Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blake's 7: Making Do (I of II)

B7's got away from me again. It's been so depressing of late, particularly the B7 Chronicles which manage to be even bigger downer than genuine Season D episodes! Anyway, the second miniseries is finally out so I might as well review it, right? BF has been loathe to recast the Seven for some reason, bar the computer voices, which means we don't get any Gan stories or Soolin stories and also have a huge difficulty with Dayna stories - and since Angela Bruce is on the payroll, and she's played Dayna before, and she wasn't crap at it, this just boggles the mind. But no, let's go to huge lengths to avoid that and have her temporarily-replaced with Tom Chabdon's Del Grant (apparently motivated by the fact Douglas Adams rights embargo prevent doing any future Duggan stories) as the regular.

So... quick summary.

Post Rumors of Death, Grant approaches the Liberator crew for help. The Federation have the Armageddon Storm, a planet-busting gizmo, and only our main characters can stop it. Naturally, they fail spectacularly. However, Avon sends a message across the universe telling everyone the Federation are genocidal fuckwits and he has his own Armageddon Storm and if the Federation ever, ever, ever try using their doomsday weapon again, Avon will instantly nuke Earth. This has consequences and repercussions, obviously: the Federation have to be "nice" again, but at the same time Avon's both made himself the biggest threat in the galaxy when before the only enemies were those who wanted the Liberator.

Even more consequently, in a tragic farce Avon accidentally let slip that he shot Anna to Grant (who, we must remember, is the only living being Avon is actually afraid of). However, Grant proves to be surprisingly understanding: after all, the fact Avon's guilty and ashamed about it proves the story Anna did a real number on him, and it's obvious Grant couldn't make Avon feel any worse about it than he already has. So, Grant joins the crew for the time being to deal with the fallout from the armageddon arms race thing.

Then we get a trilogy of stories with Grant involved - an incredibly complicated assassination attempt with Grant and Tarrant working together (hilariously, Tarrant is deeply resentful of the fact everyone likes Grant more than him, not realizing this is because Grant doesn't act like a fuckwit 24/7); then a raid on a doomed space casino; and then an arms dealership where Grant meets Vila's biological father, the President of Mars played by David Warner who gets the sort of end you expect from any relative of a Liberator crewmember.

Finally these apocryphal addendum bleed out into a brand new series of full-cast audios...


"What is it now? Did you lose another member of the crew?"
"Perhaps we will, unless you can successfully identify the object we are currently investigating - or is that simple task beyond you?"
"Not 'beyond', but certainly 'beneath' me."
"Isn't everything?"
"You are learning quickly, Del Grant."

In that lazy way that would give most OHS officers heart attacks, the crew of the Liberator finally notice that one of their number has disappeared but for once it's slightly more than a "hang on, we teleported down with one more than we teleported back" type scenarios which totally proves Gan is a sex killer.

Dayna has abruptly teleported off the Liberator with Orac's help and a simple message for anyone who wants to follow her: Don't. (Avon finds this very amusing, in one of numerous moments in the story that play up his disinterested foster father role, in that he is the only one who refuses to consider maybe it's time to let Dayna grow up and do whatever the hell she wants). Needless to say, the others (even Zen) are far from pleased that they've lost their 19-year old horny serial killer weapons fetishist off-screen and immediately set out to find her. God, no wonder Avon was suggesting people swallow tracking devices in previous episodes: if only Blake had done that, the whole series would be different because space is big, really big, and it's very easy to disappear in it especially if like Dayna you're going walkabout and don't want to be followed.

Heading back to the last planet they passed where Orac confirms Dayna teleported to and then departed from. Seeking more detailed answers, Grant and Tarrant teleport down and pretend to be some creepy Holmesian Gaimsian double act to intimidate the local spaceport administrators into answering their questions (I dunno if it's clever or stupid that people only recognize Dayna from a description that she's "deadly" rather than black, I mean, its as an important descriptor as her age and hair colour...)

Turns out Dayna took a one way trip on a pirate ship to the Desolation, the nickname for the edge of the galaxy nuked in the Galactic War and reduced to a gigantic lethal radioactive asteroid feild (fact fans will notice this is where Gross and Lector from Moloch wisely decided "screw this and get out of here" rather than keep fighting the good fight.) Meanwhile, we cut to Karlov and Drintz - a truly stereotypical pair of B7 characters, big-ego-small-skilled civilian salvage-worker losers plotting their promotion now they've got a job from Servalan and Space Command - as they fly towards the Desolation themselves, just in time to see Dayna's ship arrive, turn around and then leg it at top speed.

As it's now obvious even to Clive Palmer Dayna's not going to be found this week, the plot has to kick in: and when the Liberator arrives looking for Dayna, they find an anomaly - something that reads on the sensors as a big asteroid, but is strangely not radioactive like everything else. Vila works out the answer first ("Vila's right." "I am?" "Don't make me say it twice.") that the asteroid is actually a disguise to fool computers that they're not scanning but the Scimitar, the biggest baddest Federation flagship ever which is deserted and derelict but still viable enough to be worth checking out to see Dayna there. Even though she isn't. But Karlov and Drintz are, planning to salvage the Scimitar for Servalan. Get it? Got it? Good.

