Chapter 148. Doctor Who – Remembrance of the Daleks (1990)

Synopsis: The Hand of Omega – a powerful weapon from the dark times of Gallifrey. In 1963, an old man living in a junkyard hid the weapon on Earth. Then the Daleks came looking for it, hoping it could be used to end a civil war between Dalek factions. The Doctor now returns with his new friend Ace to find the Hand of Omega – and give it to the Daleks! But which side gets it, the Renegades led by the Supreme Dalek, or those loyal to the Dalek Emperor? Time will tell…

Chapter Titles

A prologue and 23 numbered chapters, although each chapter also begins with a time, such as ‘Friday, 15:30’.

Background: Ben Aaronovich adapts his own scripts for the 1988 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 25.

Notes: The book opens with a quote from Shakespeare’s Richard III and a prologue that once again adapts the Doctor’s arrival at the junkyard from An Unearthly Child. Ace has destroyed the TARDIS ‘food synthesiser’ by mistaking it for a microwave and accidentally pouring plutonium into it, thinking it was soup. When the Doctor gives her currency appropriate for the time, Ace recalls the savings coupons on Iceworld [see Dragonfire]. This Doctor has ‘intense grey eyes’ and an unnerving gaze.

We’re introduced to more of Gilmore’s squad: There’s a 26-year-old Private John Lewis Abbot; Bellos, a big man from Yorkshire; Sergeant Embery; Quartermaster-Sergeant Kaufman; MacBrewer (a career soldier, ‘Catholic, married, four children’), who is killed by the Dalek at Totter’s Lane; Faringdon, who is decapitated by Dalek fire during the battle at the school; and Corporal Grant, who is the soldier attacked by Mike Smith in the cellar of Coal Hill School.

The Doctor recalls his first visit to Skaro and the death of Temmosus, plus events from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Planet of the Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks. Thanks to an excerpt from The Zen Military – A History of UNIT by Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart (2006), we learn that UNIT emerged out of an earlier operation, the Intrusion Counter Measures Group, a Royal Air Force Regiment established in 1961 under the command of Group Captain Ian Gilmore. The official files refer to the events of this story as ‘the Shoreditch Incident’. Gilmore’s headquarters are at Maybury Hall in Hendon but, recognising he needed a base closer to the centre of the current operation, he asked Sergeant Mike Smith to make enquiries – and Smith brought in Ratcliffe from the Shoreditch Association. Ratcliffe’s men attack Gilmore’s officers at Foreman’s Yard and steal the Dalek remains (an assault missing from the transmitted episode, which cuts straight to the removal of the Dalek remains on the back of Ratcliffe’s truck).

In one of the novel’s most far-reaching additions, we encounter a triumvirate of Time Lords from Gallifrey’s legends: Omega is ‘a huge man with wide shoulders and muscular arms, a definite drift from the regenerative norm’ who is seen by some as a genetic throwback from the dark time; he addresses Rassilon as ‘cousin’ and Omega believes himself and Rassilon to be equally responsible for their varied Time Lord creations; and the unnamed ‘other’, who urges caution, reminding them of Minyos [see Underworld – or, y’know, don’t] and warning that Omega’s ‘magnificent achievement’ might also serve as a weapon. 

The Doctor suspects that the Daleks that invaded Earth in the 22nd Century uncovered information that led them to the Hand of Omega in 1963 [perhaps during the Doctor’s aborted robotisation]. We also learn that the Daleks (or at least the renegade faction) call the Doctor ‘the Ka Faraq Gatri’ and the Imperial Faction are known as ‘the Ven-Katri Davrett’. The Imperial Dalek transmat operator bursts through a wall in the school cellar, behind which it has lain dormant for some time.

The Doctor stops at a roadside tea-stall in the docklands, run by John (it’s not the cafe we saw earlier, as it was on TV). Rachel Jensen is also staying at the boarding house run by Mike’s mum. In a dream, Rachel finds herself inside the synagogue in Golders Green that she attended with her mum as a child, where the familiar Rabbi is replaced by the Doctor. While they’re recovering from the events at Foreman’s Yard, Rachel is surprised to hear Gilmore call her by her first name and we learn that, 23 years earlier, she and Gilmore had enjoyed a night of passion on a beach, before she was dispatched to other manoeuvres in Scotland (neither of them married). She worked with Alan Turing and his description of the human brain put her off porridge for life. When tying the rope for their escape from the school, she recalls her time as a girl guide. According to The Women That Science Forgot by Rowan Sesay (1983), Rachel retired in 1964 and published her autobiography, The Electric Dreamer.

