Friday, August 17, 2012

Dalek Vs. Jedi

I was asked about this a day or two ago, in my (apparent) capacity as expert on both Daleks and Jedi...and while it may be egotistical of me, I thought that people might be interested in my response. In a battle between a Dalek and a Jedi, who would win?

The specific question I was asked to weigh in on at first was, "Would a Dalek be affected by a Jedi's telekinesis?" This seems like a pretty good place to start, as telekinesis is one of the best weapons in a Jedi's arsenal. (Which brings up the question of why they never use it in lightsaber duels, but I'm willing to handwave that away with the assumption that equally matched Jedi either keep each other too busy with lightsaber attacks for either to bring to mind the requisite TK focus, or equally matched Jedi can block each other's telekinesis through some sort of non-visually-discernable means. I bring this up to demonstrate that I can BS with the best of them.)

The answer, I felt, is that yes, Daleks are somewhat vulnerable to Jedi telekinesis. Not totally--I think a Dalek's armor/force field, generally demonstrated to be proof against most projectile weapons, is too tough to be crushed or warped by a Jedi's telekinetic powers. Likewise, Jedi abilities have never been shown to be able to work through solid objects, so the Kaled mutant inside is probably safe from having its life-support tubes yanked out or something similar. But could a Jedi knock a Dalek over, or spoil its aim by moving the gunstick around? Yes.

Which is probably a good thing, because Dalek weaponry is generally portrayed as being not a cutting beam or a projectile, but a packet of energy that "detonates" on contact, creating a disruptive (or possibly explosive) effect that scrambles internal organs and bursts cells. In other words, the Jedi tactic of batting aside blaster bolts would be about as effective as using a baseball bat to deflect a Molotov cocktail. The first Jedi to fight the first Dalek would probably be in for a nasty surprise.

The second one, though, would probably fare better. Telekinesis could keep the Dalek's gunstick pointing in the wrong direction (or spin the Dalek's middle section around to face away) long enough for the Jedi to get into lightsaber range...and lightsabers, traditionally speaking, have been shown to be able to cut through anything. (We could argue the strength of the force-field at the lightsaber's core versus the strength of the force-field surrounding the Dalek (as exhibited in 'Doomsday', natch) but it'd be a moot point. There's not enough evidence to judge, and writerly fiat would trump real-world physics here.) So basically, the Jedi could slice up the Dalek like a layer cake, albeit a large one with a very hideous exotic dancer inside.

So the answer is ultimately "yes". After a particularly hideous casualty to serve as a tactical lesson, a Jedi could take on a Dalek. The only problem is...there's very rarely just "a" Dalek. The Dalek philosophy tends to be, "Why send in a Dalek when you can send in two thousand Daleks to do the same job?" They're also not shy on using strategies that involve expendable Dalek troops. So after the first few Daleks bite it, the Daleks are either going to attack in numbers too massive for the Jedi to deal with, or they're just going to start self-destructing whenever a Jedi gets close to them and banking on the fact that they have more Daleks than the Jedi do Jedi. ("Jedi Do Jedi" is, of course, a fanfilm that Lucas came down pretty hard on with the cease and desists.)

If you want, you can factor in the Jedi Mind Trick, but let's face it--the Jedi Mind Trick never works in the big fights. In 'Feng Shui' terms, it succeeds against unnamed characters only. Random Dalek that you have to distract so that you can sneak past? Weak-willed. Angry Dalek exploding six inches away from you? Bad news for the Jedi.

Ultimately, I think that the Daleks would win through overwhelming force, which is pretty much did in the Jedi order last time, too. Be fun to watch, though.

15 comments:

Jugular Josh said...

I can't believe that I've become that guy who posts on a blog that he reads but has never previously posted to say, "Your analysis of Dalek vs. Jedi was deeply flawed!", and yet here I am.

Even as a kid, watching them Saturday nights on Public television, I could never take the Daleks seriously. You can't lose in every appearance and still be a credible threat. I remember a 4th Doctor story where he blinds a Dalek by hanging his floppy hat on its eyestalk, then takes a merry-go-round ride on it as it spins around impotently. In Journey's End, I thought Rose and Sarah Jane were riding along the Dalek, my wife thought they were pushing it along the floor, but either way, it doesn't seem like these things should engender the pants-wetting terror we always see from the main characters. Oh noes, Daleks are invading! Just like they did last year. And the year before that. And, yes, Virginia, the year before that. I think we'll manage.

