Wednesday 11 April 2012

506 Destiny of the Daleks Part One

EPISODE: Destiny of the Daleks Part One
TRANSMITTED: 01 September 1979
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Ken Grieve
SCRIPT EDITOR: Douglas Adams
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 13 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Destiny Of The Daleks

Destiny of the Daleks is the first story of season 17, and was extensively trailed & publicised in advance: First story of the new season, a new companion and the return of the Daleks! A specially shot trailer with Tom Baker being told by a disembodied voice that he can expect to encounter the Daleks. The trailer is on Doctor Who - Destiny Of The Daleks DVD but you can also watch it on YouTube.

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In the Tardis, the Doctor is trying to repair K-9, who is suffering from laryngitis.
Regular K-9 voice actor John Leeson had left the show at the end of the Sixteenth season. His replacement David Brierly had already been cast, but to save the expense of paying him for a few brief scenes regular Dalek voice actor Roy Skelton provides K-9's ahhhs here as the Doctor examines him.

K-9 is excluded from the story because Terry Nation didn't want to have him in the same show as his own mechanical creations.
The Doctor encounters someone he believes is Princess Astra of Atrios. However it turns out to be a newly regenerated Romana. He tells her she can't wear a copy of someone else's body but after rejecting a number of other options, and Romana returning to that form, he accepts it when she dresses in a replica of his costume
Following the Armageddon Factor, Mary Tamm who had played Romana left the series because she felt her role hadn't developed as planned. However since Romana was a Time Lord it would be easy to just regenerate & recast her..... Tamm recommended Lalla Ward, who had played Princess Astra, the sixth segment of the Key to Time in The Armageddon Factor. She accepted and was cast as the second incarnation of Romana. This is her first on screen appearance but due to the scrambled nature of the production order for this season her third story, the Creature from the Pit, was filmed first followed by her second, The City of Death then Destiny of the Daleks, which opens the season.

One of the costumes worn by one of the actresses in this sequence was worn by Zilda in Robots of Death.
The Tardis, guided by the randomiser, lands them on a rocky planet with a high level of radiation & seismic activity. The Doctor issues Romana with anti radiation pills. When then step out onto the surface the Doctor experiences a sense of Deja Vu, and feels he's been there before
It's a little amusing that on the first trip using the randomiser, installed to prevent the Black Guardian from tracking them, that the Tardis lands somewhere familiar.

Things Phil learnt from Doctor Who: what Deja Vu means.

Things Phil learnt from Doctor Who that are wrong: Radiation's effects on the human body can by overcome with medication. Actually this one harks back to the very first Dalek story where the Thals have anti radiation medication. An early clue to long standing viewers as to where the Doctor & Romana might be!

Doctor Who had used the rocky quarry location in this story before: Winspit Quarry was used as a location in the Underwater Menace and, as the linked location photos show, one of the shots used in this episode appears to use exactly the same cave entrance as in the previous story.
The Doctor finds a composite of gravel, limestone & clay: concrete, evidence of a civilisation. They find ruined buildings then a high pitched strikes up along with shaking ground. They witness a party of weary humanoids burying a body in a cairn of broken stones
which is wearing another Robots of Death costume, the one used by Dask. One of the burial party appears to be wearing the costume of one of the Sisterhood of Khan from the Brain of Morbius.
The Doctor excavates the body, identifying him as a combat pilot from Kantra, a tropical planet. He died of exhaustion and not the expected radiation poisoning. The Doctor & Romana witness a ship coming into land and burying itself in a sandy surface.
The second, more sandy, location used for this episode is Binnegar Heath Sand Pit, also in Dorset, and near to locations used for Death to the Daleks & Caves of Androzani.