Avon, Cally and Grant teleport aboard, have a bit of a look round. Karlov sees the Liberator and summons the Federation while Drintz generally whines they're pushing their lucks being such obvious redshirts. Tarrant and Vila guess the salvagers have sold them out because it's just typical, isn't it? And all that radiation means the bracelet communicators don't work either! Then the bloody Scimitar starts to disintegrate around them in a ship-quake as it ploughs straight into a real asteroid. Not worth getting out of bed some days, is it?

Vila manages to teleport Avon and Cally to safety but it looks like Grant's goose is cooked as the derelict is blown apart with more finality than Chef's death scene in South Park. "Nothing and no one could have survived," declares Avon which is the perfect point to have a shouting match of how they've lost yet another comrade in a stupid and easily-avoided accident but Avon's more interested in checking the wreckage to see if its cool chameleon circuit gizmo has survived the explosion. When he gets told off for being heartless (in fairness, Avon DID try to go back for Grant at the time), Avon gives a little speech: "Cally, I'm sorry Grant didn't make it. He and I go back a long way as well you know, so let me tell you something about Del Grant: he was a mercenary of the very first order and as such his whole life consisted of risk. I can assure you, if it makes you feel any better, that when he boarded that shipwreck he most certainly knew the risks. Despite what you think, Cally, I won't waste a sacrifice like that."

"That wasn't a sacrifice, Avon. It was a needless, pointless death," the Auron retorts.

"Is there any other kind?"

Um. OK. Meanwhile lazy cow Karlov sends grumbling Drintz in a rockman outfit to fly into the wreck of the Scimitar to find the chemeleon circuit. But, ye gods and little fishes, he stumbles across one of the life rockets containing a very-much-alive Grant and the chameleon circuit in tow. They attempt to use Grant to lure the rest of the Liberator crew into a trap, a very obvious trap, but the gang go in it a) to save Grant and b) to get the chameleon circuit. I'll let you guess which crewmember chooses which reason.

Cally and Avon let themselves get captured in a surprisingly tense sequence - by which I mean, tense as we wait for the arrogant Karlov and Drintz to suffer a hideous and ironic fate. Instead, our heroes take the chameleon circuit, retreat to the Liberator and use said circuit to hide from the approaching pursuit ships who mistake the salvage ship for the rebel ship and nuke it in one easy move. The pursuit ships then bugger off and the rest of the episode is Avon explaining this to everyone. Of course, the chameleon circuit is nuked as well, the Federation think they're all dead and they're no closer to finding Dayna.

Well, pilgrim, if that don't spell "t o b e c o n t i n u e d" then what the hell does?


"Blake would have loved it here: local partisan politics, a new bunch of extremists to rally against... he'd be right at home. Me, I couldn't care less."

As with stories like Time Squad, Killer, Volcano and Traitor you can tell the author is using a plot idea that might have sat easier with Doctor Who: a clone race of homicidal maniacs, a zombie plague ship from a space Bermuda Triangle, a race of robot-ruled dying pacifists worshiping an atom bomb, or a parody of the British Empire conquering alien planets. (Mind you, it's not exactly one-way even in the new series: hello, Caves of Androzani, Mindwarp, Planet of the Ood). So perhaps a story where the Liberator crew visit a sinister futuristic Disneyland full of bodysnatchers is perhaps the truest evocation of B7 as Doctor Who's sister show and the lines getting blurred...

So, anyway, word has gotten out that the Liberator crew is looking for Dayna and they hear through the grapevine some guy called Rankin is willing to tell them where she is for a price. The Liberator crosses to the heart of the galaxy to a pleasure planet called Solus to meet Rankin. While Avon and Tarrant head to the orbiting space station, Vila is left sulking over the brochure of the tourist spot they won't be allowed to visit. Oh, what could possibly go wrong? I'm surprised the neutral-territory fun palace Solus wasn't named "Freedom City II: This Time It's Personal" to complete the allusion...

At the space station bar, Avon and Tarrant easily catch Rankin who says Dayna was seen on Solus before she mysteriously went missing - one of a number of mysterious disappearances including Rankin's missus plaguing the run-down theme park planet for the last few months. Thus they agree to help each other find out who is behind this kidnapping, and travel down to Solus. Rankin explains that he's a retired rebel/criminal now trying to look after his sickly kid and beside himself with worry now his wife has vanished. It soon becomes clear that Rankin might actually be a trustworthy, honorable guy which, of course, sickens Avon to his stomach even as he assumes his Hercule Poroit persona from Mission to Destiny.

Tarrant meanwhile, manages to get as far as asking a passer-by if they've seen Dayna before a mob of MIBs leaps out of the shadows, beat the crap out of him, drugged, covered in sealing wax and taken off to a warehouse. Avon is forced to bring Grant and Orac down to help search. Orac laughs at the pathetic deductive skills of Avon and bets he can Sherlock Holmes this whole mess in five seconds flat, explaining that the sealing wax is used to preserve foodstuffs in stasis for transport. Thus, someone is using this as a homemade stasis gunge to coat the kidnapping victims to keep them out of the way and the only people on the planet with access to this sort of wax are the Agriserve warehouse on the other side of town. Orac takes a rather long while to explain this, as he keeps digressing into what a fucking genius he is. Heh.