And, of course, part of that is due to the structure of the show. If the Daleks win big, there's not going to BE any show. However, I think you're giving short shrift to the Jedi.

The Jedi have been all over the place with regard to power level. It seems that you limited them to what was seen in the movies, and I'll do so too, with one exception that's to the Dalek's advantage. In the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, which was as superb as the movie was awful, author Mathew Stover states that the reason that the clones fared so well against the Jedi was that they acted without malice, and there was nothing to tip off the Jedi's precognition. The same factor would almost certainly be in play with the Daleks.

...and I'll pause at this moment to say that I thought it was odd that you used an example from Feng Shui, because that's not the most well-known frame of reference. Then I clicked around and saw you had written all of my favorite supplements for it. So, you rock!

Back to Daleks and Jedi. I'm not sure if I buy the argument about exploding, anti-lightsaber energy torpedoes

I suppose an infinite number of Daleks could overcome a finite number of Jedi. That's true, but not particularly informative, as the same could be said of an infinite number of chihuahuas. However, for most of the time of the Jedi Order's existence, they had the support of the Republic and could call on it it. If the Daleks are really attacking with overwhelming force, I think that you're stacking the deck against the Jedi by assuming that they stand somewhere on open plain all by themselves and wait to be slaughtered. True, the Republic, didn't have a standing army for a long time, but they've got a bunch of spaceships that can be used for warlike purposes. We see the Jedi as much in ships as we do in melee.

One on one, I'd probably give it to the Jedi. Small units, it would be a lot closer, but if we go with the exploding Dalek projectiles and the invisibility to precognition, probably the Daleks. Every Dalek versus every Jedi, the Daleks. There are just too many of them. The Dalek Empire versus the Republic, I'd give it to the Republic.

D. R. McLeod said...

In response to the main post: Actually, force powers can be used through solid objects. In Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader was able to force-choke Admiral Ozzel through a video screen, while they were both in different rooms of their Star Destroyer. It's likely that a Jedi needs to know where somebody is in order to use the Force on them, but they could probably crush a Dalek without getting him out of the armor.

In response to Jugular Josh: I think the Daleks are incapable of acting without malice. They're nothing but angry tentacled balls of hatred, who lash out against all other sentient life in the universe because they hate it so fecking much. Maybe if this were the Cybermen the no malice rule would apply, but not the Daleks.

John Seavey said...

The movie didn't present it as, "The clone troopers are invisible to Jedi precognition because they bear no malice" (which is nonsensical at best, because they were acting under the orders of a Sith Lord whose malice is so great that he started a galactic war just so he could wipe out the Jedi, so it's clearly not "malice" that trips their precognition), as much as "The Jedi are losing their precognition because they have, in some indefinable sense, lost their way, and the prophecy is important in restoring the balance they have lost, also in some indefinable sense, because I, George Lucas, have better things to do than to backfill this for the audience."

Likewise, for most of the time of the Jedi Order's existence, they had the support of the Republic which meant exactly squat, because the Republic didn't have a standing army until Palpatine took charge. You do point out that the battle could take place in space. This does not improve the Jedi's odds. Daleks are capable of functioning in vacuum, and have shown themselves to be far more maneuverable than any 'Star Wars' spaceship (all of which have turn radii like a conventional aircraft, while Daleks can stop dead, strafe sideways, et cetera.) A fight between a Jedi starfighter and a squad of Daleks would be brutal and short.

And "force powers can be used through solid objects"...I wouldn't say that 'Empire' proves that. My counter-example would be 'Phantom Menace', where two Jedi have to cut their way through a door with a lightsaber rather than do anything to the people on the other side. I think the implication is that you have to have line of sight on your target, even if cameras and monitors can be involved. (I'm sure there's an Expanded Universe story with blind Jedi who use TK, but we do not want to get into dubious-canonicity stories in all this, because Terry Nation loved writing Dalek stories where they were invincible super-warriors.)

