War of the Daleks is a wholly-remarkable book - out of the first five-book run of Eighth Doctor adventures, it easily scrapes past the level of acceptable mediocrity. In terms of prose, plotting and characterization, it's hardly the worst BBC Book had offered in that year alone. It has a clear point to it, a linear plot and a straightforward narrative, yet while The Eight Doctors (a glorified This Is Your Life youtube vid) was given a grudging pass by critics, War of the Daleks shattered the fragile concept of canon. Even other 8DAs didn't admit the book had happened, it became the butt of jokes. In days gone by, the awfulness of The Pit didn't prevent fans from accepting it as a necessary part of the Whoniverse.
But after War of the Daleks, the idea that the books were a single, cohesive series of Doctor Who was even tossed aside by DWM. From now on, each book was judged on its individual merit and the idea it was a single, uncompromised saga was tossed out. One can only wonder if this would have happened if the book had been renamed War of the Trods, and concerned a different bunch of outer-space robot people. Certainly it would have had the same impact on the ongoing storyline - no one anywhere would have wanted to pick up the narrative threads. Not even John Peel himself has done anything with the ravaged mythology he left in his wake. People complained when Terra Firma completely contradicted this book in every important respect but no fan has ever suggested it would be better story to pick up where the other left off.
When Peel released Legacy of the Daleks (hinting at a plan for a Dalek story every five books that was mercifully dropped), it was a similar critical failure. No one, however, was truly offended by the revelations made about the Master and Susan. No flamewars erupted. Was it that fandom had already flung up its hands and huffed "I don't have to put up with this!" or was it, perhaps, that Legacy of the Daleks was written by an author no longer riddled with ambivalence that bled into his work? For War of the Dalek is a book written in anger, frustration and transferred disappointment with a father figure.
Pre-97, John Peel was the Nicholas Briggs of his age. Who else would write a Dalek story? His novelizations of all bar one sixties Dalek tale were universally lauded. He and Terry Nation were great mates, and Nation looked upon Peel as a worthy custodian of Skaro's finest. Peel had written the ghastly-formatted The Official Doctor Who & the Daleks Book, a truly horrific pale shadow of David Banks' Cybermen magnum opus. They both came out in 1988, Doctor Who's 25th Anniversary but I defy anyone not to look dubiously at the hideous photomontage cover and the banner saying THE COMPLETE STORY OF THE TIME LORD'S GREATEST FOES and not see the cut-out Tom Baker rolling his eyes and thinking "What about Remembrance, smartarse?"
Let's be fair. Cybermen missed out Silver Nemesis as well. The series was still an ongoing concern as far as everyone knew, so of course the book would be out-of-date. But what might grab your attention is the History of the Daleks at the back of the book which basically summarizes the already-adequately summarized plots but in an ongoing narrative with some interesting ideas (ie, Death to the Daleks occurs during the Movellan war, hence all the plagues). However, there is easily overlooked a passage as John Peel has to deal with the following problem of Davros' story still ongoing in a "complete" history.
So, after the entry for Revelation of the Daleks he wrote the following:
The ship carrying Davros had narrowly escaped destruction, having launched into space with moments to spare before Orcini had triggered his bomb. It returned to Skaro with Davros strictly watched at all times. On the Dalek homeworld, he was brought before the Supreme Council and the Black Dalek for trial. As he had expected, this was mostly a farce played out before the Daleks who watched the events on film. Davros was given the opportunity to speak, the Black Dalek knowing that their crazed creator would never be able to resist.
Davros launched into an impassioned plea to the watching Daleks to swear allegience to him, and to allow him to lead them to greater victories once again. he promised to redesign their casings, making them stronger, swifter and more enduring. He promised to oversee their destiny as supreme beings of the universe. Finally the Black Dalek cut him off and spoke in turn. Davros had never renounced his claim to be the supreme ruler of the Daleks; to him, they were nothing more than an extension of his own purposes. Instead, the Black Dalek insisted, they could do what was needed without Davros - who would undoubtedly seize his first opportunity to reprogram them to obey him again. Davros could not be trusted; he must be exterminated so that the Dalek race could achieve its own destiny.
Davros called them fools if they rejected him, promising that without him they were doomed. The Daleks refused to listen further, and he was sentenced to death. He managed one last attempt to rehain power, for there were some within the Dalek ranks - even within the Supreme Council - who felt that he was possibly telling the truth. At any rate, there were some Daleks who felt that Davros could be used and then discarded once his mind had been drained and utilized. A rescue attempt was staged but the Black Dalek had been anticipating this. Since the disastrous losses of the Movellan War, he had known that there was talk of overthrowing the Council and feforming the Dalek power scheme. The only reason Davros had been brought back to Skaro was to force the rebel elements into the open.
The Black Dalek and his forces struck against the traitors. They succeeded in slaying the dissidents, and this time there was no escape for Davros. The Black Dalek ensured that he was condemned, and he was placed within a matter transmitter. It was set on a broad beam, and his component molecules were scattered about their sun. There would, it seemed, be no way back for Davros this time, despite his rantings and boasts. The war for the final control of the Daleks was over.
Now, the more observantof you might have noticed the uncannily similarity between these pages of TODWATDB and the entire second half of War of the Daleks. So, Peel wrote two pages in 1987 and then decided to turn them into a novel, but it would be ten years before it finally saw print. Indeed, he actually wanted to pitch War of the Daleks to JNT for Season 27...
The idea for the book was originally to tie up the JNT era Dalek
stories. I had originally planned it, in fact as a four-part TV
proposal. Then the show was placed in hiatus hell, so l altered it to a
novel outline. What I wanted to do was to finish the Davros/Dalek war
thread that had been running a little too long, and then enable future
stories to simply find their own ground, without being forced into
following the rather involved plot that was running. Another reason for the story was to bring back Skaro. I feel that its destruction in Remembrance - was a bad move, as did Terry Nation. When I sought his permission for War, he asked me to try and rectify the destruction, which I think I've done very sneakily.
From this we can only assume that Peel really, really liked the idea of humiliating Davros and then killing him off that he even wanted it done on screen. With proper actors and everything.