Ace got her first taste for explosives at the age of 12, when she discovered the effects of mixing nitrate fertilizer with a two-pound packet of sugar. As a teenager, Ace attended a modern ‘concrete’ school covered in multicultural murals, where her friends were Manisha, Judy and Claire. Manisha had long black hair – until she was in a fire, which Ace tries to forget. Ace also has a dream while at Mike’s mum’s, in which she remembers visiting Manisha in hospital after she and a sibling escaped the fire that killed her parents and three younger children; Manisha left Perivale to stay with relatives in Birmingham:

It was Dorothy who stared at the burnt house, the burnt face, the burnt life, the racist graffiti. And it was Dorothy who stared at the words ‘Pakis out’ on the wall of the playground. 

It was Ace who blew away the wall with two and a half kilograms of nitro-nine. 

Fireball in the darkness. 

Fire fighting fire.

This attack happened when Ace was 14, two years prior to what the Doctor calls Ace’s ‘adjustment’, which saw her catapulted across time and space to Iceworld.

The junior undertaker is called Martin. As a young captain, the Reverend Parkinson had fought in the Great War in Verdun, where he lost his sight, but found his vocation. Mike’s dad had been in the Navy during World War II and was lost with his ship in 1943 while running weapons to the Russians in the Arctic Sea; a photograph of his father, in uniform, is still on Mike’s mum’s wall in the boarding house. Mike first met Ratcliffe as a child, when the older man had given him some German chocolate. Mike served in Malaya for 18 months and spent some time in Singapore, but stayed in touch with Ratcliffe, who only days before this operation had warned the young soldier that the United States would be getting ‘a new president’.

Allison refers to the situation with ‘Miss Keeler’ that has affected the current government (ie, the ‘Profumo Affair’). Ace sees Muffin the Mule on TV. Her behaviour at the school alerts the Imperial Dalek commander that she must either be from a different planet or a different time period and instructs the Dalek squad to target her. As recounted in The Children of Davros, a Short History of the Dalek Race by Njeri Ngugi (4065), the Daleks suffered 83% casualties in the Movellan war and the remnants factionalised across the galaxy. The arrival of Davros’s new Daleks propelled the Dalek race into civil war. The Dalek mothership is called Eret-mensaiki Ska, or ‘Destiny of Stars’ and it was constructed in orbit around Skaro. It contains hatcheries that nurture Dalek embryos. There are tiny servo-robots providing maintenance across the Dalek mothership and the Doctor sees one aboard the shuttle. Also aboard the shuttle is the special weapons Dalek, also known as ‘the Abomination’, the presence of which unsettles the Imperial Commander. Its past history seems to contain the first reference in Doctor Who to a Time War:

It served in many campaigns: Pa Jass-Gutrik, the war of vengeance against the Movellans; Pa Jaski-Thal, the liquidation war against the Thals; and PaJass-Vortan, the time campaign – the war to end all wars.

The radiation from its gun has sent it insane and it only survives by order of the Emperor. The Dalek Emperor remembers when he was a man – and we might pick up the clues that this man was Davros in a description that is pure body-horror:

He remembered the smell of his own blood, pulsing slowly from severed arteries, the taste of concrete dust in his mouth, and the crackling of his own skin. He hurtled blindly into darkness.

And then resurrection. 

An age of pain and humiliation. He was reconstructed with chrome and plastic, held together by tungsten wire. They drilled sockets through his skull and threaded fibreoptics into his forebrain. 

Ratcliffe had marched on Cable Street with Oswald Mosley, ‘proud to be English, proud to fight against the jew and the Bolshevik, proud to stand up for their race’; he served a prison sentence during World War II, but managed to spend the 1950s setting up a construction company, profiting on the rebuilding of London. Ratcliffe walked into his office one day to find the Renegade Dalek battle computer installed in the shadows; it began to feed him secrets and use his business to install electronic devices – Electronic countermeasures pods, or ECMs – hidden around the rooftops of London and which scramble the circuits of the Imperial forces. The Supreme Dalek and its renegade troops lie dormant, hidden away in Ratcliffe’s warehouse until the Imperial Shuttle lands.

