Doctor Who: The History Collection - Shadow In The Glass

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Christopher Morley's glass is half full...

The Sixth Doctor's entry in Doctor Who's History Collection finds him teaming up with a very old & now sadly departed friend for an exploration of the murky waters of alternate history as he looks into one of the great possible mysteries of the Second World War.

We all know the accepted version of the events behind the last days of Nazi Germany- Hitler sealed off in his bunker in Berlin as the Red Army marches on. He & his wife Eva Braun will eventually commit suicide, but why did he marry her just hours before they bit into those cyanide capsules to end their own lives?

Justin Richards & Stephen Cole, co-writers of ''Shadow In The Glass'' have here come up with a twist which would probably not be out of place in any conspiracy documentary- she was pregnant, with plans put into place to get her out in time to give birth to a mini-Fuhrer who will take both his name & ideological outlook from his father and spearhead a Fourth Reich.

Alongside all this is the advancement of Nazi interest in the occult, as was allegedly the pet project of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. So begins the quest for the Scrying Glass, alien technology of the sort which documentaries brimming with all manner of theories would have you believe the Nazi schatzes fighting for their Fatherland were after.

Just what is the Glass? To the Vvormak, the imp-like aliens who also place much importance upon it, it's a vital component of their crashed ship. To Adolf Hitler Junior and his band of followers, it is a crystal ball of sorts- a portal through which the future can be seen, and a glorious one in the eyes of a man every bit as bloodthirsty as the father the Russians, and by extension Allied powers defeated. A tool which he prizes above all else, having been raised in the image of the man who took his own life rather than see the country he'd attempted to fashion into a thousand year Reich fall. With one key difference......

For where Hitler Senior reportedly dismissed the occult as superstitious poppycock, the son taught to revere him places faith in it. Perhaps Cole & Richards were at least in part inspired by records of an expedition into Tibet led by SS officer Ernst Schafer as lamas of the sort last encountered by the Doctor on a visit to the Det-Sen Monastery are revealed to be assisting the fruit of the Fuhrer's loins in his quest to understand the supposed powers of the Scrying Glass.

We might take a little time to consider what if anything Schafer hoped to achieve during his venture, should help with a little background.
"At the time, Himmler was already trying to make use of Schäfer’s reputation for Nazi propaganda purposes. In June 1936 Himmler summoned Schäfer to ask about his future plans, and Schäfer told him that he wanted to lead another expedition to Tibet.

Himmler had a genuine interest in Tibet as an adherent of a bizarre mixture of mystical and esoteric ideas. He believed in karma and reincarnation, ideas linked to his cyclical concept of history as recurring. At this interview, Himmler said that he would like to facilitate Schäfer’s future plans for exploration, and that he would take over the sponsorship of Schäfer’s next expedition."
The meeting mentioned above took place around a year after the foundation of the Ahnenerbe, a branch of the Nazi framework devoted to research into the history of the Aryan kind. Heather Pringle's The Master Plan can offer some context-
"In 1935, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo and the SS, founded an elite Nazi research institute called the Ahnenerbe. Its name came from a rather obscure German word,Ahnenerbe (pronounced AH-nen-AIR-buh), meaning "something inherited from the forefathers."

The official mission of the Ahnenerbe was to unearth new evidence of the accomplishments and deeds of Germanic ancestors "using exact scientific methods."

In reality, the Ahnenerbe was in the business of mythmaking. Its prominent researchers devoted themselves to distorting the truth and churning out carefully tailored evidence to support the ideas of Adolf Hitler, who believed that only the Aryans--a fictional "Nordic" race of tall, flaxen-haired men and women from northern Europe--possessed the genius needed to create civilization.

Most modern Germans, he claimed, were descended from these ancient Aryans. But scholars had failed to uncover any proof of a such a master race lighting the torch of civilization and giving birth to all the refinements of human culture. The answer to this problem, in Himmler's mind, lay in more German scholarship--scholarship of the right political stripe.

So he created the Ahnenerbe, which he conceived of as a research organization brimming with brilliant mavericks and brainy young upstarts who would publicly unveil a new portrait of the ancient world, one in which Aryans would be seen coining civilization and bringing light to inferior races, just as Hitler claimed."
It won't surprise you to learn that Claire Aldywych, temporary companion to the Doctor and his old UNIT boss/sparring partner here, is a journalist working for a TV channel interested in such historical mysteries, with her curiosity leading to a very dark place indeed. In another strand straight from the script of such programming, the TARDIS finds itself in an extremely secret planned outpost for the Fourth Reich with some basis in admittedly seemingly far-fetched theory- a base under the ice of Antarctica!

So, basically Iron Sky on ice. But does the idea have any basis in reality?

Kreigsmarine, or German Navy, captain Alfred Ritscher led an expedition which claimed an area renamed New Swabia for Nazi purposes having arrived in January 1939 from Hamburg after leaving the previous December.

But what is myth & what has some if any basis in reality? According to the essay Hitler's Antarctic Base- The Myth And The Reality by Colin Summerhayes & Peter Beeching:
"One of the less well-known Antarctic expeditions is that of the Germans, using a vessel named Schwabenland, between 17 December 1938 and 12 April 1939, some months before the outbreak of World War II. This expedition visited the western part of what is now known as Dronning Maud Land. The expedition was authorised by Herman Goering as part of the German four-year plan for economic development.

Among its publicly avowed aims was a continuation of the scientific studies begun earlier in the century by Erich von Drygalski around 90◦E and Wilhelm Filchner in the Weddell Sea. But it also had some secret military aims.

On its return journey it was to investigate the suitability of the isolated Brazilian islands of Ilha Trinidade and Ilhas Martin Vas, almost 1000 km east of Vitoria in Brazil, for landing places for the German Navy, especially U-boats.

Goering wished to learn more about whatever strategic opportunities the Antarctic might offer, and wanted to know about the functioning of aircraft at low temperatures, knowledge that was to prove useful during the German invasion of the Soviet Union."
And what exactly were Ritscher's qualifications for leading the mission?
"It was not a military expedition, and Ritscher was not a military man, even though he was on the staff of the Kriegsmarine, the German naval high command.

He served the navy in a civilian capacity. He had been loaned to the expedition because he was one of Germany’s most experienced polar (Arctic) explorers, a mariner, and an accomplished aircraft pilot."
In essence then, Shadow In The Glass is "Doctor Who does History Channel filler"! And none the worse for it either as it happens...

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