Looking back, it's remarkable that he wrote those two pages at all. Terry Nation had stipulated Davros be in all future Dalek stories, so the odds of him turning up in Remembrance was 1 in 1. The odds of Ben Aaronovitch's story following TODWATB were far lower, but ironically it followed a similar premise with the main difference being that Davros won the trial and it was the "proper" Daleks hunted to extinction.
So, Peel chose to kill off Davros in the pages of the book despite there being not a chance in hell it would ever be followed up in canon, at the express wish of his pal and co-author Terry Nation. He could easily have written "unfortunately Davros then fell into a black hole and hasn't been seen since", sorted out the history section and kept his credibility. But no. Peel hates Davros. And not in a "loveable bastard" like Nimrod or Sherrif Vasey. He flat out despises the character that Nation loves so much and insists on using.
For example, there is nothing on-screen or from Terry Nation or Douglas Adams to suggest this is the back-story to Destiny of the Daleks, but Peel's bias immediately shines through.
The Dalek Prime knew that Davros considered himself superior to the Daleks and would inevitably try to gain control of them again. He must seem to have that opportunity. The Dalek Prime ordered the special construction of a small group of Daleks that would take orders from Davros but be fitted with explosive devices that the Dalek Prime could detonate in case of need. Davros would be given an extremely small army to order about, but the Dalek Prime would retain ultimate control. Their task was to find and restore Davros, and to convince him that he had full control of the Daleks.
Rather than accept the idea that the Daleks were knackered and desperate, as intended by the writers, Peel comes up with this conspiracy theory to emphasize that the Daleks are awesome and Davros is an easily-fooled sap who is more trouble than he's worth. It's almost an act of denial, feverishly insisting that this must all be an elaborate con because the alternative is too much of a challenge to his worldview.
The summary of the story emphasizes that Davros is a megalomaniac who never stood a chance against, well, anyone who stood against him and emphasized how he was no match for the Doctor, Romana, the Movellans, the slaves, Earth authorities. I bet that Kaled mutant pissed on Davros' wheelchair as well.
Now, Resurrection of the Daleks suffered from a half-arsed rewrite - literally half, given the first two episodes work on the assumption the Daleks are pathetic wretches on the verge of exinction, but the last two were changed so their Empire was at its height. Guess which version Peel prefers?
According to The History of the Daleks, while the Daleks were thrashed by the Movellans the idea that they were desperate for Davros' help is just "a suggestion" by the badass Dalek Prime which was presumably taken seriously by Daleks unable to detect the sarcasm. Indeed, the idea that Davros might succeed and take over the Daleks is treated as far more frightening a prospect than the whole 'assassinate the Time Lords' issue.
On Skaro, the Black Dalek regarded this setback with fury. At least, it seemed, all possible mance from Davros was eliminated. The Dalek scientists evolved a cure for the virus, and the remnants of the Dalek army began to reassemble itself. The way forward was still open.
The Discontinuity Guide noted that Davros' survival hampered the once-unified Dalek race, but Peel seems to think this is a bad thing both fictionally and creatively. Daleks with Davros = crap as far as he is concerned. Thus, the core idea of War of the Daleks makes sense. Whether a story for the Seventh Doctor and Benny for the NAs or the Eighth Doctor and Sam, the book exists for a single reason: to kill Davros. No, more than that, to systematically destroy any credibility the character had and THEN kill him off.
It's interesting to see Davros' various deaths from authors. Terry Nation killed off Davros in the first story, but deliberately left open the possibility for a return (he did the same thing with Servalan) but didn't set this in stone. Eric Saward's original script killed off Davros, but simply as part of the overall massacre; if Davros survived, then the defeat of the Daleks would count for nothing. Ben Aaronovitch made it clear Davros would survive the story, but when this wasn't immediate clear on screen (it's easy to miss the escape pod fleeing in time) he wrote the novelization to make damn certain everyone knew it wasn't over. RTD left Davros in flames almost as a tradition, and was surprised when people assumed he'd wanted to kill the character off. On audio, Davros' death of mind and soul in Terra Firma as he suffers the nightmare of becoming just another Dalek is probably the only one intended to be final. In Davros, his 'doom' is simply to synch up between stories, while The Juggernauts seems so divorced from all continuity (not only does Davros die, but he turns good before being smashed to pieces by Mechanoids and then exploding with enough force to wipe out an entire colony) it might as well be a battle from the Time War. He's killed off in Masters of War for the simple reason it's Unbound, in much the same way.
But not Peel. He wants the crippled fucker gone once and for all, and even adds an extra bit to Davros' death scene just to make sure no one can ever bring the character back.
‘Purge the system memory.’ It was always technically feasible that Davros’s body and prints could be rebuilt using the memory core of the computer. There was no need to take chances.
The Spider Dalek obeyed. ‘Memory core has been purged,’ it reported, and pulled the block from the machine. It set this on a small pedestal, and backed off. Then it fired once. The core exploded, falling in small, smoking ruins.
No data could have survived that. The Dalek Prime was satisfied.
I don't think anyone reading the book would have been thinking "Hmm, I guess we could bring Davros back by getting him rebuilt from the Dalek Brain Machine..." but Peel is, like the Dalek Prime, not taking any chances. I dare say the working title of the book was No More Davros Ever He's Dead We Will Not Even Mention Him Again. Peel certainly got his wish in literary terms: Davros first appearance in an expanded novel was his last and he's never returned. It was six years before there was another story with Davros, eight years before anyone explored what happened to him post the Hand of Omega.
It's not like this is the first time Nation and Peel have been at loggerheads. For example, this "Dalek Prime" we've been talking about. Apparently this is the one true ruler of the Daleks throughout their history, but oddly enough the only references to a Dalek Prime are in the novelizations of The Chase, The Dalek Masterplan and The Evil of the Daleks. All written by... John Peel.
The answer's simple. The TV has been quite consistent on this score: the top of the Dalek totem pole, the one to whom the buck stops, is the Emperor of the Daleks. Created in 1964 for The Dalek Book by David Whittaker, later in the TV21 comic strips, and then on TV in Evil of the Daleks. The Emperor is an iconic character that even random hacks like Terrance Dicks, Eric Saward and Ben Aaronovitch instantly think that the top Dalek goes by that name. While it was up in the air as to who would lead the Daleks in The Parting of the Ways, RTD never considered anything less than Emperor could be their title.
