Destiny of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Friday, 24 March 2006 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

Okay, this one will be tainted ever-so-slightly with a sense of nostalgia.

This was, to the best of my recollection, the first complete Doctor Who story I ever saw. I had caught a few isolated episodes here and there (I do think the very first image I ever saw of "Who" was those crazy green Swampies in "Power of Kroll") but this was the first story I saw from beginning to end. And now, with some hindsight in place and a much more discerning opinion, I can see that this story does have an obvious flaw or two in it. But, in my opinion, it still holds up quite well. 

The introductory scene with Romana (which made little or no sense to me when I first saw it but still seemed quite fun and interesting) is a nice start to the new season. We actually see just how skilled of a script editor Douglas Adams is in this moment. Within the span of four minutes he writes out Mary Tamn, brings in Lalla Ward and puts K-9 on hold for the story. And he does all this with some really witty dialogue. I love it when K-9 says "Aah" when he's not supposed to and the Doctor tells him to shut up! Just as funny as the "Oh look! Rocks!" gag! 

Romana the Second is still, as far as I'm concerned, one of the best companions the 'ole Doc ever travelled with. Sure, I've still got a much bigger crush on Peri (what can I say? She's the Doctor's "chestiest" companion and I'll always be "a boob man"). And both Ace and Rose were "fleshed out" beautifully in the scripts. But the chemistry between Baker and Ward is fantastic, right from the get-go (no surprise that they eventually "got hitched" - even if it was just for a bit!). I love that the entire first episode is spent mainly with them wandering around learning about the planet they're on and getting into some trouble. I believe there have been complaints that Nation should have thrown a lot more into that episode in terms of plotting. I love that he didn't. Cause it gave us some nice time to enjoy some characterisation and some very straight-forward story-telling. Considering how overcomplicated the series could get by this time in its run, it's nice to see it go "minimalist" now and again. 

All right, here's where I get in some trouble with a good chunk of you. "Genesis of the Daleks" is a great story and is a classic just by virtue of the fact that it tells the origins of the Doctor's greatest enemy. The "have I got the right?" and "out all evil some good must come" are some of the deepest philosophical moments the show has ever produced. But, you know what? Outside of this context, it really is only so great of a story. And though Destiny doesn't have some of the grandiose window-dressings that Genesis does, by no means is it the crushing disappointment fandomn sometimes makes it to be. At least, not in my book. 

First of all, it is the only story involving Davros that really dresses a good balance between the Dalek creator's presence in the plot and the Daleks themselves. Genesis, Resurrection and Revelation are really more about Davros than they are the Daleks (particularly Genesis - whereas Resurrection does come close to getting the balance right). And though the surprise appearance in Remembrance is utterly fantastic, it does mean that his real presence in this story is considerably small. Not so with Destiny. In this one, the amount of onscreen time between the Kaled megalomaniac and his master-race is almost equal down to the very minute. And this is one of the greater strong points of this tale. We can enjoy lots of really well-written banter between the Doctor and Davros and we can also enjoy lots of menacing moments with the Daleks. 

Okay, now I go out on an even further limb. I really like the actor who played Davros in this particular story - even if the mask looked awful on him! I do feel that in some of the portrayals, Wisher and Malloy got a tad too OTT for my liking. Sometimes it's not even the acting so much as the dialogue (sorry guys, but the whole "if I had virus that could kill everyone" speech in Genesis is more silly than anything else - I mean, can anyone legitimately get that excited over just thinking about a virus?!). Whereas I really do like how the megalomania is a bit more subtle here. And gets downplayed even further by Baker's mockery of it ("You've misquoted Napoleon!"). Davros, to me, is at his best here because he's not just screaming and ranting about Dalek supremacy like he is in so many of his other stories. Or being so blatantly conniving that a blind fish could tell he was up to something. In Destiny, he has a few more dimensions or "shades" to him. And can actually seem restrained in places. Of particularly noteworthiness is his order to the Daleks to obey the Doctor when they think his self-sacrifice is illogical and, therefore, not possible. Other "incarnations" of Davros would've gone totally OTT in that moment. But our man stays cool in the delivery. And it gives such a nice "edge" to Davros because he does. A very nice piece of acting, as far as I'm concerned. I almost wish David Gooderson had reprised the role one or two more times. Yet another opinion I'm sure I'm alone in! 

