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Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Davros: history's worst industrial designer

I don't know why, but this particular bee chose today to start flying round my bonnet once more. I think I posted it in Nick Barlow's comments once but it has disappeared. Anyway. Daleks. How crap are they?

Since I am neither a stand-up comedian nor a guest on one of those "I Love The 80s" nostalgia TV shows ("eeeeee, them Daleks were right scary weren't they? And wasn't the Texan bar difficult to eat? Hey, do you remember the Euston Manifesto?"), I am not even going to bother with "the stairs thing". It was obviously the biggest Dalek-related issue, but the scriptwriters were eventually embarrassed into doing something about it[1], and have presumably chucked into the memory hole all the earlier episodes where important plot points turned on Daleks not being able to climb stairs. Whatever the heck, I say.

But even if we spot them the absurdly low skirt clearance and use of castors instead of, say, tank tracks, there are still a number of bizarre design decisions made at key stages during the development of the Dalek. Viz:

The eyestalk. Point one, the Dalek has a single eye and therefore cannot judge distance. Point two, that single eye is more or less unprotected and located on a great big eyestalk protruding three feet from its armoured body. This makes it trivially easy to render a Dalek blind and helpless by something as simple as hanging a hat off its eyestalk.

The exterminator. The exterminator is actually a pretty fine weapon, but it is mounted on a tiny little stub on the front of the Dalek, reducing its field of fire to a pretty small cone in the direction that the Dalek is facing. If you look at most tanks (and a Dalek is basically a fighting vehicle so I'd suggest the same design principles apply), then you'll see that the big sticky-out thing which rotates 360 degree is the gun and the little thing practically recessed within the body is the window. I don't understand why Davros thought it would be a good idea to reverse these principles.

The plunger. Quite the stupidest of the stupid. The only tool a Dalek has for manipulating objects is a single plumber's plunger sticking out from the body. Davros himself has two hands and uses them, so why did he not realise that a similar capability would be useful for Daleks? The complete inability of Daleks to manipulate small objects, or to hold two things at the same time, had massive practical consequences as it meant that they were always totally dependent on unreliable slave-races for any industrial or mining projects they carried out, with numerous galaxy-conquest plans falling apart for precisely this reason. And they never did anything about it! By the end of the last Doctor Who series the Daleks had genetically engineered themselves, were masters of interplanetary travel, and could fucking travel through time, but they still couldn't eat with a knife and fork. Unbelievable.

[1] As far as I can see, the writer who bit the bullet on this one was Ben Aaronovitch, brother of David. The episode in which it is explained that the Daleks intended to bring peace and democracy to the rest of the universe and that they were the true inheritors of the tradition of George Orwell is still forthcoming. Update: sorry, done that one

Update: and furthermore, despite all the pious words about Frodo "not being corrupted", I maintain that Lord of the Rings describes one of the worst-planned military expeditions possible. And given the total absence of post-invasion planning, I am pretty sure that there is an Elvish garrison still hanging around in Mordor a zillion years later, with Gandalf explaining that a premature exit would lead to civil war and we need to stay the course, while Galadriel mumbles some bullshit about Pottery Barn.
12 comments this item posted by the management 9/20/2007 02:01:00 AM

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