Respectful Insolence

I can answer that question!

Since I’m still immersed in grant writing, to start the afternoon off, here’s one that I saw a week ago but never got around to answering. It’s a question from this week’s host of the Skeptics’ Circle, Bronze Dog, over at (appropriately enough) The Bronze Blog, who asks:

You’ve been captured by Daleks. You’re their legendary foe who always comes up with some clever way of thwarting their plans for universal domination. They’re equipped with a death ray, nigh-impenetrable armor, and a plunger that somehow works as a multitool.

Why don’t they just shoot you?

I can answer that one! Although many of the answers in the comments are quite good, I think I have the real answer. Just think about it. It’s the same reason that, when James Bond is captured, the villain doesn’t just have one of his henchmen take him out in the back and put a bullet in the back of his head, but instead goes into a long explanation of what he’s doing and how brilliant his plan is before picking an improbably ridiculous method of execution (laser beams, piranhas, G-force centrifuges, etc.), often with witty repartee like this:

James Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

Yes, it’s the very same reason!

As Dr. Evil would say, “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads!” Personally, my question would be: “Can I have a Dalek with something other than a frickin’ stalk with an electronic eye on it that’s so easily blinded?”

Comments

  1. #1 Dianne
    August 13, 2007

    Yes, it’s the very same reason!

    Yes, but what is that reason?

  2. #2 Thony C.
    August 13, 2007

    Yes, but what is that reason?

    It’s the same reason that nobody, in a suspense movie, ever turns on the light when they hear a strange noise in a dark room.

  3. #3 James
    August 13, 2007

    The Top 100 Things I’ll Do When I Become An Evil Overlord:
    http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html

    # My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.

    # My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.

    # My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.

    # Shooting is not too good for my enemies.

    # The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

    # I will not gloat over my enemies’ predicament before killing them.

    # When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say, “No.” and shoot him. No, on second thought I’ll shoot him then say “No.”

    # After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks’ time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.

    # I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled “Danger: Do Not Push”. The big red button marked “Do Not Push” will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

    # I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum — a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.

    …etc…

  4. #4 Eamon Knight
    August 13, 2007

    # I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum — a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.

    You mean, like the Bush administration does, right?

  5. #5 Dave
    August 13, 2007

    Now seems to be an appropriate time to dig up this classic bond-related xkcd comic:

    http://xkcd.com/123/

  6. #6 Justin Moretti
    August 13, 2007

    I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum…

    …unless I am the evil overlord in a badly written gay BDSM porn flick. Say, Fred Phelps: Prisoner of Sodomite America. (No, it doesn’t exist AFAIK; but now that I’ve mentioned the idea, no doubt someone will write it and film it.)

  7. #7 Meredith
    August 13, 2007

    The reason is simple: if the Daleks killed the Doctor, what would they do the next day? Why be an evil killing machine if you have no arch-nemisis

    (Alternative explanation: The Daleks have already killed the Doctor. However, because of all the problems and paradoxes inherent in time travel, the Doctor hasn’t gotten to that part of his personal timeline yet. Because the Daleks know they kill him at some other point in time, they also know they can’t kill him now, and so they don’t even try [sort of an Agrajag situation, from "Life the Universe, and Everything]).

  8. #8 James (another one)
    August 14, 2007

    Perhaps they don’t relaise the Time Lords have limited respawn and figure that killing him is an exercise in futility?

  9. #9 Joseph Hertzlinger
    August 14, 2007

    Let’s see… This blog has mentioned on various occasions Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, Dr. Who, and now Dr. Evil. I think I see a pattern.

  10. #10 scote
    August 14, 2007

    “# The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.”

    Hmmm…I think J.K. Rowling must have read this list, didn’t seem to help Lord Voldemort in the Deathly Hallows, though.

    At least Daleks are scarier than the “Rover” in the Prisoner series.

  11. #11 Ginger Yellow
    August 14, 2007

    I love XKCD so much.

    See also British comic Viz’s famous Top Tips:

    “Criminal masterminds! Should you capture the A-Team, do NOT lock them in a shed full of power tools, old machines and vehicles. Just shoot the bastards.”

    “International master criminals. Tell your guards to shoot James Bond in the head at the first opportunity.
    Under no circumstances give him a guided tour of your base, or leave him in the custody of attractive women in bikinis.”