D. R. McLeod said...

Well, in Phantom Menace, what exactly are the Jedi going to do to the people on the other side of the door? They're Jedi on a diplomatic mission, they're not going to just choke them out or fling them against the walls, even in self-defense.

And we saw in A New Hope that Jedi don't need to see anything to use their powers. Blocking lasers with the blast shield down was literally Luke's first trick in Jedi School, and on Dagobah he was able to do TK with his eyes closed. That may not look like much, but it's hard to even grab something off your desk with your hands when your eyes are closed, let along pick up something off the ground with your mind. (And yeah, in the EU there's an entire species of blind force users, but we won't get into that.)

But even if the Jedi do need line-of-sight, it's not as if the Daleks are hiding behind a wall of lead and the Jedi have no idea where they are. They could tell that the Dalek is inside the mobile pepperpot. That's about as near as makes no difference to line of sight as you're going to get.

Jugular Josh said...

D. R. McLeod, good points on the malice. That was a bad argument.

Also, I haven't watched the prequels, geez, maybe since they came out, but I think it's explicitly stated that Jedi reflexes are a manifestation of precognition, in that the Jedi will begin reacting to events before they occur. So I'm not even sure about the exploding Daleks.

True, the Republic didn't have a standing army. I admitted as much in my original reply. A number of planetary systems did, however, and the Republic is an enormous, space-faring, galaxy-spanning organization. Even if the planetary systems couldn't or wouldn't contribute forces, the Republic could shift to war footing a la the US in Word War II.

John Seavey said...

@Jugular Josh: Fair enough, let's look at "people in spaceships" or "blaster-equipped humans on the ground" versus Daleks, as well. Again, we get into the problem of maneuverability; Daleks are essentially a swarm of one-man X-Wings that are capable of stopping dead, 90-degree or even bootlegger turns, and weaponry that is probably on par. This does not improve the odds for the Republic. :)

On the ground, your average modestly armed-and-armored trooper (anything up to a stormtrooper, say) is vulnerable to Dalek weaponry, and carries a weapon that (assuming equivalency of "laser" level technology across continuities) can't hurt a Dalek. Calling in these guys as reinforcements to the Jedi is like going and getting your little brother when you're getting beaten up. :)

Perhaps at the capital ship level, we'd start to see an advantage; after all, we don't see Dalek saucers much in battle. (The godawful Gatiss episode seemed to establish them as pretty vulnerable, but the ships they were fighting all used Dalek technology, so who really knows?) But then again, use of the full Dalek advantage would have to bring up the fact that they have time travel technology and nobody in 'Star Wars' does. They could theoretically wipe out the Republic before space travel was invented. :) I'm trying to limit the scope of this to avoid such things.

And the relevant discussion is between Yoda and Mace, by the way; they explicitly state that Jedi precognition is failing, and the new generation can barely see any distance into the future. The prophecy is explicitly referenced as the source/possible cure for such an issue, although again, it's not stated how or why. Bbut by the end of 'Revenge', they're clearly not adept enough to avoid being shot in the back. The clear implication is that this is prophecy-related.

@D. R. McLeod: They don't necessarily know; there's a lot of room in there for something as relatively small as a Dalek embryo. Maybe they could use life-sensing capabilities to find it and force-something it, but maybe not. It's pretty sketchy, mostly because Lucas defined things only as much as he needed to in order to tell the story. (See "Jedi Mind Trick, and Why It's Used About Five Times In Six Movies.")

John Seavey said...

Oh, and Daleks can fire backwards. Nasty advantage in a dogfight. (Really, you'd think that X-Wings would maybe be designed with a tailgunner?)

Jugular Josh said...

Seavy! I thought of the time travel angle today and I wanted to be the one to bring it up!

Tone being so hard to read online, I got the impression that I was irritating you with my questions, so I was ready to bow out of the conversation. I started writing my own analysis and I was about ready to post it elsewhere when I saw you had replied.

