Genesis of the Daleks
Destiny of the Daleks
|Dates||Sept. 1, 1979 -
Sept. 22, 1979
With Tom Baker, Lalla Ward.
Written by Terry Nation. Script-edited by Douglas Adams.
Directed by Ken Grieve. Produced by Graham Williams.
|Synopsis: The Doctor and Romana land on Skaro, as the Daleks burrow deep into their long abandoned home to recover their creator, Davros.|
A Review by James Mansson 9/7/98
Destiny of the Daleks is the first Doctor Who story I can remember watching, way back in September 1979 when it was first broadcast. I was interested to watch it again, if only to see how much I could remember of the story! On the whole, I found it an enjoyable adventure, though not an exceptional one, which is, on the whole, lacking the silliness associated with some of the other season seventeen outings.
In style, the story is quite typical of Terry Nation’s writing. The Doctor and his companion are pushed along by events, and must be constantly on their guard just to survive. Generally, he plays it pretty straight, reasoning, quite correctly, that this sort of story works best if the writer seems to believe what is going on is for real. The script editor, Douglas Adams, attempted to inject some humour, especially in the regeneration scene at the start. However, that scene is not one of his most inspired moments, and I’m not surprised that Terry Nation was annoyed with the changes Adams made to his script. In fact, the funniest scene was the scissors-paper-stone game between the Doctor and Romana, which was probably Terry’s idea, given its close relation to the plot.
This is the Second Romana’s first adventure, but not her best. Terry Nation once commented that he worked out the story for his adventures first, without much consideration for the character of the Doctor or his companion. Here Romana is more like a stock female companion than the Doctor Mark 2 character she was to become. However, the pink and white version of the Doctor’s outfit she wears here was a nice touch.
The Daleks and Davros are reasonable here, but they are not at their most menacing. The real stars, among the monsters, are the Movellans. In appearance, they are most striking, while their space ship, which drills into the surface on landing, is a nice touch. The reason for the stalemate between the Daleks and Movellans is quite clever too. I’m not sure how scientifically plausible the Nerva device is-- but if I was worried about scientific plausibility, I wouldn’t be watching Doctor Who.
Overall, Destiny of the Daleks is quite an enjoyable story, and it does have its moments, especially the aforementioned scissors-paper-stone game. However, it lacks the moral dilemma of Genesis of the Daleks, which raised it above an ordinary action adventure.
A Review by Leo Vance 26/6/98
Terry Nation is usually quite good at writing Doctor Who. And with Douglas Adams and Graham Williams having produced the classic City of Death (my only other look at Post-Holmes, Pre-Turner Who) I expected a good story and got it.
David Gooderson is probably about as good as Terry Molloy, but both fall far behind Micheal Wisher as Davros. The Daleks are as effective as ever, and are improved by being given such humorous lines as "Seek-Locate-Exterminate." The Movellans are also effective, with a particularly strong performance in the case of Agella, though Lan and Sharrell are less impressive, the costumes are good. The slave workers aren't given much of a job, and Tyssan isn't very effective as a character, either written or acted.
Tom Baker is what makes this story really shine, with his quips about the Daleks' inability to climb stairs lifting this above average Nation fair like The Daleks or Genesis of the Daleks. Lalla Ward is excellent as Romana, but the absence of K9 disappoints.
The script is excellent, the production standards strong, and in particular, the special effects impressive for 1979 (considering they were operating on 40% the 1977 budget, spectacular).
All in all, exciting, enjoyable, the cliffhangers are great, good music, a very good runaround, with everything that Nation does well thrown in. Not quite as strong as The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but still a very strong Terry Nation. 8/10
A Review by Keith Bennett 18/8/98
It's not really fare or accurate to call Destiny Of The Daleks a sequel to Genesis of the Daleks, as the only real similarity is that they both are set on Skaro and have Davros in them, but it's pretty hard not to think of this as a big comedown from that wonderful classic.
The good points include the beautiful Lalla Ward's fine debut as the new Romana, although one might have reservations about her tearful reaction to the Daleks, and Skaro itself, with the constant, haunting sound accompanying it. The Movellans are reasonable, as is the scenes of their ship landing. And the opening scene of Roman trying on bodies is enjoyably amusing.
But there are more than a few negatives. The Daleks are back to being ranting, repetitive pepperpots. Goodness, if one took out half the dialogue they repeated, the story would probably be just two episodes long! I really like the Daleks, but only rarely have they come across as genuinel chilling in their stories. The return of Davros isn't a bad idea (unlike later stories, where it just becomes so tiresome so see him all the time), but he also is now little more than a ranting nutter - there is precious little of the battle of wills between he and the Doctor that made Genesis so memorable.
And the whole story itself, considering it's largely about logic, has such a lack of logic. The "scissors cuts paper" scenes make no sense (there's no reason why the Movellans should pick the same action every time they play it), and it's hard to believe that the Daleks and the Movellans really are stuck in a stalemate, especially since the Daleks aren't totally robotic. Aren't they supposed to be brilliantly minded? Even if they haven't got the imagination to do something different to "confuse the enemy", surely they could find a way out of the problem without suddenly running to Davros for help.
Overall, the performances of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward shine above just about everything else here. This is not a terribly memorable, or consequential story. 5/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 24/7/99
Destiny Of The Daleks is a good example of fine scripts being ruined by poor visuals. The Daleks themselves should have been given a better comeback than what they got and Davros should have remained dead. The Daleks themselves were in terrible condition (although if they been at war with the Movellans, they would be). In their favour is the fact that they get back to basics, with their callous nature, particularly towards Romana.
This story marks the beginning of season seventeen, and the humour is never more apparant, whether it is Romana`s regeneration or the explanation that K-9 has laryngitis. And this helps take something away from the atmosphere, which is a pity as this is a major contributory factor, especially the location work, which gives the feel of a ravaged Skaro.
Unfortunately, The Movellans are disappointing, not by their nature - as robots they come across very well - but in appearance, as they don`t look like robots and can be quickly and easily disarmed.
It is in the acting that Destiny Of The Daleks really deserves its plaudits, Tom Baker is on fine form, and Lalla Ward, although obviously finding her feet is still good enough to be enjoyable and entertaining. David Gooderson is the only other person worthy of mention, as Davros he tries hard, but ultimately fails in emulating Michael Wisher`s definitive portrayal. So in summary, Destiny Of The Daleks gets points for atmosphere and the thought provoking script, but ultimately falls short of my expectations.
Resurrection Of The Recycled Plot by Ben Jordan 24/7/99
After the well-structured Nazi allegory that was Genesis Of The Daleks, which needs no-one to defend it, we are given a truly definitive sequel. Definitive in the sense that Destiny demonstrates the precise reason why sequels should (usually) be avoided.
Gone is the evil but highly intellectual scientist that made Davros one of the series' greatest villains, in favour of the ranting, two-dimensional cardboard cut-out of the original. That brief moment in part 4 where it looks like we're going to be treated to a good conversation between the Doctor and Davros, discussing a problem of a logical stalemate and then dissolves into pointless diatribe almost makes me want to weep. However David Gooderson is given too much criticism for his portrayal of the evil scientist in my opinion. Give Michael Wisher the same empty ineffectual dialogue and see how much he shines. The fault, lies not in the acting, which is competent enough generally speaking, but in the script. Terry Nation really couldn't be bothered to try with this one.
It's so banal it reeks. The Daleks are up to no good as usual, killing enslaved humans (who had the misfortune to land on Skaro), while they look for Davros, who wants to conquer the universe as usual. The Doctor intervenes. Every Dalek story onward follows the same structure. Doctor Who by numbers. The usually desirable and well-tried practice of bringing in the Daleks at the end of episode 1 is so predictable here that it ruins the climax completely - you just know that the desuetude Davros will make up the surprisingly unexpected climax to part 2. Nope - didn't see that one coming at all. How could the metal morons not know about that secret shaft that led straight to Davros allowing the Doctor to get there first? It's *their* city for heaven's sake! People (and monsters) that stupid deserve to lose! The Movellans are not much better. Two incredibly intelligent computer-driven races at a logical impasse (that part at least is quite interesting), and yet despite such intelligence it takes them centuries to work out that they need the irrational human factor to win? Hmmm.
It's left to the regulars to save the day - they make this average fare worth your while. Romana II's debut makes a serious mockery of Time Lord regeneration, but at least it brings in Lalla Ward to realise one of my favourite companions. And of course this particular TARDIS team works well due to the 'clicking' of the leads. Peter Straker and his Movellan colleagues are as wooden as they are easy to kill, but they're robots - at least they have an excuse for their acting, if not their daft costumes.
Here also marks the beginning of the Supreme Dalek/Davros faction split subplot (although I guess the thread began in Genesis), and it's a nice addition for continuity appreciators like myself.
So should you watch it? Well, while not a total loss, Destiny Of The Daleks is certainly totally mediocre. Best for Dalek fans.