There are many more great little moments in this story that make it, overall, an above-average runaround. But I think the strongest testament this story has is that it "sold me" as a 14-year-old boy looking for a cult series to become obsessed with. Like all boys of that age - I was looking for someone to be my hero. And this story brought out the real sense of heroism I was looking for in a character. The Doctor, in Destiny of the Daleks, displays incredible wit and eccentricity whilst, at the same time, being brilliant and effective against evil when he needs to be. And the fact that a good chunk of the whole conflict is resolved by a well-placed throw of a hat just left me awe-struck! Seeing a gripping sci-fi tale end with just a neat piece of costume improvisation made me feel I had stumbled upon a really original T.V. show that I needed to learn more about. And that, I feel, speaks greater volumes about this story than anything else. 

This is the one that got me hooked. Glad I saw it.

FILTER: - Series 17 - Fourth Doctor - Television

Destiny of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 15 November 2005 - Reviewed by Brent Winship

I must admit first off that it has been a considerable time since I sat down and watched this all the way through, so this review is based purely on memory. What I drew from this story the first time I saw it (about 5 years ago), and continue to find it dripping with (last time I saw it, 8 months ago), are allegorical references to the Cold War: two warrior races locked in a war lasting thousands of years (I believe, memory is sketchy) without a shot being fired.

The fact that Daleks are referred to as robots and logical may strike many as wrong, but think of the allegory for a moment. Both the Daleks (USSR, no offense to any russians, just the way it came across to me) and Movellans (US) entered the war on ideological/emotional/whatever grounds and then became stuck in the logic of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction: one side attacks, the other retaliates, both are wiped out). Waiting around for the moment of maximum advantage, a moment that will never come, is very reminiscent of 1979-80. By then the Cold War had dragged on decades without the actual war being fought, as both sides were in an arms race waiting for the moment where they could attack, and not be destroyed in the process. When Davros referred to the Movellans as "another race of robots," he seems almost mystified that both sides could become trapped in the logic of MAD, robotic slaves to wartime logic.

As for Davros himself, I feel that the portrayal of him is excellent, given the fact he has been sitting around on his own for eons. The last time we saw him he had run into the Doctor who provided, for once, some stimulating conversation, then his Daleks betrayed him and he was trapped for however long and the Doctor finds him. He may not be dripping with evil, but he seems glad of the company, while still remaining evil. Later on, in Resurrection-Remembrance, he has been out of his hole in the ground a while, but here in Destiny he has been freshly awoken. 

Destiny may not be as dark as Genesis, but it is worth keeping in mind that, though a war is (not) being fought in the skies above, on the ground the Daleks and Movellans are stuck in the Logic of MAD, and as such do not want to kick-start the war (until Davros starts manipulating things). The idea that, at any moment, an action by either side could start one of the greatest wars in history creates a great deal of tension, which is sadly the downside of this story. That tension, the logic of MAD, Davros' weak showing, all of these are only apparent if you use your imagination to make them so; the script does not do a good job of supporting these ideas, other than a casual reference here and there. 

Overall, I feel this was a well done story that is only let down by the lack of explanation. Fortunately, this does not detract: you can make up your own explanations for missing expositions, you can't explain away obvious faults (as in some other stories). As the next story after the superb Genesis, I feel this story has been hugely underrated over the years as its faults are minimal, and the allegorical reference to the Cold War (though it could have been better) was well done, coming as it did after the Nazi references in Genesis.

