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How Day of the Daleks Makes Sense

By Morgan Davie

As all of you reading this will know, the basic plot of Day of the Daleks revolves around the efforts of a handful of guerrillas from the far future attempting to stop the outbreak of World War III, so the Daleks won't invade and take over Earth. Using a time machine, they travel back to the late 20th Century and attempt to assassinate Sir Reginald Styles before he can blow up a peace conference, thus starting the war.

The problem with this story is that it is not Sir Reginald but the guerrillas themselves who blow up the conference. They are responsible for what they are trying to stop; they should have had no reason to go back in time. If history had taken its normal course, then they would not have gone back and the house would not have been blown up and the war would have been prevented. Nevertheless, the guerrillas did go back in time to disrupt history, which in turn gave them the reason to go back. So how can this be explained?

The only reason that I can think of is that the delegates at the peace conference were killed in an explosion in the normal course of history, though not by Sir Reginald. Possibly it was a fanatic, unattached to any terrorist groups, who did the deed - unattached because no terrorist organisation claimed responsibility - instead the historians decided it was Sir Reginald who did it. So the bomb exploded, WW3 broke out, and the Daleks invaded. Eventually, a guerrilla movement got hold of a primitive time-travel device. They looked back through history hoping to stop the Dalek invasion at its source, and then further back to try and halt WW3. Learning that the bombing of the peace conference was the trigger that started it all, they went back in time and attempted to assassinate Sir Reginald before the event. Their first attempt failed, resulting in security (provided by UNIT) being stepped up around the house. Due to this, the terrorist who was going to destroy the building gave up and did not go through with his plans. So at this point, the future was saved.

As fate would have it though, the terrorist and his bomb were replaced by one of the guerrillas and a bomb hiding in the cellar. Luckily, the Doctor managed to empty the building of delegates and filled it with a force of Daleks instead. Thus, WW3 was averted, and the future saved. This however presents a new problem - when the guerrillas came back from the future they saved the world, and consequently would have no reason to go back in time in the first place. So wouldn't they have ceased to exist?

Not if the guerrillas were from an alternative Earth, as represented on the diagram below. Their universe (timeline G), and the Doctor's (timeline D), had no significant differences up to the time of the peace conference. In timeline G it was destroyed, but in D it was saved by the efforts of the Doctor and the guerrillas, thus preventing WW3. However, in G, WW3 broke out, and the Daleks were able to invade and take control of Earth with ease, whereas in D, Earth had to be weakened by a plague first (in The Dalek Invasion of Earth). The guerrillas got hold of their time machine and went back in time. However the calculations used to build this machine were wrong and it not only sent them back, but also sideways in time. They ended up in timeline D, where they saved the peace conference from destruction before returning to their own time - where, back in timeline G, things were as bad as ever - they had accomplished nothing.

But there is one other snag. When the Daleks meet the Doctor, they recognise him and tell him they have changed history with their time machines so the Daleks would always rule. This can be explained too. The Dalek the Doctor met was from a strike force from timeline D. After the events in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, they went back in time to prevent the Doctor from halting their plans. They met the Dalek invasion fleet of timeline C - where they ended up and got a complete retooling of their casings (which is why they look different). When the Doctor did not show up (presumably there is no counterpart for the Doctor in timeline G), they assumed they had changed history.

  1. The peace conference. In timeline C it is destroyed.
  2. World War Three.
  3. The Daleks invade Earth.
  4. A plague weakens Earth - caused by the Daleks?
  5. The Doctor foils the Dalek invasion of Earth.
  6. The Doctor does not appear. The Daleks assume they are triumphant.
  7. The Daleks go back in time to try and change history.
  8. The guerrillas go back in time to try and change history.
  1. Time travels between timelines C and D, when the guerrillas and Daleks made their forays into the past.
  2. The Dalek strike force travels from timeline D to G.

This item appeared in TSV 22 (April 1991).

[See also this issue's Doctor's Dilemma]
Index nodes: Day of the Daleks