Wartime Of The Daleks - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Wartime Of The Daleks

Chris Morley explores the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.
It's been apparent since their introduction that the Daleks are the product of creator Terry Nation's all too vivid memories of the stain of Nazism, their quite literal genesis making the parallels all the more striking.

Then along came Mark Gatiss to give them a moment of victory of the sort the Third Reich thankfully never pulled off. His 2010 Eleventh Doctor adventure Victory of the Daleks was rooted in the real-life work of the Special Operations Executive (also touched upon in Hide) formed under Hugh Dalton, Minister for Economic Warfare, on July 22 1940. Its purpose was simple; reconnaissance, espionage & sabotage in occupied Europe. An attempt to pull all those suffering out from under fascism's boot.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill had ordered a merger between three existing similar departments - Department EH (named after its headquarters at Electra House), the Secret Intelligence Service & Section D. And part of its remit, as perhaps hinted at by another moniker, the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, was the design of new & innovative means to stop the very real threat to Britain's shores....
CHURCHILL: How many?
CHILDERS: Looks like a dozen Heinkel at least, sir, with Messerschmitts flanking.
CHURCHILL: Out of range?
LILIAN: Normally, sir, yes.
CHURCHILL: Well then, time to roll out the secret weapon.
Cue the moment of revelation as Churchill unveils quite the display of firepower!

All done under the auspices of Professor Edwin Bracewell, on the surface exactly the sort of chap the SOE might have recruited in such times of direst need. After all as one member of Parliament remarked of the whole business, “When you are fighting for your life against a ruthless opponent, you cannot be governed by the Queensbury rules.” It's with that in mind Ian McNeice's Churchill & Bill Paterson's Bracewell unveil the apparent patronage & invention of the Ironsides....

Entirely in keeping with the sort of operations that became routine for those who so inspired Gatiss to put pen to paper on what could almost be termed only slightly more fantastical than the truth. As the synopsis to Giles Milton's book on Churchill's Mavericks has it,
“The guerrilla campaign that followed was every bit as extraordinary as the six men who directed it. One of them, Cecil Clarke, was a maverick engineer who had spent the 1930s inventing futuristic caravans.

Now, his talents were put to more devious use: he built the dirty bomb used to assassinate Hitler's favourite, Reinhard Heydrich.

Another, William Fairbairn, was a portly pensioner with an unusual passion: he was the world's leading expert in silent killing, hired to train the guerrillas being parachuted behind enemy lines.

Led by dapper Scotsman Colin Gubbins, these men—along with three others—formed a secret inner circle that, aided by a group of formidable ladies, single-handedly changed the course of the Second World War.”
While its not known whether Bracewell is based on Gubbins, he does appear to fill a similar position & his credentials are at least apparently solid.
“He approached one of our brass hats a few months ago. Fellow's a genius.“
A very particular sort of genius, into the bargain.
“Well, ideas just seem to teem from my head. Wonderful things, like. Let me show you. Some musings on the potential of hypersonic flight. Gravity bubbles that can sustain life outside of the terrestrial atmosphere. Came to me in the bath.”
In light of which, as in the best of the classic & very British war films deliberately drawn from by Mark Gatiss here, you want to believe Bracewell when he innocently asserts that “These robots are entirely under my control, Doctor,” after the Prime Minister has earlier so robustly also set out his honest intentions for their use as bringers of peace. “These machines are our salvation. “

Against which backdrop, in a stroke of genius given all that's gone before, the Doctor himself is made to seem like the enemy of progress, the nagging voice of doubt in his old friend's ear when all around just want to celebrate a hopeful swift conclusion to the terrible business of war thanks to “the perfect servant, and the perfect warrior.”

Not even the many great minds of the SOE could have invented or indeed predicted Gatiss's next ploy, though- the creator as creation...
BRACEWELL: But I created you.
DALEK: No. We created you.
Even more brilliantly, he then turns the newly exposed android against those who made him, the imagination they gave him used as the instrument of their downfall following Bracewell's all too understandable moments of existential crisis, his memories of “So many things. The last war. The squalor and the mud and the awful, awful misery of it all.” And that, allied with the fact he's every bit as clever as the Daleks are, turns the narrative on its head once again as bombs rain down over London.

Time for a good old fashioned aerial dogfight, just to reinforce the fact there has to be some reference to the more populist side of the war film. Gatiss even references the call-signs from Where Eagles Dare.

Another hallmark comes with the impossible choice; eliminate the Daleks, destroying the Earth, or allow them an escape in order to save it?
“They knew I'd choose the Earth. The Daleks have won. They beat me. They've won.“
In perhaps their most basic tactic yet the Daleks used the fundamental decency of their oldest foe against him for their own ends....

Removing all the advanced technology borrowed from the Daleks, despite Churchill wanting to use it for the war, the Doctor convinces Bracewell that he need not be deactivated because he helped save the world. Where once stood the intended vessel of destruction there is now...
“...a human being. You are flesh and blood. Believe it. You are Professor Edwin Bracewell, and you, my friend, are a human being.“
Victory of the Daleks? Maybe, but the most unlikely of all surely? Can it not rather be said that this is a humanitarian triumph?

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