Orac uses an earpiece for a handsfree IT support for Avon (and though this is a hugely helpful and useful idea they'd be mad not to use in the future, it is justified by Avon as a one-off because having Orac bitching into your ear without an off switch or volume control is simply too high a price to pay) and Avon and Rankin sneek into the warehouse, then pretend to be health inspectors to bully the workers into revealing what's happening. Unfortunately, the workers go psycho and don't answer any questions as they dive into the wax vats screaming "Fortuitas!" as they do so. Rather non-plussed, Avon learns from Rankin that Fortuitas is an extremist isolationist xenophobic terrorist group that want to turn Solus into a free state of zealots. The disappearances must be being staged to provoke a climate of terror and get people voting Fortuitas! Clear?

Avon and Grant head to the local theatre (not hand in hand or anything you'd read into that) to sneak into one of Fortuitas' weekly meetings about how generations of running theme parks has driven them mad and determined to create a fifth reich that will last for at least the rest of the episode. It takes approximately three seconds for Avon and Grant to realize all the Fortuitas members are just morons parroting slogans rather than genuinely zealots: Fortuitas has gone downhill since the original leader split to create her own, even MORE extreme extremist group with eco-warrior stuff.

Orac meanwhile notices that all the kidnapped victims are young, heathy, fertile would easily fit inside one of the amusement parks which just so happens to be named after the leader of the splinter faction. Well, he noticed that earlier, he just didn't bother to mention it until now. Avon and Rankin head off to sneak into the wierd ghost train after dark, while Grant and Orac are then ambushed by more extremists. Oh noes! Luckily, Orac is a martial arts expert and shouts advice to Grant and describes a brutal fight scene for the audience interspersed with him shouting "Punch him, you wuss! My dead creator could kick them harder than that! God dammit you suck!" and other such moments of hilariousness.

Avon and Rankin find the wax-coated bodies arranged in the ghost train only to be captured by... Rankin's wife Eva! Who is evil after all! SHE is the leader of the splinter fraction, and has started strutting around the place calling herself Gaia and generally being a smug bitch who has been luring Avon into a trap. She reveals that she is in fact following a generic Sparacus story idea: a doomsday cult capturing all the young 20 somethings to breed a super race to take over the world - death to the chavs, all hail Spode! Together she and her smooth legions will steal the Liberator and set forth to a new world to live in peace and harmony, enjoying the smell of their own farts and listening to the sound of their own bigotry. Avon is so utterly depressed at this cliched Invasion of the Dinosaurs he's not even surprised when Gaia reveals she intends to give the Liberator to Servalan for a pinkie-promise for the Federation to leave them alone.Then Gaia whines that Rankin is a puny-no-fist loser for abandoning his revolutionary ways and also having a shitty double-helix that could create a kid with a heart condition. So she stabs him and laughs evilly and shouts she will save the future by leaving everyone else, even her sickly son, to die...

Grant, Vila and Cally turn up and Gaia stupidly shoots one of the vats of boiling hot wax which empties out over her head. Because she was a complete fucking moron, but at least she dies smoothe and presumably with a degree from Cambridge. Shaking his head in disgust, Avon stays to help the injured Rankin and it's hard not to think he feels a touch of empathy for an unwilling rebel betrayed by the woman he loved. With the emergency services on the way and Tarrant (but not Dayna) found, Avon decides they should avoid awkward explanations and slip back to the TAR... the Liberator.


"Excuse me? I'd appreciate it if the talking could be done out loud. The rest of us would like to know what's going on..."

Late at night, Vila looks through all of Dayna's google searches on Orac to find a clue as to where she's gone and finds Dayna was researching her late mother Kareen (who we are reminded was apparently killed in the purges on Earth, but as Vila notes, that doesn't mean a thing). The next morning, Vila has disappeared - having got Orac to teleport him down to the planet Carwain which they just happened to be passing. Carwain is apparently the home of the Water of Life - aka the Fountain of Youth, Elixir of the Eternal Flame, etc - which Vila has apparently been googling for shits and giggles.

Our four remaining rebel-terrorists decide to head down to Carwain to find the thief and chase his footprints to a magical-looking waterwall emptying into a lake, while Cally makes mental contact with another Auron called Rino who happens to be in the area. Avon points out they can't keep digressing from finding Dayna, but nonetheless allows Cally to seek for her new pal even though he seems a tad jealous. However, Rino turns out in five seconds be a creepy stalker who's too busy lusting after Cally (even though he has no idea what she looks like) to actually tell her anything useful, like where the hell he is actually is.

"It's turning into a torrent, Tarrant!" cries Grant as they investigate the magical waterfall, before he's swept away for the second is-he-dead? plot twist in as three episodes. This time Grant is seemingly drowned, and his body floats underwater next to Vila's, and the water somehow becomes feral whenever Tarrant tries to reach in and grab them. Spooky, huh? Then the water swallows up Tarrant as well! Unable to teleport him up, Cally heads down there and opens her mind: and hears millions of voices screaming in horror at their hellish purgatory beneath the waves, including Grant, Tarrant and Vila.

