alternative. When, In desperation, he at last gives them some option to the "exterminations", the use of his Tardis, not surprisingly the Daleks are sceptical ... but after the neutron operation they will go and see If he was speaking the truth. There Is no reason, based on the Doctor's previous behaviour, why the Daleks should trust him - it Is frustrating but entirely understandable. The Daleks are simply behaving realistically, as they must if they wish to survive. The Thals are attacking their city - If they delay releasing the radiation then It may be to late.

As it turns out, the Thals are In time to prevent this, the power is switched off and the Daleks start dying. It Is a pitiful sight as the last Dalek makes a final appeal to the Doctor : "Stop our power from wasting ... or It will be ... end ... of the ... Daleks." Note that It is not the Dalek's personal survival that concerns It, but that of Its species as it witnesses genocide - no worse than the Daleks were contemplating, but nevertheless mass extermination of an entire Intelligent race. The final end is harrowing in the extreme: has good triumphed? Were there ever good and evil sides? I don't feel that the Thals had much more right to survive than the Daleks. It Is merely their moral sense that persuades us that they are the rightful inheritors of Skaro. The Daleks were belligerent towards the Thals, yes, but so were the Thals towards the Daleks after the intervention of the Doctor and Ian. Had the Daleks triumphed, it Is quite likely that Skaro would have been as peaceful as under the Thals, If not more so (leaving aside ambitions of universal conquest that were introduced In subsequent, if "earlier" stories).