And why not? "The Emperor of the Daleks" is a title that immediately intimidates. It instantly conveys an imperial, militaristic society ruled by one above all others. It conjures up images of Japan, of Napoleon, of courts at the heart of enemy territory no one has witnessed and lived to tell the tale. It is impressive - even new viewers watching the Cult of Skaro would understand what was happening when they spoke of their fallen Emperor, or why they would be so outraged when Rose brags about killing him.
Except... Terry Nation didn't like the idea of the Dalek Empire being ruled by an Emperor for some reason. No idea why, but he preferred the head honcho to be the Supreme Dalek. In Planet of the Daleks he specifically created the bling-clad Supreme Dalek to make it clear to a new generation there wasn't an Emperor Dalek (which Terrance Dicks undermines in the novelization by making it clear the Supreme is just a representative of the Emperor, ala Darth Vader). One of Nation's stranger demands to Eric Saward was that the golden Emperor in Warhead become the Supreme Dalek for Resurrection of the Daleks.
We can see a pattern forming. All the evidence in televised Doctor Who makes it clear the Daleks obey an emperor but Terry Nation doesn't like that. John Peel's very awkward compromise is to use the Emperor but call him something different: the Dalek Prime. In both TODWATDB and his adaptation of The Evil of the Daleks its made clear that the Dalek Prime, at the end of his career becomes the huge bastard wired into the Dalek City referred to by friend and foe alike as Emperor.
In War of the Daleks, Peel even pours salt in the wound with the description of the ersatz Supreme Dalek:
It was a Dalek, but not like any she had seen before. This one was slightly larger than the others, with a bulbous head. It was a burnished gold colour, and had about a dozen lights about the expanded dome instead of the average Dalek’s two.
So, not only is the leader of the Daleks obviously the Emperor Dalek, it's the one that Nation himself hated more than all the others. Is this the act for someone who thought Nation was right about everything.
(It's worth noting that even the New Dalek Paradigm immediately - as in, within two weeks - was saying that the Supreme Dalek was subservient to an Emperor, and the Prime Minister of the Dalek Parliament is clearly the Emperor in all but name, simply so Matt Smith can go eye-to-tentacle with it).
Thus, War of the Daleks is a book written with resentment, not love. Much as we joke about fan writers like Gary Russell or Craig Hinton penning whole books as an excuse to show off their continuity ideas, this is a book designed to show off a single scene written ten years ago. John Peel isn't coming up with a new look at established events, or marvelling at the interconnectedness of the canon. It is a primal scream of absolute hatred at a character that showed off everything he despised in Terry Nation's work.
Terry Nation was, infamously, put out by the destruction of Skaro in Remembrance of the Daleks. Now, I can't really see what he was bothered about. He himself wrote several stories where the Daleks are not based on Skaro, and find different hostile jungle planets like Kembel or Spiridon to make their new home. It had been ten years since a story was actually set on Skaro. Would any of the New Series Dalek stories really have been improved with scenes set on Skaro instead of Dalek motherships? Asylum of the Daleks (and before it City of the Daleks) establish Skaro still exists, but it's in total ruins and not even the Daleks are interested in one single planet when they're trying to conquer all reality. From this we can conclude one of two explanation of how Skaro survived Omega's bitchslap:
1) The Time War rewrote history
2) Skaro, being such a huge and awesome planet twelfth out from the sun, was scorched and sterilized by the supernova but did not actually disintegrate. The destruction was figurative rather than literal.
Either way, who cares?
John Peel was specifically asked to undo Skaro's destruction by Nation, which of course became the core part of the backstory of War of the Daleks. However, one problem is flagged up.
The Doctor shook his head. ‘All simply to stop Davros from destroying your home world. I never realised you were so attached to it.’
Yes, John Peel doesn't actually have any reason to save Skaro and neither do the Daleks. Indeed, the resources they've put into saving Skaro are surely costing more than if they'd just moved to another solar system and let Davros do his worse. There is clearly a Dalek accountant screaming that this is a stupid waste of the quarterly budget. The only real justification is that War of the Daleks allows The Evil of the Daleks to be the final ever Dalek story. Which is set on Skaro, the same Skaro as the first story.And yes, totally ignores the point of Day of the Daleks that the survivors of the civil war were still causing trouble. Because now that was just the Daleks pro-actively trying to save Skaro anyway.
So we have a writer being asked to do something entirely pointless by someone whose judgment he clearly does not respect. And - get this - we have the solution to saving Skaro miraculously involving retconning every single Dalek story with Davros in it. John Peel's revenge is not just to kill off Davros, but totally nullify all bar one story he appeared in. They no longer have any relevance or purpose, nothing that occured in them truly mattered and the only Dalek stories that count are the ones from 1975 backwards.
Compare and contrast to Lawrence Miles (whose break-out book Alien Bodies, we should remember, debuted directly after this). In Interference, he also nullifies important parts of Doctor Who as Faction Paradox wipe Planet of the Spiders from history and replace it with his own stuff. To his credit, Miles doesn't say this is a good thing. His point being that the past is not set in stone and nothing is safe. Peel, however, clearly expects fans everywhere to wipe their brows and gasp "Oh thank god!" when told twelve episodes of the Davros DVD boxset no longer count. Miles attacked fandom's preconceptions of accepted Doctor Who, while Peel bluntly assumes everyone already agrees with him.
That retcon, again, is ridiculous. It's ill-thought out and badly-plotted. Let's review it.
The Daleks invading Earth in, er, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, manage to uncover a perfectly-preserved colour vlog of Rachel Jenson (because 1963 Counter-Measures had portable colour TV cameras for their staff to make badly-explained verbal reports). Exactly why the frankly-loopy Daleks were interested in mankind's history of which Barbara proved they would fail even the easiest round of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grader, is not explained. Anyway, Rachel has conveniently left them a video message that is completely useless for anything else than warning Daleks that Davros will one day nuke Skaro.
The Dalek Prime comes up with his awesome plan to both save Skaro and ensure the Daleks are reunited - and one can only imagine the bruises from John Peel's facepalms as he realized he couldn't just have the Daleks dig up Davros and shoot him right away, because he would enjoy writing that so much. No, they dig up Davros and, without waking him up transport him to the planet Antalin which has been terraformed, etc, so it looks exactly like Skaro. The idea is that this will fool everyone that Antalin is Skaro and anyone trying to blow the latter up with Gallifreyan superweapons will aim for the wrong one.