A Review by Paul Bartlett 7/9/99
I was recently burrowing into my huge collection of videos, and unearthed a tatty copy of Destiny of the Daleks -- I had forgotten that I actually had it, since I hadn't seen it since I was ten (ten years ago, in case you're interested). My memories of it were average to good, but I immediately had to watch it again. I was quite surprised to notice that it was actually an Nth generation copy of a recording of the original BBC broadcast, back in '79, complete with the well-spoken announcer introducing each episode. But enough boring background information - What did I think of it?
I loved it. It was excellent from start to finish. The storyline was really scraping the bottom of the barrel when it came to believability (some might argue that this is the very point of sci-fi), but decent on the whole. The idea of Davros having survived centuries in his old city after having been exterminated by his Daleks is a bit daft, but once it was explained I didn't think too much of it.
The acting was, in the main, superb. Tom Baker was on top form throughout, with his sense of humour shining in what was, admittedly, a bit of a contrived story. The way in which he defeats the Daleks (and I don't think it's much of a spoiler to reveal that he does defeat them) is absolutely brilliant. A truly excellent scene, indeed. I was a bit disturbed about one of Tom Baker's scenes, in which two people were exterminated because of the Doctor's refusal to surrender - He waited until two people had died before he used his pre-planned escape routine. Very uncharacteristic indeed.
Second to Tom Baker in the acting stakes was David Gooderson, who was absolutely excellent as Davros. This was the last time that we'd see Davros without him acting (and looking) like a screaming Molly Sugden, and it's a great site to behold. Unfortunately, Gooderson didn't get the same caliber of dialogue that Wisher had in Genesis, but if he did, he would have pulled it off just as well. Whenever Gooderson is on screen, you just can't take your eyes off him. An excellent performance. The "We'll meet again" line really sticks in your mind...
The gorgeous Lalla Ward makes an impressive debut as a full time companion, and she works well with the Doctor - though she does spend a bit too much time whimpering at the hands (or appendages) of the Daleks. Still, she was only just starting in the role and it was still a generally very good performance.
The Daleks are rather more disappointing though. This is mostly due to their extremely poor dialogue. Take, for example, this line from the end of episode 1:
Dalek: Do not move, do not move, do not move, do not move, do not move, do not move, you are our prisoner, do not move!
That has to be one of the worst bits of dialogue ever seen in Doctor Who (at least until Trial of a Timelord). Either the Daleks voice circuitry was broken or Douglas Adams was drunk as he edited the scripts. Another script problem is the fact that the Daleks are repeatedly referred to as robots, with lines such as "They were once organic themselves". Also, the casings of the Daleks were actually falling to bits, and pieces are seen to be damaged or even missing.
Still, Destiny stands as an atmospheric and expertly handled story, despite the critisism levelled at it. Most of it is unfair - anything would look bad after Genesis, and Destiny is a worthy (if inferior) sequel.
Spack Off! by John Wilson 19/5/01
Like The Armageddon Factor this is another show where "the memory cheats". When I was a kiddie, this was my all-time favorite Dalek show. Now it's an episode that causes headaches while watching it. A lot of things don't make sense. Davros explains how and why he was able to come back, but it all sounds like baloney. There are lots of unanswered questions and plotholes you could herd a fleet of Drashigs through. After the Daleks "killed" Davros at the end of Genesis, it looks like they rolled his body into the Dalek equivalent of a broom closet, so how does the Doctor know exactly where to find him? Why did the Daleks save his body anyway? Why does Davros "wake up" the moment the Doctor finds him? Since when are Daleks slaves to logic? How can K9 catch laryngitis? ARGH!
There are other things that give this story a tacky look: Davros wobbles a lot whenever he moves, the Dalek operators are constantly re-adjusting their upper casings, and the fight scene between the escaped prisoners and the Movellans in Episode Four just looks sad. Then there's the Movellans themselves. Looks like they're going to a disco after they leave Skaro.
Anything good? Yeah. Lalla Ward in her debut as Romana is great. Well, apart from the scene where she blubbers in front of her Dalek interrogators. I don't think Mary Tamm's Romana wouldn't have done that. David Gooderson is also good as Davros. His scenes with the Doctor are the highlight of the story.
Density of the... by Andrew Wixon 25/3/02
It's always seemed to me that Destiny of the Daleks has got a rough ride from fandom. Now it's not perfect, and of the two Tom vs Dalek stories it is, of course, the weaker. But other than that, what's there to criticise in it that isn't there in a lot of much more popular tales?
Well, the script does have the odd weak link to it, I suppose, and of these the most blatant is the Floellans, sorry, Movellans - they looked pretty silly even back in '79, the brain-on-belt idea is not especially credible, and neither is the way the Commander's arm comes off after one little kick from Lalla.
But the rest of the story's great as far as I'm concerned: pacy, bright, witty (even Lalla's costume design is fairly witty), intelligent and fun. The plot of episode one (wander round mysterious deserted planet being stalked by ragged figure) seemed like an old friend, familiar as it is from so many other Nation stories. The idea of the logical impasse is a fascinating one, even if I'm not completely certain all its ramifications as outlined in the script make perfect sense (but fear not, I won't subject you to another treatise on symbolic logic). And anyone claiming that this is a bad story because it undermines the Daleks as a credible threat - well, look at the standoff sequence in episode three, one of the best Dalek scenes ever, where they genuinely are ruthless and cunning schemers as we're always told but so seldom shown.
Special praise for Ken Grieve's direction, too, particularly his use of steadicam to lend the Daleks and Davros some serious screen-presence.
All in all a great story - not high art or big drama, but loads of fun. And as for John Peel's ravings about this all being a Beadle's About prank by the Supreme Dalek - cobblers, right?
Glad we agree.
'Do not watch! Do not watch! Do not watch!' by Rob Matthews 9/7/02
I don't understand it! I can only put it down to the presence of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward. Resurrection of the Daleks gets almost unanimously panned as a mess, yet fans give this nonsensical piece of shit a comparatively easy ride. What gives? I can only assume that Graham Williams didn't like the Daleks at all, and that he brought them back in possibly their lamest ever adventure just to show how overrated they were and put people off them forever.
So many problems with this story, I don't even know where to start.
Okay, there's Davros' ludicrous comeback from the grave for one. Fans of course like to blame John Nathan Turner for just about everything that ever went wrong with the show - and this is a man who spent almost his entire life working on the show and its interests, even when he didn't want to, so talk about bloody ingratitude -, and he and fellow scapegoat Eric Saward usually get blamed for bringing Davros back and turning him into a one-dimensional joke.
Except they didn't. That was Graham Williams and Terry Nation. In fact I think Saward's later scripts actually managed to salvage something from the whole mess by deliberately portraying Davros as mentally degenerating (remember Davros' 'Ninety years of mind-numbing boredom'?) - that, at least, provided us with an explanation of the difference in characterisation from the Michael Wisher version. In the Dalek stories spanning Resurrection through Remembrance we're seeing Davros slipping into complete insanity. Destiny of the Daleks retroactively violated one of Doctor Who's most powerful scenes, Davros' death, but since that was already done, it was up to Saward and Aaronovitch to make the best of a bad situation, and they did. And frankly I prefer Terry Molloy's distinctive 'deranged child' (as the fifth Doctor refers to him) to David Gooderson doing a lame Michael Wisher imitation in a mask that doesn't fit him. And dear God, that action with his arm whenever he moves anywhere is horribly suggestive.
Next, there's the Daleks theselves. They're crap. We're expected to believe at they're at an impasse with this pathetic gang of lip-glossed robo-buffoons, the Movellans? Here's one way the Daleks could resolve their stalemate - get themselves some decent grabbing appendages instead of their sink plungers, and pull those stupid battery things off all the Movellans' belts. The war would be over in about ten minutes. Alternatively, it seems, they could simply use superannuated dog whistles to scramble their circuits. But oh no, instead they go running home to Davros, who for some reason they know is not really dead. Despite their having blasted him to death.
And for some other equally inexplicable reason, after thousands of years spent dormant in a cupboard, Davros manages to wake up at almost the exact moment the Doctor discovers him. And he goes off in search of the Daleks who betrayed and murdered him, apparently expecting to lord it over them.
And he does. Because the Daleks are crap robots. Unlike some fans, I don't think the Daleks being referred to as robots is a continuity error - the Doctor mentions that they were 'once organic themselves', so obviously Terry Nation has made the deliberate decision to portray them as now fully mechanised. But it's just not a very good idea - as Ben Aaronovitch said, if the Daleks were robots they'd be boring. And indeed they are. Supposedly slaves to logic, they're not scheming or intelligent in this story. And they seem quite willing to obey Davros. They were portrayed far better in the subsequent Resurrection, in which they were clearly organic creatures, motivated not by logic but by hatred and arrogance, and merely acting subservient to Davros while planning all the while to kill him once he'd served his purpose. They were Daleks again, for spack's sake!
