Godel, Escher, Dalek (part 2)

Today: two versions of the same scene.

Those of you who were reading back in October may recall a lengthy post I wrote based around the theory of palindromic Doctor Who. Modelled around a passage in the Hofstadter in which Achilles and the tortoise have a conversation that runs forwards and then backwards and still makes sense, I wondered if you could apply the same idea to certain scenes in our favourite show. The first sequence I discovered that worked was the moment in ‘Utopia’ in which the Doctor and Martha encounter Jack, who’s just fallen off the back of the TARDIS on its journey to the end of the universe. Running it backwards almost worked, and added some tonal ambiguity to an otherwise dull scene.

You’ll notice in the comments that a user calling themselves Emfour suggested a follow-up:

DALEK: Identify yourself!

CYBERMAN: You will identify first.

DALEK: State your identity!

CYBERMAN: You will identify first.

DALEK: Identify!

This, of course, comes from ‘Doomsday’, specifically the scene in which the Daleks and Cybermen meet first time and we discover that a conversation between them is about as interesting as being in a Yahoo! chat room (and I spent quite a lot of time in Yahoo! chat rooms before I was married, so I know whereof I speak). It’s a tedious scene, but it was a dream to edit because neither side moves their lips. This meant that synching up the unscored audio with the onscreen action was one of the easiest things I’ve ever had to do.

So I did it twice.

In for a penny, in for a pound, right? While the Cybermen and Daleks are playing a metaphorical Pong match, the Doctor and Jackie are panicking. There are a great many quick exchanges and quite a lot of repetition, but it sort of works.


And because I’m nice like that, here’s a transcript. For the sake of simplicity, all location references are removed, and all Daleks are amalgamated into one.

DALEK: Identify yourselves.

CYBERMAN: You will identify first.

DALEK: State your identity.

CYBERMAN: You will identify first.

DALEK: Identify!

MICKEY: It’s like Stephen Hawking meets the Speaking Clock.

CYBERMAN: That answer is (??) and illogical. You will modify.

DALEK: Daleks do not take orders.

CYBERMAN: You have identified as Daleks.

DALEK: Outline resembles the inferior species known as Cybermen.

JACKIE: Rose said about the Daleks. She was terrified of them. What have they done to her, Doctor? Is she dead?

DOCTOR: Phone.

JACKIE: What?

DOCTOR: Phone!

CYBERMAN: We followed in the wake of your sphere.

DALEK: Long range scans confirm the presence of crude cybernetic constructs on worldwide scale.

DOCTOR: She’s answered. She’s alive. Why haven’t they killed her?

JACKIE: Well, don’t complain!

DOCTOR: They must need her for something.

DALEK: We must protect the Genesis Ark.

DOCTOR: The Genesis Ark?

CYBERMAN: Our species are similar, though your design is inelegant.

DALEK: Daleks have no concept of elegance.

CYBERMAN: This is obvious. But consider, our technologies are compatible. Cybermen plus Daleks. Together, we could upgrade the Universe.

DALEK: You propose an alliance?

CYBERMAN: Together, we could upgrade the Universe. Cybermen plus Daleks. This is obvious. But consider, our technologies are compatible.

DALEK: Daleks have no concept of elegance.

CYBERMAN: Our species are similar, though your design is inelegant.

DOCTOR: The Genesis Ark?

DALEK: We must protect the Genesis Ark.

DOCTOR: They must need her for something.

JACKIE: Well, don’t complain!

DOCTOR: She’s answered. She’s alive. Why haven’t they killed her?

DALEK: Long range scans confirm the presence of crude cybernetic constructs on worldwide scale.

DOCTOR: Phone.

JACKIE: What?

DOCTOR: Phone!

JACKIE: Rose said about the Daleks. She was terrified of them. What have they done to her, Doctor? Is she dead?

DALEK: Outline resembles the inferior species known as Cybermen.

CYBERMAN: You have identified as Daleks.

DALEK: Daleks do not take orders.

CYBERMAN: You will modify.

MICKEY: It’s like Stephen Hawking meets the Speaking Clock.

DALEK: Identify!

CYBERMAN: You will identify first.

DALEK: State your identity.

CYBERMAN: You will identify first.

DALEK: Identify yourselves.

But we don’t need to bother with all this, because it works just as well – better, even – if you take the first few lines of dialogue and loop them, ad nauseum.

I have a feeling that a better solution to the problem would have been to implement some sort of temporal loop so that both parties had to relive the conversation in this way until they rusted into oblivion. Countless deaths could have been prevented, and we’d have been spared that excruciating scene on the beach. Why am I not working for the BBC? For that matter, why isn’t Emfour?

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2 thoughts on “Godel, Escher, Dalek (part 2)

  1. marcostmc

    Man, you are a genius. Managed to intermingle my two passions. Here’s a thing: do you recall that episode from Classic Who that is itself inspired in an Escher painting? If I’m not mistaken, that episode was called Castrovalva, named before a painting of the same name. The episode deals with many of the concepts Escher explored in his works, such as recursion, figure/ground (I believe), and tangledness. I guess you could say that when two things are product of genius minds, they may often share some resemblances. Because of that, I believe Doctor Who has other countless references to the topics Hofstadter wrote in GEB, and I’d love a compilation of those. Well, maybe one day!

    • reverend61

      Thank you very much!

      Now, if I’m honest, Castrovalva is a story I’ve never watched. But it’s on my to-do list: my wife and I are working our way through Baker, and we may not stop at Logopolis because Castrovalva does sort of finish a story.

      That said, I may just watch it out of sequence to get a handle on what you’ve told me. Your point about the whole of Doctor Who containing references to GEB is a curious one and I’d have to actually read the damned thing before I corroborate – but if it’s true, there could be a lot of mileage in this!

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