I'm not sure that lasers/blasters would be ineffective. I think it's more a question of the Dalek forcefield/armor being good enough to stop most of the stuff thrown at them from insufficiently advanced societies. In the first episode of new series where we see a Dalek, the Doctor shows up with an alien weapon out of Van Statten's collecttion and he acts like it's capable of destroying the Dalek and they *are* vulnerable to their own weapons. (And while it seems like a design flaw to include a weapon capable of harming your fellows or yourself (particularly when taking into account the Dalek predilection for firing blindly when the eyestalk is damaged), I think it hints at something deeper within Dalek psychology.)

So there is certainly some support for handheld weapons capable of putting the hurt on them. And the Daleks were a lot less impressive back in the old series, but it sounds like we're discussing the new ones exclusively.

I guess I'll accede the point about the prophecy. I think the novelization of RotS is really good. I'm pretty sure that it never contradicts the movie at any point, but when it comes across something in the movie that seemed ridiculous, it provides some background knowledge or framing for the scene to show that the thing that seemed ridiculous really kind of makes sense in context. I've internalized the book to such an extent that it's become my personal canon, and I have to be reminded sometimes that it's not actual canon. The prophecy/loss of prescience bit was a muddled mess in the movie, and my recollection is that it kind of tapered off without real resolution and that's really fine by me.

I can't remember if it's official that one needs Jedi reflexes to block something moving as fast as a blaster bolt, but that was always the implication and I don't think there's anything to contradict it. My reading of the exchange between Yoda and Mace implies a weakening/blocking of longer term foresight. They still can see very short term into the future in an instinctive way, allowing them to tear up the pod race circuit or ensure that the lightsabers are in the proper to position to block something that moves faster than they can move their arms, but they're no longer capable of winning the lottery every week.

We're nearing the limits of my knowledge about Daleks, I'm afraid. I'm much more familiar with the old series than the new one. The Movellans, now they would tear up the Jedi, amirite?

John Seavey said...

@Jugular Josh: Nope, you're not irritating me. If anything, I'm worried that I'm sounding too dismissive. :) I am listening, I promise.

There is support for handheld weapons being able to hurt Daleks, I agree (and I think you're really on to something with the idea that Daleks would consciously design a weapon so nasty and brutal that they couldn't survive it themselves) but the main evidence for them being pretty invulnerable to hand-held stuff is the end of Season Two, where Cybermen (themselves generally portrayed as no slouches in the killing department) fire scores of energy blasts at the Daleks, who wade through them unconcerned. That's a scene that's pretty persuasive in suggesting that you have to be packing something very heavy to take on a Dalek. I'd certainly say that a capital ship laser would vaporize one (assuming it could hit) and a starfighter-level weapon would probably take one out too. (Again, though, I think maneuverability trumps this. Daleks make TIE fighters look clumsy.) Maybe, just maybe, you could scale it down to the point where a tripod-mounted blaster cannon would do in a Dalek. But I just can't see a blaster pistol or blaster rifle hurting one. And a tripod-mounted blaster is very stationary, with limited scope of fire. You'd have to be very smart in where you placed one to be able to take out more than a few Daleks before you were swarmed.

The question of whether Jedi reflexes constitutes a limited form of foresight...it's interesting, and I'm willing to grant it, but I'm not sure whether it matters. Whether it's pure reflexive speed or limited foresight, I'm not sure it allows them enough leeway to avoid an explosion. Especially because we don't know the blast radius of a Dalek suicide bomber. :) Likewise, I don't know if they would "see" far enough into the future to be able to come up with an alternative strategy to blocking the Dalek blast with their lightsaber in the amount of time they have between its being fired and hitting, again assuming I am right about the nature of a Dalek energy blast.

As to the Movellans...oy. You have no freaking idea how hard professional authors who are also huge Dalek fanboys have worked to retcon that away. Suffice it to say, there is a lot of the crazy going on there. :)

Jugular Josh said...


Okay, cool. I like your writing a lot, and I didn't want my debut as a commenter to come across as this loudmouth know-it-all.

The Cybermen, at least in the new series, are built with 21st century technology, so I'm not that surprised that they performed as poorly as they did. Mondasian Cybermen? Who can say? Their gold weakness grew increasingly ridiculous as the series progressed, so I'm glad to see it was jettisoned with the reboot.

