Here is the Guide for Parents!!
Exploiting the damaged alien in his possession, Van Statten sets himself up as a grade-A creep. Terminal, the creature appears to be nothing to worry about. If the Doctor and Rose hadn’t shown up, maybe the last of these evil aliens would have just died. Narrative is driven by conflict though and so we need the last of this race to come face to face with its intended killer: the Doctor. Tearing through some existential banter, these last two survivors of their dead species clash one final time, finishing a war that began in a time and place far beyond anything we can understand.
As the summary above contains a rather obvious clue about this episode’s antagonist, so does this story contain a few clues about a bigger story. Of course, the clue above can be derived by isolating the first few letters of each word (conveniently italicized here). The clues for the bigger story are written across this episode in a similar way.
Turns of plot remind us of other stories.
The hero arrives to relieve the people of earth of a terrible danger. How do the people react? Chain up the hero and torture him. Sound familiar? Think about it. Every hero gets misunderstood by the people he’s meant to save. This is just one example of the Doctor being misunderstood and tortured for it. It happens to him all the time. Superman’s gotten this treatment over the years. Even the way the Ewoks treated Han, Luke, Chewie, and the droids references this theme.
So these stories are all a part of us. We hold them close and many of us identify with them in deep ways. A lot of people dress up like these characters on the weekends! They’re not just weirdos. They are fashionably screaming about the importance of these characters and their stories. I’ve never dressed up outside of a few Halloweens as a kid, but I strongly identify with stories. In every roommate situation I’ve been in, including my marriage, I’ve wondered which of us would be Watson and which would be Holmes. Of course I didn’t expect (expect ≠ hope) to be solving mysteries; I only used the dynamic of the fictional characters as a guide for the real life relationships I was entering.
Reiteration of the Geeks of Christ concept
So these characters are important to us. And they all go through this unwarranted torture at the hands of those they wish to save. I am not content to just leave it at that and assume it’s a coincidence. I’m not content to conclude that it’s a sophisticated coincidence, or a meme, as Joseph Campbell-type anthropologists might. Where does this come from?
Try to imagine the most severe version of the story. So the people in need of saving are in the most desperate need of saving. Even more desperate than a Dalek invasion, a Lex Luthor real estate scam, or an oppressive Imperial presence. Why does their situation need to be worse? If there truly is a source for all of these stories, if there really is a reason we keep reviving these story types, over thousands of years, the original story would likely be powerful enough to inspire countless versions.
These people would need to be invaded, scammed, and oppressed, and more! They would be dying. They would need have a fate worse than dying. Imagine a people with a threat more severe than dying. They would have to have a consciousness after death in which they would be tormented. A story of people under that kind of duress would inspire thousands of years of stories.
Now imagine those people being rescued. Again, the kind of hero that could rescue people from a post-death torment would likely be the basis for many other stories. We’ve been retelling the stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood a thousand years or more. Because there is a core to their stories that astounds us, that speaks something piercing and true directly to us. Robin Hood’s fight for justice inspires continual tellings of his tales, and it inspires continual versions or types of his character. When Batman fights for justice and refuses to be limited by the law, isn’t he playing Robin Hood? (Not to mention Batman’s use of disguise, rope-swinging, and gadgets.) And even though we still use the names and settings of King Arthur stories for new movies and books and TV shows, we also tell versions of the story. Luke Skywalker’s rise closely mirrors Arthur’s. Muad’Dib’s connection with the land recalls Arthur’s spiritual connection with England.
And where did Arthur’s story come from? Where does his story, which has a basic attraction that brings humans back to it so often, find its source? Where does Arthur, who is an unlikely king as he’s just a boy – even a lowly squire, find the source for his story? Arthur was the greatest king, betrayed by his best man, his land dying, and his own offspring killing him. Even as Arthur kills his evil son, he
himself is killed. And his body was taken away with the promise that he would return. Where might Arthur’s story find its source? An unlikely king, betrayed, murdered, promised to return…
As the tagline for the Jesus Storybook Bible states, “Every story whispers His name.”
Who is Henry Van Statten?
Maybe the miserable millionaire banking huge payloads by exploiting alien artifacts will look familiar to Star Trek fans. Remember the Voyager episode where the crew go back to 1996 Los Angeles? Ed Begley Jr played the Van Statten role. And before that ever aired, I’m sure there were other versions of the crazy billionaire. I think Lex Luthor pulled that scheme once or twice. And before people fretted about aliens, the crazy billionaire capitalizing on advanced technology was simply the genius in over his head. He was the smart man outsmarted. We do love that character. The great and terrible Wizard seemed oh-so-scary until he was exposed. So did Henry Van Statten appear unstoppable until he was outsmarted by the Doctor.
We see this character type in old stories too. Isn’t Pontius Pilate this guy too? “What is truth,” he asks to the God of universe. This misplaced city boy, just trying to keep his neck off of Tiberius’ and then Caligula’s chopping blocks. “And you, with the accent and the split lip, you pathetic innocent target of these dangerous hillbillies, what’s the point? What is truth?”
And there’s no answer. At least there is no spoken answer. But Christ moves to the center and Pilate, whose name would have been the more likely to survive given his position as governor, moves to the periphery. What is truth? Well Pilate, Mr Begley, Mr Van Statten, Great and Terrible Wizard, the truth is that you’re not the biggest thing there is. The truth is that someone is pulling the curtain open and exposing you for what you are: human.
Kindly step aside and let the professionals handle it. Let Captain Janeway deal with the aliens because she knows how to. Let the Doctor deal with the Dalek, because it’s his responsibility. Let Jesus rule these people and let him be the one with the true power of life and death, because he’s the only one that’s qualified!
What is a Dalek?
Here’s a lovely history of the Daleks, produced by Andrew Orton, who appears to be a good chap by all accounts.
But what’s a Dalek really? They are just these slimy little hate-sacs in armor. Awesome, plunger-armed suits of armor.
These were apparently the adversaries in the Time War, which ended just before the start of the new series in 2005. The Dalek in this story somehow survived the Time War and ended up in Van Statten’s underground lair. It’s just about to die and then stupid Rose pities it, touches it, and the thing wakes up. It uses the residual genetic material from contact with Rose to regain its power.
The thing starts a rampage across th
e compound, in search of the Doctor! Of course, the Doctor’s busy being tortured by Van Statten. And so we enter that common theme in literature that I mentioned earlier: the people being saved turn against their savior.
Everything that Henry van Statten could ever want is standing right in front of him. Van Statten is a genius with an insatiable curiosity and passion for the new, the mysterious, and the grand. He’s relied on alien crash landings to satisfy himself. He’s harvested UFOs for years and turned their technologies into profits for himself and advances in comfort for the world. Here is the Doctor who has techonology well beyond whatever scraps van Statten has been able to grab from fallen spacecraft. The Doctor not only has better tech onboard his TARDIS, but he also has the means to travel to where and when there is more and better tech. And wealth and comfort too. Everything that Henry van Statten steals for himself could be given to him by the Doctor.
You might expect a nice reception for the Doctor. Instead he gets this:
Van Statten eventually sees the value of having the Doctor on his team and releases – just to help capture the Dalek. An old fashioned Doctor Who chase through corridors commences. And the whole thing culminates in a tense stand-off between the last Dalek and the last Time Lord.
Facing the unpleasant fact of its changing, emotional nature, the Dalek elects to self destruct. Being alone in the universe isn’t so bad; absorbing some of Rose’s human DNA is. It cannot order itself to die so it demands that Rose, the only other being in the universe like it, to order self-destruction.