Even their supposed logic isn't consistent. When the Doctor threatens to blow both himself and Davros up they don't believe he'll do it because self-sacrifice is 'illogical and therefore impossible'. Yet in episode 4 they've remodelled themselves as suicide bombers. Hmm.
And... oh, I've already covered the lameness of the Movellans. There's also the Doctor's willingness to simply blow Davros up, which is treated quite casually. The idea of getting homicidal on Skaroine ass was dealt with more responsibly and dramatically in later stories.
Tom Baker's as fun as always. His "Aww poor old Davros!" line is hysterical, as is "Davros! You haven't changed a bit, and I'd hoped you were dead". "Ooh look! Rocks!" is another one. But these are the kind of things we expect Baker to do to enliven mediocre stories. A Dalek comeback ought to feel more monumental, and Baker's funny bits shouldn't be the sole highlights.
Lalla Ward's Romana has the clumsiest introduction in the show besides Sylvester McCoy's, and for the same reason - the lack of any appearance of her predecessor. I do love both Romanas, but Ward's not as great as she would be later, and at this point - if you're watching the stories in sequence - you find yourself really missing Mary Tamm. As it stands, the regeneration sequence is fun and mercifully stops before it gets annoying. I don't usually bother myself about this kind of thing, but here's a fanboy regeneration theory to account for that bit - she's at a malleable stage in her regeneration and because she chooses to regenerate she has some control over the process and has time to try a few bodies out before hitting the point of no return.
Ugh, I feel so dirty. Really a better explanation for the scene would be that it's a bit of a laugh.
Otherwise, Destiny of the Daleks is a truly terrible story, one of the all-time turkeys of the show. I know I've went off on a bit of a Saward-was-rather-good-actually thing here, but it seems distinctly unfair that fans are so harsh on an interesting mess yet so indulgent with an almost entirely incompetent one.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 19/8/02
Destiny tends to get slated pretty hard by fandom. "It's part of that god-awful Season 17!" the Ian Levines of Fandom scream. "It looks cheap. And the acting and the Dalekąs dialogue are dreadful."
Let's agree on a couple of points:
Daleks are silly. They're shrieking pepperpots with death rays. Their dialogue falls under variations of "Exterminate!" "My vision is impaired!" or "You are my prisoner!", especially when under the pen of their creator, Terry Nation. My three favorite Dalek stories are Day, Genesis & Revelation, mainly because the Daleks are in the background. (Haven't seen Power or Evil yet, so I can't comment on them.)
In Destiny, the Daleks are more up front, story-wise, but Terry Nation adds in a second race, the Movellans, to keep the Daleks off stage a bit. The Movellans are a bit like the original idea for the Thals -- perfect specimens -- mixed in with some Dalek nastiness (and I like their Bo Derek-esque look. Very 70's).
The plot, if not the most original, holds up well and has a nice surprise or two thrown in. The Daleks and Movellans are locked into a logical stalemate. The Daleks decide to return to Skaro and find their creator, Davros to reprogram their computers and help win the war. The Doctor and Romana arrive on the scene via the Randomizer and get involved.
The script is a mix of standard Nation capture-escape-capture and Douglas Adams humor. They compliment each other well, with the humor coming at the right points to diffuse tension, but never intruding on the serious moments of the serial.
Big Tommy B is his usual great self. His confrontations with Davros are well done, and his interaction with the rest of the cast is great. Lalla Ward makes her debut -- Woof! -- and except for the interrogation scene, picks up nicely where Mary Tamm leaves off. David Gooderson makes a solid Davros, especially when he's not ranting, which is a good chunk of the script. Michael Wisher got better dialogue in Genesis, but Gooderson does his best with what he has.
The other thing I liked was the use of stedicam, especially with the Daleks in the ruins of the Kaled City. It gave the pepperpots menace and fluid mobility.
I'm not a huge Dalek fan, but I do like Destiny of the Daleks. Not the best tale in the world, but much better that its reputation.
Not wearing well? by Tim Roll-Pickering 20/10/02
The introduction of the Randomiser was supposed to ensure that the Black Guardian couldn't find the Doctor, yet the very next place the TARDIS lands is Skaro! This does make a slight mockery of the Doctor's attempts to avoid him, even though this is in fact only the second landing there the TARDIS has actually made. With the next story, City of Death, taking the Doctor to twentieth Century Earth questions must asked about just how random the device is! However this criticism should be levelled at the wider series rather than an individual story.
Right from the start there are many signs that the series is being deliberately sent up and often this story feels extremely tired and worn out. This feeling extends throughout much of the production and the result is a story where most of the elements are working in tandem with one another but only serve to enhance the story's weaker features.
Terry Nation's final contribution to the series has a strong premise and it is refreshing to see a story that seeks to tackle the Daleks' weaknesses and how they seek to overcome them. However the story is very poorly worked out, with the Daleks proving extremely weak and subject to manipulation at times, whilst the Movellans are far too easily disabled and make such a minimal impact that it is hard to believe that they have reached a centuries long stalemate with the Daleks. Of the other characters, Tyson shows a strong degree of ingenuity but is poorly defined, whilst Davros is resurrected all too easily and is afflicted by some weak lines and all too easily shows his readiness to challenge the Supreme Dalek's right to lead. Much of the story is further weakened by the excess use of humour that at times sends up the situation far too much, most obviously the scene where the Doctor taunts a Dalek about its inability to follow him up a shaft.
Lalla Ward returns to the series as the new incarnation of Romana and makes a strong impact from the start, but the regeneration sequence is played for laughs and gets the story off to an all too poor beginning. There's no explanation at all of how Romana is able to chose between different forms or even test out several in succession and the result is a scene that is clearly nothing more than a parody. Tom Baker's performance is even more dominant and wisecracking than before, whilst virtually none of the rest of the cast make any severe impact. David Gooderson now takes on the role of Davros but his performance is completely flat and fails to give much impression of emotion in many scenes.
The entire first episode suffers from not actually featuring the Daleks, even though the title has clearly given away their presence, and the result is a dreary wander around the surface of Skaro. Elements such as the radiation pills are introduced and then completely forgotten for the rest of the story, whilst the sets are poor and at times not one but several sets of studio lights can be clearly seen in shot. The whole production has a very cheap feeling to it, reflected in the sets which completely fail to convince the viewer that Skaro has been deserted for 'centuries' if not millennia whilst the direction is extremely pedestrian and fails to build up much exciting. All in all Destiny of the Daleks has the feel of a series and a concept that is starting to get extremely tired and is desperate need of a renewing force. This is a very poor start to a season. 3/10
A Review by George Owers 3/2/03
Destiny of the Daleks is often most unfairly criticised. Like every story, it has its flaws, but it is consisently entertaining, with an excellent script and several scenes of genius.
The plot itself is compelling, with the Doctor stuck in the middle of a war between the Daleks and the Movellans, whilst the Daleks search their home planet, Skaro, for their creator and leader, Davros, so that he can give them the edge they need to defeat the Movellans. Here we reach the first main fault - Davros. Michael Wisher wasn't able to reprise his role, so a new actor was enlisted. The new Davros lacks one vital element - that voice. His voice is dull, very human and most mundane, and in general he doesn't have the bite like he did in Genesis of the Daleks. He is decidedly less colourful.
On the positive side, the dialogue is characteristically witty, the Doctor is his usual eccentric, dashing self and the newly generated Romana shines; with Leela she is the fourth Doctor's best companion - long gone are the times of the hopeless schoolgirl or dimwit, because Romana, and especially Romana mark two, is clever, cunning and most definitely the Doctor's equal, whilst still retaining some contrast with the Doctor in her relative innocence. The pink suit is an absolute hoot as well! The Rock-Paper-Scissors scene is somewhat clever if a little tiresome, and we are also treated to the most hilarious scene involving a Dalek ever, with the Doctor's hat being one unfortunate pepper pot's nemesis! Some comical new Dalek battle cries, most notably 'Seek, Locate, Exterminate!" also emerge, even if the Daleks sometimes do sound like robotic sheep with their metallic bleatings.
Being the first Dalek story after Genesis is always going to cast a bit of a shadow, and, true, Destiny of the Daleks isn't as good - the sheer scale and profundity is inferior to Genesis, but Destiny of the Daleks didn't have the luxury of being a six-parter. Destiny of the Daleks still manages to hold its own, and the part about the Daleks and Movellans requiring human irrationality to defeat each is other is a stroke of Genesis style brilliance, demonstrative of the script's excellence.
Not until Remembrance of the Daleks would we see another Dalek story as good. 9/10
A Review by Brian May 20/11/03
Oh no! Look what's happened! Look what they've done! Douglas Adams and Graham Williams, in their evil conspiracy to lighten up Doctor Who with undergraduate frivolity, have cheapened and insulted the memory of the Doctor's oldest enemy! This seems to be the prevailing attitude when fans think of Destiny of the Daleks. But I can't really see what they're getting at.
