01/02/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD 2434. 1 DVD 99 minutes 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: about GBP 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look). cast: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Tim Barlow, Peter Straker, Suzanne Danielle, Tony Osoba and David Gooderson.
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With this story, ‘Destiny Of The Daleks’, Romana decides to regenerate and ceases to look like actress Mary Tamm and after some deliberation, takes the appearance of actress Lalla Ward. Within the TARDIS, time is flexible enough to play around with the changes. Something that I did ponder on about the smooth transition is that Romana was relatively healthy. Whenever the Doctor regenerated, he was usually seriously injured and unconscious and changed randomly. Romana demonstrates that regeneration could be done more smoothly. Although it wasn’t discussed in the story, her appearance resembling that of Princess Astra from the previous story, ‘The Armageddon Factor’, could serve a secondary purpose having the sixth key appear in different places and time and making it less likely to check back on the planet Atron where she normally lives.
The two Time Lords arrive on a mystery planet, see a burial, the arrival of some white suited dark-skinned aliens by spaceship and some explosive excavations. However, these cause some structural damage in a building, leaving the Doctor trapped. Romana goes back to the TARDIS to collect K-9, who was being repaired, only to see the entrance blocked by debris. Returning, she finds the Doctor gone and when pursued by another humanoid falls down a vent and captured by the Daleks.
Meanwhile, the Doctor had been freed by the Movellans and finds out they are on Skaro and realises what the Daleks are digging for. Romana, regarded as harmless by the Daleks is detailed to a work party, we really ought to see more of the Daleks using humanoid slaves more in current stories, feigns death to be buried and escape and reunites with the Doctor, together with another escaped prisoner Tyssan (actor Tim Barlow).
The Doctor is concerned with what the Daleks are up to and leading a team consisting of Romana, prisoner and a team of Movellans infiltrate the Dalek base and find their maps patchy but realises what is in the fourth sector. Going there by a different route, they recover Davros (actor David Gooderson under the make-up this time), who himself was in suspended animation for many centuries. Escaping with him, they have to evade a Dalek force, resulting in the Movellans with them killed, and once they are concealed in a bunker, the Doctor orders them to Romana and the prisoner to get the other Movellans to get Davros out. While they are gone, the Doctor wires the bunker with explosives and finds he has to use this to stop the Daleks from killing him and the prisoners. Escaping, the Doctor has his belief that the Movellans aren’t really his allies. Any more, you’ll have to watch yourself.
The Daleks rescue of Davros is to beat an impasse between them and the Movellan fleets. Although the Daleks inside their war machines are essentially organic, Davros programmed their computers and only follows logical strategies. The Doctor argues that even if he modified the Movellan computers, it would only create another impasse with whatever Davros would program. I’m not sure if I could agree with that. I mean, all you need is a random choice, not deploy all forces in any strategy and expect some losses to make it work. If the other side is still employing the same logical format then they would eventually lose.
There are some other odd things. Presumably, off-camera, Romana received her anti-radiation tablets from the Doctor and she told him that the TARDIS doors was covered in debris. What is a puzzle is why didn’t the Daleks have their own spacecraft on Skaro? Doesn’t say much for their thoughts of success with their mission.
The audio commentary is with actress Lalla Ward and director Ken Grieve and from episode two, actor David Gooderson who explains the time it took to be made up as Davros. The quarry used was from Dorset and there is some deliberation on acting over special effects and Douglas Adams. Terry Nation plotted this story but the dialogue was all Adams. Lalla Ward also found the Daleks sweet but not when she was acting and the belief in them needed to carry them off. Grieve points out that there were only four operational Daleks which brings a quandary of five moving in shot in episode five. He also points out that this is the first time that a SteadiCam camera was used by the BBC and that they and Stanley Kubrick, for use on the film ‘The Shining’ had funded its development. As to the Daleks being blown up, guess which actor was allowed to press the button. It is also pointed out how much was done on a cheap shoestring budget but that doesn’t matter, it’s still a great story and there’s a great picture in the photo gallery of the three other choices together for Romana’s appearance. I always thought the third was just Ward in disguise but not from this photo.
The extras are again extensive. A half hour examination of the contribution of Terry Nation to ‘Doctor Who’ and his most infamous creations, the…well, you know what they are. There’s also a reminder of the other stories he also wrote for the series.
Director Ken Grieve chats about some of the pitfalls of filming the Daleks and how primitive the equipment was in 1979 which is very enlightening. There’s also an unusual set of adverts for an early computer system that looks distinctively primitive these days.
This story is important because it re-introduces Davros to a more modern time than ‘Genesis Of The Daleks’. Considering how rarely the Emperor Dalek is ever seen, the Daleks very rarely had any leader beyond the one that gave out orders. Davros was the obvious choice. Things change forever from this point. One can only assume the Movellans faced defeat with some dignity as it was never shown. It just goes to show that being able to climb up and down stairs does not guarantee a victory.
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