The only voice not shrieking is Rino, who is even more stalkery than ever, as he dribbles on about beauty and obsession and all sorts of stuff you'd only really talking about if some psycho's broken your legs, tied you to a bed and is telling you they're your biggest friend. Rino explains he is an Auron but very, very old; from before the time of the clones. Tormented by his Verne-like beauty he fled to Carwain in desperation to keep young and beautiful, and he like everyone else was swallowed up by the Water of Life - or rather the Living Water, as the name was mistranslated by Oolon Caluphid in his wholly-remarkable book - and kept eternally young and alive. But also trapped in an eternal stasis until they go mad while Rino's telepathy not only keeps him lucid, he has to listen to all their screams. Caveat Emptor, huh?

Cally has nothing to say but the Tenth Doctor's catchphrase ("I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry!") and isn't exactly pleased when Rino suggests she join him under the water to keep him company. She's not cheered either when Rino reveals he used his age-boosted telepathic power to draw Vila to the planet, then Grant and Tarrant to lure Cally closer. Cally offers to try and free Rino along with the other lads, and the obnoxious Auron Jimmy Saville helps - but Vila's low self-esteem means he's tempted to remain in the watery hell, and it takes longer to wrench him free.

Then Cally lays some heavy shit on Rino - the trio were the only ones in the lake. There were no other bodies; all the other souls were detached from their bodies which have rotted away into nothing and Rino's gorgeous body are just bones. Rino goes absolutely apeshit and tries to swallow her into the water, but he hasn't reckoned on Big Damn Kerr "Who's Your Daddy, Mofo?" Avon being in town.

The next thing you know, Avon's saved everyone and set course for Auron (ostensibily for the good of Cally, who's still a bit glum at the lack of mental communion). Of course, Auron was destroyed and Avon knows that, which makes this suspicious. The fact that he was laughing like a madman and screaming "AT LAST I AM FREE!" is also suspicious, but Orac doesn't think much of it. Cally, however, worked out ages ago that the ghost of Rino who has taken over Avon's body and has been trying to bluff him until Tarrant runs in screaming "He's not Avon!" over and over again.

Rino's plan is to go to Auron, clone one of his bones and create a new body. He tries to sweettalk Cally with the prospect of a telepathic Kerr Avon who isn't such a high-functioning sociopath and nice in polite society, but as we all know that just isn't the Avon Cally's interested in. Plus, Auron is destroyed which kinda screws up Rino's plan good and proper. What follows is a painful mockery of that bit where Luke discovers Darth Vader is his dad, as Rino gasps that this is impossible but he has to look in his heart to know it's true.

One exorcism with a broken bone, some wet clothes, a mop and a teleport bay later, Avon is back to normal. Or is he? He says he is, but Rino is trapped inside the living hell of Avon's mind screaming in horror. Oh, this can only bode well, amirite?

Well, those stories weren't too bad. It made a nice change to be exploring the wild and wierd universe beyond Federation territory, without the whole 'let's go undercover as spies' business which let us remember never happened once in the entire TV canon. Similarly there are no wet-sack-subtle sequels to Liberator Chronicles bar Grant's presence and he's working out rather well, and having a good influence over the crew by virtue of neither being insane nor stupid. He's a bit like Soolin in a way, except the crew aren't so emotionally damaged that the stability provides actually goes somewhere. The search for Dayna routine however shows without a doubt why they never looked hard for Blake and Jenna - it just gets old quick and every episode without her makes you wonder if they really needed another bitchy serial killer aboard the ship. I mean, ALL of them have equal reason to hate Servalan after all...

Looking forward to the next three stories.

Next Time: the Liberator crew meet yet more discarnate entities on a haunted planet, Tarrant makes another determined effort to get his legover, the President before Servalan is back with avengence, Dayna is found and her mother's nasty secret is discovered. Not necessary in that order, though...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wacky Misunderstanding - the film!

You ask for this:

You get this:


So, what do we get instead of some weeping angel slasher stuff?

The movie starts with some guy trying to throttle a woman. He wants her to confess something, confirm his paranoid delusions but even the most obliging co-conspirator needs an uncrushed windpipe to do so. Despite several of crazy guy's pals arguing vociferiously on this score, it doesn't go well but after thirty seconds of unerotic auto asphyxiation we cut to...

Americans! On a road trip! Arguing about the merits of country and western music! Dear god, when does the strangling start - there was a time that "realistic characterization" didn't consist of "five year olds having petty arguments that conveniently prevent you learning anything about the plot except the characters are fuckwits who deserve to die." I'll prove it. Watch the next five minutes and see what I learn.


OK... I haven't learnt much. There is a car with County-and-Western fan trying to impress his girlfriend and her brother and failing at both. There is a SECOND car with a passive-aggressive git who is carpooling with Owen Wilson and his carsick wife. While the latter is caked in unseen vomit and the former in unseen urine, we see a THIRD car with a geek girl in glasses and her oh-so-cool stoner pal who are on their way from some HBO sitcom to smoke pinecones at the taxpayer's expense. Apparently none of these groups have much understanding of the laws of fuel consumption and love driving on empty into the mountains to a resort with "nothing for miles around" with "only one road" leading to it. They don't even have names, or a sign that these cars are connected by anything else than being on the same road. These people are not really winning any point in a baloon debate.