The Dalek Prime then comes up with a brilliant idea - to create the Movellans and pretend these rasta discobots are kicking their arses, so Davros will not be remotely surprised they've dug them up again and agree to help them. This does involve everyone who's actually WATCHED Destiny of the Daleks to ignore the bit where the Daleks shoot Lan the Movellan (an act that completely undermines the whole plan, especially as they are supposed to be allies) and that upon waking up, Davros immediately assumed he could order the Daleks about despite the fact he had, from his perspective, just been shot by them.
Given that the Daleks were not, actually, locked in a perpetual stalemate with the Movellans we have to wonder why they waited ninety years to rescue Davros when they needed him right away. Or why they used unreliable humanoid mercenaries and created a Dalek-killing disease which they then GAVE to Davros, who they didn't trust, rather than simply saying the war was still going and they still needed his help. If anything, this makes the Daleks of Resurrection look even more retarded than they already did.
The events of Revelation are, significantly, glossed over as it is a story that proves beyond doubt that Davros is capable of using his immense charm, cunning and callousness to independently achieve anything. John Peel hates the concept that Davros is anything other than a gargling lunatic, so has all evidence to the contrary quietly played down by everyone. At the end, the real Daleks capture Davros and this time actually get to phase two of the plan: yes, they create a whole white-gold species of Daleks, brainwash Davros to think he is in charge of them, and then go through the motions of Remembrance of the Daleks. Which does make you wonder why they didn't simply brainwash Davros right away instead of the elaborate ruse.
Now, all this turns out to be completely pointless as the Doctor programmed the Hand of Omega to wipe out Antalin no matter what Davros asked it to do. So if the Doctor hadn't been so completely fooled by the Movellans, et all that Antalin was Skaro (okay, I buy that, but Romana would surely have noticed they were in the wrong part of space) the plan would be ruined. The Seventh Doctor, you know the smart one, at no point checked that the solar system he was about to vaporize was the same one from the sixties. And even when he was collecting the Master's remains under the full scrutiny of the Time Lords (and Romana) he never noticed he was two star systems to the left of the one he nuked. Now, admittedly, there is a big scene where the Doctor sees the starcharts in the Imperial Dalek scoutship, presumably confirming his suspicions but even so it's a complete fluke the Doctor just happened to stumble across it.
So, to summarize - the Hand of Omega has been deployed, Skaro is safe and it was Antalin that was vaporized. (It's also worth noting that War of the Daleks reveals that Antalin is a water planet occupied by Daleks AFTER the events of this retcon. It seems further proof that John Peel just didn't give a shit.) The Doctor has not noticed the truth and for the rest of his seventh incarnation he and the Time Lords are convinced the right planet was blown up. What does the Dalek Prime do?
Kick it back for thirty years.
Yes, despite the plan having worked perfectly and the only stage left to wipe out the Dalek rebels, the not-the-Emperor-honest just sits there. And this is working on the assumption some wierd timey-wimey stuff shifted Davros two thousand years in the future (there's no evidence it was not left in orbit around Earth in 1963 and indeed Harry Sullivan's War suggests MI5 got to Davros first...)
Harry waved to his old friend with renewed optimism. 'Just you wait and see, old chap! Professor Conrad Gold, or my name's Davros! '
At the mention of that alien name, Major Sawyer's face went pale. 'What do you know about him ... I mean if?' he rapped.
Mr Fawcett-Smith glared at Harry as though he had just broken all the clauses of the Official Secrets Act with a single word. 'I say, Sullivan, steady on...'
And remember that HSW was written three years before Remembrance of the Daleks.
Then they wait for two separate groups to capture Davros and then bring him back to Skaro, and what's more even bring the Eighth Doctor along for the ride in the surprisingly-accurate belief that he poses absolutely no threat to the Dalek Empire and is just a spare back-up plan to stop Davros.
As for the man himself, he says:
I was trying to intrigue people with the idea
that the ending of Remembrance isn't the whole story, and that
the Daleks have something rather nasty up their metallic sleeves for the
Doctor.The controversy seems to me to boil down to the fact that some people
feel that by saying "No, Skaro wasn't blown up" I'm somehow ruining Ben
Aaronovitch's story. I think this is rather an extreme view, which seems
to imply that without Skaro's destruction, Ben's story has somehow
become a piece of junk. Ben's story stands on its own meets, and nothing
I write in War will alter this. All I am doing is saying in effect:
"Ah. but there's something about the Daleks' long-range plans that Ben
didn't know..." That seems to me to be the essence of many a good story.
So the merits, basically, involve absolutely everything that does not involve the Daleks. And that the moral dilemma of "did we do good" rests entirely on "helping the Dalek become a more efficient longterm Doctor Who monster" being a good thing in the audience.
Yes, it's ridiculous, inconsistent and almost insanely stupid but the retcon is not about making sense. It's not even about sparing Skaro, it's about making Davros look the way John Peel has always envisioned him: an overrated, useless jerk who ruins every single story he's in! There's not a sentence in the book Davros emerges from looking good - he's deluded, he's stupid, he doesn't even have standards because he'll willingly join the ancient enemy of the Thals. The narrative even has the Doctor say he prefers the Daleks to Davros in a sentence that would only be written prior to 2005:
He’s worse than the Daleks; at least they were created the way they are. Davros has no such excuse.
Let's just run through all the evidence Davros is a gibbering loon-bag who deserves to die.
The Doctor thinks Davros is crap:
‘Genocidal, xenophobic maniacs, number one in a seemingly endless series. Sam, this is Davros; Davros, this is Sam.’
‘His Daleks are dead,’ the Doctor said flatly. ‘He destroyed them.’
‘Yes, Doctor,’ Davros agreed. ‘You tricked me into using the Hand of Omega to destroy them.’
‘No, Davros,’ the Doctor countered. ‘You tricked yourself. I told you nothing but the truth. You unleashed its power and destroyed your world and your army. You’re powerless now.’
Two random characters mention him in passing:
‘I would assume that Davros is not well liked.’
‘He is despised, feared, and spat upon.’