A vilified story from the vilified Season 17, Douglas Adams's only full season as script editor. It's supposed to have his influence all over it. Well, in Destiny of the Daleks, the only blatant reference I can detect is when the Doctor reads The Origins of the Universe by Oolon Caluphid. Apart from this, there is no real Douglas Adams "stamp" on the story. And the Daleks aren't treated any differently, with the exception of the final encounter, when the Doctor systematically defeats them, and captures Davros, by throwing his hat over the eye-stalk of his Dalek captor. Very silly, yes, but the only real frivolous moment in this story, and no different to other moments in the Graham Williams era, such as the Doctor flippantly walking past Sontarans in The Invasion of Time, or the Pied Piper sequence from Nightmare of Eden.
But for the most part, Destiny of the Daleks portrays the title monsters excellently. They are no less ruthless or determined than in their other stories. Case in point - when Romana is enslaved and clearing away the rubble, the conversation she has with her fellow workers: they tell her their stories of being captured by marauding Dalek fleets. They give the impression, quite convincingly, that they are a threat. While the Doctor Who budget has never allowed huge scenes of Daleks rampaging through the universe, these small, quiet accounts from their prisoners manage to convey just how powerful and dreadful a blight on the universe they are - and the damage they cause - just as was the case in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, or The Daleks' Masterplan.
The story also provides what could have been an interesting twist, and indeed new direction, in Dalek history and continuity. There are multiple references to the Daleks as robots, much to the horror of traditionalists and stalwarts. But there is also the implication that the Daleks have evolved further - as indicated when the Doctor studies the Kaled mutant. Indeed, almost a decade later, in Remembrance, one of the Dalek factions has been augmented. Perhaps the exploration of the Daleks' evolution into largely - or perhaps entirely - robotic creatures is an opportunity missed. Continuity wise, Destiny is also important for the future Dalek stories. The return of Davros - right or wrong - has huge implications. The scene when he comments wryly on the role of the Supreme Dalek - and his declaration that HE is the only leader - paves the way for events in Revelation and Remembrance. Destiny is the turning point in this history, and has been unfairly overlooked.
All this aside, there are other positives in this story. The location footage - the usual quarry - works well for the barren surface of Skaro. The direction is good and the camerawork exceptional - especially the use of the steadycam during the drilling sequences. At long last, the camera isn't wobbling! The sets aboard the Movellan ship and in the ruins of the city are good - I particularly like the city's black, shiny walls. But those lamps look remarkably like studio lights, don't they?
All the acting is of a high standard. From episode one the Tom Baker/Lalla Ward rapport is evident, and quite charming (I love her take on the Doctor's costume!) The guest cast are all pretty good. David Gooderson as Davros is not as memorable as Michael Wisher - but then, what could better Wisher's superlative performance? Gooderson does his best, but is given no interesting lines, nor has the author developed the character since Genesis. But he's a damn sight better than Terry Molloy. The Movellans are an interesting race. Their design - especially the eye make-up, contributes to this. (Although the fact that they can be deactivated simply by removing their powerpacks is another one of those convenient weaknesses all Doctor Who creatures must have!) I also like the cliffhangers to parts two and three, but part one is too predictable, as we know the Daleks will appear somehow!
The story is also strong dramatically. There is a slow build-up in the first two episodes, particularly regarding the Doctor's uneasy alliance with the Movellans and the revelation that the Daleks are looking for Davros. (This would not have been glaringly obvious when originally transmitted. An astute viewer would have worked it out, but otherwise the character had not been overused at this point, as would be the case in the 1980s.) The aforementioned scenes with the slaves inject a gritty realism, while the standoff between the Daleks and the Doctor in part three, especially the execution of the prisoners, is another tense, dramatic moment. It's also interesting to note that the Doctor attempts to kill Davros here, via the remote-controlled bomb he rigs up. This is hardly ever talked about by fans, perhaps because it's done without all the melodramatic moralism that Peter Davison delivered in Resurrection.
However, Destiny of the Daleks is not perfect. The continual Dalek lines "Seek - Locate - Exterminate!" and "Do not deviate!" are irritating and boring. The Doctor's "boom boom Davros" is also quite silly, betraying the seriousness of the situation. The rest of the story's dialogue is unexceptional, however I must admit to liking his "Why don't you try climbing after us?" taunt. The one cause of derision about the Daleks, especially by non-fans, is addressed with a nice in-joke, which is not gratuitously self-conscious. It's simply a knowing wink to the audience (again, not exclusively a Williams or Adams attribute).
The scenes when the Doctor and company enter the Dalek control room in episode two - very easily, with no Daleks in sight - stretches credibility a bit. The same happens when the Doctor enters alone in the final episode (but as he is captured soon after, this could have been a trap). I have already mentioned the hat over the eye-stalk incident, which is all the more disappointing as this is the dramatic finale.
Also, the adventure is not very memorable. This may seem a strange thing to say after lauding it so much, but fifteen minutes after it ended, there were no real scenes that stuck in my mind! While it was never going to be the best Dalek tale - i's no Power, Evil or Genesis - but as a story in its own right, it slowly faded from my thoughts. There were no vivid moments that stood out.
It's a story that has that contradictory effect. It is well made in all respects; its good features outweigh its faults. It is overlooked continuity wise, which is an injustice given the implications for future Dalek stories that germinated here. But, despite all this, it fails to grab the attention. It fails to stay in the memory. It is simply the sum of its parts. Which is a pity, given what is, by all means, an impressive production. 6/10
A Review by Joe Ford 16/5/04
There is a wonderful moment of pure slapstick at the climax to Destiny of the Daleks that wonderfully illustrates the potential of Douglas Adams approach to Doctor Who. The Daleks are close to the Movellan ship, strapped with explosives and Davros has the destruct button ready to detonate. All very tense. And then the Doctor throws his hat over the eyestalk of his Dalek guard which is naturally disorientated and whilst the barmy Time Lord pushes it this way and that Davros is screaming out directions for it to follow. "To your left! To your right!" it screams... and I was chuckling. But it was when he had the nerve to scream "This way!" when I was wetting myself. The Doctor sticks an explosive to its side and throws it down a corridor with the glorious parting riposte "Bye bye!" before it explodes. He turns on Davros with a mad glint in his eye and for that one moment you can see perfectly why this hyperactive, verbally uncontrollable nutter is feared by all manner of baddies. Grinning with a frightening amount of teeth he pulls back Davros' hand and forces the detonation and the Daleks explode in a dazzling display of pyrotechnics that are so powerful bits of a Dalek casing take over ten seconds to even start floating to the ground! I thought it was divine, somebody was finally recognising that the Doctor Who universe is a place of incredible fun and even having some laughs with the Daleks! Adams had a wonderful vision of how Doctor Who should be played, humorously but with a very serious core and this story, in particular that 'loony Doctor' climax expresses that in its purest form.
Positive vibes are wafting from this review but I have to bring it back to reality for a second and admit Destiny of the Daleks is no Doctor Who masterpiece. What it is though is an interesting experiment, both with the comedic use of the Daleks and (bizarrely) a portent of the upcoming JNT era where visuals and fan treats became far more important than character and plot. Some might say that is an unfair statement and I will admit that JNT did produce some marvellous character tales (Snakedance, Revelation of the Daleks, Curse of Fenric) and Graeme Williams some sumptuous productions (City of Death, Androids of Tara) but when I look for bold and engaging characterisation and glossy set pieces I know which eras I look to.
Let's face it continuity has no place in the Williams era, a three year vacuum in the series that pretty much ignored the series past and strove to tell original stories. This break from fan favourites is one of my favourite things about Williams' contributions. The Daleks is the one concession I am willing to let him get away with (although the slip with the Sontarans is unforgivable) because they have followed the series since its inception and there should always be one in every era so there is a point that you can compare one era to another. Everybody compares this story unfairly with Genesis of the Daleks (Hinchcliffe's Dalek story) and Rob Matthews (a man of superior taste) made a stand against its apparent inferiority next to Resurrection of the Daleks (JNT's first Dalek excursion). While we are hardly seeing the Daleks at their best (Evil of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks) there is much to merit their appearance here...
The story has a brilliant idea at its core and one that isn't exposed until late in the story. We all know the Daleks are ruthless kick ass baddies who kill, kill, kill... so what would be the point in writing another 'oh let's build a bigger army and take over the cosmos' story. No, Terry Nation takes note of David Whitaker's early experiments with his creations and looks at his creatures psychologically. The Daleks are robots (oh all right, they're genetically engineered mutants in robotic casings) and slaves to absolute logic. Their hatred for the unlike has led them around the universe and back, making enemies of hundreds of species (they complain, but the Daleks just slaughter them leaving a few bitter survivors). But finally they have met an opponent worthy of the title nemesis, the Movellans; another race of robots (oh all right, androids with curious hair) also slaves to logic. They are at war and rather than make an unpredictable move to start the conflict they both wait for the moment of tactical advantage. This impasse, when neither side has fired a single shot is fascinating and provides a perfect excuse for the Daleks to return home and claim their creator, the one person who can break this deadlock. That is a story that makes perfect sense to me and although it threatens to blunt the perfect climax to Genesis by suggesting Davros was never killed at least there is a logical reason for him to be re-introduced. Something that later stories would forget (ooh let's have Cybermen in Silver Nemesis for no reason at all! Hey the Sontarans could be in The Two Doctors!).
