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In the Doctor Who story "Inferno," the Third Doctor accidentally transports himself to an alternate universe, in which Britain has evidently been a fascist dictatorship since at least 1943. There are lots of visual and textual allusions to Nazi Germany. For example, the character's ranks are direct calques of Nazi ones, such as "Brigade Leader" versus "Brigadeführer"). Likewise, the shoulder patch insignia worn by the Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stuart was clearly inspired by similar collar tabs worn by high-ranking SS commanders. Compare Nicholas Courtney's appearance in "Inferno"

Brigade Leader

with that of the the Butcher of Prague, Reinhard Heydrich.

The Hangman

However, there is one prominent visual symbol which does not seem to be closely based on anything Nazi. That is the primary emblem of the British fascist regime, which the Doctor first notices after his transport between the worlds.

Republic Emblem

The three arrows, while they may suggest a vaguely 1930s totalitarian esthetic, do not seem to be based on any specific German iconography that I am aware of. The closest similarity seems to be to the eponymous symbol of the Arrow Cross fascists in Hungary, who operated their country as a Nazi puppet regime in the final days of the war.

Arrow Cross

However, the Arrow Cross are a fairly obscure fascist group. So I was wondering whether there was some other inspiration for the three arrows used in the Republic emblem. Did the production designer Jeremy Davies create it anew? Was it based on the Arrow Cross symbol? Or is it a reference to some other fascist imagery?

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  • It looks a bit like a swastika
    – Valorum
    Mar 6 at 19:55
  • No way to tell, other than to ask a cast member. Symbol of England is the St George Cross - so a cross makes sense, British far-right group "British Movement (BM)", later called the "British National Socialist Movement" at the time had a cross within a circle on a white background - easy to remove some of the arcs to make arrows!
    – bob1
    Mar 7 at 2:27
  • Speculation (not an answer): Because they're planning to drill to the centre of the Earth, the bottom arrow is missing as they didn't want to advertise the fact that's their direction of travel. Mar 7 at 5:45
  • @ARogueAnt.: Or maybe they want to conquer the underworld to make it a full cross. :-) Mar 7 at 8:40
  • Almost certainly not the right answer, but it really reminds me of the opening credits to "Dad's Army" Mar 7 at 15:59

1 Answer 1

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This may not be the definite answer you were seeking, as there don't appear to be any authoritative sources that could confirm what the designers were thinking. However, the origins of these kinds of images are certainly explainable.

The 'oak leaf' insignia is not exclusive to the Nazi regime. Oak leaves are used in insignia in the US army and in the Commonwealth. It has been a military tradition since ancient times when Roman emperors and senators were crowned with wreaths of oak leaves. However, the Nazi party borrowed a lot of imagery from ancient Rome - the eagle, the so-called 'Roman' salute. They called themselves the 'third' reich, as they believed they were the third successor to the Roman empire (the second being the Germanic empire, also heavily based on the Roman empire with a 'Kaiser' instead of a 'Caesar'). So, despite the oak leaf being a fairly common military symbol, you can see why it has become particularly synonymous with Nazis, given its origins.

The 'arrows' symbol used in the episode is interesting in that it bears an clear resemblance to the 'arrow cross' symbol you found (which, in turn is very reminiscent of the Nazi swastika) except that it clearly is not a cross. It is not concentric, or symmetrical, nor does it have fourfold rotational symmetry like the swastika. It could be viewed as 3 separate arrows, or one central arrow overlapping another bidirectional arrow.

A cross is a common religious symbol, predating its use in Christianity (it is arguable whether the word 'cross' even appears in the original languages of Christian scripture, and may have simply infiltrated church doctrine at some point). Pseudo-religious symbols have always been popular with military regimes as it was believed they would command obedience. Both the swastika and the arrow cross you found were existing symbols that were appropriated by the respective parties. But as I already stated, the arrow symbol in Inferno is not a cross.

Bold arrows have a common militaristic use. They are often used on maps to denote paths of invasion:

proposed Nazi invasion

This is the most likely inspiration behind the symbol, as the arrows alone suggest a regime of invasion and domination by using this common imagery. It is possible that the designers deliberately avoided making a cross symbol because of the possible religious connotations and the possible offence it could cause if the symbol bore resemblance to a real religious emblem.

Interestingly, there was an anti-fascist movement in Germany at the time of the Nazi party called 'The Three Arrows', and their symbol was comprised of three arrows, but used very differently.

In conclusion, I think it's pretty obvious that the programme's creators were trying to imitate Nazi imagery or suggest a similar kind of regime by using symbols like these. But the inspiration for all such symbolism is a combination of ancient military tradition and imagery commonly associated with war aggressors.

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