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What are we to make of the Power of the Daleks?

One of the fun parts of growing up is the realisation that Doctor Who serials that you watched as a child are in fact analogies of contemporary political situations. Frontier in Space is about the Cold War. The Sea Devils is about Northern Ireland. The Planet of the Daleks is about Vietnam. The Mutants is about Rhodesia. Curse of Peladon is about joining the EU and Monster of Peladon is about what happens when you do.

But what of Power of the Daleks? I am sure it’s about something but I just can’t figure it out. Here’s a synopsis:

The colonists come across a small group of migrants who appear to have fled from some great disaster. The colonists shelter them and provide nourishment. The migrants start doing small jobs around the colony.

Sadly far from being grateful to the colonists for getting them back on the their feet – or skirts as it is in this case – the migrants turn out to be wedded to an ideology that regards themselves as superior and all other forms of life as candidates for either slavery or extermination.

The colonists for their part are divided between the revolutionaries and non-revolutionaries. The revolutionaries reckon that they can use the migrants to gain power. While the two factions are busy fighting amongst themselves, the migrants are busy multiplying and becoming ever stronger. Eventually, they are in a position to embark on a campaign of conquest and extermination.

All six episodes of Power of the Daleks are “missing” from the BBC archives (see here for some of the details). Somehow, I suspect the BBC is not too bothered about that.

An enterprising migrant

An enterprising migrant

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34 comments to What are we to make of the Power of the Daleks?

  • Mr Black

    I can see this as the leftist interpretation of the establishment of Israel.

  • Alisa

    Hmm, this was made a year before the Six Day War, so I doubt it – but who knows.

  • Patrick Crozier

    At risk of stretching the analogy, if I were a Dalek I think I’d rather be under the rule of Israelis rather than fellow Daleks.

  • Lee Moore

    I was just going to say that. Alisa. I don’t think Israel became unpopular with lefties until after the Six Day War.

    Wikipedia advises me :

    (a) that one of the working titles was “Servants of Masters” and
    (b) that there was a Luddite resurgence in the 1960s

    so assuming (as one does) a left wing theme, it could be a pro-Luddite message.

  • Patrick Crozier

    When you say “Luddite” you mean “environmentalism”, yes?

  • Alisa

    But then how does the whole migrant element come into it?

  • Michael Jennings

    Curse of Peladon is about joining the EU and Monster of Peladon is about what happens when you do.

    A faction of renegade Germans who are still loyal to Hitler will come to your country and interfere with an incoherent miners strike?

  • Lee Moore

    When you say “Luddite” you mean “environmentalism”, yes?

    I’m sorry – that’s too fine a linguistic distinction for me to perceive.

    But then how does the whole migrant element come into it?

    I deduce that we’re just dealing with the threat from new technology – migrants are simply an incidental means of delivering the technological threatl. I deduce this thus :

    (a) the migrants are depicted as baddies
    (b) ordinarily migrants can’t be baddies, by definition, unless
    (c ) they’re imperialists or colonialsts

    Since per Patrick’s opener they’d already done Northern Ireland and Rhodesia, it seems unlikely that they’d have a third go at the “wrong kind” of migrants.

  • Patrick Crozier

    A faction of renegade Germans who are still loyal to Hitler will come to your country and interfere with an incoherent miners strike?

    I was thinking more of the “partners'” swiping ones natural resources and the use of a Peladonian Project Fear to keep the populace in line.

  • Nemo

    “The Planet of the Daleks is about Vietnam.”

    OK, obviously I was being too literalist when I thought ‘Daleks can’t even climb stairs, so they’d be pretty useless in the jungles of SE Asia’ so I checked the plot on Wikipedia and I’m still not getting it. Is it the sap-shooting plants that make the Vietnam link? Cos it all seems a bit reaching.

  • Patrick Crozier

    It’s more the idea that the technically advanced side has great difficulty fighting in the jungle and resorts to using chemicals to wipe out its enemy.

  • Runcie Balspune

    This was only a couple of years before Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech, I’d have thought sentiment was high about immigration destroying British society.

  • Lee Moore

    Enoch popped into my head too, and then popped straight out again. If it was about immigration, the natives would be the baddies.

  • Plamus

    Just an uneducated guess: after the Algerian war finished in 1962, immigration to France skyrocketed. According to Wikipedia (I know, I know) the Algerian population in France went from 200,000 in 1954, to 350,000 in 1962, to 700,000 in 1975… and that’s just from Algeria. It seems like there was significant concern in France over the immigration deluge – maybe some of it spilled over the Channel?