  12. #12 Dianne
    August 14, 2007

    I think J.K. Rowling must have read this list, didn’t seem to help Lord Voldemort in the Deathly Hallows, though.

    Voldemort is one of the more sensible villains. He also (eventually) figured out that he should just shoot Harry on sight. Which didn’t help him either, but what can you do when the author isn’t on your side?

    My plan is to keep the object that is my one weakness in a pile of junk that I look at periodically and mumble about how I’m going to clean it all up someday, really. Given the amount of clutter on my desk right now, I think that that will guarantee that the hero will never find it. BWAHAHA.

  13. #13 Oldfart
    August 14, 2007

    I watched Tom Baker and the Daleks for years until it became a lullaby for me. It came on at 11pm where I lived and I had to be at work at 6am . As soon as it came on, my eyelids would start to close. Now what would I have done if they had killed off the good doctor in the first encounter? We all know it’s silliness just as the blonde running away from the monster always breaks a heel and twists her ankle as she is running. Normal women would kick off their heels as they were running but that wouldn’t be any fun……………..

  14. #14 Old Ari
    August 14, 2007

    Oh come on. It was a kiddie show.

  15. #15 Ginger Yellow
    August 14, 2007

    To address the question in the post, I can’t speak for old Who, but in the new series there’s actually a fairly decent explanation. The Daleks seem to have (variously, and ironically) fear, awe and respect for the Doctor – in the first episode of New Who, the captured Dalek tells him “You would make a good Dalek”. As a result of the Time Wars they’ve elevated him to this almost godlike position as archnemesis and destroyer of their species – and we know how much they like genocide. You get the sense they have a nagging fear he’ll be like River Tam and able to kill them with his brain.

  16. #16 Calli Arcale
    August 14, 2007

    My plan is to keep the object that is my one weakness in a pile of junk that I look at periodically and mumble about how I’m going to clean it all up someday, really. Given the amount of clutter on my desk right now, I think that that will guarantee that the hero will never find it. BWAHAHA.

    This strategy was actually employed by J Michael Strazynski, creator of “Babylon 5″. He had the entire series planned out (making modifications along the way as events required) and of course many people knew this — and desperately wanted to know how it was going to end up. Everyone believed he had the master outline stored in a highly encrypted file protected by passwords and firewalls and whatever technology could be applied to the situation. In reality, it was in an ordinary three-ring binder stored in plain sight on top of his desk. And it stayed secure because nobody knew that. ;-)

    While not a guaranteed strategy, security by obscurity does occasionally work.

    As to why the Daleks never manage to kill the Doctor, the reason is two-fold:

    1) They actually haven’t had as many opportunities as you might expect, given the situation.

    2) The laws of narrative causality override any attempt to actually kill the Doctor — though I must confess I had expected them to at least trigger a regeneration by this time.

  17. #17 Dianne
    August 14, 2007

    in the first episode of New Who, the captured Dalek tells him “You would make a good Dalek”.

    So on some level they’re hoping to recruit him and make him their ultimate weapon? That might also work for the Bond villains: they’re hoping that after the tour of their hideout, James will be so impressed he’ll say “cool, count me in”.

  18. #18 Brian X
    August 14, 2007

    A few other points worth mentioning — first, the Daleks surely know about Gallifreyans’ tendency to shape-shift during extreme physical trauma, so they can never really know that the person they have in hand is in fact the Doctor. For all they know the Doctor is never really there, just sending his ghouls (Vampire fans represent) to do his dirty work, and therefore there would be no point in killing them without trying to figure out whether “they” are in fact the Doctor.

    Second, since the Daleks do consider him a sort of boogeyman, they very well might feel that trying to destroy him without making damn sure they’ve done it might bring down supernatural wrath on their civilization (or, as may apply, the tattered fragments thereof).

  19. #19 Ginger Yellow
    August 15, 2007

    “For all they know the Doctor is never really there, just sending his ghouls (Vampire fans represent) to do his dirty work, and therefore there would be no point in killing them without trying to figure out whether “they” are in fact the Doctor.”

    Given the Dalek’s penchant for killing anything that isn’t a Dalek, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much bother.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.