The model work in this sequence is fantastic, far beyond anything seen in the series so far.
As the Doctor & Romana approach the space ship they are driven away by a number of explosions.
The Destiny Of The Daleks DVD adds laser blasts to this sequence, because dvd producer John Kelly believed the explosions are being generated by the recently landed space ship. I think he has since acknowledged he made an error here!
The Doctor & Romana flee to the ruined buildings where the Doctor deduces the explosions are caused by underground drilling, but the blasts dislodge a pillar which collapses trapping the Doctor. He dispatches Romana to the Tardis while he settles down with a book, the Origins of the Universe, instantly dismissing it as being wrong on the first line, and wondering why he didn't ask someone who saw it happen.
The book is written by Oolon Colluphid, a fictional author frequently mentioned in the The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Books, radio & TV series, as written by new Doctor Who script editor Douglas Adams.
As she nears the Tardis Romana is stalked by a pale dishevelled figure. She arrives just in time to see another spate of drilling dislodge overhanging rock, burying the Tardis under tons of rubble. As she does a bleeper goes off reminding her that she is due another anti-radiation pill. The Doctor takes his, and further pours scorn on the book he is reading. He is surprised by the arrival of three white clad humanoids. When Romana returns she finds the Doctor gone, his book abandoned. Surprised by the man who has been following her she backs away and slips down a shaft. He ties a rope to a pillar and begins to mount a rescue attempt. Taken to the spaceship they saw land earlier, the Doctor learns from his rescuers that he is on Skaro
The Doctor's sense of Deja Vu was right: he's been to Skaro twice before in The Daleks, the second story of the whole series where he first encountered his arch enemies, and again in The Evil of The Daleks, where the second Doctor believed he saw them destroyed.
Romana awakes in a confined space at the bottom of the shaft she fell down. As she explores her surroundings the black mirrored walls start to shake. As her pursuer prepares to descend the shaft to rescue her, the walls shatter and Romana is surrounded by Daleks who command her "Do not move! You are our prisoner!"

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Right at the start of the blog I said the end of this episode scared me to death as a child, so much so that I didn't come back for three weeks and then only to see the Daleks getting blown up to try to cure the fear of the creatures and the program which had built up. As a six year old watching this I knew the Daleks were coming: I'd seen the trailers, I could read the title at the start of the episode. The experience watching it was ratcheting up the tension all the way through. When are they going to appear? Are they hiding behind that rock? Then at then end they come through the ****ing walls! Nowhere is safe any more! They could do that tonight in my bedroom. The end of Destiny of the Daleks 1 is *THE* real "Behind the Sofa" moment for me with Doctor Who. You talk about Doctor Who and being afraid and this is what I think of: The six year old me coming face to face with the Daleks in the series proper for the first time.

This episode notched up an incredible 13 million viewers, thanks to a strike at ITV! Technicians walked out on 10th August not returning to work till October 24th, and in the process gifting Doctor Who it's largest viewing figures ever during this period. Unfortunately at the end of the season BBC technicians would have their revenge.....

Has a companion ever had a better introductory episode though? Yes we know who Romana is, but we're meeting this new one for the first time. In effect this episode is a virtual two hander between herself and the Doctor. No other character speaks until the last few minutes of the program: then there's only four speaking roles, including The Doctor & Romana, and one of them is only heard in the dying moments of the episode. The Doctor & Romana, and the interplay between them, completely carries this episode. There's music as per normal, but the atmospheric howling wind played over the location material really adds something to the feel and the ruined building interiors are just fabulous sets.

I love it. Destiny of the Daleks is my favourite Doctor Who story, not necessarily the one that I think is the best, but my personal favourite. And this is probably my favourite episode of the four.


  1. Memories burned in to my brain forever: The Doctor and Romana discovering the pink flubbery mutant thing in the sand.

  2. The first episode is not going to get as big a kicking as others but it quite clearly has flaws.

    Romana II - the regeneration sequence makes it look pretty much like the Doctor isn't any good at it, and brings him down a wee notch and trivialises the ability a little bit. Something I've never been fond of.

    It's a shame Mary Tamm didn't meet the Daleks, as her icy calm would have been much more impressive than the almost crying schoolgirl Romana we have now.

    My anger will rise with each subsequent installment.