FILTER: - Series 17 - Fourth Doctor - Television

The Creature from the PitBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 1 September 2004 - Reviewed by Joe Ford

There have been lots of derogatory things said about Creature from the Pit, so much that it has achieved a sort of fandom infamy for being the biggest pile of garbage and the worst excesses of low comedy and poor FX that the series could sink to. What people usually forget to mention is that it is also fabulous. 

I think Creature from the Pit got its reputation when the Williams era was in especially low repute and only celebrated gems like City of Death and The Pirate Planet were praised and nobody bothered to go back and actually watch the story and realise it wasn’t in fact the embarrassing production the JNT era led fandom to believe it was. My best mate Matt thinks it is the worst travesty Doctor Who ever threw up but I am glad he is one of a diminishing number, reviews when the story came out in its belated video release were positive and encouraging others to give it another chance. 

At the heart of the story is a fair few effective messages, dislike for the unlike is a powerful corruptor and a lust for wealth even more so. Through the despicable actions of the villainous Lady Adastra we can see how one person can affect the poverty of an entire planet. Chloris is a planet rich in Chlorophyll and rather than trade with alien species and introduce a further supply of metal (which is scarce) and lose her tyrannical advantage over the population she condemns them to a life of poverty. 

Even better is the way the story deals with the Tythonian Ambassador. It is almost like a fairytale the way we are led to believe the Creature (it has to be spelt with a Capital C considering how much stress is put on the word!) is a brutal beast, one that skulks about in a dark pit and gobbles up all the frightened scientists that are thrown into his lair. But rather unpredictably the Creature, an amorphous blob turns out to be a friendly sort who is accidentally murdering those men because he is trying to find some way to communicate. It is marvellous to see how Adastra twists the image of the Creature; with a little tweaking she has her planet in abject fear of being munched on by the blob from hell. Glorious scenes of the Doctor trying to communicate with the Creature (widely dismissed because it looks like he is sucking the thing off) prove David Fisher is trying to create something truly alien and different from the archetypal Doctor Who monster of the two arms, two legs and human vocabulary type. 

This is a further example of the brilliance of Douglas Adams’ inspired mentally unstable Doctor. This is Tom Baker at the height of his powers, relishing the glorious dialogue on offer. I have been rather critical of Tom’s season seventeen performances in the past (particularly in my own appraisal of the fourth Doctor) but re-watching these stories of late has opened my eyes to the possibilities of a manic, almost lunatic version of the Hinchcliffe fourth Doctor, one who relies on his wits and flies through the story improvising every move and most of all ENJOYING HIMSELF. What a refreshing change! Through this relaxed, charming protagonist it is a pleasure to experience the story, it is the complete inverse of the Davison era where you pick any story and it is a struggle to get through no matter how good it is because the regulars are always fighting amongst themselves (and thus the audience). Watching a season seventeen story is like going on holiday with your dream companion, someone who keeps things exciting, unpredictable and fun and that person is of course the Doctor. 

Examples of his fervent eccentric-ness beam from every scene. I would spend the entire review listing every moment if I were to mention my favourite bits but selected gems would have to be…

The hysterical banter in the first TARDIS scene. I love it when the Doctor claims, “If I hadn’t produced that they were going to unravel my scarf the wretches!” when Romana comes across a huge ball of twine with a thank you note from Thesius. 

Tom’s wonderfully frightened tone when he examines the eggshell outside the TARDIS and says “It’s alive” followed up by his marvellous observation that ‘stands to reason’ is a stupid expression because it much easier to reason lying down!

His sudden unexpected leap into the Pit! Who saw that coming? Which brings us to the much maligned but brilliantly funny scene where he is clinging to the side of the Pit and tries to read ‘Everest in Easy Stages’ to climb out but realises it is all in Tibetan. So out comes the ‘Teach Yourself Tibetan’ book! Oh come on guys lighten up! How on Earth did we get such comedy gems as this with unenthusiastic dullards like you around? It’s just a bit of fun! 

The Doctor communicating with the Ambassador, I don’t care what anybody says about the cock-shaped protuberance that Erato produces for the Doctor to blow into these scenes show the Doctor at his very best, gentle, intelligent and trying desperately to understand. I love how he doesn’t condemn the Creature for the accidental deaths it has caused and has the patience and understanding to realise it is an alien and as such does not conform to humanoid rules of conduct. 

Another strong criticism about the story is the production and this is one area I can demystify at once. The jungles sets are so realistic for at least half an episode Simon thought it was filmed on location. Its colourful, its verdant and misty, is treated to some wonderful wildlife sound FX and with some imaginative camerawork and lots of humidity and sweat on characters brows Chris Barry effortlessly transports you to this lush world. There is not much wrong with the ‘interior’ sets either, remembering this is an alien world the fairytale design of Adastra’s palace seems fitting (even if she does seem to share a taste in tacky chairs with Helen A) and cave sets are two a penny in the Doctor Who world, any story that gets those simple, featureless chasms wrong has got to be in trouble (Underworld). I love it when the Doctor is first trapped down the Pit, using a film camera, clever lighting use of a match and some glorious cave sets the atmosphere is wonderfully creepy. 

Perfection is an object I would rather Doctor Who not achieve, if everything about the show was flawless how would we know what was crap? There are faults in Creature from the Pit, some gapingly obvious but I am inclined to forgive them because the story comes under fire for all the wrong reasons. The embarrassing monster seems to be the object of everybodies distaste and yet there are some inspiring CSO shots of the Creature filling the cave giving a sense of awesome size. Yes it is clearly a man in a quilt but you didn’t let the snake stop your enjoyment of Kinda, the Skarasen of Terror of the Zygons, nor the animatronic cats in Survival. Doctor Who is not FX driven, the Williams era especially not and anyone who approaches the show from that angle (read non fans) is going to be sorely disappointed and missing out on the ideas and storytelling behind those FX which are magical. 

The bandits are pretty superfluous but they pad out the story nicely and provide some decent comic interludes. Okay so they’re a bit too cuddly to convince and seems to have come from the Oliver! school of acting (“My lovely boys!”…sorry couldn’t resist the urge!) but considering the handful of screamingly funny moments they provide (my biggest laugh in the story comes when their stupid leader Torvin takes offence to Romana…”Who are you calling hair suit?”, “You! Do you want to make something of it?”, “No I just want to know what it means!”). They are surplus to requirement in late episodes, just there to provide some token threat (which they fail to do). Still the whistle scene is still marvellous. 

I love how camp everybody is in the story. Adastra is the epitome of the femme fetale, she struts about the story reminding everybody that she is a woman of power and her dominance over men, caked in make up and with a viscous temper (she slaps Romana around the face for being cheeky). All she is missing is a cheesy sax score and a cigarette holder. Karella is just as bad, a lady of luxury who sucks up to the boss and then switches sides when the tides turn. Lets face it Myra Frances and Eileen Way are both excellent, decked out in vibrant clothes they relish their roles, annunciating every line for all the female empowerment its worth. 

Lalla Ward’s debut performance as Romana is an interesting one, she claims in interviews that the script and her efforts are both effectively drawing on Mary Tamm’s initial portrayal of the character but I disagree, whilst there is a fair peppering of Tamm’s aloofness, Ward plays her scenes with a twinkle in the eye, a hidden warmth that makes all the difference. Her sadness as K.9. is smothered by the wolf weeds is far more touching than anything Romana reacted to last year. I think Ward has a presence and a vulnerability that makes her stand out, when she backchats Adastra you have some prime bitch fighting in progress!

It astonishes me when genuinely well written and goofy as hell fun stories like this one get dismissed to the bottom end of the polls when there are far more insulting examples of depth sinking (either side of this season you have The Power of Kroll and Meglos both of which never come anywhere near as low as Creature from the Pit in fan polls). It was made at a time when Doctor Who storytelling and characterisation was at an all time high, yes it does flirt with the clichés but then the reason ideas become clichés is because they are used a lot and the reason they are used a lot is because they WORK. This is an effective tale; one of tyranny and manipulated identity and it deserves a little recognition for its sumptuous production at least. 

Get out the banners! Picket fences around the BBC! Creature from the Pit is fab! Sing that creed!

FILTER: - Television - Fourth Doctor - Series 17

Destiny of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 1 September 2004 - Reviewed by John S. Drew

There is always that anticipation when a sequel to anything we hold in high esteem comes along. There are great expectations of how one is going to top what is considered a great work of literature or television or cinema. In the sixties, Terry Nation created the Daleks and with their first story, set them out as becoming as popular a character as the Doctor himself. When they returned one year later in the story, Dalek Invasion of Earth, Nation managed to create another epic that stood side by side with his original story. 

In the seventies, Nation wrote Genesis of the Daleks, a story that was supposed to reinvent, of sorts, the history of the Daleks. In creating the character Davros, Nation once again created a character that has proven as popular as the Doctor and the Daleks themse lves. And that’s where Destiny of the Daleks and most future Dalek stories fail. 

Davros, while indeed a great character and when written correctly can be a great foil for the Doctor, tends to overshadow the Daleks whenever he is used in a story. The Daleks become mindless drones with one obsession - restoring Davros so as to help them in their war with the Movellans. The Daleks have conquered earth and have developed their own form of time travel with an understanding of transcendental dimensions, and yet they keep coming back for Davros, looking for help. The Daleks don’t appear as threatening as they did in the sixties. 

This does present an interesting plot twist in the story though as the Movellans try to even the sides by engaging the Doctor for his aid. We are given some great moments as the Doctor explains to the robotic race how they will always be at a stalemate with the Daleks through the demonstration of the game, “Paper, Rock, Scissor s.” The interplay between the Doctor and Davros is excellent once again, but David Gooderson doesn’t drip with evil the way Michael Wisher or Terry Malloy does in their turns as the Daleks’ creator. So we not only have the Daleks watered down, but Davros’ presence isn’t strong enough to strike some tension into the story. 

The lack of music throughout most of the episode, in particular during some of the more dramatic scenes, also tends to take away from the story, especially when you add Gooderson’s performance into the mix. It appears as though Tom Baker’s trying desperately to make it work, but he hasn’t anything to interact with effectively. 

Lalla Ward premieres in this story as the character of Romana. Having played Princess Astra in the previous season, she is trying to find her way into the character and she appears more as the demure Astra then as the more outgoing Romana in this story, though we see some hope with her stopping the Movellan commander f rom detonating a nova device in episode four. 

I also found it jarring to see the BBC wardrobe department being raided to clothe the slaves of the Daleks. I spotted outfits from The Mutants, Colony in Space and Frontier in Space. I also believe Michael Keating wore Tyssan’s outfit in an episode or two of Blake’s 7. 

Overall, Destiny of the Daleks is a great idea with a great story, but it becomes only a good story when you consider what it has working against it. This is not a sequel that stands up to the original, Genesis of the Daleks as Dalek Invasion of Earth did with The Daleks back in the sixties. Not the best way to lure viewers into the 17th season of a long running television series.

FILTER: - Series 17 - Fourth Doctor - Television

Destiny of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 1 September 2004 - Reviewed by Michael Dennis

Let’s get a few things out of the way right at the start. The Daleks are in a shocking state. Broken slats, wobbly, ill-fitting domes, chipped paintwork. They’re less supreme conquerors of the universe, more earthbound, ropey BBC props. Secondly, Romana’s regeneration. The worst thing is that the pace is a bit off; it feels like a rehearsal rather than a take. But, otherwise, it’s quite fun. It’s an appropriate appetiser for the new team, Tom and Lalla, the intergalactic sophisticates. I really can’t get worked up about it at all. But surely nobody does anymore, do they? 

Anyway, look, Episode One’s great! It’s really rather eerie. I know it’s Terry’s well-worn first episode template but so what? It’s well done here. There’s precious little dialogue or incidental music throughout, which feels really odd, but it works. The location filming’s great. That lovely tracking shot when they’re talking about concrete. None of this I appreciated at the time, of course. I was only five. Romana fell down the shaft, the Daleks burst through the wall and I almost dropped dead from fright. 1st September 1979. I was petrified.