The most drama comes from annoying brother urinating into a bottle into the back seat. "Don't! Don't! Do not piss in my car!" Country and Western fan screams helplessly as the sister vows to kill him. Yes, everyone! Don't piss! Piss and you're dead! What's done cannot be undone! Ahhh! And yet our maverik miturator wonders why he has trouble with the ladies as he sprays across the seats...

Well, that's the most drammatic event in the plot so far. Skip to the next one.

At the not-at-all-ominously-named LAST STOP resort, the trio of cars arrive and it turns out that those few who haven't already had sex with each other are determined to do so in the most unsubtle, predictable and tedious manner. Stoner girl wants to "rochambo" geek girl for Piss-Boy and Owen Wilson, while Passive-Agressive has issues that County and Western is dating Piss-Boy's sister, his ex. Owen Wilson's girlfriend is left out because appears to have vomited up her remaining brain cells and is somehow even stupider than the rest of this not-good-enough-to-be-angel-fodder losers. There's also American Sam Tyler and Blond Bimbo, who is initially mistaken for murdered in a "creep towards inanimate body as the violins scream" moment that might as well be a flashing neon sign saying FALSE ALARM - GO BACK TO SLEEP. I mean, if she really was dead the tension would be finding the corpse in the first place, not checking her fucking pulse...

With the only intiguing factor so far being why everyone is rugged up for the freezing cold when all the dialogue is about how stinking hot this bizarrely-deserted mountain retreat is, the plot continues to focus exclusively on the overheating groins of all concerned as the ladies seek empty bladders and County and Westen gets kicked repeatedly in the balls by Blonde Bimbo when she wakes up. But who cares that the resort is missing all its staff and clients? The petrol pumps don't take fucking credit cards! WHAT KIND OF BIZARRO WORLD HATH THOU AWOKEN WITHIN?!? And why is American Sam Tyler trying to "ninja stealth" freak out Owen Wilson (seemingly the only cast member who he hasn't shagged) when he should be concerned that a) everyone's disappeared b) all the petrol pumps have been sabotaged and c) all the car batteries have inexplicably gone flat? Maybe he's had an overdose again.

Anyway, ice ages come and go as Piss Boy's sister wanders around the resort noticing people have left unfinished meals and handbags and gloves and odd how there was no traffic going the other way. This might actually be frightening if she was unnerved by the mystery. Or if the music seemed composed for a different film - it's the Jaw's theme as we slooooooooowwwwly pan from a window to... A COFFEE MUGG! Mein gott, I wish I'd had children before I watched this for I am surely sterilized with fear by now! And did Blonde Bimbo win a bet that she has to be involved in every single false scare in the film?

Moving on. After about eighteen minutes ten seconds precisely of standing around muttering "that's a bit odd" and "it's very quiet, isn't it?" and discussing how much they want to nob each other, the whole Marie Celeste thing is put down to a string of odd coincidences - you know, some strange disaster caused a mass evacuation with absolutely no clue as to all they disappeared without being seen. Oh, where's a statue of a nubille nymphette with wings and an emo sobbing?

Our... um... cast decide to split up into small, easily-massacred groups and wander off into the woods having first ensured none of them have any phones at all. We're not just "ooh, no reception up here", they have actually never needed mobile phones before in their entire lives and this is the first time they could ever have been useful in any way whatsoever. Wow. That's stretching credibility more than than is advisable in most horror films at all, and we haven't even got to an actual PLOT yet.

What's this? Has Owen Wilson's carsick lover mysteriously vanished from the ladies leaving only her empty boots? Of course not, as the psycho killer music track ensures we know it's a false alarm and have a good five minutes before she turns up wondering what the fuss about and causing lots of slapstick and concussion. Phew. Nearly lead to some kind of story unfolding there, but hell, there's another seventy minutes of this to endure so we might as well get on with it. "You're not allowed to watch the Zed Files any more," Owen is told. Because, um, that's much scarier than Ex Files, I guess. The main point is that we can focus more on the release and subsequent cleaning of various bodily substances as our heroes try to clean up the diahorrea-caked ladies' before the hostel staff un-rapture themselves and are seriously pissed off.

But - sweet onion chutney - Owen Wilson is unaware that someone has scratched the words Help me! on the inside of the cupboard under the kitchen sink! Well, be fair, no one is really checking for messages scratched under the sink. For all we know it was some plumber's mate who couldn't cope with all the bum crack any more and scratched out a plea for assistance. I mean, who the hell would carve those words in such a hard-to-see-spot? Even down to the punctuation? Were they honestly expecting emergency services to look there? Perhaps they could have written down something useful, because frankly if someone was hiding in there the noise of them carving this cute message probably gave them away the weeping angels hunting their arses down! Dear god, it's actually making the cast look intelligent in comparison!

