Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks Review (or ‘We’re Inching Closer to Pudding of the Daleks’)

Have I written about ‘Pudding of the Daleks’ on this blog before? I’m not sure if I have.

Basically, it’s all about diminishing marginal returns. The more Dalek stories there are, the less impact they have.

I think what got me was the Big Finish Audio ‘Time of the Daleks’ where there plan is to alter Earth’s future by killing William Shakespeare or something stupid. There’s also been a recent one where they try to alter Earth’s

I’ve not read Liz Sladen’s book, but I’ve heard that she talks about how Jon Pertwee grabbed her exactly like this and marched her over to meet the Daleks for the first time. What a lovely guy.

history by helping Napoleon win the battle of Waterloo (and yes, that’s called ‘Waterloo of the Daleks’).

My theory is that with each Dalek story, to give them something new to do it has to become even more tenuous and small-time than the one before and that we’ll end up getting a story where the Doctor goes out for lunch at a fancy restaurant, only to find the Daleks have taken over the kitchen. Hence ‘Pudding of the Daleks’. If Nicholas Briggs is reading this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the plot gets used. He’d probably sit there in his smugness thinking how wonderful he would be at saying ‘blancmange’ in a Dalek voice.

Death to the Daleks is the classic series’ version of Pudding of the Daleks. This is the last proper Dalek story from the era, as from their next appearance it becomes all about Davros, with the Daleks themselves being relegated to crappy minions who sound exactly like Zippy with a ring modulator.

Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks Review: So What’s It About?

An Earth mining ship with a suspiciously small crew has landed on the planet Exxilon charged with bringing back a mineral that will cure some sort of disease that is ravaging the human population.

But the Daleks want it too. Ooooh.

The problem they all have is that an ancient temple has drained all the power from their equipment, and that includes the Daleks guns.

So they have to work together…for a few minutes until the Daleks decide to use bullets instead.

Thoughts – Running Out of Steam?

I would call these Daleks the least threatening up to this point, but that would be doing them a disservice in comparison to the ones in Day of the Daleks who did nothing but hide in a back-room.

The Daleks fail to spot Galloway holding what looks suspiciously like one of their own bombs under his coat. It’s that lack of attention to detail that scuppers their plans.

But by this point the Daleks are becoming very samey. There’s nothing really new here at all and their plans are becoming more and more small-time as I alluded to earlier.

It *could* have been interesting if the entire story had seen them being unable to use their guns, but that development was quickly swept under the carpet because they turned their ray guns into projectile weapons.

And let’s take a moment to think about that. The Daleks ship is so small that the main controls appear to be in a corridor but they happen to be equipped with a shooting gallery, little model TARDISes to shoot and a large supply of bullets just in case of emergency? Ok then…

Really, the Daleks offer nothing to this story at all. Much like Day of the Daleks, it could have worked without them. It wouldn’t have been particularly interesting, but then it isn’t particularly interesting with them.

The Temple – A Lazy Plot Device or A Fun Little Distraction?

The first two episodes of this story are unremarkable. Other than inexplicably killing off the best guest artist in the show (John Abineri) nothing much happens.

In my opinion things begin to move along a bit in the third and fourth episodes with the stuff with the Root and then

The Doctor points and laughs at the moron who couldn’t get past the childishly simple ‘draw a map on the wall’ intelligence test in the first room of the temple.

the bits at the temple.

But I often read people suggesting that those temple bits, where the Doctor and The Greatest Companion That Never Was – Belal – work through a series of tests to get to the heart of the temple and try to put the power off were just lazy padding.

It occurs to me as I type this that based upon the conclusion of the set piece Рthat once they got to the central control room they just ran off again without putting the power off -  those people are absolutely right.

But however pointless it was to the overall plot, it was still the most interesting and fun part of the story, and nobody really complains about the same thing being in the Pyramids of Mars.

Certainly as a child I found this to be the second most memorable part of the whole story (the most being the incidental music by Carey Blyton) and as a 29-year-old man it’s still the part that I enjoy the most.

And as a consequence of it, we have one of the great Doctor Who cliffhangers…

That Cliffhanger

Up until quite recently, I’d only ever seen the Omnibus edition of Death to the Daleks. Any Doctor Who fan worth his or her salt will know that the very earliest video releases just lumped all the episodes together to make one long feature-length story without cliffhangers.

