“Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.”

vlc 2011-03-26 18-01-28-59At the climax of ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ the Doctor has successfully executed his plan, tricking the Daleks into destroying their own world and then themselves. I think it is important to realise that this isn’t the Doctor turning the Daleks plan against them, this is all his doing.

He indicates early on that the Daleks are following him and that he intended they obtain the Hand of Omega. Since it has been in the 1960s since he left it there in his 1st incarnation I think we can assume that just prior to this adventure the Doctor did something to prompt them to follow him to that time zone, although they get there ahead of him.

We expect the Doctor to defeat evil but when does winning become acts of genocide? Might your own player characters go to far in their desire to eradicate their enemies and in doing so commit terrible acts?

It can be difficult for player characters to know when they’ve gone too far. If they’ve forced an enemy to flee they might feel they are justified in destroying their ship as they’re leaving, for fear that they might return later. They might kill a captured opponent so they can never trouble them again.

If this continues the morality of their actions must be questioned. Is it right for them to destroy an alien races city to prevent them from attacking another world, even if innocent civilians die as well? Could they infect them with disease to weaken their forces? When does the end justify the means?

There are many ways to handle this situation. Firstly, if their actions are motivated by a fear of what will happen if they don’t take them then assure them that they have nothing to worry about. Don’t punish the player characters for not eliminating an opponent.

Out of game discuss how your campaign can’t have reoccurring opponents if the player characters keep trying to wipe out the whole race every game. In order to generate new stories with these aliens some must get away at the end of the game.

The web of time can be used to prevent the player characters from destroying a race. Just as in the ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ the Doctor realises that he can’t wipe them out as some things are better with the Daleks the player characters should understand that history requires that race to still be alive, for better or worse. Those who still proceeding with mass extermination may very well find the Time Lords, or other temporal agencies post-Time War, targeting the time travellers.

Other characters question the player characters actions. In ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ Ace has to ask the Doctor if they did good. Even the Doctor doesn’t seem sure, saying that time will tell.

If the player characters get a reputation for destroying whole races then others will fear them, regardless of whether they had good cause. Even the most noble of species will worry that these time travellers might eventually decide that they are not fit to live.

You can also hold up a mirror to the player characters by having them encounter others who are carrying out similar acts. For example the time travellers might find themselves on a human colony which is being preyed upon by carnivorous insects native to the planet.

The colonists begin a campaign to eradicate these creatures, using their advanced technology to burn down the jungle where they live and chemical weapons to poison their eggs so not a single insect is left alive.

The colonists aren’t just defending themselves, they’re destroying a whole species. After all, the colonists were the invaders and the insects were just following their instincts. Too late the colonists find that the insects were vital to planets eco-system which begins to crumble around them.

Such an encounter can make player characters realise what they’ve been doing and hopefully change their ways.

My example of the insects also brings into question the nature of the alien race that is being eliminated. Some monsters work on primal instincts. Even the Daleks do what they do because it is hard wired into them. Can we judge them for following these desires any more than we can judge a shark for needing to feed?

It is this same instinctive behaviour that also reduces the options available to the player characters. Draconians, Ice Warriors and even Sontarans can be negotiated or bargained with. There is no such chance of peace with Daleks, Cybermen or wirrn.

There are times when such extreme actions are justified. We don’t know what provoked the Doctor into putting his plan into motion. We only know that Ace wasn’t privy to them, as the Doctor has to explain what he is doing as they go along.

It very well might be that the Doctor saw a potential time line, much as he did in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ that warned him of what the Daleks would do if he didn’t interfere. Although drastic the Daleks aren’t completely destroyed, just severely set back. This might be what the Doctor intended in order to avert the events he foresaw.

As a general rule of thumb the player characters shouldn’t kill more people (or monsters) than those that they’ve saved. For example killing one monster to save a city is okay while destroying over a hundred alien crew members by blowing up their ship to save the life of 5 human colonists isn’t.

You can explore these ethical questions within your games. The player characters might have an easy way to stop the enemy but doing so will cause a huge loss of life or injure innocents. The player characters themselves should decide whether they should do it any way or find another solution.

vlc 2011-03-26 18-02-15-50The ending of ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ is very down beat. A Dalek disintegrates through sheer despair, Mike is dead and Ace holds a crying, traumatised little girl. The Doctor and Ace can’t even bring themselves to enter the church for the funeral. Not knowing if they’ve done the right thing they leave, more work to be done.

This is the tone that the Virgin ‘New Adventures’ books maintained. The Doctor was a manipulator and people died because of his grandiose plans, driving his companions away from him.

Although dark they were certainly entertaining and regularly made the reader ask whether the Doctor’s actions were right. Such questioning of morality should always be encouraged, especially in your own games.

In closing I’d like to highlight that even as the Doctor sees the fruition of his plan, the death of thousands of Daleks, he has pity for Davros. Such loss of life should never be celebrated but regretted.

This entry was posted in 7th Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks. Bookmark the permalink.

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