A slightly less stupidly-placed warning are the words don't blink daubed on a mirror, but alas Country and Western misses it as well. I bet the disappeared folk are mighty pissed off no one has noticed any of their carefully-placed graffiti, especially as it seems none of them bothered to turn off taps or lock doors because they were too busy writing this stuff. Did I mention we are now HALF AN HOUR into the movie by now? Even Silence of the Library got more characterization and plot into that, and it had a less-frightening premise to start with not to mention River Song! Mind you, even at her most ghastly and annoying, River's way more interesting and distinctive than these morons (Alex Kingston, due props, even now).

Meanwhile, Geek Girl and Passive Aggressive find the local lake has frozen and engage in William Hartnell esque exclamations (it can't freeze at this temperature, besides, it's far too warm!) while the actors try not to chatter their teeth as hypothermia develops. Why the moviemakers didn't just edit in some footage of the frozen lake and film everything else at the height of summer escapes me, rather like the Weeping Angel fan film I had been promised, god damm! On the plus side, however, the sight of the frozen lake - complete with trapped fisherboat but no fisherman - does convince GG and PA that the wierd shit occuring might actually be important and worth more than idle comment. So, it could be said that the plot has actually started to move forward but I have no wish to commit myself at this early stage and wind up looking a fool.

It's still not scary, perhaps because these hostel huts are so prepackaged there's no real vibe that they've been deserted. Night of the Comet managed more with less, and also achieved the cunning plot of not being total garbage at the same time. I really recommend watching it, by the by. Family-friendly zombie flick that clearly inspires both Buffy and Red Dwarf to a severe degree.

Meanwhile, Piss-Boy's Sister and Country and Western find a noose set up in one of the houses. It's about the most unthreatening noose I've ever seen in cinema. It makes the noose in Carry On Columbus look like Heath Ledger. If you have a fear of nooses, watch this and the fear will magically disappear as quickly as the poor sap what had tied it in the first place. In an attempt to make up for it, Geek Girl abruptly reveals she is a birdwatcher so she can reveal THERE ARE NO BIRDS! (If, as she thinks, some mini-ice age has struck the lake, is it ridiculous to assume all the wild life legged it like ninjas on fire?) And there ARE NO INSECTS EITHER! (This is proved by prodding a rock with her boot and leaping to conclusions.) Both of which would have much greater impact had there ever been evidence either had been there. I mean, if the sounds of birds, insects at all had been cut off one by one over the course of the last half a fucking hour, this could have been ramping up tension from a film that by now is making Bill and Ted accuse it of being too laid back.

Sinister American Sam Tyler is quick to put a stop to this, however, as he bigs up what idiots everyone was by wasting all their petrol getting here and they are effectively trapped. Thanks for that, AST. Your career as crisis management and parttime samaritan await with eager anticipation. Passive Aggressive however, has finally developed some self-awareness and vows to take his chances fleeing this "bad fucking Twilight Zone Camp Blood Death Trap of a Weekend Getaway" which should have been his reaction twenty-five minutes ago, if you ask me but he's still got more braincells than most of the other cast. Oh, wait, it's Country and Western that's being all apocalyptic, not American Sam Tyler. Jeez, how could I get such too strongly-defined characters confused? I am beyond redemption!

But what's this? During a lengthy tracking shot circling the gang of idiots, Piss-Boy's Sister has vanished! It's almost as if she just stepped behind the camera but now she's gone! And she was called Tracey, so there's no trace of Tracey HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA! So, while Owen Wilson and PA try and fail to siphon gas from other cars and wonder if some crazy guy is responsible for this bizarre rapture ("I wish it was a crazy guy. I can fuck up a crazy guy!") everyone else splits up to look for her. This is as productive as you can imagine, but they take time out of contemplating this apocalyptic scenario to note American Sam Tyler is "creepy as fuck", just in time for Blonde Bimbo to get a fit of the screaming hoomizootics and reveal American Sam Tyler has disappeared as well! It's just like, I dunno, the actors are just giving up on this film one by one! AND WHO CAN BLAME THEM!

"I just took my eyes off him for a second!" blubbers Blonde Bimbo, (presumably when she was too busy dreaming about candy and unicorns and whether her stepfather really did upload those sextapes to dailymotion). PA suggests this is further solid foundation for his get the fuck out of here policy, but Country and Western starts shaking him by the throat and screaming. Basically, until Piss-Boy's Sister returns from the wild blue yonder, this retarded Big Brother installment WILL CONTINUE!!!

Owen Wilson suggests they pool their knowledge, and this proves to be a truly depressing realization. So, our heroes try to use their staggering intellects to suggest what has happened. Wandering psychokiller? A poison gas cloud? CIA cover ops? Some Lovecraftian entity only spoken of in the most obscure of Genesis albums? Either way, Country and Western, Blonde Bimbo, Piss Boy, Stoner and Geek Girl vote to stay in the zone of most unspeakable danger. And by this they lose whatever sympathy I might have had for them. County and Western justifies this suicidal act on the grounds he "hopes the others are wrong". Can you believe this guy isn't in the White House by now?

So, night falls... I fall... and where were you, and where were you... Sorry. Got a bit Angie Hart there. So, our heroes are locked and bolted inside this luxury restort as darkness descends. They sit in a bored, miserable silence with only Stoner Girl trying to lighten the aura with a game of Strip Poker/Indian Wrestling. You think they'd have turned on a radio or something, given there's plenty of electricity and no sign that they are isolated from the outside world. But hey, stay ignorant - it gives an excuse for Stoner Girl to bet a spare pair of knickers! (I know, she didn't even go commando! Easy A was kinkier than this!)

