Doctor Who – Destiny of the Daleks

Doctor Who Story 104 – Destiny of the Daleks

Written By

Terry Nation

What’s It About

Romana, bored with her current form, regenerates. Afterward, she and The Doctor get caught between The Daleks and the Movellans, who are at a stalemate in their long war.

Seek, Locate, Do Not Deviate
Romana 2
Another positive for this story is the clever costume for Romana, which is a play on The Doctor’s costume. (Source: BBC Doctor Who web site. Copyright 2013 by BBC.)

Fan opinion, with a few exceptions, considers “Destiny of the Daleks” to be a poor story. And while I am always happy to go against fan opinion, in this case I would have to agree. “Destiny” has a lot of problems. While it has a few things that I enjoyed, they are not enough to redeem the story for me. Strikes against this story, the regeneration scene (which was a necessary plot point since Mary Tamm had left, but it was played for humor—to mixed results), the recasting of Daleks as logic-based robots rather than anger-based mutants, an overly-simplistic attempt to convey a Cold War stalemate, and a production that was at times extremely half-hearted. The last two items on this list are mixed for me. I like what Terry Nation was trying to do. The Daleks and the Movellans were at an impasse, neither able to gain an advantage against the other since both sides used logic in their strategies. Granted, this would have worked better with the Cybermen, not the Daleks, but overlooking this, it creates an interesting twist on the Cold War: neither side can attack due to nuclear armaments, the only way to gain an advantage is to embrace self-destruction. It is an idea that has been explored in different stories (in film: War Games, Star Trek VI, and in the horrendous Superman IV). It is natural that Doctor Who would give it a shot. In fact, they had just one story earlier in “The Armageddon Factor.” And while I didn’t enjoy that story, it did explore the metaphor better.

As for the half-hearted production, there were a number of things at work here. The sets were a mixed bag, many of the background performers obviously didn’t take the story seriously, Tom Baker varied wildly in his performance, and the money just didn’t seem to stretch as far. But what impressed me is the direction. It wasn’t perfect, but Ken Grieve made great use of the steadicam. This resulted in some great panning shots and Grieve made good use of frame-in-frame. He seems to have done the best he could with what he had to work with. Grieve’s efforts help this story, but not enough to make it a success, as far as I am concerned.

My Rating

1.5/5

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2 thoughts on “Doctor Who – Destiny of the Daleks

  1. I picked this up on DVD several months ago. It was the first time I had seen the serial in nearly 20 years and, yes, I was definitely underwhelmed. I did think that Tom Baker and Lalla Ward both did good work on this story, and I enjoyed the obvious chemistry between them. Unlike most other fans of the series, I actually do enjoy Romana’s multiple choice regeneration scene at the beginning of the first episode, finding it quite funny.

    Weakest plot element: the Movellans, after looking and acting rather impressive in the first couple of episodes, are then revealed to be easily disabled by snatching their power packs from their belts! For a race that has supposedly fought the Daleks to a total standstill, that’s incredibly silly. I realize that Daleks, unlike humans, do not have hands to just grab those power packs away. But, still, for supposedly logic-based entities, that was a majorly poor decision on their part not to rectify such a glaring design flaw.

    By far the strongest aspect of Destiny of the Daleks was, as you mention, the direction by Ken Grieve. He did very good, solid work on this serial. It is a real pity that he was never asked back to the series to direct a better story than this one.

    • I almost wonder if there is an essay to be written about ‘Destiny of the Daleks” being a metaphor for the Daleks as a concept. They aren’t, in themselves, a bad concept, but Doctor Who, by this time, didn’t really need them. The core of this story is that the pepperpots were struggling with their identity, trying to find a new way to be recognized as the supreme beings of the galaxy, but realizing they needed Davros to achieve their place–and it is telling that from this point until the new series, Davros became a staple of the Dalek stories. They had grown so ineffectual that a race as poorly realized as the Movellans could hold them at bay.

      There may be some powerful, unintentional metaphors here.

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