‘Into the Dalek’ introduces Rusty. Human rebels discovered him drifting in space and assumed he was deactivated. It was only when they tried to open up that they awakened him. They discovered that this Dalek wanted to kill the rest of his race.
This is presented as being good. This is Clara’s assessment when the Doctor describes it promising to kill the Daleks and he proclaims its malfunction has bestowed upon it a sense of morality. But is this really good?
This is an important question and can define the morality and actions of characters within your own campaign. Players take the role of heroes but what does that actually entail?
Here merely desiring to kill Daleks is enough to meet that criteria. Yet isn’t Rusty just as genocidal as before? It is just now the Doctor, Clara and the rebels find themselves in agreement over who should die.
The motivation for Rusty’s decision is that he now believes that it is futile to resist life yet this doesn’t explain why he would hate the Daleks. By his own admission their actions don’t affect the basic fact that life will return, no matter how many stars they destroy or lives they snuff out.
Later he has the hatred of the Doctor to reignite his desire to kill his own species but this is a tenuous reason. It doesn’t appear that he wants to kill them for moral or philosophical reasons. He is killing them because he finds their actions pointless and someone else hates them as well.
This leads to an even larger question. Are the Daleks evil? The Doctor certainly thinks so but time and again we are shown that the birthed boiling with hatred and then brainwashed by their cortex vault into maintaining that hate.
Isn’t free will a vital part of morality? If someone can not control their actions, if they aren’t making objective value decisions, how can they be described as good or evil? It could be argued that it is not what a person does but their intentions that define them.
This can be applied to PCs. They are the heroes of the story but what motivates them? Are they only interested in killing their enemies or will they seek out a peaceful solution, even if it is more difficult?
An adventure can be designed to test this. The PCs could be presented with an opportunity to obliterate them or prevent them from causing any harm. If PCs are aware of their options this might open up debate about what is the right thing to do.
The morality of NPCs can be called into question as well. The PCs might find an ally during an adventure only to discover that they are doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons. This could work well in a UNIT campaign where a soldiers violent actions might be an outlet for their bloodthirsty nature.
There might also be a situation like ‘Into the Dalek’ where the NPCs actions are due to a malfunction. This could be a glitch in the cyber programming of a Cyberman or maybe a brain tumour is affecting the decisions of Zygon. Do they repair the damage no matter the cost?
A new dimension can be added to the enemies that the PCs encounter by examining their own morality. Do the bad guys know they are bad? Could they imagine that they are the heroes of the story and see the PCs are the villains?
Like the Daleks the Cybermen have their need to survive hardwired into their very being. Their cyber programming drives them to convert unwilling subjects. Can they be described as evil or just following their programming?
Sontarans are soldiers, breed for war. Strax is an example of a Sontaran who has broken free of following orders (just about) and could now be considered a good guy. Like the Ice Warriors he demonstrates how individuality and the freedom to choose ones actions can allow them define their own morality.
Individuals can also be looked at in this light. The Master might be considered to have free will and take actions that he knows will cause others harm or kill them. Yet with the revelation that his mind was affected as a youth the argument could be made that he has no choice in his actions either due to mental illness. His incarnation as Yana shows that it was possible for the Master to be good.
The myths and legends associated with the Pandorica hint at how species who oppose the Doctor view him. PCs might find they are similarly painted in a bad light. They might be tempted to claim they are forces for good but will they also re-examine their actions?
Not that anyone would argue that beings without free will shouldn’t be opposed. Knowing that such races have no choice can, however, allow room for understanding and maybe mercy.
Rather than setting out to wipe out such species PCs might instead work towards finding ways to cure or rehabilitate them. If this isn’t possible they can seek ways to isolate them to prevent them from causing harm to themselves and others.
PCs should not simply find a way to impose their own morality on to a race. It might be possible to use brainwashing to turn Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans into forces of good but if the choice isn’t theirs the moment their programming fails they’ll return to their old ways.
If the PCs understand that those they face have their own morality it can be scarier when the encounter those who actively make the choice to be evil.
For a dark twist a PC could find out that their own behaviour has been manipulated by others. What if they were only heroes because someone had programmed them to be that way. Given the subject of Doctor Who this could involve their own past being changed to create the desired response.
Would this devalue what they’ve done? Would they continue their current path or turn evil just out of spite?