    Bonus from the Wiki: “Although the majority of immigrants at this time came from rural regions, only 6% of them were willing to work in agriculture.”

  • Nemo

    Thanks Patrick, I think even as a child I’d’ve baulked at that, given that the US used chemicals to uncover the enemy the better to shoot and bomb them – in theory at least – rather than kill them directly. That would be against the rules.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Early English colonies in America, with the Daleks as the English and the colonists as the Indians, initially helping out the starving colonists (yes, I know why they were starving), then a period of complicated alliances between factions within both groups, then the migrants taking over. It’s not a perfect parallel because the Indians weren’t colonists. Maybe it also refers to the Dutch moving south and the Zulus (or more broadly the Bantus) moving north and the Bushmen getting stuffed.

    By the way, may I suggest you add a “Historical Views” category tag.

  • Lee Moore

    the Dutch moving south and the Zulus (or more broadly the Bantus) moving north

    t’other way round ?

  • Alsadius

    I know you’re hinting at Muslims, but in 1966, that wasn’t exactly a top-shelf political issue. My first thought is actually the European conquest of the Americas, and the detail about the colonists fighting amongst themselves reminds me particularly the Aztec civil war that Cortez jumped into the middle of. Even in the 60s, the BBC was still more likely to poke fun at the West than the less-developed parts of the world.

  • lucklucky

    For Marxist culture to take power needs Western world to self hate.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Lee Moore, aye lad.

  • David Aitken

    The colonists (free market explorers) come across a small group of migrants (leftists/progressives) who appear to have fled from some great disaster (socialism). The colonists shelter them and provide nourishment. The migrants start doing small jobs around the colony.

    Sadly far from being grateful to the colonists for getting them back on the their feet – or skirts as it is in this case – the migrants turn out to be wedded to an ideology (Marxism) that regards themselves as superior and all other forms of life as candidates for either slavery or extermination.

    The colonists for their part are divided between the revolutionaries (crony-capitalists) and non-revolutionaries (libertarians). The revolutionaries reckon that they can use the migrants to gain power. While the two factions are busy fighting amongst themselves, the migrants are busy multiplying and becoming ever stronger. Eventually, they are in a position to embark on a campaign of conquest and extermination.

    Or something like that.

  • TimR

    I think the BBC scriptwriter had access to the Tardis and had paid a brief visit to Europe in 2015. It’s the only explanation that makes sense to me.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    The Daleks’ main characteristic is that they’re stupidly but persistently aggressive. There’s no dearth of analogs in human history, jihadists being the current version.

  • James Strong

    How often is a story just a story?

  • Rich Rostrom

    Migration from Algeria to France post-independence was in two forms. Most were French colonials (pieds-noirs) who didn’t want to live in a country they no longer ruled to suit themselves.

    The others were Maghrebi natives who had been loyal to the French colonial regime (harkis), and now faced retribution from the triumphant rebels.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    What nasty comments about daleks! Once we get a Pan-Galactic Alliance going, they can be the police force! They’d be great at it! Since they are motivated by orders, not money, they couldn’t be bribed, and they would treat all criminals, and prisoners, equally. What more would you need in a cop? They might always try to apply the death penalty, but who wants coppers who are soft on crime?

  • bobby b

    “Sadly far from being grateful to the colonists . . . the migrants turn out to be wedded to an ideology that regards themselves as superior and all other forms of life as candidates for either slavery or extermination.”

    Clearly, this is a thinly-disguised analogy to parenthood.

  • Nemo

    One thing we can be sure about the Power of the Daleks: it has nothing to do with Davros.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post Patrick.

    The “migrants” are indeed rather like the forces of Islam, and the “Revolutionaries” are like the left who, since the 1960s, have thought of “using” the forces of Islam (and so on) to destroy the West. In their fantasies the Frankfurt School left then come to power – and the Forces of Islam turn into secular socialists in the new collectivist utopia

    The left are fools – the forces of Islam have been at this game (deception and so on) for 14 centuries – they are not going to be “used” by the left. They are going to use the left – indeed they are already doing so.

    The last sound the leftists hear may not be “Exterminate, Exterminate, Exterminate” – but that may well be their fate.

  • Bob Grahame

    The Power of the Daleks is to be re-made and shown as an animated cartoon: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-37285820

    No word on whether the BBC will manage to tweak the subtext discussed here…

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