Why doesn’t anyone remember the Daleks? Doctor Who ‘plot hole’ explained

There's a very good explanation – a few, in fact – as to why Revolution of the Daleks isn't making a continuity blunder.

Doctor Who – the new-look

The action-packed first trailer for Doctor Who‘s upcoming New Year’s special Revolution of the Daleks gave us our first real clues as to the plot of the bumper-length episode, with redesigned version of the Skarosian fiends apparently being employed as “defence drones” by the British government (led by Harriet Walter’s Jo Patterson).

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It’s a development that’s raised a few eyebrows in Doctor Who fandom – and not just because Winston Churchill tried this whole shtick back in 2010 episode Victory of the Daleks, with his attempts to use the Daleks as weapons in his war against the Axis powers going about as well as you’d expect.

No, the question on many a Who fan’s lips was… why doesn’t anyone on Earth remember the Daleks? From the aforementioned incident with Churchill, or from numerous other incidents that saw them invade our planet? Why is mankind seemingly accepting Jo Patterson’s “drones” as its saviours, rather than shouting “You’re mad, ain’tcha?! Those are the freakin’ Daleks!!”.

Well, there’s actually an explanation for that – a few, in fact.

Yes, across its 57-year history, Doctor Who has seen the Daleks occupying our home more than once. The first on-screen example was in the aptly-titled 1965 story The Dalek Invasion of Earth – though this serial is generally accepted by fans as being set in the 22nd century, so wouldn’t have any bearing on what happens in Revolution of the Daleks (yes, in 1975’s Genesis of the Daleks, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor seems to refer these events as having taken place “in the year 2000” but we’ll be generous and assume he got his dates muddled up, or was intentionally trying to mislead Dalek creator Davros, who’d wheedled the information out of him.)

There have, though, been multiple Dalek incursions on Earth more recently, all of which take place before their first televised Earth invasion and, crucially, before Revolution of the Daleks – both on a smaller (the events of 1989’s Remembrance of the Daleks) and larger scale (the full-scale occupations seen in 2006 two-parter Army of Ghosts / Doomsday and 2008’s The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End).

Doctor Who – the Daleks in Doomsday (2006)
BBC

Doctor Who first attempted to address mankind’s lack of Dalek awareness once the show became more continuity conscious in the 1980s – arriving in historical London alongside a Skaro squadron, the Doctor’s ’80s companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) questioned why no-one from her time remembered a civil war between Imperial and Renegade Daleks playing out in 1960s Shoreditch.

“This is Earth, 1963 – someone would have noticed, I’d have heard about it,” she protests, but the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) counters her argument with some fan-pleasing references to classic episodes. “Do you remember the Zygon gambit with the Loch Ness monster? Or the Yetis in the underground? Your species has the most amazing capacity for self-deception.”

The implication is that we’re is living in denial, that the notion of a conflict between alien races taking place on our streets was just so wild that our tiny human brains couldn’t handle it – an idea that might’ve seemed like a far-fetched notion at one time, but which in an age of “fake news” and mistrust in the media feels, depressingly, rather easier to swallow.

It took over two decades before Doctor Who offered another explanation as to why repeatedly being conquered by the Daleks wasn’t so much as a blip on humanity’s radar – and this time, the reason given was rather more “timey-wimey” in nature…

In 2010’s Victory of the Daleks (the aforementioned Churchill/Daleks outing), the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) is left baffled when companion Amy (Karen Gillan) displays total ignorance with regards his greatest foes. “They invaded your world, remember?” he says. “Planets in the sky. You don’t forget that.”

Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks
BBC

In fact, she hasn’t. These events – series two’s Battle of Canary Wharf and series four’s Earth heist and war in the Medusa Cascade – haven’t been wiped from Amy Pond’s memory but erased from existence altogether, falling victim to the cracks in time which plague the Doctor throughout series five and were created by the Silence when they blew up his TARDIS.

Having rubbed out some of planet Earth’s more notable meetings with extraterrestrials – not just the 2009 Dalek invasion of Earth, but also the humongous CyberKing standing astride London back in 1851 (as seen in 2008 special The Next Doctor) – the cracks were finally sealed in series five’s finale The Big Bang.

But what, I hear you ask, about Resolution? If the cracks which erased all of humanity’s previous Dalek encounters are now closed, surely the events of Doctor Who’s 2019 New Year’s Day episode still stand? (Presuming of course that the cracks, despite now being sealed, couldn’t have previously erased events which were yet to happen… wibbly wobbly etc.)

Well, yes – there’s nothing in the trailer for Revolution of the Daleks to suggest that the human race doesn’t recall the events of Resolution. In fact, Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall told Radio Times that Revolution is explicitly “a sequel” to the 2019 special, with the 2021 episode’s new-look Daleks having their “origins in the Reconnaissance Dalek” from Resolution, according to executive producer Matt Strevens.

“In a sense, that Dalek gives birth to this next iteration that we see in Revolution of the Daleks,” Strevens said.

What if, after the events of Resolution, the British government – which had seen its armed forces easily overcome by the Reconnaissance Dalek – decided to try and harness that destructive power for itself? A damaged, burnt-out husk of a Dalek casing was left behind in GCHQ after all… potentially enough hardware for our top technicians to rebuild? Enter: Jo Patterson’s defence drones. (Read more on our theory about these man-made Daleks.)

So there you have it. Any Dalek invasions of Earth pre-Resolution? We’re either wilfully ignorant or they just didn’t happen, take your pick. As for Resolution itself and that lone Dalek’s attack on our planet, far from forgotten, this incident looks set to be key to what happens next. ‘Plot hole’ exterminated!

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Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks airs on New Year’s Day at 6:45pm on BBC One. Check out our guide to the best Christmas TV for 2020, or find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide.