I read a comment from someone recently who said that my blog is ‘vituperative’. I like to think I’ve got a good grasp of the English language, but I don’t believe in cock-swinging with swanky words, so even I had to look up what that meant.
Turns out it means ‘bitter and abusive’.
Now generally speaking that isn’t true. I praise what I like and I criticise what I don’t. What would be the point in blindly saying everything is amazing? To criticise isn’t to be bitter or abusive. Perhaps the man who speaketh with the big words needs to understand what the words of this blog actually mean?
But if that same guy is looking in, then I’m afraid I’m not going to change his opinion of my writing because I’m about to review one of my least favourite Doctor Who stories of all time, Destiny of the Daleks.
I know what you’re thinking – Destiny of the Daleks isn’t a story that would be anywhere near the top of many people’s’ worst Doctor Who stories list – so why do I dislike it so much?
I remember having this discussion with a guy on the Scottish Football forum, Pie & Bovril. He has Destiny of the Daleks as his favourite Dalek story, and it’s something I just can’t get my head around, because I actually think it’s the worst Dalek story ever.
So what’s the problem with it. Why don’t I like it? And do I dislike it as much as I do some of the genuinely terrible stories out there?
Doctor Who – Destiny of the Daleks Review: What’s This One About?
The Daleks have gone back to Skaro to unearth Davros and get his help to defeat the Movellans, a race of robots that they are locked in a stalemated war with due to the logical way both races think.
Thoughts – The Problem Is The Daleks
As a premise, Destiny of the Daleks isn’t bad.
I like the concept of two warring races of logical robots locked in a stalemate because they can’t think outside of the box. That in itself is a really good idea for a Doctor Who story, and it’s very well explained by the ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ analogy in Episode Four.
That could have worked as great story…if it didn’t involve the Daleks.
But it does involve the Daleks and for a few reasons, that’s what makes this story poor.
Just like in my Genesis of the Daleks review, I look at Terry Nation and his inability to keep his story straight when it comes to writing for his most famous creations. All of a sudden, the Daleks are logical robots rather than mutations contained within an armoured shell. And they are incapable of thinking illogically.
I’m sure logical thinking was exactly what was behind their Invasion of Earth back in the Hartnell Era.
It just doesn’t work for them, and instead it just makes them seem as though they are pawns in a game run by Davros.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Dalek stories from Genesis of the Daleks onwards become Davros stories instead, with the Daleks as supporting guest artists.
And here they are especially bad because the thing that brings the Daleks to life – in the absence of any sort of visual emotion or difference – is their voices. And these are the worst Dalek voices ever.
They sound like Zippy. Or, to be more precise, they don’t just sound like Zippy; they have Zippy’s exact voice.
I don’t know if any of you have seen the documentary on the Genesis of the Daleks documentary where Roy Skelton does his ‘How To Talk Like A Dalek’ sketch, but when I watch this story, all I can visualise is him sitting there screaming into a ring modulator, taking himself far too seriously and thinking he’s a good at his job.
Well he’s not.
Rainbow was on TV in 1979 and had been on for about seven years. Skelton should have known that he had to come up with a voice that sounded slightly different to the one he was making money off on that kids TV show, but didn’t. The director should have stamped that out, and he didn’t either.
So they both deserve to be criticised.
It’s not just that though; the Daleks have the worst dialogue ever heard in Doctor Who. It’s not enough to say ‘Do not move’ or ‘Seek, Locate, Exterminate’ once or twice; they have to say it twenty times. The cliffhanger to episode one is a good example of that. It’s already a bust because you know the Daleks are in it, but after the inexplicably crash through a wall to reveal themselves, they say “Do not move” to Romana so many times that you expect her to say “I’m not moving, what’s
Urgh, I hate it.
The other main players in Destiny of the Daleks are no better either.
First of all you’ve got Davros. Michael Wisher always struck me as a hammy over-actor, but he was pretty good as the emotive Davros back in Genesis. For scheduling reasons, they couldn’t get him, so rather than cast someone who could do the part justice, they seemed to settle for a guy who could fit into the costume.
