Sunday, 11 November 2012

War and Peace in Doctor Who

In the first story to feature the Daleks, the peace loving Thals will not fight, even if it means their extermination. And it will, the Daleks will come after them, because they are fixated with ideas about race and purity. It is impossible not to see this as a trope which references the Second World War, and the Nazi ideology, which was committed to wipe out the Jews. This transcript looks at the different attitudes towards fighting, and counters the Gandhi position of peaceful non-resistance. That worked when the British Empire was in charge, working to shared rules of what constituted legality, and a shared sensibility about injustice. For the Nazi machine, for the Daleks, there are no such common grounds. The only rule is that might is right. They will ignore peaceful protests. They will come after you. They will exterminate you.

IAN: They're afraid of you because you're different from them. So whatever you do, it doesn't matter.
DYONI: What would you have us do? Fight against them?
IAN: I didn't say that. But you must teach them to respect you. Show them some strength.
DYONI: But you really believe we ought to fight.
IAN: Yes, I think it may have to come to that.
DYONI: You understand as little about us as the Daleks do!
IAN: What would you do if the Daleks could leave their city? If they came up here and attacked you?
ALYDON: We would go away, back to our plateau where we came from.
BARBARA: You'd simply run away?
IAN: Alydon, you can't go on running away. There are some things worth preserving.
GANATUS: We're not afraid to die. Temmosus proved that.
IAN: I am not talking about dying. Look, you can't hand yourselves over to the Daleks. Sooner or later, they're going to try and destroy you if they can.
ALYDON: I can see you want to help us, but as Dyoni says, you don't understand. There can never be any question of the Thals fighting the Daleks. Come, Ganatus.
BARBARA: I don't understand them. They're not cowards, they don't seem to be afraid. Can pacifism become a human instinct?
IAN: Pacifism? Is that it? Pacifism only works when everybody feels the same.

But the lesson to be learnt is that while warfare may be necessary, it is not right to glamourise it. I was very struck by talking to a rear gunner in a Lancaster Bomber this year - he told me that he was always afraid, when they went on their missions, they all were, and he thought anyone would be barmy if they weren't.

That lesson is noted in "Planet of the Daleks", where the Doctor looks at the effects of warfare, and how it is important not to forget the fear, and the fallen, who will not return:

DOCTOR: Throughout history, you Thals have always been known as one of the most peace loving peoples in the galaxy.
TARON: I hope we always will be.
DOCTOR: Yes, well that's what I mean. When you get back to Skaro, you'll all be national heroes. Everybody will want to hear about your adventures.
TARON: Of course.
DOCTOR: So be careful how you tell that story, will you? Don't glamourise it. Don't make war sound like an exciting and thrilling game.
TARON: I understand.
DOCTOR: Tell them about the members of your mission that will not be returning, like Maro and Vaber and Marat. Tell them about the fear, otherwise your people might relish the idea of war.

How people behave under an occupying force is also dealt with in "Day of the Daleks". Here again, the parallels with the Nazi régime are very clear - the Vichy government in France, and even the noun "quisling" named after the Norwegian politician Vidkun Quisling whose government  "co-operated" with the German forces. And we even see in this transcript the argument that such co-operation can win concessions, and provides a "buffer" against the occupying forces. That can be a way of saving face, but it can also mean those in such positions become the means by which the occupying force can exert leverage on the population, as they enforce the dictates handed down on their own people. It still raises questions for us today of the Occupation of Jersey, of how far co-operation is justified, and when it crosses the boundary and becomes another means of oppression:

CONTROLLER: They can be reasonable.
DOCTOR: Reasonable? They tolerate you as long as you're useful to them.
CONTROLLER: I am a senior government official.
DOCTOR: You sir, you sir, are a traitor! You're a Quisling!
CONTROLLER: Silence! You do not understand. Nobody who did not live through those terrible years can understand. Towards the end of the twentieth century, a series of wars broke out. There was a hundred years of nothing but killing, destruction. Seven eighths of the world's population was wiped out. The rest were living in holes in the ground, starving, reduced to the level of animals.
JO: So the Daleks saw their opportunity and took over.
CONTROLLER: There was no power on Earth to stop them.
DOCTOR: So, they've turned the Earth into a giant factory, with all the wealth and minerals were looted and taken to Skaro.
CONTROLLER: Exactly. Men who were strong enough, of course, were sent down the mines, the rest work in factories.
JO: Why? Why are they doing all this?
CONTROLLER: They need a constant flow of raw materials. Their empire is expanding.
JO: How did you come to work for them?
CONTROLLER: They chose a few humans to help them get things going again, to organise the remaining population. My family have been controllers in this area for three generations.
DOCTOR: A family of Quisling's, eh?
CONTROLLER: We have helped make things better for the others. We have gained concessions. I have saved lives!
DOCTOR: Wouldn't you have helped more by organising the fight against them?
CONTROLLER: No one can fight against the Daleks.

