Saturday 14 April 2012

509 Destiny of the Daleks Part Four

EPISODE: Destiny of the Daleks Part Four
TRANSMITTED: 22 September 1979
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Ken Grieve
SCRIPT EDITOR: Douglas Adams
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 14.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Destiny Of The Daleks

As the device clicks towards zero the Doctor is stunned by the Movellans. When zero is reached nothing happens: the Movellans had set it not to detonate. Davros is waiting for a Dalek deep space cruiser to collect him but it will not arrive for six hours. He analyses the data on the Dalek Battlefleet's stalemate with the Movellans. The Movellans prepare to lift off leaving Lan behind to manually activate the Nova device and destroy the surface of Skaro. The Doctor challenges the logical robotic Movellans, demonstrating the limits of what you can accomplish with logic using a game of scissor, paper, stone. The Movellans insist that the Doctor reprogram their computers as Davros will for the Daleks. Lan is overcome by the former slaves and reprogrammed. Davros orders the Movellan ship destroyed by attaching explosives to the majority of the Daleks and sending them to the ship to self destruct. Agella is sent to check on the non-responsive Lan and is also reprogrammed by the former slaves. The slaves & controlled Movellans enter the ship, freeing the Doctor and deactivating the Movellan crew. The Doctor goes to the Dalek base to confront Davros, seeing the explosive laden Daleks as he travels. He enters the base, Davros telling him he intends to destroy the Movellan ship with the remaining Dalek threatening the Doctor. Commander Sharrel is found to be missing and Romana goes to look for him, fearing he will activate the Nova device. Daleks approach the Movellan ship and the freed slaves attempt to repel them using Movellan weapons. Romana prevents Sharrel from activating the Nova device and deactivates him. The Doctor blinds the guarding Dalek with his hat, and the Dalek is destroyed by a ricocheting shot. The Doctor detonates the Daleks explosives before they can reach the Movellan ship. Davros is placed in suspended animation in the Movellan ship and taken to Earth by Tyssan as Romana & The Doctor dig the Tardis out of the rubble it is buried in.

I love Destiny of the Daleks, but I'm not blind to it's faults. To me most of the major ones can be found in this episode. The first concerns the mocked up Daleks created to boost their numbers: while many complain that the Daleks throughout the story look shoddy I don't mind the majority of the props: they're in the middle of a war, you'd expect them not to look pristine. But the extra props made up for this story are just not up to scratch, needing to be lifted up to be moved. The one left with Davros, at the end of the scene where the Daleks are sent to destroy the Movellan ship, is a particularly bad offender. Thankfully it gets substituted for a real casing for the next scene and all the dodgy ones go up in flames at the story's climax. The other problem concerns the Daleks being described as robots: They're not, they're cyborgs, with a "living, bubbling lump of hate" inside each one. I can just about live with the idea of the Daleks having completely shed their organic origins but it does jar heavily with everything we'd been told about the Daleks to date.

There's more reused costumes in this episode with a Draconian costume from Frontier in Space and what I think is a costume from Planet of Evil used in the slave scenes which also feature actor Ron Tarr, later known for East Enders amongst the slaves. However there's one poor actress, who I think is Penny Casdagli (who has dialogue with Romana in episode 2), who is seriously struggling with her costume in the location sequences.....

A thought about the Movellans vs the Daleks: is this an attempt to do Cybermen vs Daleks on the cheap? There were several attempts to make a Daleks vs Cybermen story in the sixties, and the central concept here of Daleks vs a logical robotic race seem to be quite similar.

Yes there's a few faults too the story, especially towards the end. But I love it, the first two episodes especially. There are better Doctor Who stories made, but this is my favourite. It's had a diminished reputation amongst fans, especially when held up against the previous Dalek story, Genesis of the Daleks. But it's my first proper encounter with them and nothing can shift the impact it had one me as a child which comes back everytime I watch the first episode. When I was the secretary of IFIS, the Royal Holloway Science Fiction and Fantasy society we held a Doctor Who video night to celebrate the show's 30th anniversary in 1993. We showed An Unearthly Child, Destiny of the Daleks & Earthshock and this story went down really well that night!

This is Tom Baker's 128th episode of Doctor Who which brings him equal with Jon Pertwee's total, with only William Hartnell at this point having filmed more episode (134) at this point. As well as being director Ken Grieve's only
contribution to Doctor Who, this is also Terry Nation's final script credit on Doctor Who. He'll continue too work on Blake's 7 till the end of the 1980 season, after which he moved to Los Angeles contributing to, amongst others, MacGyver. In the early 1990s he was involved, with Cybermen creator Gerry Davis, in an attempt to produce Doctor Who independently of the BBC. He died on 9th March 1997.

This episode produced the highest rating for the story:

Part 113.0 million viewers
Part 212.7 million viewers
Part 313.8 million viewers
Part 414.4 million viewers

The 14.4 million viewers for this episode, aided by the strike that had taken ITV off the air, was a record for Doctor Who to date, breaking the one set the previous week by the third episode. It would be broken twice more in the next four weeks!

Destiny of the Daleks was repeated from the 5th to 8th August 1980. The story was novelised by Terrance Dicks and released just 2 months after broadcast in November 1979. It was the first to bear a cover painted by Andrew Skilleter. I can remember borrowing the novelization from my local library and then having to hide the book in the cupboard because I was so frightened by the Daleks on the cover. So naturally it was one of the first two Doctor Who books my parents bought me for my birthday! Having "acquired" a copy of Destiny of the Daleks on video while I was at university, I bought the official video release when it came out in July 1994 just after I graduated. It was re-released in September 2001 in The Davros Collection VHS boxset, a WHSmiths exclusive, which also contained Genesis of the Daleks, Resurrection of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks & Remembrance of the Daleks. Destiny Of The Daleks was released on DVD on 26th November 2007 alongside The Davros Collection DVD Box Set which contained the DVD versions of the five stories in the VHS boxset above.

1 comment:

  1. Thankfully it comes to a halt with this episode. Although this is probably the worst and exposes the limitations of it's director Ken Grieve. While he is no way as bad as say Richard Martin - he has no idea how to frame a shot with the Daleks in, and they have seldom looked as unimposing as they do here.

    As you say the props don't help.

    If you needed it this episode is proof positive that most of Genesis of the Daleks was by Robert Holmes.

    In your last post you questioned the wisdom of bringing back Davros, due to the impact it had on the Daleks in future stories. Viewed in isolation this story is a horrible cul-de-sac of Dalek history to be avoided.

    As an aside I always thought it would probably have been more interesting if someone other than Daleks tried to bring back Davros in order to help defeat the Daleks. Be it humanity, Cybermen, Draconian - whoever. But it would have been more interesting certainly.

    Although at least the next time we see the big D, he is infinitely more engaging as a screen presence.