And so because of that I never got to see the actual cliffhanger to Episode 3.

Aaaaaaaah!!!!!

It seems as though Episode 3 underran because the point where the cliffhanger should have been was obvious. The Doctor and Belal wait round a corner while the Daleks approach them, all guns blazing.

But that wasn’t the cliffhanger. Oh no, instead of that we have The Flooring of Doom.

In a documentary about cliffhangers on one of the DVDs people take the piss out of it because of what it is. The Doctor and Belal walk along a corridor only for the Doctor to abruptly stop, saying ‘Stop, don’t move’. This is followed¬† by a close-up of the floor.

I think that’s brilliant, not crap. If I had a chance to see that cliffhanger the first time I watched the story I guarantee it would have got my attention and made me think ‘WTF is going on’.

A far more effective cliffhanger than the Daleks shooting at the Doctor. because you know fine well they aren’t going to get him.

So I say ‘Hurrah’ to the cliffhanger of Episode 3.

Random Observations

  • You can tell Pertwee has a bit of a thing for Joy Harrison, who plays Jill Tarrant. Watch how often he needlessly holds her in close, hugs her and takes her by the hand. He seems to be far more enamoured with her the Liz ‘I Don’t Suit a Swimming Costume’ Sladen.
  • I mentioned the music earlier on, and – a bit like the scenes in the Exxilon temple or city or whatever it is – it seems to polarize opinion. I like it. It’s memorable, it gets stuck in your head and it works quite well with what’s going on on screen.
  • In those aforementioned temple scenes, I wonder quite how the Daleks succeeded in passing each of those

    A shit-load of effort has gone in to making this space ship…

    tests. How did they manage to draw the map on the wall? What happened in the room where they were supposed to attack one another? Why were they even there in the first place? All unanswered questions.

  • And speaking of that map in the first room, how exactly did so many Exxilons fail to get past it? They must have been thick as mince. The Doctor and the Daleks both worked it out in a matter of minutes and yet some Exxilons spent days/weeks in there to the point where they just gave up and died? Ok then…
  • How shocking it is that in a cast of English actors, the gruff and untrustworthy one happened to be Scottish. It’s a conspiracy I tell thee.
  • One thing about the story is it has what I think is one of the best delivered lines – from a humour standpoint – in the Pertwee era. Playing it absolutely straight and in character, the guy who plays Belal somehow manages to make the line ‘An Empty Room’ brilliant. Watch it and try not to at least smirk.
  • To give the effects department a bit of credit, the temple looked good, as did the scenes of its destruction. And the Root was quite cool as well.
  • But that Dalek ship is really crap.
  • The Daleks downfall is – probably not for the first or last time – down to a lack of attention to detail. They go to all this trouble to travel all the way to Exxilon, create slave labour, mine the mineral, install different guns and oversee the planting of a bomb atop the temple, and yet what let’s them down is that they don’t bother to check that the guy standing around suspiciously with what looks very much like a Dalek bomb under his coat is off the ship when they leave, or even bother to check the bags that have sand in them instead of the mineral. Idiots.

Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts

Death to the Daleks is a lazy script from a writer who was clearly on auto-pilot by this point. It’s not a surprise that the initial draft of the first Fourth Doctor Dalek story was another carbon copy of this type of affair. Nor is it a surprise that this one was first written to take place on a jungle planet…probably.

You watch it and feel like it’s just the Daleks showing up for the sake of the Daleks showing up.

Much like Invasion of the Dinosaurs, this story feels like it was written to get by rather than to be exciting.

Not worth seeking out.

3 Responses to Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks Review (or ‘We’re Inching Closer to Pudding of the Daleks’)

  1. Zaphod says:

    I love this review. . I have never seen this particular story but I suspect that you are probably correct.
    I like the photo of Jon Pertwee pointing a finger at the skeleton.

  2. [...] Frontier In Space Planet Of The Daleks The Green Death The Time Warrior Invasion Of The Dinosaurs Death To The Daleks The Monster Of Peladon Planet Of The [...]

  3. You think the root is good? It never looked good to me, even as a kid. The temple is so-so but the effects people have done better work.

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