But the psychology goes even deeper than that. Watching this story I formed the impression that Davros was abused by his peers when he was younger. What other reason could there be for him to be so desperate to be heard, to be feared? As soon as he wakes up he starts ranting about "My invincibility!" like he is some god. It makes perfect sense that he should build the Daleks in his image with the same casing as his life support system and exactly the same creed "We will be the Masters of the universe!" to create creatures of such hate that will kill anybody who does not conform to their will. Davros is just a big kid, a bully, who can't stand to appear weak or out of control and his desperate raving proves how far he is willing to go to see that it will not happen. It makes him something of a sympathetic character really because his ambitions are self destructive, he can never achieve his goals with the Doctor around, no matter how much he screams he will always look the fool in the end.
The point where the story fails with the continuity is not using Micheal Wisher to play Davros again. It cannot be easy to play an insane mutant under all that make up and David Gooderson has a fair stab but just doesn't have the range or the restraint to match Wisher's compelling performance. He gets the insanity perfect here but in Genesis there was always a sense of coolness about the character, an icy intelligence and that seems to have atrophied away in his centuries of entombment. Plus his voice sounds far too normal, only occasionally does he have the same alien hum as he did in his debut.
There is a moment in the story that acts as a counterpoint to the wonderful comedic climax that I stated earlier, a point in which it proves you cannot push the laughs too far because you can descend head first into embarrassing farce. The Doctor's reunion with Davros should have been a powerful moment but instead we get humiliating scenes of the wheelchair bound loony being pushed around the corridors of the underground city being chased by the Daleks with 'dink dink dink' comedy music! Not exactly what I was expecting and an insult to anybody expecting the electrifying scenes between the two geniuses to carryover into this story. Williams rarely succumbed to these moments of mortification, there are a few dotted about his era but none as disappointing as this one (maybe the Sontaran that walks into that hungry vegetable).
There are other mishandled ideas in this story such as the regeneration sequence, which doesn't annoy me as much as other people but some sort of explanation would be nice. How about the molecules are malleable during the regeneration and for a short time it is possible for you to reshape yourself a few times and that the Doctor is just too lazy to bother?
It's a shame that this scene should start the story on such a wrong foot because the first episode is actually pretty good. Terry Nation shoves his hand into a bag of old story ideas and cobbles together a clichĂ©d introduction, locked out of the TARDIS, strange alien world, alien city... the difference here is that the direction is sympathetic to the stereotypes and manages to lift the story with some great atmosphere. The desolate planet is genuinely scary with earthquakes and ruins and explosion that rupture from the ground unpredictably. The location is fabulous, Ken Grieve giving the show a really polished look despite some horrid costumes. I love it when he has three rows of Daleks trundling along the sand dunes and all the hiding in amongst the rocky outcrops.
There are a number of urgently directed set pieces as well that hold up well against other examples in later years. The Dalek interrogation of Romana is terrific, pinning her to wall against those horrid sensors and bullying her into answering. There is a brilliantly dramatic stand off as a kidnapped Davros has a bomb to his head as the Daleks exterminate faceless victims in order to make the Doctor release him (Tom Baker's performance here is shockingly straight). The heart-stopping climax with Romana chasing after the Movellan who is about to burn up the atmosphere of Skaro is a masterpiece of camerawork.
I am not trying to make excuses for the story, I genuinely believe there is more here than people recognise. Even much of the comedy works. The Doctor reading the Origins of the Universe and scoffing a the first line, throwing the boulders away from the TARDIS as thought they were as light as a feather, "Oh poor Davros" the Doctor mocks at one point... and most brilliant of all sees the Doctor being all smug and mouthing off to Davros as a Dalek sneaks up behind him and screams "DO NOT MOVE!"
Yes there are embarrassments but then find me one Doctor Who story that is completely devoid of them. The Movellans look daft and firmly place this in the 'don't show a non fan' department. Their weakness, removing the power pack from their belt is an excruciatingly bad Achilles' heel but at least it had a purpose eventually, it was used for excellent comic relief years later in the Benny audio Death and the Daleks. The Daleks breaking from the walls of the city to confront Romana was just so we could have a shock Dalek cliffhanger. The chase scenes in the city are blunted by the fact that they keep running past the same trolley thus revealing it was the same corridor each time. And Davros' mouth seems to be a bit lopsided as though someone has smothered too much glue over it.
One thing I must rant about is this popular fan dismissal of the state of the Daleks in this story. For Christ sakes they have been at war for centuries with loads of races... let's see how you look after all that time! The horrid oily and battered Special Weapons Dalek comes in for enormous praise despite the fact that he looks a bloody mess! At least they had six to play with. And their explosions are waaay cool.
Rob Matthews said in his excellent review of The Armageddon Factor that it was an awkward story with lots of good bits. I would say the same about Destiny of the Daleks except I will swing more towards the positive side. It is gorgeous to look at and has some lovely ideas at work; all it lacks is the characterisation that usually exemplifies the Williams era.
Worthy of re-evaluation.
You are superior in only one respect: you are better at dying! by Thomas Cookson 18/12/06
"I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years. I know also that out of their evil, must come something good..."Shown in 1979, Destiny of the Daleks was the sequel to Genesis of the Daleks, and saw the Doctor, now accompanied by the delightful Time Lady Romana (actually she has a longer name but let's not go into that) landing once more on Skaro, the war-decimated Dalek homeworld. Given that the TARDIS randomiser takes the Doctor to Skaro here and in the next episode, City of Death, it takes him to Earth - the two planets in the universe he's visited the most - something tells me the randomiser circuit doesn't do what it says on the tin.
The Doctor, Genesis of the Daleks, 1975
Actually, the Daleks have long abandoned their homeworld, but now a small Dalek taskforce has returned to the planet for some reason. Curious to find out what the little metal scallies are up to this time, the Doctor finds that the Daleks are using slave labour to dig into the bowels of the buried science-bunker where the Daleks were first created thousands of years ago, in search of their long-dead creator Davros, who it turns out is not so dead after all.
It seems the Daleks, in their war of conquest against all life in the universe, have fallen afoul of a new enemy, the Movellans, who have effectively put the blocker on the expanse of the Dalek Empire. Now the Daleks need the help of their creator to vanquish their new enemies. The Doctor allies himself with a Movellan counter-force to prevent the Daleks from finding Davros, and simultaneously to liberate the slaves from the Daleks... but are his enemy's enemies really his friends, or do the Movellans have intentions just as sinister as those of the Daleks?
In my early years as a reviewer on the Epinions website, I gave this story a review and I was pretty harsh on it. I was reviewing Destiny of the Daleks at a time when I was learning the ropes about how to review and how to argue for or against a particular film, how to hold high standards, how to knock something down, and Destiny of the Daleks is in a lot of ways an incredibly easy piece of television to knock on so many levels. I think ultimately I was knocking the story, less out of a sense of hating the whole thing, and more out of a sense of simply learning how to kick, because in all honesty I have always found Destiny of the Daleks to be infectious, warming and enjoyable viewing, even though it's got so many things wrong with it.
Let's see what I really like about this story first.
Well, starting with the first episode, it's pretty faultless. Actually, the opening scene in the TARDIS with Romana regenerating into various bodies in order to find the perfect look (huh! women!) could have been skipped. It's not an offensively bad scene, it's not annoying, it's not amusing, it doesn't add anything to the story really except facilitate a change of actress; it is rather stilted (though thankfully not as stilted as The Twin Dilemma, which really was a headache), and it does go on a bit too long. I could take it or leave it as a scene.
But wait, I said the episode leads on to great things, and indeed it does. The Doctor and Romana have landed on Skaro and the atmosphere is wonderful: just listen to the wind and the eerie silence and watch the vast stretches of desertion. Did I mention this story has some excellent directing, courtesy of Ken Grieve? Well it does and the cinematography is gorgeous indeed. People who voice the opinion that Doctor Who at this point had become 'the Tom Baker show', and criticise Tom Baker's 'out of control' antics during this period should be aware that Tom plays these opening scenes as they were intended; he doesn't witter on in anecdotes or perform flamboyantly because he is aware that the silence is meant to speak volumes, so his performance and delivery is sombre and observational as he senses a distinct chill in the air. Compare that to hyperactive David Tennant squeeing and referencing Eastenders for no reason, and spoiling the awe and foreboding of being on an alien world in The Impossible Planet, and the effect is chastening.