When the Thals try to control Davros the same way the mighty Dalek Prime did (put a bomb around his neck) there is this exchange:
‘A bomb?’ The Doctor snorted. ‘You think that will keep Davros in line? He’s also been exterminated, blown up, frozen and heaven knows how many more fates. And he’s escaped each one of them. A bomb isn’t going to worry him greatly. He’ll find a way around it.’
‘Are you always such a pessimist, Doctor?’
And when it's suggested that Davros might still be a worthy recurring enemy in Doctor Who:
‘You are insane,’ the Doctor decided finally, a look of horror on his face. ‘You know what Davros has done to the Daleks, and yet you’re willing to allow him to do the same to you! We’ve got to stop him. His insanity cannot be allowed to spread. He’s done this once to the Daleks, and I’m not going to allow him to do it again to the Thals.’
But don't worry, Doctor, the Thals think Davros is crap too!
The Doctor was worrying unnecessarily. Davros was impotent, and could do nothing.
The moment Davros even tries to play a role in the plot, the Doctor switches him off:
‘I’ve shut down all of his power functions, leaving only life-support,’ the Doctor explained. ‘It means, among other things, that we won’t have to listen to him ranting.’
And a paragraph later some random guy is possessed by the spirit of John Peel:
‘Now it’s time to switch him off for good.’ He gestured with the rifle, and Sam and the Doctor moved slowly out of his way. ‘How do I do it, Doctor?’
The Time Lord said nothing. ‘Tell me or she dies.’ Harmon indicated Sam.
Almost immediately the Doctor rejoined, ‘Those two switches on the right.’
Sam looked at him quickly. Was his haste from the threat on her life or from finding someone prepared to bump off Davros without compunction?
Harmon moved in, and shot home two final switches on Davros’s control panel. Instantly, Davros shuddered, and the rest of the lights died out – and Sam got her answer.
‘No!’ the Doctor snapped, starting forward. Harmon held up the rifle threateningly. The Doctor halted, his face torn by emotions. ‘Harmon, killing Davros won’t solve anything.’
‘Wrong, Doctor.’ The man sighed. ‘It’ll stop some of my worst nightmares. And he’ll never cause the death of another living being.’
Sam glanced at Davros, who seemed frozen in place. Was he already dead? She knew that she was witnessing murder, and that she should do something. But what? And did she really want to risk her life to try and save a mass murderer? She was torn between her principles and her knowledge that Davros was utterly evil.
You'll notice everyone's more interested in discussing morality and have all given up on Davros until the evil Thal turns out and shoots the heroic would-be-Davrocidal maniac, saving Davros (who has only had about eight lines of dialogue in the whole book so far).
‘Turn Davros’s life support back on, Doctor,’ Delani ordered. ‘Or I kill your friends.’
Doctor looked from the gun to Davros to Sam and back to Delani. ‘So you
can continue with your insane plan?’ he asked. ‘I will only do as you
ask if you give me your word that Davros will be held for trial.’
‘No deal, Doctor,’ Delani snapped.
On the bright side, it means we get more chances to insult and pick on Davros, yay!
Delani examined the explosive collar still around Davros’s neck. ‘It seems that the Doctor was right. You have been busy.’
Davros said nothing. He clearly regretted only that his attempt had failed.
Delani turned back to Cathbad. ‘Watch him from now on,’ he ordered. ‘Put a power lock on his chair, with a dead man’s switch. If anything happens to you, I want his power packs to be drained instantly, killing him.’ He turned back to Davros. ‘You understand that I will give you no more chances?’
‘Perfectly,’ Davros grated. ‘However, I am willing to work with you as you desire, on one condition.’ His head turned. ‘Kill the Doctor.’
Delani raised an eyebrow. ‘You will work for me without any conditions,’ he stated. ‘And what happens to the Doctor will not be because of your desires.’
Yeah, show that story-ruining 80s plot device who's boss, Generic Thal overlord!
Davros whirled to face the door as it slid open. To his surprise, the Red Dalek in the doorway did not fire. Instead, it regarded him steadily. ‘Why have you spared your foes?’ he asked. ‘Surely the Daleks have not developed mercy?’ He almost spat the word out.
‘No,’ the Red Dalek acknowledged. ‘But we have developed wisdom.’ It considered a moment, and then added, ‘The Doctor and his companions have also been spared.’
Davros was almost beside himself with rage. ‘The Doctor is alive?’ he exclaimed. ‘No! That must not be! It is he who tricked me into destroying Skaro! He must be exterminated!’
The Dalek turned away, apparently indifferent.
Yes, even the Daleks are ignoring him now. That wuss Nicholas Briggs given a similar scenario had Davros do a creepy Hannibal Lector mind-rape on a Dalek until it panicked and shoved its sucker over his mouth to shut him up. Peel wouldn't waste the wordcount and has him kept out of sight for as long possible.
So, given an opportunity to show Davros as adaptable, intelligent and imaginative... we see he's a braindead moron who cannot accept simple facts:
‘Wait,’ Davros said, scanning all that he could see. ‘Where am I? What world is this?’
‘You are on Skaro,’ the Red Dalek replied.
‘No!’ Davros exclaimed. ‘That is not possible! I destroyed Skaro.’ He whirled to face the Red Dalek. ‘You are lying!’
‘No,’ the Dalek answered. ‘This is Skaro. You are in error.’
Davros realised that he would get no further arguing with the creature. He powered his chair and moved forward again, trying to assimilate this information. The Dalek believed it was on Skaro, which was absurd. Skaro was dead – this was some other world. Perhaps the Daleks had simply renamed it Skaro after they had occupied it. ‘Skaro’ after all, was simply the word for ‘home’ in the old Kaled tongue. It would be typical of the rigid-minded Daleks to do that. And the lesser ranks, not being bred for their intellectual prowess, simply assumed that this world was the original Skaro, having known no other.
Davros pondered his children. They were stagnant and self-delusional. He could see why some were seeing him as their messiah, their hope for a new and more glorious... well, Skaro, if they insisted.
And he would make certain they would get it. With Davros as their leader, how could the cause possibly fail?
Yes. If you're imagining Davros as anything other than Baldrick in a Dalek casing, you're not paying attention - though with his delusions of grandeur, bad luck and total incompetence he's more like the first Black Adder.
