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
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.
Note: This review is based on the Doctor Who and The Daleks audio book release by BBC Audio. It was wonderfully read by William Russell
From the box: Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright travel with the mysterious Doctor Who and his granddaughter, Susan, to the planet of Skaro in the space-time machine, the TARDIS. There they strive to save the peace-loving Thals from the evil intentions of the hideous Daleks. Can they succeed? And, what is more important, will they ever see their native Earth again?
Opening Line: “I stopped the car at last and let the fog close in around me.”
The first and most obvious thing about this story is that it provides a different introduction to Ian, Barbara, Susan, and The Doctor. While Ian and Barbara are still school teachers, they do not know each other before this story begins. They actually meet when Ian finds Barbara in the fog on Barnes Commons. She had been taking Susan home when they collided with a lorry. This is a rather suspenseful introduction, and while it lacks much of the intrigue of An Unearthly Child, I think I prefer The Doctor’s first adventure to be The Daleks. Every hero needs a nemesis, and The Doctor’s most-identifiable ones are The Daleks. In some way, it fits that they would be the first antagonists, the ones that were present when his grand journey began. This is actually rather similar to what Tim Burton did in his first Batman movie. Jack Napier created Batman by killing Bruce Wayne’s parents. Batman created The Joker when he couldn’t save Napier from falling into toxic waste. There is a satisfying irony in this, even if it does go against comic continuity. So while An Unearthly Child has a rather symbolic juxtaposition of primitive vs. advanced society, Doctor Who and The Daleks creates an action-packed starting point for our Edwardian Adventurer. I’m also quite biased as I prefer David Whitaker’s writing to Terrance Dicks’.
It is generally thought that the best way to introduce new people to Doctor Who is to write a story in which the companion discovers The Doctor through mysterious circumstances. An Unearthly Child does this, introducing us to Ian and Barbara as they attempt to unravel the mystery of Susan. Rose had the titular character be rescued by The Doctor when she was attacked by Autons. David Whitaker has done this in his novel, but he goes a step further by using the first-person narrative with Ian Chesterton being the POV character. I honestly think this was a great move because it adds a new layer to the original story. While the same events occur, we get more than a recitation of these events. We get Ian’s perspective. Likewise, any action in which he is not present must be related to him. These exposition-laden passages can potentially be dull, but they are brief enough to not break the narrative flow too much. As Ian is the “action” character, this also serves to keep us in the middle of the action and skip over many of the slower scenes from the original script.
According to the interview material at the end of the audio book, overt attempts to portray Ian and Barbara romantically linked were generally nixed in the show. The strength of these two characters and the chemistry of William Russell and Jacqueline Hill caused such suggestions to be present in the performances if not the scripts. In the novel, however, no such restrictions are present. Whitaker makes it quite clear that Barbara falls for Ian and that Ian hopes that this relationship will grow in further TARDIS adventures. While I think many fans take it as writ that Ian and Barbara fell in love in their travels, it is nice to have a book, written by the original script editor of Doctor Who, confirm this. I almost wonder if this was Whitaker’s initial plan for the characters.
In all, I think this was a great adaptation. It was not a straight adaptation of the original episode, it provided interesting insights and variations to the characters, and it was a compelling read. Certainly one of my favorites. It is quite exciting that the book is not only available on CD or MP3, fittingly read by William Russell, but that the BBC is re-releasing the book this year. Highly recommended.
Prescient Chapter Title: The Power of The Daleks
Girl Talk: “Alydon is about six foot four and perfectly proportioned and he has long, fair hair. The scaly thing I’d caught a glimpse of is the cloak he wears.” She glanced at Barbara again. “I’ll come back to Alydon later, if you like,” and Barbara raised her eyebrows to agree to a future and secret conversation.
The new release of the novel can be ordered at Amazon.
The audio version can be purchased on CD from Amazon or on digital audio from Audible.
The Doctor and Amy visit Winston Churchill and discover Britain’s newest weapon against The Nazis–The Ironside. Or as The Doctor knows them, Daleks.
“If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favorable reference to The Devil.”
How great do those Daleks look?
Yes, I’m talking about the WWII Daleks.
Okay, here’s the deal with Victory of the Daleks and why I think it is a decent, although not great, episode. It has all the hallmarks of a checklist. First, Dalek merchandise sells, and while we are currently in a bit of a financial bother, every dollar counts where BBC Worldwide is concerned. It makes total sense that, with a new Doctor, a new Dalek would be commissioned. Steven Moffat doesn’t own Doctor Who, nor does he call all the shots. The BBC can still demand something. Thus, it makes total sense for the BBC wanting new Daleks for new merchandise. That’s one of the dominant fan-theories for the redesign. So, this is item one–BBC Mandate.
Item two, we have the Russell T. Davies continuity of The Daleks. More specifically, we have had four years of “there-are-no-more-Daleks,-oh-wait-here’s-another-survivor”. The show cannot do this anymore. The Daleks must either go away or they must have a story explaining their re-emergence as a power in galactic history.
Sure, we would like to have a better story than this, but if the BBC mandated a Dalek story, then Moffat must produce a Dalek story. Not wanting to sacrifice all story-telling credibility, he would have to address Item Two from above. Given how tightly Moffat likes to plot things, it makes perfect sense for him to regulate this less-than-desirable story to a single episode. This way, it creates less damage for the series-arc and can quickly be left behind. Plus, we can get a few Dalek cameos in the series finale just to help showcase the new design, whether we like it or not.
Perhaps I’m being optimistic, but the above scenario is what I think happened. I could be completely wrong, but I think the story we get certainly fits.