The coming First World War is the subject of "Human Nature / The Family of Blood", when the Doctor, in his human form as teacher John Smith, discusses the training that the school is giving:

DOCTOR: Don't you think discipline is good for them?
JOAN: Does it have to be such military discipline? I mean, if there's another war those boys won't find it so amusing.
DOCTOR: Well, Great Britain is at peace, long may it reign.
JOAN: In your journal, in one of your stories, you wrote about next year. Nineteen fourteen.
DOCTOR: That was just a dream.
JOAN: All those images of mud and wire. You told of a shadow. A shadow falling across the entire world.
DOCTOR: Well then, we can be thankful it's not true. And I'll admit mankind doesn't need warfare and bloodshed to prove itself. Everyday life can provide honour and valour, and let's hope that from now on this, this country can find its heroes in smaller places.

The Family of Blood are coming to try to take the Doctor, and the Headmaster, Rocastle, talks to the boy who has been taken over - Baines - about the deaths they had caused. He is told they are nothing beside what has to come. It raises in a sharp form whether the traditional public school quasi-military CCF is a good thing, because, as Baines speaks of his knowledge of the future, it is training for war and not peace.

ROCASTLE: Mister Smith said there had been deaths.
BAINES: Yes, sir. And they were good, sir.
ROCASTLE: Well, I warn you, the school is armed.
BAINES: All your little tin soldiers. But tell me, sir, will they thank you?
ROCASTLE: I don't understand.
BAINES: What do you know of history, sir? What do you know of next year?
ROCASTLE: You're not making sense, Baines.
BAINES: 1914, sir. Because the Family has travelled far and wide looking for Mister Smith and, oh, the things we have seen. War is coming. In foreign fields, war of the whole wide world, with all your boys falling down in the mud. Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?

As the Doctor leaves an England on the threshold of the Great War, he asks one of the boys - Latimer - who has helped him, and has seen a vision of the trenches, whether he has to fight or not. But just as he has helped the Doctor fight against the Family of Blood, Latimer knows that he will have to go to the battlefields of the First World War. He's the one who has been bullied, put down as a coward by other boys, but has shown himself the bravest of them all. It is not the bluster of playing at soldiers while at school that had prepared him for this decision; it is the knowledge and courage to know that he can't just run away.

LATIMER: Doctor. Martha.
DOCTOR: Tim Timothy Timber.
LATIMER: I just wanted to say goodbye. And thank you. Because I've seen the future and I now know what must be done. It's coming, isn't it? The biggest war ever.
MARTHA: You don't have to fight.
LATIMER: I think we do.
MARTHA: But you could get hurt.
LATIMER: Well, so could you, travelling around with him, but it's not going to stop you.

[World War]

MAN [OC]: Incoming!
DOCTOR [OC]: In June 1914, an Archduke of Austria was shot by a Serbian, and this then led, through nations having treaties with nations, like a line of dominoes falling, to some boys from England walking together in France on a terrible day.
(A muddy hand opens the watch.)
LATIMER: One minute past the hour. It's now. Hutchinson, this is the time. It's now.
(A shell is whistling towards them.)
LATIMER: To the right! To the right!
(They leap into a ditch. The shell explodes nearby.)
LATIMER: We made it. Thank you, Doctor. Come along, chap.
HUTCHINSON: Leave me. I'm not going to make it.
LATIMER: Oh yes, you are. Didn't I promise you, all those years ago? Now, come on. And that's an order!

And it ends with the older Latimer, at the war memorial, on Remembrance Sunday, looking back at what has been lost. This is a time of loss, not a celebration of warfare, a time to remember those who did not come back. 

[By the War Memorial]

(A lady vicar is reading from For The Fallen, by Laurence Binyon.)

VICAR: They have no lot in our labour of the day time.
They sleep beyond England's foam.
They went with songs to the battle
(Latimer is sitting in a wheelchair, an old soldier with his medals and the watch.)

VICAR: They were young, straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted.

(He looks across the grass to where Martha is pinning a poppy to the Doctor's lapel.)

VICAR: They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

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