On Skaro, Vekis Nar-Kangli (the Plain of Swords) is where the final Kaled-Thal war ended and where the Dalek city, Mensvat Esc-Dalek, was built. The Hand of Omega destroys one thousand million Daleks along with Skaro, its sun and its other surrounding planets. Ace sprays graffiti on the rear of the Imperial Dalek shuttle: ‘Ace woz ‘ere in 63’. The Doctor befriends a dog – an Alsation [see more of this in Survival]. Allison writes to ‘Julian’ to share some gossip about a possible relationship between Rachel Jensen and Ian Gilmore and reveals that they’re trying to find the parents of the ‘creepy girl’.

Cover: Alister Pearson combines Davros, a gravestone with an ‘omega’ symbol, a smirking Doctor and three types of Dalek in a cover that also draws him equal with Andrew Skilleter in painting all of the covers for a single season of stories.

Final Analysis: Remembrance of the Daleks is seen by many fans as a high-point in the final years of the series. When he took on the role of Target range editor in February 1989, Peter Darvill Evans began to develop plans to publish original novels once the novelisations were complete. His first steps were to encourage the writers of this final run of stories to expand upon the TV scripts, writing the novels for an older audience. Target authors had often tried to expand the depth of their original stories, but here Ben Aaronovich delivers an altogether more cohesive work. We find out why Ratcliffe is more than just a useful fascist for the Daleks – his construction company has been used to create a network of Dalek devices across London. We learn much more about Ace (who is only in her second story, chronologically) and Aaronovich plays with the conflicts burning through a teenage girl who is also wise beyond her years, experiencing her first love and first betrayal. We’re teased with a smattering of Dalek history and allowed inside the minds of various Daleks and even the Emperor himself – to a depth unseen in even the novels of John Peel. The renegade Dalek Supreme in particular is fascinating, experiencing feelings and sensations by proxy through the girl who is the battle computer and an extension of the Supreme.

Aaronovich doesn’t flinch away from the brutality of war and it’s definitely the most er, mature novel since the heady days of Ian Marter: There’s mention of an incident in Gilmore’s wartime past that involved ‘two German soldiers his men had scraped off the interior of a pillbox’ and the gut-wrenching fate of a soldier called Faringdon. Also, while we’ve had passing mentions of orgies and alien reproduction, a flashback to a ‘brief encounter’ between Gilmore and Rachel on a beach – where he calls out her name and then doesn’t say it again for 23 years – is the closest we ever get in the pages of a Target book to an actual sex scene – which I definitely didn’t pick up on during any of the previous times I read this. And of course, Aaronovich’s own heritage enriches the backstory of Rachel.

There are many books in the volumes 100-156 that I’ve read for the first time for this project, Remembrance of the Daleks is one that I’ve come back to repeatedly since it was first published. It’s no exaggeration that it was a game-changer. At this point, we were still a year away from the release of Timewyrm: Genesis but here is where the New Adventures truly begin; it’s a story ‘too broad and too deep’ for the small screen, featuring the Doctor as a mythic figure and with revelations that hint at a history that predates the TV series. Right at the very end of the series, we begin a ‘new golden age’.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 148. Doctor Who – Remembrance of the Daleks (1990)

  1. This particular book is quite special to me. It never was sold in Canada and I only managed to get a copy in August 1992 on my first trip to the UK (I bought it at the Who Shop). I remember taking the journey back from London to Kent (where I was staying) and reading it and marvelling at the level of sophistication of it. I had only seen Remembrance once at a one-day con a year or so before so the reading of it was quite vivid fo me.

    I also bought a McCoy question mark jumper that day. I still have that as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And, suddenly, with a bold new era of ‘Who’ books, we’ve come full circle (with a great twist). The proto-New Adventures boom hits with expansions and revisions more akin to that very first handful of novelisations featuring introspective musings of Petrified Forests, Silurians in Wenley Moor, Crusaders, and Doomsday Weapons.

    It’s funny holding the two styles back-to-back. Where something like “The Crusaders” charms with a breadth of scale then only found in swashbuckling Hollywood films or Jules Verne, “Remembrance of the Daleks” unfolds almost like the panels of a late-1980s graphic novel or a William Gibson novel. Where the planet-hopping scale feels like a way to further highlight all those intimate character details.

    I remember one of the small moments leading up or away from the conversation about ripples. Standing there, the untouched Moon of 1963 hanging over a dark London, it’s easy to see the Seventh Doctor shaded as a half-page Dave Gibbons illustration.

    Liked by 1 person

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