Alas, while ducking out of sight to strip off his boxers for the next bet, Piss Boy is wiped from the tablete of existence. Stoner Girl freaks out, which was a pity - it would have been better if she'd simply assumed she was high and kept knocking back booze. PA, meanwhile, decides he is too good for this shit and makes a bolt for it, out of the house and into his car. Now, the more observant and cynical amongst you might be expecting him to be simply disappeared in this pointless, futile escape gesture.

Well, you'd be wrong. In actual fact, PA was snatching up his pump-action shotgun he conveniently forgot he had until now and then takes the opportunity to call Country and Western for being such a damn stubborn moron he's kept them in fatal danger all along. Normally I detest this shirking of responsibility but an argument with sane viewpoints is a rare and splendid thing in this film. We let it ride, like the Gunmobile PA christens his pimped-up ride.

Country and Western meanwhile suggests the houses are riddled with deadly secret passages and booby traps, which reassures Owen Wilson of his rationality no end. Stoner Girl finds a copy of the Bible and deduces that God is striking them down one by one for their sins (though, as the others point out that its odd that Stoner Girl the roboslut is not the first to vanish) and this improves the group morale even more. PA unleashes the inner power of the primal Richard Dawkins to crush her puny belief systems like the tissue of dope-fueled paranoia they really are! YOU HEAR ME, RATSINGER? PARANOIA!!!

"You pray!" PA shouts at Stoner Girl. "I won't! And whoever disappears last? Wins!"

Seriously, this is the hieght of quotable and evocative dialogue in the film so far.

"Things are starting to unravel and they're going to get worse!" predicts the self-described "hardly-functional" Blonde Bimbo (who is also, apparently, a little bit psychic not that there's any sign of this ESP being at all useful). Owen Wilson meanwhile starts self-harming with broken glass - that crazy guy! Meanwhile, a search for food is framed so when Blonde Bimbo opens the fridge door, Stoner Girl and her pet bible are hidden from view... but alas both are still there moments later. Damn. Triple damn and blast. Oh wait, then Owen Wilson's girlfriend does the same thing and this time Stoner Girl and Bible are gone! Finally, things are looking up! 100+ points to the athiests, right Mr. Dawkins?

Owen Wilson cracks before 52 minutes of the film are up, grabs PA's gun and starts gibbering like a meth-addicted gibbon before accidentally shooting the gun's owner in the armpit. Together with his equally-gibbering girlfriend, Owen Wilson steals the keys to Country and Western's car and they drive off into the sudden, inexplicable snow... only to stop right away. Have you cynics suspected the Wilsons have suffered an unexpected reality failure? Well your brains are working two minutes faster than the film - but, egads, Mrs. Owen Wilson is still this side of the looking glass and - spank me with a length of fibre optics from the National Broadband Initiative!

PA is now throttling Mrs. Owen Wilson demanding to know what happened to Owen Wilson who was sitting next to her in the car. This, the more observant of observers will have noticed, links up perfectly with the opening scene 55 minutes earlier in the sense both are uninvolving and rather crap. For those of you eagerly waiting the resolution, Country and Western punches PA's lights out as he jabbers that escape is impossible and lots of other ominous lines cribbed from The Evil Dead. Meanwhile, it is learned Owen Wilson vanished with the car keys but left the shotgun intact. PA finds this hilarious.

One add break later and the unconscious PA has been bandaged and allowed to snooze with his gun in his hand. Can you tell Blonde Bimbo came up with this idea? Mrs. Owen Wilson is catatonic and so CW, BB and Geek Girl are left to ponder over the plotless hole they're in. Why is the countryside freezing over? No idea. Why are they disappearing one by one? Beats me. Why is Blonde Bimbo stripping down to her underwear when the temperature has dropped 50 degrees? It is beyond our comprehesion. Why am I still watching this? God knows.

Just when it looks like the newly-single CW and BB might bang uglies alone and unobserved in the upstairs bedroom to the John Williamson score to the Tatooine scenes from Star Wars... er, they do. OK. So the next time YOUR significant other is missing for more than four hours, assume they're dead and go on the pull! The poist-coital conversation is your typical dreamy girl love fest ("I'm so scared." "I know." "I don't know what's happening. I don't want to die here." "You still might.") and then it turns out Blondie Bimbo has vanished because CW was too busy admiring the bedroom ceiling. Oh, if only there was a mirror!

Disgustingly the sheets remain in rigid woman-shaped shroud once she's disappeared. Gross.

Poor CW, unable to have a relationship with a woman who doesn't cease to exist after sex, storms downstairs to whine at Geek Girl about this when suddenly THREE KNOCKS RING OUT! Yes, the old last-people-on-earth-hear-a-knock-at-the-door chestnuts Steven Moffat recently turned into a full six minutes of Doctor Who last year! As AP says, "You gotta be fucking kidding me!" CW bows to peer pressure and opens the door to reveal...