The first episode is also the one that displays the most intelligence in the writing department. The scene where the Doctor and Romana are studying a slab of concrete is one of my favourite early clue-finding moments where the Doctor and companion (who in this case has more brains than most) apply their wits to determine what kind of planet they are on. It ranks alongside the scenes in the antique shop with the Second Doctor and Jamie in Evil of the Daleks as my favourite smart moment of clue collecting in the series. Similarly it is wonderful to bask in the glow of the Doctor's spark of wit as he comments "interesting technique: camouflage and defence" as he observes the landing of a Movellan taskforce on Skaro in a ship that's burrowing itself into the ground (a great piece of modelwork for the time; in fact, I'd take it over CGI any day).
Then the action kicks in and it is as surrounding and smothering as the truly alive nature of the Dalek planet; you feel the stealthy tension as the Doctor sneaks a look at a burial site for the Dalek's slaves that succumbed to exhaustion or were otherwise slaughtered. You experience the mining explosions in stereo as they erupt around the Doctor and Romana, forcing them to either take flight or remain glued to the spot, encompassed by it all. Then when the Doctor has a pillar come down on his full frame, you feel the weight and claustrophobia of it and the dust blowing down your throat.
The first part ends with a slew of writer Terry Nation's cliches. Romana is stalked by a quiet and dishevelled man, and then finally encounters the Daleks to climax the first episode. They actually come crashing through a wall with plenty of gusto. Part Two is mostly very high quality. The scene with Romana being interrogated by the Daleks whilst strapped to a lie sensor does have enough high melodrama to pin you down as you watch the electric tension and Romana's loud and choked up cries of terror as she is bullied into a corner by the mechanical brutes. It is hard not to remark on the poor and battered condition that the Daleks are in; though whilst other fans bemoan how this represents the cheapness of the story's production, I've generally been able to easily put the downtrodden appearance of the Daleks here down to battle damage from all those space wars. Romana is put into one of the slave labour camps and quickly befriends the fellow prisoners Jal and Veldan, who describe the actions of the Daleks. The Daleks come across as being really evil and nasty here, as we hear of how they invaded colonies and attacked space cruisers, and making prisoners out of the survivors, how they work prisoners to exhaustion and how every time a prisoner escapes the Daleks take reprisal by exterminating selected slaves. As they bark orders to the slaves to remain silent and continue working, they nicely awaken the inner child as they come across appropriately as teachers bossing around the schoolkids during playtime. The scene where Veldan is bickering futilely with a Dalek over a collapsed dead worker is like a homage to a brilliant scene in The Dalek Invasion of Earth where a Dalek is pursuing a surviving human who lost his whole family to the Daleks and is screaming in enraged hysterics at the Dalek, but the Dalek is unfazed and emotionless and keeps relentlessly repeating its arrogant orders to surrender.
Another thing about this story I like is the fact that the Dalek headquarters has an intruder warning system of motion sensors that the Doctor ends up tripping when he breaks in. This makes a refreshing change to the other Terry Nation written Dalek stories where it was all too easy for the Doctor to infiltrate the Dalek headquarters without being noticed. However, when Davros himself arrives on the scene, things unfortunately do drift into a textbook example of a bad sequel. Davros himself looks worse for wear; worse than he has ever looked, in fact. Davros usually has an exceptionally well-designed mask, but here it literally doesn't fit him, and the fact that the actor playing Davros is pushing his Dalek skirt-style wheelchair with his feet is made embarrassingly obvious.
Meanwhile, the character of Davros has been reduced to a thoroughly cartoonish ranting and grumpy version of himself, completely lacking his former subtlety and intellect. I think when Terry Nation first created Davros he played carefully with presenting Davros as a man whose intelligence probably surpassed that of the writer who had written him. Here, however, Terry Nation does not take the same care with the character. Davros simply rants inanely and incessantly coming across as more childish than any other villain. His persisting ambitions for guiding the Daleks to universal conquest make him seem woefully forgetful of the fact that the Daleks turned on him and nearly killed him in his previous adventure.
His ultimate plan of victory is so dumb and so obviously designed to backfire that if I revealed what it was, then it would be a major spoiler because even an idiot could work out how the Doctor would save the day from there; in fact, it's as easy as pi. And yet the scene where the Doctor does save the day has enough action and spectacle in a cheap but fast and immediate manner to make the moment where the Doctor has to merely press a switch to win the fight more exciting and satisfying than it has any real right to be.
My criticisms of the story still stand however. The performance of David Gooderson as Davros is one that fans have been rather too polite about, trying to excuse the fact that he couldn't be expected to fill the shoes of Michael Wisher's classic performance as the evil scientist in Genesis of the Daleks. But unfortunately his performance is bad in its own right, The first time I watched Gooderson's performance as Davros, I found it irritating and painful to watch. With repeated viewings I don't even take the performance so seriously as to get outraged by it and I've even learned to find it entertainingly bad; who can resist laughing at the moment where he's bobbing up and down in his chair as he moves forward. I can't help but think of this as the story that earned Doctor Who its reputation for cheapness and 'wobbly sets' (a cliche that has abounded with the general public despite the fact that to my knowledge no Doctor Who episode has ever had a set that wobbled in the literal sense of the world).
Gooderson's performance perhaps lets down the story, but then again it is easy to take the view that Gooderson was simply riding a badly scripted character, and the script really isn't up to much. There's a particularly dodgy moment of scripting where the Doctor hints that he knows that it is Davros that the Daleks are trying to recover from the bowels of the bunker, but he doesn't say so but he hints at it in such an overtly telegraphing way its enough to take you so far outside the action and gravity when the Doctor says "If I'm right, we go this way. We're looking for the same thing as the Daleks. I'll tell you what it is when we find out." (Ugh!!!) Unfortunately, it is not merely a minor blemish, and it's something that shows up again when the large computer monitor on the Movellan ship comes up with text that reads "Large Dalek Taskforce Approaching" when realistically you'd expect a battle computer to give specific numbers and compass directions for the Dalek armies, even back in the days of Atari. It's enough really to tarnish the fandom argument that Doctor Who has plenty of intelligent scripting to compensate for low production values.
Sometimes Doctor Who is just bad, though usually it is entertainingly so and this story certainly does qualify as entertaining. There are plenty of incidental moments that always compulsively raise a smile from me, like when under Movellan firepower, a Dalek unexpectedly explodes mid-cliche. Like the moment when Romana and an escaped slave called Tyssan are climbing a cliff-face and a Dalek is shooting at them from below. The Doctor noticing Davros' self-pity at his sense of failure now that the Doctor has foiled his plans, and enquiring "What does it feel like?" always raises a chuckle from me.
There's something else as well: the chemistry between the Doctor and Romana has a lovely unstated element of hands-on intimacy that I find so comforting, a kind of innocent but unreserved sexuality in the way the Doctor and Romana are often holding hands, and how both the male and female Movellans wear such tight disco-esque clothing that has a certain sexiness underneath the naffness, and when they have their brains disconnected from their body, they seem to fall about in a rather dancey and sensual way. Add to the mix the scene where Romana and a Movellan come to blows and have a fierce and tense wrestling match, really grappling one another and Romana shows how tough her boots are and you have just the right level of titillation and hands-on empowerment.
But sometimes the story is entertaining for the wrong reasons and the script even gets to have the Doctor flippantly mock the Dalek's aversion to stairs; yes, we Doctor Who fans can take a joke about Daleks being vertically challenged from other people outside of fandom (no matter how many times they've told that joke over thirty years it keeps getting funnier every time; actually, speaking seriously, Eddie Izzard's sketch on Dalek plumbers always tickles my funny bone), but those japes do not really have a place in the show itself when it is supposed to be conveying the impression that the Daleks have decimated hundreds of entire worlds with little trouble (mind you the Daleks only ever looked like a really empirical force in their 1960's serials). I personally was never convinced by the 'run up stairs' escape clause when I was a kid; what's the point of escaping upstairs when a Dalek ray blast can burn your whole house down anyway? Still at least Terry Nation was wise in his script to spare us a Dalek versus K9 confrontation that would really have been the detriment of the Daleks. The Dalek conflict with the Movellans is never properly drawn out, however. The fundamental problem is that the Movellans are sidelined in favour of the Daleks and Davros and the script never really defines the Movellans in terms of their origins or their ambitions beyond seeking mere conquest. I'd venture that for building a credible foil against the Daleks, such vagueness about who the Movellans are is just not good enough. It would have been perhaps better if the Daleks had come across a robot race that had already been established in the series in terms of their origins and goals, such as the Cybermen, or (please don't shoot me) the Quarks. Us fans would love the Daleks and Cybermen to have a knockdown, even if it's a bit too fannish to ever see the light of day; ah well, we can dream.
The Movellans have also been criticised as being a rather pathetic threat to the Daleks given how easily they can be dispatched, in a way that seems to tread all over the plausibility of these two foes supposedly sharing a war of attrition. I can probably justify this criticism by noting that this story gives strong hints that the Daleks and Movellans have rarely encountered each other in face to face combat, and that most of the conflict must have been fought through space battlefleets, in which case the odds would be more even. But alas some dodgy scripting, mainly revolving around the easy resolution to part 3's cliffhanger where Romana is threatened with death by the Movellans, completely blows out of the water the far-fetched suggestion that the Movellans are on any level as 'evil' as the Daleks.