I think the Dalek's on-screen invulnerability in the new series is more attributable to them picking fights far below their weight class as it is to anything else.

However, as you point out, the big problems with this matchup are that the universes have so little overlap that you can find little basis for comparison. You can't look at a given real world item that appeared in both shows, and say "Okay, the Daleks are 3 times faster than the space shuttle, and an x-wing is only twice as fast, so we have a basis for comparing them." It's like comparing apples to a universe that doesn't even have apples. It also doesn't help that the science for each property is about as hard as tofu, either.

The other problem is that there have been about a zillion different interpretations of both Daleks and Jedi. You say Dalek and you think of the genocide machines from Doomsday and I think of the pepper pots that Pertwee baffled with his cloak. I say Jedi and think of the guy who used the force to grab an orbiting star destroyer and you think of the twi'lek who just about tripped over her tentacles before being gunned down in a mushroom forest.

When I wrote my counterpoint essay, I was trying to limit the Dalek to what we saw the Dalek actually do in the episode of the same name. For Jedi, I went with with a run of the mill Jedi Knight, your Aayla Secura or mid-movies Obi Wan. These were also the guidelines I used when discussing over here.

I haven't watched since Matt Smith's debut, which makes me a bad person, I know, but I think the only self-destructing Dalek we see is the one I mentioned above. Its self-destruction has a long windup and it's actually an implosion, which would seem to run counter to Dalek design principles. The way it's depicted wouldn't take anyone by surprise and would give them ample time to get out of the tiny area of effect.

I'm going to drop the point about Jedi reflexes. I swear there's support for it somewhere on-screen, and I think making their athletic feats Force-augmented goes a way towards unifying the power set, but when the end result is the same, it doesn't matter in practice if they just moved really fast or if they had a flash of insight that allowed them to be in the proper place.

You brought up time travel earlier and I've been thinking about that. In general, Dalek time travel is crap, being expensive, unreliable or both. They barely use it in 50 years of Dalek stories. However, when your number one enemy calls themselves the Time Lords, it's probably best to fly below the radar in this particular endeavor. So their limited use could represent a desire to avoid a fight they weren't sure they could win at that point. Why use time travel to enslave the Ogrons when you can just do it the old fashioned way?

On the other hand, when there were 400,000 Daleks against one Time Lord in Bad Wolf, they still didn't try any time travel tricks.

Marionette said...

To be fair, all the Daleks in the new series have been remnants of the pinnacle of Dalek imperialism that resulted in the time war.

There's no suggestion that any of the high level Daleks survived, so what we have seen is a series of drones who have taken on emperor roles because no one higher was available.

There's good reason to believe that Time War level Daleks had a much greater control over time travel. How, otherwise, could they have been a match for the Time Lords?

Jugular Josh said...


re: Marionette said: For the purpose of this post, I'm trying to limit the scope of the Dalek's abilities to what we actually see it do. The Doctor says it can perform 100 billion lock combinations per second, which is a neat trick, but, depending if you go with the American or British version of billion, something desktop computers can do now or supercomputers can do now.


The science in both Who and Star Wars is terrible, so we're better off making our observations based on what happens in the show/movie.

Anonymous said...

"Which brings up the question of why they never use it in lightsaber duels"

The question is answered quite clearly in the original trilogy.

Using Jedi telekinesis takes a lot of effort, effort they can not spare while they are whipping around their light sabers.

Notice how Obi-wan, Vader, Yoda, and Luke all have to pause and concentrate for any significant use of their telekinesis. Even Vader has to pause, let his light saber arm down to his side, and gesture with his hand when he attacks Luke with a telekinetic force wind.

The disreputable second trilogy continues that. Qui-Going-Going-Gone Jin and Obi-Want-Better-Lines both have to pause before any significant use.

So the question need not be wondered about since it is so clearly answered for you in both the genuine trilogy and in the bastardization which followed.

Jason Cartmell said...

Dalek ships can survive exploding stars and can easily destroy planets so no the Republic loses horrible to the dalek empire in a war

Jason Cartmell said...

Dalek ships can survive exploding stars and can easily destroy planets so no the Republic loses horrible to the dalek empire in a war