‘The attempted revolution will be allowed to take place. Those who deviate from my law will be exposed and annihilated. I allowed Davros to go through with his foolish plan to utilise the Hand of Omega so that all Daleks would see that his madness could have led to their destruction. They must see that he is unstable and unworthy to lead them.’
‘And what if they don’t?’ the Doctor asked quietly. ‘What if they still decide that they prefer Davros to you?’
‘I have run an extensive computer simulation of the forthcoming rebellion. There is a thirty-nine-per-cent chance that Davros will succeed.’
So the fundamental revelation is that any Daleks who prefer Davros are so criminally-stupid that they don't deserve to live. They don't even get a fifty-fifty chance. And the Doctor is morally-opposed to the Daleks and all they stand for but he's perfectly willing to be their bitch as long as Davros dies.
The Dalek Prime knew that the Doctor understood the menace that Davros represented, and knew that he would do his utmost to destroy Davros.
‘I promise I will kill Davros if his revolution succeeds.’
‘Good. I knew you would be reasonable, Doctor.’
Because only unreasonable people would want Davros alive. And don't think the Daleks buy into the hype of Davros being awesome like all the lame-ass fans and writers...
‘I see no need for a trial,’ Davros complained. ‘Since the verdict has already been reached, this is a waste of time.’
The Black Dalek regarded him impassively. ‘The trial is necessary,’ it informed him. ‘You must condemn yourself – as we know you shall.’
Arrogance! Well, that was hardly its fault, since he had programmed it into their matrix. ‘I should not be placed on trial. I am your creator. Without me, you would be nothing. You should be praising me and following me.’
‘You are an irrational, inferior humanoid-derivative,’ the Black Dalek replied. ‘You are to be exterminated, not followed.’
‘I created you,’ Davros told it.
‘Incorrect,’ the Dalek stated. ‘I was created by the neutron war. You merely accelerated the process. The Daleks would have arisen anyway in the fullness of time. The universe was ready for the rise of the Daleks. It was inevitable.’
Yeah, "creator of the Daleks" my shiney metal ass! Peel much prefers the old sixties comic strips to that pinko commie propaganda of Genesis of the Daleks! So not only is Davros an easily-manipulated, gullible moron his one claim to fame has been ripped away!
‘Daleks,’ the Dalek Prime grated, his amplified voice echoing about
the room. ‘We are assembled to accuse Davros of betraying our race. He
has attempted to steal our heritage, destroy our ancestral home, and
usurp the power of the Daleks for his own purposes. He has not learnt
from his follies. He must be annihilated to prevent further
contamination of our species.’
You remember when Davros used to be an erudite and vicious chessmaster whose verbal eloquence could stop in their tracks people who had guns pointed at his head? Peel doesn't.
‘First, that you have no right to charge me with anything,’ Davros replied. ‘I created you all. Without me, there would be no Daleks, no destiny for our race – and no asinine trial being held. Without me, you would not be here to accuse me so foolishly. Secondly, as your creator, I should logically be the one to lead you. I alone know what is best for the Daleks. I alone know how to shape and manipulate our joint destinies. You are a Dalek, like all of the other Daleks here, and should have no power over the rest. You, like them, should logically recognise your one, true leader – myself.’
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. ‘I think he’s getting a trifle too messianic here,’ he murmured. ‘Davros has always favoured arrogance over intelligence.’
The Dalek Prime spoke again. ‘Your statements are irrelevant,’ he announced. ‘You did not create the Daleks – our creation was a fortuitous consequence of war. We were destined to become the race we are today. Instead of allowing destiny to run its course, you interfered. That was the first time that you attempted to usurp the power of the Daleks. It was not the last. These travel machines we use were created by the scientists of the Kaled race. You took credit for their work to lend support to your claim of supremacy.
Day-amm! So on top of everything else, Davros wasn't even good at middle-management? Harsh!
‘The first Daleks understood your futile madness when they elected to destroy you. Your madness has brought us time and again to the brink of destruction. Yet you still claim that we should follow you. Following you would lead to the destruction of the Dalek species. You are accused of attempts to steal power over the Daleks, and of attempting to destroy Skaro. Respond to these charges only.’
‘The charges are ridiculous,’ he replied. ‘I am only seeking what should be mine by right of being your creator. And the destruction of Skaro was accomplished by the creature known as the Doctor – whom you are protecting. Do you deny that he is here, in this city, at this very moment?’
‘Irrelevant,’ the Dalek Prime responded. ‘The Doctor is not on trial here.’
‘And why not?’ Davros cried.
Keen legal insight there, Davros. Even Sam Jones - the most detested companion in all the Whoniverse, even more than Thomas Brewster - laughs in his face.
‘That’s his defence?’ Sam asked.
‘I don’t think he’s making a defence,’ the Doctor replied. ‘Davros is completely out of touch with reality.’
And so are you if you think Davros is a good character!
With Davros unable to string a set of words together, the Dalek Prime and the Gold Dalek take turns bullying him and telling him how much he sucks. Even Brian in Family Guy gets left with more self-respect and dignity!
The Dalek Prime was continuing his attack. ‘If the Daleks had followed Davros as he claims they should, then the Dalek race would now be utterly annihilated. His own deviant force of renegade Daleks were so destroyed, leaving him defenceless. If Davros were to lead the Daleks, his egotism and insanity would result in our total destruction. You admit that the Doctor out-thought you and manipulated you. He defeated you. He has not defeated me. He, too, believed Skaro to have been destroyed. You have condemned yourself by your own testimony. You have failed in your quest for power, and you have almost destroyed the Daleks in your insane desires.’
‘True, the Hand of Omega turned out to be a trap. But if it had not, then imagine what power would have been ours! The Daleks would have been the lords of all of time and space! We could have achieved our aims in years, instead of millennia! We could be masters of the galaxy – of the universe!’
‘Delusions,’ the Gold Dalek stated. ‘None of these things happened. Your foolish insistence on taking unwarranted risks created grave danger for the Dalek race. You are a threat to Dalek survival. Why did you not test the Hand of Omega first on Earth’s sun instead of targeting the Dalek star?’
‘Such a test would have wasted time,’ Davros replied.