Back onto the positives, I'm very glad that the series was wise to only occasionally revisit the planet Skaro, since it's always had a certain exotic and dangerous appeal as an alien world, and the brevity of encounters there has allowed that magic to be maintained. In the 1960's serials The Daleks and Evil of the Daleks , Skaro was an appropriately enchanting but nightmarish place to find yourself in, with perpetual night and an eerie quietness. Genesis of the Daleks went one further and portrayed the planet metaphorically as being Hell on Earth, with all the fires and chaos, abominations, evil and cruelty and perpetual war that represents hell, and the brutal soldiers of that war were all full of hate and bearing Nazi regalia and technological anachronisms like a sordid gathering of all the worst, most bloody periods of human history into one setting. It was this element of the metaphoric and the ability to present an environment of out and out chaos from the word go that made Skaro such a powerful setting and displayed the full potential for depicting alien environments, and which is why I am glad that the New Series has recently been visiting alien worlds again (and the occasional parallel universe), after a completely Earth-bound first season. In fact, to hark back to the use of an alien planet as a 'hell' metaphor, the New Series has actually done so again with the subversive story The Satan Pit, one of the really great new episodes that has pushed the boundaries of what New Who is capable of.
But to get back on track, there is something reassuring about the sight of Skaro here, shown in broad daylight on what was clearly a lovely sunny day. There is evidence that vegetation is growing again on Skaro and that the planet is finally healing from the nuclear war that scorched the planet. In fact the planet feels as beautiful, peaceful and as safe and magical as a suburban park. It's a planet worth caring about, a planet that seems to offer hope again. Like a lot of upcoming young fans, I read many of the Target novelisations long before I eventually saw the episodes they were based on, and a lot of the time, my mind's eye imagined these stories on alien planets to be set at the backdrop of darkness and perpetual night, but I'd say that overall I wasn't disappointed.
In many ways this is a wonderfully optimistic story. The Doctor shows a decidedly ruthless streak here, implementing the kind of vigilante or terrorist tactics that he had rarely resorted to elsewhere, though it was an aspect seen also in stories like Power of the Daleks, The Brain of Morbius, Vengeance on Varos and many of the stories of the first season of the New Series. Personally, I like it when the Doctor resorts to radical measures in desperate situations; I loved it on a gut level when he beat up bad guys left, right and centre in The Seeds of Doom; unDoctorly perhaps, but so satisfying and exhilarating all the same. I actually grew up on this brand of ruthless Doctor when I read the novelisation of this story at an early age, and to me seeing the Doctor become a vigilante killer is far from being a blasphemy on the character, and actually defines him as a pragmatic law unto himself; after all, the Doctor always has been an outlaw.
Sometimes, I view the Doctor, by his very name, as a man who lives up to the hippocratic oath of "first, do no harm", but other times by the same title I see him as someone who can take drastic action to kill the disease of the universe, or alternatively put down a savage beast the way a vet would in order to protect the innocent, and the latter is how I believe the Doctor should have dealt with a war criminal like Davros (in fact, for the Doctor to kill a mass murderer like Davros sits far easier with me than his killing of Solon).
Unfortunately that scene itself is sold short by poor performances and high flippancy. When the Daleks are forcing the Doctor to surrender Davros by ushering forward their slaves and exterminating them one by one until the Doctor submits, it could have been the defining scene of the story, exposing the Doctor's morality and compassion as his Achilles' heel. It could have been harrowing and hard hitting, and yet there is strangely no tension at all. It is directed flatly with no incidental music, and the actors playing the prisoners seem honestly bored and don't even try to play the scene seriously; there's no fear or engagement from them, they seem to say "just shoot me and get the scene over with".
Similarly when Davros is being threatened with destruction, his line delivery is still completely flat and merely grumpy and his movements show no signs of panic at all. It could have been so much better if the Daleks were seen violently thrusting prisoners forward with their sucker limbs, if there were dramatic close-ups, if the prisoners seemed genuinely terrified and actually screamed when they were exterminated. If we actually had seen a little girl as one of the last intended victims that would finally compel the Doctor's surrender to save her life, and how great it would be if Davros seemed genuinely afraid and desperate to survive when the Doctor booby traps his life support chair, to the point where we could almost pity the evil man. The scene could have had such great momentum and hard-hitting punch, and whilst it comes off as too mediocre to be offensively bad, there's always the deeply frustrating sense of how great it could have been, how it could have been the best scene of the story. As it is, the highlights of the story remain very much its action sequences.
And yet, what is refreshing about this episode is that it is still ultimately resolved on a merciful note that justifies the Doctor's faith in morality and, in some ways, justifies the use of the Movellans. We know that the Doctor passed up the opportunity to destroy the Dalek species forever because he couldn't live with an act of genocide playing on his conscience. In this story we find that the Doctor's faith in morality has won out as Dalek threat has been neutralised without the need to destroy the Dalek race, since the Movellans have effectively contained their empire, and whilst the Daleks are still in existence they are also safeguarding the universe by occupying the Movellans' collective attention.
Similarly, the Doctor here is perhaps more willing to actually kill Davros to leave the Daleks powerless, than in any other story. It is only when all other options are exhausted that the Doctor decides to actually plant a bomb on Davros' chair so that he can blow him up from afar before the Daleks can get him. This is a compelling moment as the Doctor gleefully taunts Davros about what he's going to do (in a way that only Tom Baker could have gotten away with) "All I have to do is press this switch, and Boom! Boom! Davros!", seemingly relishing the prospect of putting to death such an evil man. But once the Doctor is in the clear, his eyes and his hesitancy tell a different story. It says much about the Doctor's reluctance to use violence without relying on the over-moralising drivel of the Davison era. Which makes it all the more positive that in the end the Doctor defeats Davros' plans but then takes the humane decision to hand Davros over to the authorities to be tried and convicted for his war crimes.
Often writers use the Daleks and Davros to emphasise how they are an enemy that really brings out the worst in the Doctor, but I think writer Terry Nation preferred to show the Doctor always maintaining the moral high ground. In many ways, had Doctor Who never recovered from Season 17's falling viewing figures and ended prematurely, then I would certainly not have minded this story resultantly being the final Dalek story in order to wrap up the Dalek saga.
As many fans have pointed out, it would have been better if Davros had been just a one-off character whose poetic end in Genesis of the Daleks should really have been the end for the character, but this was a sequel of sorts for him and unfortunately it stands as his poorest hour. Davros would inevitably go on to appear in every subsequent Dalek story, and recently he was treated to a superb trilogy of Big Finish audio dramas. So far, and perhaps for the best, Davros has not appeared in the New Series at all and the Daleks have done well without him, which hints strongly that for all his elusiveness at escaping justice, Davros was probably finally killed in the unseen Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords.
My final recommendation is that this really will only appeal to fans. There's something very entertaining and watchable about it, but there's definitely a cheapness and lack of professionalism about it; hints that it could have been brilliant, intelligent and powerful, but is overrun by a major air of flippancy. But it's got a simplicity about it and a minimum of violent scenes that makes it especially appealing to young children. Anyway, it's crap, but it's crap that I like.
A Review by Finn Clark 25/11/08
Yikes. The scary thing is that it's not bad by the standards of the Graham Williams era, but it's also a nasty, shoddy piece of work that gets worse the more I think about it.
I'll have to start with Terry Nation. Doctor Who has had two writers called Terry and oddly enough they're also the two who are best known for laziness, self-plagiarism and openly writing for the money. Mind you, Terrance Dicks earned that reputation through his books. Of course they're both huge names in the history of Doctor Who, but let's not forget that Nation is the man who got bounced by Dicks of all people for trying to sell them the same story they'd done two or three times already.
Destiny of the Daleks would be Nation's last Doctor Who story and it's immediately obvious that he's not accustomed to the four-part format. Of his thirteen preceding stories, only Death to the Daleks and Android Invasion had been at that length. Of course, that shouldn't matter to a writer of Nation's experience, but no. Off he goes as if it's a six-parter as usual. The first cliffhanger is the traditional reveal of the Daleks. The second one is the same, but with Davros. By the time we hit the third one, you're reeling at the amount of story he's going to have to cram into the final episode and wishing to your astonishment that they'd made this a six-parter.
However, to my astonishment part four turned out to be this clumsy, misbegotten beast, tripping over its own feet as it lurched for the end. Suddenly he Doctor can wander freely in and out of Dalek HQ to chat with Davros. It's like the tunnel between the Kaled and Thal cities in Genesis all over again. What's more, both races of awesome galactic conquerors are made to look laughable. You can stroll around Skaro without worrying about Daleks, who didn't even bring enough firepower to take out a Movellan ship that's sitting there in the open. You know, those mortal enemies with whom they're locked in an interstellar war to the death. The implication of this would seem to be that the logical deadlock is because the Movellans can't damage the Daleks' spaceships either. Everyone's just sitting in space sending snarky emails to each other. Besides, did they really send just six Daleks in a rustbucket to win their war?
