Remembrance of the Daleks: Thus far in the Sylvester McCoy era, this is the episode that has made me feel most like the show I am watching is still Doctor Who, and the character played by Sylvester McCoy is still the Doctor. Bringing the classic enemies back, the Daleks, was a good move, as was returning once again to 76 Totters Lane where it all began, within years of the first Doctor’s departure.
I think this was probably the first episode in the classic series in which the Daleks are shown able to ascend stairs. I suspect it was a powerful and surprising moment when it first aired.
The episode features two sets of Daleks: imperial and renegade. The state of the balance of power between them actually includes a surprise, as Davros turns out to be the imperial Dalek! Davros’ Daleks have been mutated again and have claws and a more solid form compared to the blobby classic Daleks.The show uses the determination of both to ensure the purity of the Dalek race by eliminating the other to make a point about racism. Since the show is set in 1963, and the persistence of racism in the England of that time is illustrated by a boarding house with a sign in its window that says “No Coloureds” – much to Ace’s horror and dismay.
The episode has an intriguing bit of tie-in with the show’s mythology, since it seems that in telling about the early days of Gallifreyan society – the period of Omega and Rassilon – the Doctor lets slip that he was around!
There are some minimal religious references, as the Doctor has hidden the Hand of Omega (not his actual hand, but a remote stellar manipulator, in a casket. For the mock burial of that casket, as well as for the funeral of an individual killed in the conflict with and between the Daleks, Christian clergy, funerary rites and even a church feature.
The Doctor, it turns out, was not concerned so much that the Hand of Omega would be taken, but that the trap he had set with it would be taken by the right Daleks to do the most damage to them.
Let me close with one great statement from the Doctor in the episode: “You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies.”