‘So you elected to risk destroying the Dalek species instead of exercising reasonable caution,’ the Dalek Prime pointed out. ‘You aimed for the position of ultimate power and failed. In the same way, you have tried to take over control of the Dalek empire – and failed. If you had achieved the power you desired, only the Daleks you had created would have shared in it. None of the Daleks here on Skaro would have been a part of your plan. You would have utilised your power to annihilate us.’
‘All Daleks who do not acknowledge me as their creator and master should die!’ Davros exclaimed. ‘Without me, you are nothing!’
‘Without you,’ the Gold Dalek interjected, ‘we are the masters of space. Our armies are unstoppable. We are achieving victory on many worlds. Once you are gone, the Dalek race will continue as a unified race. We shall obliterate all inferior species.’
At this point Peel's hatred is clearly getting incredibly viscious. Give the guy a break, Johnny!
‘The trial is over. You have admitted your desire to rule the Daleks,
even though you have destroyed all Daleks loyal to you. You have
admitted that the Doctor has outwitted and defeated you. You have
admitted that you caused the destruction of the world you insist was
Skaro.’ The Dalek Prime surveyed the assembled Daleks. ‘Are there any who would speak on behalf of Davros at this time?’
Davros had expected the silence. Any Dalek foolish enough to speak up now would deserve the extermination it would get.
The Dalek Prime slowly surveyed the room. ‘None,’ he finally summarised. ‘Davros stands alone. His insanity is clear to all. The decision is obvious.’ He turned to face Davros.‘From your own words, you stand condemned. You cannot be allowed to live. You are to be taken for annihilation. The Dalek race will be out of your control for ever.’
It's enough to make you wonder if Michael Wisher, David Gooderson and Terry Molloy have taken out restraining orders when Peel starts shoving bags of burning dog shit through their letter boxes...
The long-awaited Dalek civil war (cause that really is a great idea for the printed page, with "Dalek shoots other Dalek" gripping the reader like a dead jellyfish) is confined to the penultimate two chapters and is dismissed on the first page as being a foregone conclusion. Davros doesn't even get to pretend to stand a chance and immediately decides to leg it one minute after the firing starts...
For the first time, Davros began to wonder if he was out-thinking the Dalek Prime after all. It was vital that he have an escape route, in case his plans didn’t work out. ‘Concentrate our forces. We must take the spaceport first, and then the control centre.’
As expected, Davros’s forces had gone for the spaceport first. Typical – he was preparing for his own escape. But the Dalek Prime had foreseen such a move...
Davros was retreating, as was to be expected. Though he had boasted that he led his troops, this was a lie, as usual. Davros was very concerned with preserving what little was left of his own skin. His forces needed the spaceport in case of retreat. Davros always prepared for defeat, even when he was convinced of his own infallible ability to win. He was insane, but no fool.
The Dalek Prime could not afford to allow Davros the opportunity to escape. This civil war had to end here and now. The Dalek race must be unified and pure again. If Davros were to flee, everything the Dalek Prime had planned for would be for nothing. It would all have to be fought over again. Whatever happened, Davros must die.
Davros has an army of Special Weapons Daleks - but don't think that's impressive because the Dalek Prime simply cuts the lift cables and every single one of them is killed without firing a single shot. Because the Dalek Prime is awesome and Davros sucks, so Davros cannot possibly have any military genius of any kind despite you know having spent his entire life fighting a war.
It was such an obvious move. Davros had been a great help, without intending it. He must have insisted his forces all send a low-frequency signal to identify themselves. Now they had discovered this signal, the Dalek Prime’s warriors could identify them too. Each supporter of Davros had been branded, and they could all be hunted down and exterminated. The Dalek race would be cleansed of its imperfections.
In the control room, the Dalek Prime felt only satisfaction, knowing that he was still out-thinking his greatest foe. Davros would not win this conflict. Such a thing was unthinkable.
Yes, that's unthinkable in the sense of "impossible to concieve" rather than "really, really bad." Literally, the smartest Dalek ever can't actually imagine a loser like Davros winning. And just to remind everyone, Davros is a complete moron.
‘The unit at the power station is under assault,’ the Black Dalek announced. ‘They are unable to pull back.’
‘Then tell them to fight and die there!’ Davros cried. ‘We need more troops to attack the tower.’
‘All available units are being brought in,’ the Black Dalek informed him. ‘The battle will continue.’ It paused. ‘Our margin for success has been reduced.’
‘Reduced, perhaps,’ Davros growled. ‘But not destroyed. We shall win through! It is my destiny to lead the Daleks to the complete conquest of the entire galaxy! I shall succeed!’
Thousands of Daleks had so far died in this battle. Davros felt no concern about that. It was what the Daleks were designed for, battle and death. They had achieved their purpose. But all of their deaths meant nothing if he was still not in power. There still had to be a way to salvage the situation.
The very next paragraph has every last one of Davros' Daleks nuked and him taken captive. He's not even allowed a dignified death.
Davros realised that he had finally been defeated. His power play had come to nothing. ‘Do as you will,’ he challenged them. ‘Exterminate me! Seal your own sterile future! Without me, you are nothing!’
‘You are not to be exterminated,’ one of the Gold Daleks declared. ‘You will accompany us. Your madness has run its course. The Dalek race has been purged of your insanity. We who are left are of one mind. You will see this, and then die.’
The Dalek Prime was waiting for him in the matter-transfer chamber. His eye stalk surveyed him coldly. ‘You have lost, Davros,’ he stated. ‘Your folly has taken part of the Dalek race with you. But we who survive are stronger for it. All that remains is to finally destroy you.’
‘Destroy me, and you destroy your own future,’ Davros warned him. ‘Without me, you have no hope. I can give you vision! I can give you purpose! I can show you your destiny!’
‘No,’ the Dalek Prime answered. ‘Your purpose is insanity. Your destiny is death. The Daleks will go on without you.’
‘I created you!’ Davros insisted. ‘You owe me everything that you are.’
‘No,’ the Dalek Prime contradicted him. ‘You helped create us. We have changed. We have improved. We have become a different species. I have experimented on myself. I have altered the genetic code that you laid down. I am no longer what I once was. I am the future for the Daleks. You are not. In moments your atoms will be taken apart and scattered through space, in a ring about our sun. You will not survive matter dispersal. This is your end, Davros – and the way ahead for the Dalek race!’