Meanwhile, the hitherto indestructible Movellans are getting their arms pulled off and can be reduced to spaced-out zombies by unclipping their belt packs, then reprogrammed with a bradawl to turn against each other. What's that? Nothing can stop them taking over the galaxy? They'd have trouble taking over Aunt Maisie's cream tea cafe.
By now, Nation's forgotten what he wrote in earlier episodes, e.g. the lethal levels of radiation. Admittedly one doesn't expect anything so arty-farty from Terry Nation as a second draft, but I'd expected more from Douglas Adams as script editor. It's also ironic given the later behaviour of agent Roger Hancock. However, the big problem with Destiny of the Daleks is that it's a Two Alien Factions story. Those always suck. Which bunch of cheaply realised aliens will beat the other bunch of cheaply realised aliens? The Movellans are funny to look at, but as soon as we discover their secret they become walking wallpaper. I liked the "scissors stone paper" scene, but its whole point is that they're predictable with no imagination. This is a story with no characters beside the returning ones. There's the Doctor, Romana, Davros and... hell, K9 counts more than bloody Tyssan. He's a cypher even by Nation's standards, saying about three words throughout and characterised entirely by his make-up.
It's insulting to think that we're presumably meant to think of him as a person. Nation's not even trying. Tyssan gets nothing! No reflective moments, no speeches, not even a snippet of conversation. Admittedly, guest actors in Doctor Who have done marvels with very little more, but not Tim Barlow. Okay, he looks impressively gaunt. It's even possible that he's a good actor when not basically being used as a extra, but there's no way of telling that from Destiny of the Daleks.
Okay, that's the downside. Clearly the way to get a good Doctor Who four-parter out of Terry Nation was to commission him to write a six-parter and then cut out a little of the padding. The upside is until he falls prey to "yikes, episode four" syndrome, what we have in parts 1-3 is the first half of a perfectly good 1960s six-parter. Nothing wrong with it. The first episode in particular is barely distinguishable from part one of Dalek Invasion of Earth, to name but one of many examples. Had the Doctor and Romana been played by William Hartnell and Jacqueline Hill, we'd have had a masterpiece on our hands.
Sadly they weren't. It's time to throw bricks at Tom Baker and Lalla Ward.
This story was filmed third in its season, so Lalla can't even claim first night nerves. However Tom's the real criminal. There are scenes in the story where he's more lively, later on when the plot's under way and he's got Davros and Movellans to bully, but his performance in part one is probably his worst ever. Yes, I said "ever". I don't just mean in Doctor Who. The problem is that this is an unreconstructed 1960s first episode, based around exploring a dangerous environment. This demands something that doesn't come naturally to either of these regulars, i.e. acting. You can't be wacky and bounce off the guest stars, because there aren't any. There's only you. The drama's all about you. Note incidentally that there are wonderful examples of this not only during the Hartnell era, but also in Ark in Space. Tom Baker was still putting in the hard work back then.
Needless to say, the results are offensively bad. Tom's barely paying attention, Lalla's stiff as a plank and it never comes alive for a moment. In fact, Tom's so bored that he doesn't even wake up in episode one when he finally has Movellans to talk to. His realisation that this is Skaro is pitiful.
Then we have the Season 17 house style. This is not how you do a Terry Nation script. He's practically the Doctor Who equivalent of Pinter, in that his scripts need to be played in a very specific way, with no room for manoeuvre. This is perhaps less true of his goofier romps (e.g. ,a href=chas.htm>The Chase), but his grim fight-for-survival stories (i.e. most of the Dalek ones) need to be played deadly straight with all the weight you can give them. If you don't, they'll just come across as padded and slow... which, surprise surprise, would be Destiny. It's not even difficult. I like Nation as a writer. His characters are one-dimensional, but do his stories right and the power in them will knock you through a wall.
With Terry Nation being sawn off at the knee, most of the memorable moments come from Douglas Adams. The Doctor reading Oolon Cololuphid is fun, if only for making me imagine Mad Tom guest-starring in The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Then there's the regeneration parade, which, despite Tom and Lalla, is quite fun. However, apart from all that, the production is basically to be laughed at. The kitsch value of the not-so-special effects is worth waking up for, while the Movellans are a design triumph. They're distinctive, anyway. You'll never mistake them for anything else. I was only disappointed to find that they weren't all female. Disco, baby.
Meanwhile, the Daleks and Davros both look appallingly cheap, with the Daleks having been cobbled together from was still lying around at the BBC. They look about to fall apart at any moment. One has the wrong shaped dome, there's something weird going on with their midriffs and bits always seem to be coming loose. Their castors squeak too. However, 1979 Cheap BBC Davros is adorable. The sight of David Gooderson pedalling away like mad and bumping into walls is even funnier than the giant clam in Genesis. Oh, and his mouth hardly moves while he looks as if he's got five o'clock shadow. I'll be kind to Gooderson as an actor and merely note that he's no Michael Wisher.
As for Ken Grieve's direction... well, he's certainly putting in the effort with his Daleks. He uses low camera angles, shooting them through stuff and giving us obscured shots with random bits of Dalek jutting into the frame. Ten out of ten for effort, anyway. I particularly enjoyed the scene where he puts the camera on a (wobbly) skateboard and pulls it along in front of a Dalek, even if my enjoyment was for the wrong reasons. Nonetheless this is all laudable and looks good... until we go outside into the sunshine and suddenly you want to sit down and have a picnic. Skaro looks nice! It's all too bright and sunny. Look at the scene in episode one where Lalla falls over for no reason when returning to the TARDIS for K9. Is it just Nation being Nation-y? Has she regenerated into Susan? No, actually it's because this Skaro is a nightmarish radiation-drenched hellhole and even something as simple as returning to the TARDIS is an ordeal. You'd never know that from watching what's on screen, mind you. Neither Tom, Lalla nor the director sell it for a moment.
Oh, and look at the end of part one. There's the traditional cliffhanger appearance of the Daleks, to the deafening sound of... nothing. Huh? Where's the music? The dramatic crash? Come back Resurrection of the Daleks, all is forgiven!
So that's part one, which is insultingly bad. Part two is merely dull. The Daleks have shown up and it's a more conventional episode, so Tom's less damagingly rubbish and Lalla has something to react to. At least the entire episode isn't resting on their shoulders any more. Things are better with Daleks around, despite them getting dull dialogue and looking terrible. It's also nice to get four working Dalek props rather than three.
What's more, episode three is actually good! With all the story elements at last in place, the story can get properly under way. Tom Baker comes alive, energised by Davros. This is also his first attempt to murder the guy, which would be taken further in Resurrection and subsequent stories. I'd also suggest that this is the only story ever to strike a good balance between Davros and his creations, although Resurrection isn't far off. Both are active participants in the story, with different motivations and goals. This is also the last 20th century Dalek story on TV without Dalek factions. Had this been an eighties story then the Daleks would have been fighting other Daleks with a different paint job and the story would have been poorer as a result. The Movellans are great.
Episode three has another strange cliffhanger, though. I don't think Ken Grieve understood cliffhangers.
I've already put the boot into episode four, but I will admit that I liked the ideas. Admittedly, it wasn't Terry Nation who came up with them, but I loved his explanation with the "scissors paper stone" scene. It's simple and intuitive, so clever in fact that it papers over the ridiculousness of the whole idea. How could such a stalemate exist in the real world? Even in something as abstract as chess, pure logic alone can't prevent one side gaining ascendancy. Maybe the answer is in my throwaway joke about indestructible spaceships? Furthermore, what's logical about choosing "scissors" as opposed to "stone", eh? It's a beautiful bit of televisual sleight-of-hand, but surely the Movellans are coming up with the same answers not because of logic but because they're running on the same operating code.
I also didn't mind the Daleks being called robots. It's better to say "two robotic races" than to get pedantic with "one robotic race fighting another who aren't technically robots but seem that way because they've been mentally and genetically conditioned to remove all emotions and become totally logical. Except that they still have hatred and anger, of course. Maybe fear as well. Let's call them cyborgs, then."
Incidentally, one could waste a few minutes talking up the coincidental similarities between this and Nation's preceding story, The Android Invasion.
With the possible exception of The Mysterious Planet, this must be the most catastrophic mismatch of script and production in all of Doctor Who. It's Nationesque. It's set in his version of the Whoniverse in which the Daleks have a life and a presence beyond the confines of the story. They've been rampaging across the stars for unknown years, taking slaves and wiping out civilisations. That's all good stuff, actually. There's a brutal tone fighting to get past the Graham Williams-ness of this story and the horrific disjoint of story and style can be interesting in a damaged way. There's also the unintentional comedy value of the visuals. Trust a Graham Williams story to go disastrously wrong in almost as many ways as it has episodes.