The Ontological Dalek

Because I am the type of person to have nerdy friends, I have been under a barrage since last winter of “You should watch Doctor Who! You would love it!” &c. But because I am also the type of person to be nerdy myself, I am okay with this. The problem lay in that I had no way of watching Doctor Who, but having resolved that I am on a serious kick of the stuff. Despite not having reached David Tennant or (obviously) Matt Smith yet, Christopher Eccleston is already my favorite. What a cool guy.

It’s Sunday, and I’m spending it in my dorm room watching Who, although I may venture into the sunlight later. If Derek ever texts me back. There’s not a ton going on today, and I am so okay with that it hurts. So I’m blogging.

The episode I just watched is, I think, the sixth of Eccleston’s first (and I believe only) series, with Rose as companion. And it is the first appearance of the Daleks in the modern-er serieses. What happens is (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD) Rose and the Doctor find themselves under the salt flats of Utah in the year 2012 and discover an alien museum, where someone is keeping and storing all the extraterrestrial items that have ever fallen to earth. Including, fortuitously, a Dalek. This someone is Henry Van Staan (spelling?), who, as one of his employees says, “also owns the Internet.” Rose protests that nobody owns the Internet, but, being from 2005, she’s apparently wrong.

Anyway, the museum contains a Dalek. The last of, to be precise. Henry van Staan is trying to find out about it, but it won’t talk to him, so he tortures it. First clue as to what kind of guy he is. Makes me think of the kid in my kindergarten class who got upset because I never talked to him. In my defense, I didn’t talk to any of the boys in my kindergarten class the first two weeks. What can I say? I didn’t have brothers.

The Dalek, last of its kind, was the only one to survive a massive Time War with the Time Lords (got that?). Let me remind you that the Doctor is a Time Lord. The last of, to be precise. The only one to survive a massive Time War with the Daleks. He says he was the only one to survive by choice, but the Dalek doesn’t care and calls him a coward. So obviously these two have a history, though we’re never told quite what it is.

At the point where Rose is trapped in the lower part of the museum and the Dalek is on a rampage after her and the cute British boy who works for van Staan, the Doctor wants to destroy it. The thing about Daleks is that destruction is their purpose. Their point in life is to, as they phrase it, exterminate. That is what they believe themselves to be created for. (They’re also highly nationalistic – when Rose touches him he absorbs some of her DNA and then begins later to mutate into a hybrid, whereupon he begs Rose to order him to kill himself because he doesn’t want to be anything but a pure Dalek.) They also like to say, “GIVE ME ORDERS” a lot. Reminds me of my ex-boyfriend. Cough.

To continue, as Rose and cute-British-boy-whose-name-I-think-is-Adam are on the run from the Dalek, the Doctor is getting super angry and wants to blast the thing to pieces. “You killed my people, I’ma kill you,” is the message he seems to be sending. And I was struck by that, by how his anger and pain and loneliness turned him into the same sort of vindictive, “EXTERMINATE”-screaming creature he wanted to rid the world of. Irrationality is believing that though two motives or two crimes are the same, one is excusable because it belongs to you. That’s also incredibly conceited. Then come a few moments after the Dalek screams “EXTERMINATE” when the Doctor thinks Rose is dead, but finds that she is not, the Dalek having rethought it. It’s more complicated than that. Whatever.

In the end, in the scene right before the Dalek begs Rose to order him to kill himself, Rose and the Dalek are standing in a room where he has just shot through the ceiling to find the sunshine. The Doctor barges in with the biggest gun Adam could find and orders Rose to get out of the way. She refuses and explains that all the Dalek wanted was the sunshine. Then comes the end scene where the Doctor explains about Rose’s DNA and the Dalek decides it needs to kill itself.

I think it’s a metaphor. About love. Of course, I tend to think most things are about love, but nevertheless.

The Dalek, having been wired to kill, was one messed up bugger. But Rose showed him that he didn’t have to take orders from his surroundings, that he could just be who he was, and bask in the sunshine. (The DNA thing screwed that up for him because he didn’t want to be himself if that was who he was, but it’s okay, because accepting what happens is, I think, advanced, where accepting what has happened is easier.) The Doctor wanted to make him into something (bits and pieces of metal all over the floor). Rose loved him with open hands, and he thereby became his ontological self, as L’Engle would say.

Dude. A Who episode about Madeleine L’Engle. I might die. FREAKING. AWESOME.

We need that.

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One thought on “The Ontological Dalek

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who: Risk | Musings of a Mild Mannered Man

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