Oh, the subtext! And then, just to pour quicklime on the already salt-filled wound Peel gives a final sneering up-yours to Nation by giving an open-ended scene that implies Davros could survive. Except, given there is clearly no desire whatsoever to do a sequel to War of the Daleks where Davros is revealed to be alive, it feels perverse. The whole book has established
a) Davros is complete crap
b) nothing he ever did actually mattered
c) he no longer has a supporter of any kind anywhere in the universe
Indeed, killing Davros off after all this humiliation is positively merciful!
So. Davros is going to be placed in a sabotaged teleporter and then tele-fragged out of existence. But what's this - there's a Spider Dalek as his executioner and Davros asked one of his Spider Dalek pals earlier on to rescue him from the execution!
Except there's no evidence that this is the same Spider Dalek. There's no evidence that Spider Dalek even survived that chapter-and-a-half of war. And it's entirely possible it's actually there to do its task and kill him.
Davros stared at the Spider Dalek. Was this his hidden ally? He could not tell, he could only hope. Perhaps the game was not yet over...
The Dalek Prime watched with considerable satisfaction as the matter-transfer unit came on-line. ‘The battle is over and won, Davros,’ he announced. ‘Your time is finished.’
‘You need me!’ Davros insisted. ‘I can be of help to you! I can improve the Dalek race!’
‘You are of help to me by dying,’ the Dalek Prime answered. ‘And the Dalek race can improve itself. You are not needed.’ To the watching Gold Daleks, he ordered: ‘Place him in the unit.’
‘No!’ Davros snarled, as he was pushed back towards the tube. ‘You cannot destroy me! I will not allow it!’ As the tube hissed shut, he screamed, ‘You cannot be rid of me this easily!’
The Dalek Prime said, ‘We can.’ To the Spider Dalek, he commanded, ‘Dispersal pattern – engage.’
Davros was still saying something inaudibly as the tube lit up. The power grid glowed, and the figure gradually lost its cohesion and resolution, tiny particles of matter seeming to spatter against the glass until, finally, the power died down and the tube was empty.
‘Dispersal complete,’ the Spider Dalek reported. ‘Davros is destroyed.’
‘Good,’ the Dalek Prime said.
I think it's the "spattering particles" that pretty much illustrate Davros is dead, in a scene very similar to that in Destiny of the Daleks except with Peel in charge so instead of Davros being frozen he dies in fear and misery like the pathetic no-fist loser he is!
Davros was dead, and his entire faction purged from the Dalek race. It was time to move on. Though the war had cost the Daleks much, they had survived, and would soon be stronger than ever. They were all of one mind – the Dalek Prime’s mind – and one purpose.
‘We will rebuild,’ he stated. ‘We will grow stronger. And then we will strike. The galaxy will be ours. Such is the destiny of the Daleks. Nothing will stand before us! Nothing!’
And yet no one took him up on that, did they?
As I said, War of the Daleks is a wholly-remarkable book. No one liked it. No one even hated it enough to do a book retconning the retcon as a bad bit of theatre on the Dalek Prime's part, that Skaro was really destroyed and the whole fake Davros thing was just propaganda (and there's more evidence in the book itself to support that than the actual retcon). Certainly no one looked at the "new, unified" Dalek Empire and thought "Wow! What opportunities shall unfold now!" because War of the Daleks exists solely to fulfill an article by the same author's claim that he tells the complete story. He's not interested in relaunching the Daleks as a credible threat, or having future adventures against the Doctor. He just wants the chronology he wrote to be accurate, so Evil of the Daleks is the last story ever. Had Season 27's proposed Dalek story Hellbound to Skaro been made, the retcon would probably have encompassed that too.
This is, I believe what really pisses folk off. It's not the retcon that the last four Dalek stories were bluffs, it's that you're being told you're some kind of class traitor for disagreeing with John Peel. Rescuing Skaro achieves nothing, since it's only there to set the other Dalek stories as immutable, unchangeable fact. The Dalek timeline is set in stone, apart from the ones Peel doesn't like. There are no other Dalek stories left to be told, and even Peel himself couldn't do more than squeeze a few drops out of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The previous Eighth Doctor stories may have been wallowing in the past, but War of the Daleks actively closes off the future, not only being a big "Up Yours!" to fandom and Terry Nation but anyone else who might have wanted to write a Dalek story. Being published just a few months after Nation's death, it feels like Peel has gone all King Joffrey on his throne, revelling in power he has no use for.
Peel's professional background covered up the fact that this book wasn't just crap, it was the worst sort of fan fiction - forcing a long held and ill-thought out belief on the canon and undermining everyone real or fictional that got in the way. The Dalek Prime is a Ben Chatham Mary Sue, while Davros and everything to do with him is demolished like Spartha Jones or Donna Ignoble. But worst of all is the sense of smugness that bleeds from the pages, like we should be grateful for this.
And it's not like there aren't some good bits in the book - Chayn, the Thal anti-Dalek armor, the concept that the Movellans were designed as mockeries of how Daleks see human beings, the Doctor murdering a Dalek with the sonic screwdriver, the neat trick of jamming every door on Skaro half-open so only non-Daleks can get anywhere, the poignant lament of a doomed Mechanoid, Thals genetically-engineering themselves into super warriors, the ultra-creepy polite and reasonable Dalek Prime, the interludes making it clear the Dalek war machine covers all the galaxy and no one can avoid them...
But it's clear these are happy accidents. John Peel isn't interested in these sparkles of ingenuity. It's all padding around a plot composed entirely of the paragraphs from a ten year old tie-in book full of unacceptable inaccuracies (like glass Daleks in the first TV story).
John Peel didn't care what anyone said about his writing or his retcon. He'd torn up Doctor Who and the Daleks and forged it into what he liked. Everyone else could go fuck themselves - and this, more than the cliched dialogue, the Thal fetishism or the downright tedious plotting that gave the gut-instinct hatred that all fandom have for this. Terra Firma ignores War of the Daleks' continuity, but it does the same plot of killing off Davros and rebuilding a new Dalek Empire as a direct consequence - but TF focusses on the journey, while War of the Daleks insults the audience from the destination outwards.
Plus, the cover's crap. Two negative Daleks reflected in an eyeball? Is that the best they could think of?