*imagine Murry Gold going apeshit*

None of the surviving heroes buy his "oh, I totally tripped into a ditch and slept through the movie" excuse, but I suspect this is more down to bitter envy at his good luck. PA accuses him of being an alien, a demon, a zombie, the spirit of an Indian burial ground and basically lists countless plot ideas better than the one I've been watching for the last hour. PA is quite willing to blow AST's head off if it gives any kind of logic to the plot, and the fact he's high on painkillers won't help. So he blows out AST's kneecaps demanding he give even the slightest reason behind this bizarre movie plot. Geek Girl begs for less Jack Breur interrogation and PA drags the legless AST out into the snow to become a pod person or somesuch Steven King bollocks (those are PA's accusations, not mine). The crippled AST screams from behind the door... and then the screams stop, in undoubtedly the most frightening bit of the film so far.

"I guess he was Noah after all," PA says dreamily, high on the sheer pointless of existence now reality is starting to wind down around them. He could kill or rape them all, but he'll settle for a quick ciggie. "If I gave you a blank video tape, would you care what was on it before? It could be a snuff film, but why would you give a fuck? So yes I may have done some monstrous things but I don't think anyone's going to know..."

"We will," says Geek Girl, rather unwisely in my humble opinion.

"Yeah. For as long as you both shall live. Good luck with that." PA then notes that all the vanished folk left not a spot of blood to mark their passing and then, with irrefutable logic, blows his brains out all over the curtains. Charming. This, I think we agree, is why you don't let stressed Americans high on painkillers using loaded firearms. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle, amirite?

It's a complete waste of time as CW and Geek Girl blink and both PA and his blood spurts vanish. HAH!

And then... THE PHONE RINGS! Don't worry, it's just a wrong number but it strikes our two remaining heroes (Owen Wilson's missus is still alive, but catatonic in the corner) they can call for police assistance! I know, it's such a breathtaking idea! If only we'd thought of it earlier! But our heroes must remain in reality for three hourss and CW immediately facepalms. Yes, because the "don't blink" rule allows emoticons.

Geek Girl and CW begin a three-hour stare-out competition - BUT THE LIGHTS GO OUT! So they light some candles and then remember Owen Wilson's missus... has she disappeared when the lights went out? Well, by jimbo, by cricey... she hasn't. Man, I'm calling this badly tonight. Anyway, our heroes sit in the dark with candles pondering on why the lights went out? Power failure? Evil forces? Obamacare? CW then cheerfully reveals that the vanished Piss-Boy sister was pregnant with his child and he was going to marry her. So, um, jumping the bones of Blondie Bimbo seems slightly less heroic an act, doesn't it?

Ten more minutes of this. Ten more minutes.

CW whinges he doesn't care about the mysterious rapture happening. GG whinges that she wanted to be a good geek and become a biologist. Then the film returns to its niche of toilet humor as GG needs to empty her bowels without breaking eye contact. Awkward, huh? And then Owen Wilson's missus enters the bathroom with them and announces she is going to "go away now" and vanishes in the time it takes for the others to turn and tell her to shut up. Bye then.

So GG and CW gaze at their reflections in the bathroom by candlelight for the next few hours until the latter dozes off, sways out of the candlelight and vanishes. Idiot. It's not as if they didn't have time to work out a blinking rotor or something, was it? Geek Girl gets all upset and then there is the sound of approaching sirens and runs out in a gibbering flail of limbs into the entire police department outside. Oh, and it's been daylight for a couple of hours while they were hiding in the toilet. What a beautiful metaphor for the film as a whole.

The MIBs (lead by the holo-doctor from Star Trek: Voyager and of course the Greatest Film Of All Time, Get Crazy) are clearly aware they can't stay for long and when Geek Girl urges them not to blink is told that "they never do". So fuck you, lonely assassins. Just as it all seems over, the area falls silent and Geek Girl (sobbing in the back of a police car) is suddenly all on her lonesome.

Bitch just cannot get a break, huh?

PA's words that they are all going to be erased echo back at her as Geek Girl tries to outstare her reflection and then she blinks.


Meh. If the Weeping Angels had been involved, at least there'd be an explanation. This "rapture-esque" stuff was done better in Vanishing on Seventh Street where at least there was some atmosphere with vashta nerada esue shadows consuming humanity en masse, or perhaps The Twilight Zone ep And The Sky Was Opened where a space mission break the dimensional barrier and gradually cease to exist.

Don't Blink? Don't fucking watch.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Some Fucker Stole My Wallet (2015)

Yeah, pretty much sums it up.

I mean, couldn't they have just nicked the money? Maybe the credit card? Did they really have to steal my student card, birth certificate, a lovely note from my cousin... I mean, I was asleep in the bed next to it so you think they might have had some kind of empathic connection.

Just goes to show that you can try to be helpful to strangers, kind to the poor and even donate cash to keep some English guy and his cat with a roof over his head but KARMA DOESN'T FUCKING WORK.

On that note, I shall begin my long-awaited decline into alcoholism, insanity and death.

If it's good enough for 80% of Game of Thrones characters, it's good enough for me.

Friday, April 10, 2015

War of the Dalek Writers

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.’

Subtle, huh?

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.’

The 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?