Doctor Who always approached the ethics of warfare in a rather nebulous way. Unlike many other characters or media, the show and the Doctor himself have never taken a hard line against violence, death, and even acts as extreme as genocide. That’s not to say that the show has ever supported such things—far from it. Instead the show makes it a point of never ruling out violence as an option, in stark contrasts to other family shows, movies, and even comics. Batman will never, ever kill, but the Doctor will not hesitate when he has to.
Over the course of the Doctor’s adventures, he’s fought all sorts of enemies with different motivations. When he can, the Doctor always seeks to show the villain the error of his or her (or its) ways and that they should not be hurting others for their own gain. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, the Doctor usually has to stop their plan and watch as the villain falls victim of their own hubris. Occasionally, though, he has had to stop them directly himself. The Doctor is no stranger to killing or other forms of violence.
But the Daleks are something special. The Doctor absolutely hates Daleks like nothing else. He has absolutely no sympathy or soft spot for them at all. He will give absolutely anyone and everyone else a chance, no matter how much of an unremitting bastard they are. But not the Daleks. The first season episode “Dalek” with the Ninth Doctor is famous for showing off a side of the character that is never really seen when the usually affable and respectable Doctor went into a hate-filled, spitting mad tirade as he attempts to murder another creature in cold blood. There is nothing else in all of time and space that sends the Doctor into a fury like the idea of Daleks. And that’s exactly what this episode is all about: the nature and being of the Daleks. And, toward that end, the episode mirrors the episode “Dalek” in many ways. Any long-time viewer will be jumping at all the mirror scenes, familiar lines, and similar situations that this episode has.
This episode wasted no time getting into the idea of presenting the themes of soldiers and the ethical dilemma that comes with participating in warfare. The opening scene sets the tone for the episode as a huge Dalek spaceship barrels down upon a fleeing tiny craft, bombarding it with lasers until its destruction. The pilot, Journey Blue, wakes up on the TARDIS and immediately starts trying to commandeer the Doctor’s longtime ship because that’s apparently how she says thanks. And, of course, the Doctor has none of it. He does not show a trace of concern or fear at the Blue’s threats. His endlessly calm and stern demeanor eventually wears her down until she is forced to ask him nicely to take her back to her ship, much like a parent would teach a child how to say please and thank you.
NEXT: The Doctor soldiers on