And the Movellans. I love the Movellans. They look unlike anything else that ever appeared in the series. What does the Television Companion say? Their appearance leaves a little to be desired? Who are these people? They look great. I love the whole 1979-ness of this story: the white leatherette and bent aluminium tubing. That’s exactly what their spaceship would look like. It’s the future. It gleams, it dazzles. The TARDIS in the 1996 TV Movie should have looked more like this and less like the Batcave, but that’s by the by. The exterior looks great as well; it really imposes itself on the quarry. And then they find Davros. And when their backs are turned he wiggles his fingers. I couldn’t breathe. 8th September 1979. I could not breathe.

Now, Davros is rubbish, I’ll give you that. Not then, of course. God, not then. But now… well. Look, Michael Wisher wasn’t available, so there we are. It’s all been said before. Have we talked about Romana’s costume, though? It’s the best joke of the season (well, we’ll always have Paris). It’s witty and stylish. I love it. And Lalla’s great too: world-weary and aloof but look at the way she goes for Sharrel at the end. Can you see Mary Tamm doing that? No, quite. 

But before that they stick her in a tube with a bomb! Ken Grieve is inspired here. The Steadycam stuff is fantastic. It looks wonderful and makes you wonder why it wasn’t used more often on the programme. 15th September 1979. Can’t remember that one at all. But, come on. It’s the least terrifying cliffhanger, to be fair, and just meant I had something to look forward to when I was older. And to an adult eye it’s the most satisfying. So everyone wins!

Now, what haven’t we mentioned? Well, Roy Skelton spends most of the story veering perilously close to Zippy – just listen to Romana’s interrogation in Episode 2. The prisoners die in a really rubbish way. I suppose they’ve been shovelling rock and they’re exhausted and that’s why they… flop. But, still. And spot-the-costume’s an old game but it’s still funny to see the one dressed as Jon Pertwee walking around. And there’s the Chinese Detective! And one of the Movellans is called Cassandra. Just… Cassandra! (I love daft credits. What’s that other one? ‘Tarpok – Vincent Brimble’. Terrific!) 

So that’s about it, isn’t it? It was my first story proper (I remember running away from the title sequence prior to this and have vague memories of Roy Castle – that confused me for years) so of course I love it. I don’t always like it but I’ll always love it. It’s brilliant. It is. Oh, if you don’t agree you can just spack off.

FILTER: - Series 17 - Fourth Doctor - Television

The Creature from the PitBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 1 September 2004 - Reviewed by John S. Drew

Creature from the Pit is one of those stories that I have fond memories of enjoying in my youth. I remember showing friends the episode as an example of good Doctor Who when they used to ridicule my watching the series. They admitted there were some good points, but they found Erato to be a little too phallic and thus laughable for their tastes.

Sadly, years later as I watch the story again, I cannot find the charm or be reminded of what I found good about the story as a younger man. The concept itself is great; a monstrous ambassador from another world with a translator is separated from his device as a power-crazed woman throws him into a pit. The Doctor arrives and he tries to piece together the elements that make up this little mystery.

Unfortunately, the plot, while great, is too thin to hold up the entire story. Other elements, such as the thieves and Karela’s schemes are just rehashes of Lady Adrasta’s. Just when you think the story should have been over with Adrasta’s death, Karela tries to form and alliance with the thieves. And then the additional tack on of the destruction of the planet only seals this story’s fate as being less than good.

There is also the simple matter of the lack of any real acting in this story. We have Lalla Ward’s awful lament over K9 being attacked by the wolfweeds. We have Karela’s way OTT acting in most scenes. It’s not as if she chews up a scene as rather she destroys it in an annoying way.

And finally, I still, after all these years, cannot get over how phallic Erato is. He really is.

FILTER: - Television - Fourth Doctor - Series 17