“You said the sun would be shining.”
“oh, a sun always shines, Leela. Just depends on what gets in its way.”
One thing’s clear: Nick Briggs loves Daleks.
As the voice of the Daleks for both the New Who revival (under both Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffatt) and Big Finish as well as the driving force behind the Dalek Empire line (as writer, director and star, yet!), it’s clear that this is the man’s ballpark and specialty. I’d be unsurprised to learn that his house were a sort of shrine to Dalekmania in all its variants and permutations: glass cases filled with models, figures and toys, posters, books, videos. It’s dead obvious, the man loves the famed alien pepperpots unreservedly.
As such, it’s really not a shocker to see that he’s begun to develop another alien race serving as a counterbalance nemesis to the Daleks. The Doctor is only one Gallifreyan, after all…
And so it is that we find him turning his authorial attentions of late towards this new creation with increasing frequency.
Generally working alongside author Matt Fitton, Briggs has alternately written or cowritten, and in each case directed, several stories featuring the Eminence and their slave-servants the Infinite Warriors over the past year. First introduced in the Colin Baker/Mel offering Seeds of War, they’ve since played no small part in two parts of the Paul McGann Eighth Doctor Adventures revival Dark Eyes 2, before appearing once again here.
A sort of unequal opposition to the very physical, scientifically oriented Daleks, the gaseous, predominantly mental forcelike Eminence occupies an area of similarity more closely approximating the jellylike Rutans to their more grounded, humanoid nemeses the Sontarans. But where Daleks oft employed the bestial Ogrons to do their groundwork, The Eminence has its quite Cybermenesque Infinite Warriors. And the reasonably tightly knit circle of parallels continues.
As with the more specifically New Who approach to the Cybermen, the Infinite Warriors are unwilling recruits to the cause: less desperate or naively science-worshipping humans voluntarily opting for an inhuman future existence than a fascistically forced “assimilation” to the cause, a cause they have zero investment or belief in. It’s far more political at core, and far darker by dint thereof.
On the Earth colony of Delafloss, our intrepid time travelers encounter a very different scenario than expected. For the Eminence is present, and dangerously close to taking control…
Will the Doctor be converted to the cause as the newest of Infinite Warriors? Will Leela command the opposition forces to victory?
“So what’s your plan – decimate some fleets, conquer some more planets, eh?
What’s the point of it all? To wake up one day in the secure and certain knowledge that you’re the king of the castle.
Rather immature, isn’t it?”
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, this isn’t my area. There’s no real mystery here, no intellectual conundrums, no heartfelt emotional connections, no pronounced, absurdist humor, no gothic atmosphere, no oneiric horror or sense of the uncanny, nothing being uncovered or discovered.
And certainly, everything I’ve heard and seen of the folks involved indicates that what I’m about to say is far from intentional on their respective parts – if anything, Big Finish, like the good majority of Whovians and science fiction/fantasy fans in general, tends to lean in quite the opposite direction, with a mature, openminded and creative approach to life and matters interpersonal and sociopolitical.
But when you get the Daleks or forces like them (be they fascistic-totalitarian humanoid or speculative alien – even nominally otherworldly etheral ones like the Eminence, who operate via humanoid foot soldiers such as the Infinite Warriors), it’s intrinsic. Whatever the intent behind it (and there certainly have been a plethora of decidedly cautionary tales utilizing them over the years – this being yet another in a long line thereof), it can’t be helped – on some major level or other, you’re playing right into the Halo/Call of Duty thing.
In other words, it’s all “authoritarian” police and military-style nonsense, where there’s no real thought, non-campaign based strategizing, or any true depth of substance. All they are is war machines, with gun in hand. All they can do, like their real life forbears, is yell a lot and make big explosions, with plenty of collateral damage and loss of life.
Yeah, I acknowledge the popularity of the motif. People love Daleks passionately. Those videogame series I mentioned sell like hotcakes. But that’s exactly the point – it has to be more than a terrifying warning against. At some point, for some portion of the putative audience, it has to have become a celebration of.
“Sometimes I think you humans take to war with too much vigor.”
“It’s the only way to win, isn’t it?”
“Better not to fight in the first place.”
While much of the appeal here plays into a childlike juvenalia, of little boys who like to play rough with their toys carrying over into adulthood, you have to ask on the other hand, once you move beyond harmless childhood games of cops and robbers and toy soldiers decimating the opposition, is this something we really should be celebrating?
For there is a corollary to all this celebration of warfare and soldierdom, where entire cultures uphold this as the sine qua non of manhood and patriotic sentiment. And particularly at a time in history when culture, the arts and human aspiration are put aside and denigrated as of little value, whether with respect to school budgets and the dimunition of subsidized local programs and events or in terms of the very concept of adequately compensating authors, artists and musicians for their efforts and creations…culturally speaking, that’s a flashing red light.
To come right to the point: is what it means to be human nothing more than to serve as an unthinking, uncultured, aspirationless and unempathetic puppet to the forces who pull the financial and authoritarian strings?
Like I said, really not my thing.