When Terry Nation created the Daleks for Doctor Who, he combined the then-current threat of nuclear war with his childhood memories of the Nazis. He took their loathing of the unalike and drive for achieving racial purity via mass exterminations, instilling the characteristics into the living, bubbling lumps of hate which have plagued the Doctor for almost six decades now.
In the programme’s mythology, the Daleks were so feared that even the Time Lords tried to avert their creation, using the Doctor as their agent, so as not to get their own hands dirty. It was to spark a Time War which was to threaten all of creation, as the two races vied for supremacy. Even though the Doctor fought with the Time Lords against the Daleks, it did not necessarily mean that they saw eye-to-eye, as there was a long and chequered history.
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The Doctor would once state that it took ten million years of absolute power to make the Time Lords corrupt, and accused them of being no better than some of the evils which he had fought. Despite all the protestations of being an isolationist species and refusing to interfere in the affairs of others, they often turned out to meddle, and sometimes acted as though they were gods, with the Doctor being only too aware of their flagrant hypocrisy.
In Doctor Who: Origins, writer Jody Houser shows us that even way back in the Doctor’s history, the Time Lords were guilty of some heinous acts, while always maintaining the veneer of superiority and enlightened detachment which belied the true nature of some of their number. Here, we find that although the Time Lords and Daleks were aeons away from encountering each other, the two races were perhaps more alike than the natives of Gallifrey would maybe care to admit.
Given a mission by the shadowy Division to take out a threat to the future of their home, the Doctor and new companion Taslo visited a colony world and found the residents to be a benign presence. What was even more surprising was then discovering that those people were Time Lords who had all acclimated to their new environment, and in regenerating had begun to look less humanoid, setting them apart from the Time Lords who still dwell on Gallifrey.
This is where Houser has played a master stroke, by exposing the rot at the very core of Gallireyan society, showing them up as being in some ways no better than the Daleks. There is no security threat to the future of their people, just elements of the hierarchy having a loathing of the off-world Time Lord colonists who are no longer seen as being pure, resulting in a secret drive of ethnic cleansing. Their big mistake, however, was in trying to use the Doctor as their tool, which perhaps explains just why she turned her back on them and became a fugitive.
With such a broad, scarcely marked canvas to be able to paint on, the opportunity which is presented here has certainly not been squandered by Houser, leading to some fresh, dynamic storytelling. Doctor Who: Origins lets us view an unfamiliar version of the character, laying all of the groundwork for the established Doctor we know and love.
Doctor Who: Origins is out now from Titan Comics.