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July 19, 2010

Cybermen and Daleks: Metaphors for religion?

Filed under: Atheism,Cybermen,Daleks,Doctor Who,Religion — The Other Weirdo @ 8:27 pm
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I’ve been watching Doctor Who, starting with the 2005 series. Of course, I’ve looked up the summaries of the previous twenty-odd series, though to get the full benefit of the 2005 series, it’s actually unnecessary to know very much about those early years. Enough is explained to get you by. Good thing, too, because there is no way anybody just coming into the 2005 series fresh is going to then slog through all those other episodes.

An interesting idea started forming in my mind as I had my first real exposure to the Daleks and the Cybermen, a pair of Doctor Who baddies who are really fun to watch on screen. It occured to me that the Daleks and the Cybermen, as seen on the screen, are nearly perfect metaphors for religion.

What are Daleks

Within the Doctor Who universe, the Daleks are a race of genetically engineered creatures encased within an armoured, tank-like device, bent on the complete destruction of all other lifeforms because… well, because, as the Doctor put it in the Season 1 episode “Dalek”, they honestly believe that they should die.

As such, they represent the virulently aggressive strains of religion, religions that will kill you out of hand for being different and for simply existing.

What are some of the features of the Daleks

  • Rage at everything different
  • Absolute belief in the Dalek way and command structure
  • Inability to question authority
  • Inability to accept change
  • They love to make a speech

Favourite catchphrases of the Daleks

  • Exterminate!
  • Any sort of command, repeated three times with increasing tone, pitch and intensity

Behaviour of the Daleks

The Daleks appear to be in a constant stage of rage. Whenever they get excited—which is almost all the time—they routinely shout a phrase three times with increasing intensity. While trying to make Rose Tyler predict the Doctor’s course of action, a Dalek shouted at her, “Predict! PREDICT! Predict!” This is accompanied by the visible shaking of their armoured base, as if they were a child in the midst of a temper tantrum, complete with stamping of the feet.

As a group, they are incapable of change and will destroy any one of them that dares to challenge the status quo. Even the virtually complete destruction of their entire race during the Time War proved unable to alter that. When one of the four surviving Daleks was able to perceive a truth beyond his own existence, the other three banded together and destroyed him.

They’re difficult to fight since they have forcefields that shrug off fire from human weapons, and they’re routinely surprised when people continue to resist anyway.

They’re fun to watch on-screen, like the train wreck in Wanted: you know people are going to die, but you just can’t look away.

What are the Cybermen

Cybermen are basically people who’ve had their brains ripped out and welded unto a metal frame and had all emotions suppressed. No doubt there are other things done to these people because as soon as a Cyberman is created, it immediately becomes militaristic and willing to kill for its people. What the Cybermen want collectively is to convert others to be like them, or failing that, to kill those that resist or, as they put it, suffer maximum deletion.

As such, they represent the more benign strains of religion, a religion that tries its damndest to convert you first and only if that doesn’t work will it kill you.

What are some of the features of the Cybermen

  • Lack of emotions because the pain of what they are hurts too much
  • Overriding belief that all humans(and I suppose humanoids) are desperate to be saved from their own humanity(humanoidity? :twisted: )
  • Conditioning is not perfect—strong enough human minds can survive the conversion and become anti-cybermen
  • Suffer under delusions of adequacy—they are really good at screwing up the lives of regular people, but no good whatsoever against the true fanatics, the Daleks

Favourite catchphrases of the Cybermen

  • Delete!
  • Maximum deletion

Behaviour of the Cybermen

The Cybermen are more reserved than the Daleks, more dignified somehow. They walk proudly, with balled fists, as if they spurn the earth on which they stand. They use force and intimidation to keep the populace cowed until they can be converted to Cybermen and are not averse to mind control devices. They’re driven by the need to convert all others to be like them, perhaps in the desire to share their own pain. They know nothing of love or mercy or even peace; they’re nothing but killing machines. Occasionally, a converted human is able to override the Cybermen programming from within his—or her—own metal chassis and usurp the armoured suit for his—or her—own purposes. Such a Cyberman must, of course, be destroyed by the others.

As a group, the Cybermen are cursed with delusions of adequacy. They’re really good at ruining normal people’s lives, and are therefore deluded into thinking they’re capable of facing the Daleks without overwhelming force. This leads a Dalek to quip that there is only one thing the Cybermen are better at than the Daleks, which is dying.

Behaviour of Religion

The Daleks, Cybermen and religions all behave the same way. They expect instant submission to their most outrageous demands, backed up by threats of dire retribution. They demand and expect unquestioning loyalty from its followers, with the apostates being cast out and destroyed. They are sublimely convinced of their superiority and inferiority of everyone else. They throw hissy fits whenever thwarted in some small way. Individual adherents of this or that religion will yell at the top of their voices that they can’t understand how others, especially unbelievers, can even talk of morality and why they aren’t out there doing what’s best of them without regard for anyone else, which for some strange reason always equates to raping and murdering and stealing. Then these adherents will stamp their feet in frustrations when unbelievers aren’t actually doing this. Even religions that won’t kill you outright for the smallest transgression still condemn you to the everlasting flames.

Religions believe they’re the sole way to the infinite; their arrogance leads to place limits on the infinite to make it fit with that religion’s ideas. They believe they can save you, and if that means your life, or your livelihood, then so be it. Religions try to deny the non-believers the right to do things their own way and assume that their way is the only true way, all others are false.

The Daleks and the Cybermen are therefore metaphors for religions, behaving in ways that are, though exxagerated, often bear striking similarity to religions. And like the Daleks and the Cybermen, religions also have favourite catchphrases, often spoken—shouted?—when doing something other people would disapprove of.

As a whole, religions scream at the top of their lungs, BELIEVE! BELIEVE! They get very angry when people show any signs of resistance or believing differently—especially when those people dare speak up about their own beliefs, or unbeliefs, as the case may be—, as if it reflects poorly on them. Religions are difficult to fight because, as a rule, they’re immune to logic and new ideas, and all religious thought revolves around thousands of years-old books and is judged on how well it fits in with existing writings.

1 Comment »

  1. I wondered about this, but mainly because they’re so hell-bent on “converting” people.

    Comment by Rowan — December 19, 2011 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

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