And what a bore he is. Played by David Gooderson, Davros has all the charisma of a pot of yoghurt. Not fruity yoghurt either; plain yoghurt. Gooderson seems bored even reading the lines, and what’s worse is that because the mask doesn’t fit him perfectly, all you’re getting is a bloke speaking in a slightly muffled voice under it.
Besides that, what is Davros even doing in this? He was killed off in Genesis of the Daleks and should have stayed dead. But not only has he survived, he’s managed to survive for hundreds of years and only decides to wake up the moment the Doctor finds him. And what’s he doing in that room anyway? Why did the Daleks not dispose of him? Why did they just leave him in a room – a different room from where they shot him no less – and then leave the planet without at least clearing up the mess? Did they not worry about the smell? Or the rats?
What that is is lazy and nonsensical writing, but again, it’s Terry Nation we’re talking about, so we can’t be too shocked.
And then we move onto the Movellans.
Let’s just skip over the design as the sort of hair brained idea that someone made up while having a particularly boozy lunch. “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we had a robot race played by black actors in white spandex bodysuits and sparkly silver wigs”.
It was the 70s, so we’ll move on.
No, what I want to focus on with the Movellans is how easily they are killed. Basically they can be switched off by pulling an exposed battery pack out of their belts.
How could a race that could be defeated by a bunch of starving slave humans picking their pockets be such a galactic power? Maybe it’s because the Daleks don’t have flexible enough arms?
No matter what way you look at it, all three of the major players in this story are poorly written, poorly thought up and poorly realised.
And that’s why this story is…you guessed it…poor.
- As you probably know, the boy who plays Tyssan – Tim Barlow – was deaf when he played this part. I’ve got to say that he does a very good job under those circumstances. The only ‘tells’ for me are the way he sometimes doesn’t quite get the volume of his lines right, and how Tom Baker is very physical and obvious around him when delivering his lines.
- Also being deaf, I’m not sure he realised how posh he sounded when he said to Romana “Hearts? How many have you got?“. Spiffing.
- Apart from the poor way the characters were written and performed, there are also some gaping holes in the plot. The Daleks have been digging for some considerable time to find Davros, and yet he appears to have been discovered on a level of the base where there is an open window that leads to the surface. Come on…
- Destiny of the Daleks also features two of the most lacklustre death scenes ever seen in acting. One of the women who gets exterminated dies by gently sitting down on the floor.
- Another piece of bad writing; why is it that the lead Movellan is all of a sudden stumbling about and barely able to move after escaping his own ship unharmed. Made not even the slightest bit of sense.
- The scene pictured, with the Daleks in the quarry, is a classic case of the director wanting to get a good visual despite it not making sense. Where are those Daleks facing the opposite way going?
- I know they were limited in ways to replace Romana, but I didn’t like her ‘Choose a body for the sake of it’ regeneration. Was Romana having some sort of personal problems looking like Mary Tamm? Lalla Ward is hardly an improvement, is she?
- What’s even worse about the Daleks in this story is that the writing takes the piss about how limited they are. The old chestnut about the Daleks being unable to climb upstairs is not something that should ever be touched upon within the show itself, and having a Dalek get completely flustered by the Doctor putting his hat over its eye stalk is pathetic.
- “Oh look, rocks” proclaims Tom Baker to pull the trigger on the beginning of “The Tom Baker Comedy Season”.
- You’ve got to love the extra who storms the Movellan ship in Episode 4. What a hoss!! He’s given me a chance to bring back the ‘Mon then‘ tagline!
- To give some level of credit to it, while I don’t really think much of it now, I loved the cliffhanger of Episode Two when I first saw it as a child.
- Also, since she is technically a new companion, Lalla Ward deserves credit for a fine performance as Romana. I prefer Romana 1, but she’s still a worthy addition to the cast.
- I don’t think this story could have worked with K9 in it, do you?
- DWM Mighty 200 Rating: #121. Not for me thanks. Bottom 20 without any hesitation.
Doctor Who – Destiny of the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts
I don’t like it.
It’s not that it’s a bad idea, but it’s a bad idea for a Dalek story.
It’s trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
The Movellans are rubbish, the Daleks have Zippy’s voice and Davros is bland and uncharismatic.
So I think it’s a poor story. It’s nowhere near as bad as the likes of Underworld, but it’s still bad. It’s certainly the worst Dalek story ever.