So, how does one go about writing this particular story with these particular mandates? Mark Gatiss is a fan-favorite writer from the wilderness years of Doctor Who, so he is a perfect choice (plus, he and Moffat are working on Sherlock together, so they understand each other). Gatiss, being a giant Who nerd, seems to have chosen Power of the Daleks as a template. Well, more than a template, actually. He’s blatantly re-adapting it without making it completely obsolete. Power of the Daleks is one of the best Dalek stories, it shows how the Daleks go from complete disadvantage to advantage using nothing more than cunning, and it is a lost episode. Only the die-hards will make the obvious connections. The new generation of fans don’t need to know about Power, and if they ever go back and listen to the audios, then they will see it as an in-joke.
Victory of the Daleks is significantly different from Power in that The Daleks in that the Daleks were not discovered, they were supposedly invented. This is a significant change. Bracewell believes he created The Daleks, when in reality, they created him. This isn’t the first time The Daleks created a humanoid robot.
We learn in this story that Amy has no memory of The Daleks. This references both Doomsday and The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End. Steven Moffat is already attempting to undo certain elements of The RTD era. I don’t know if he means it as a criticism of what came before, but I do know he once made comments to the effect of setting Doctor Who back in the universe where it started. I don’t know that he did this, per se, but he has written out a large chunk of RTD Dalek continuity. I’m rather curious what he will do with the pepperpots, but am more than happy to let them be off-screen for a season or two.
I can’t help but wonder at times if Steven Moffat (at least where series five is concerned) is attempting to “one-up” Russell T. Davies. Is he attempting to “do Davies better”. There are quite a few coincidences between the RTD era and Series Five, elements that could be perceived as showing RTD how to do things “properly”. For example, we have a feisty red-head who is a runaway bride. We have a goofy boyfriend who is threatened by, then later “improved by” The Doctor. We have a companion who falls in love with The Doctor. Turn Left gave us a threat as indicated by stars extinguishing, something that also happened in The Big Bang. Refugees fell through rifts and cracks in time (Gelf and Vampires-fish-people). There are many revisited elements between School Reunion and Vampires in Venice (which we’ll address later). We have a series-ending that involves the destruction of all reality. We have a series-long arc setting up a deus ex machina, although in the case of Series Five, the reset button is set up quite a bit better than RTD usually set things up. These may be nothing more than coincidences, but Moffat is definitely using Victory of the Daleks as an opportunity to begin re-writing continuity, primarily the continuity of the last five years. He doesn’t completely reject it, but he does seem to say it no longer matters if it is there. So, in this case, perhaps Series Five is a bit of a patch-up, like one would do when buying a previously owned house.
But, back to the episode. The basic plan of the Daleks (sounds like an episode title) seemed to involve three Dalek survivors trying to convince The Progenitor that they are, indeed, Daleks. Being Dalek technology, it does not recognize their altered DNA (Are they the Daleks from Parting of the Ways with their human/Dalek DNA? Are they the Daleks from Journey’s End, who are cloned from Davros?), so they need a testimony that they are Daleks, and who better to give that testimony than The Doctor, the greatest enemy of The
Daleks. Once this plan is revealed and The Progenitor activated, the episode starts to lose something. The World War II setting is really incidental. It could have been Rome. It could have been Alexander The Great’s Greece. It could have been Daleks at The Battle of Hastings posing as gods. Instead, it is WWII, a cool setting in general, but wouldn’t we rather see Daleks fighting with The Nazis or Daleks involved in a WWII story that makes the setting a major point of the plot? Perhaps The Daleks see The Nazis as a human version of themselves and want to use them to help conquer the planet? I don’t have any real suggestions, but it seems to me that we’ve wasted both an opportunity for an historical about Churchill AND a story about Daleks involved in World War II, rather than Daleks just trying to rebuild their army with a glorified cloning machine.
Honestly, by this point, I hardly see the need to criticize the rest of the episode. It hardly matters, the dogfight in space, the disarming of the Bracewell bomb. By this point, the story has already shown its stripes, and those stripes don’t seem to want to be taken too seriously. Don’t think I am attacking Gatiss, because I’m not. Writing is hard work and screen-writing has to go through many people, from producers to editors to directors. Quite a bit can change from page to screen. In addition to this, if my theory of the conception of this episode is in any way accurate, Gatiss did a good job of plotting and writing a story that probably, initially, wasn’t really wanted. Even convincing Bracewell to go against his android nature and use his happy thoughts to disarm the bomb works as a type of thematic foreshadowing to the series finale where Amy remembers The Doctor. Is it magic? Yes, but Steven Moffat doesn’t seem to have a problem with magic in Doctor Who, so long as it is set up in advance. Judging by fan reaction in general (to magic, not this episode), I think the majority would agree.
And no, I don’t much care for the new Daleks. They look too plastic and bulky. Not sure about the colors. I would like to see them in a different design with the colors before making a final opinion on that.
So, in the final analysis, did I like the episode. Inexplicably, yes. Sure, I have problems with it and I don’t think it is anywhere near as good as it could have been. But for some reason, I still enjoyed it. Maybe it was down to the performances.
Addendum. I thought of this last night while I was trying (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep. One of the recurring elements in this episode is Churchill pleading with The Doctor regarding The TARDIS. Churchill wants to win the war and knows The Doctor has technology that would enable a victory. Even after The Daleks leave, The Doctor dismantles the spitfires. “It’s now how it works,” The Doctor continually chides Churchill. This attitude seems in stark contrast with the rest of the Moffat era (up to this point), which makes a big deal about time being re-written. Is this a contradiction? Perhaps not. Theory number one is that The Doctor’s continual insistence is a character stance. At this point, The Doctor doesn’t know history can be re-written, so Victory could indicate his old belief, which is about to be challenged and changed. Theory number two is that the rest of the Moffat era will show that time can be re-written, but HISTORY cannot. Thus, in Victory, we are being told that Earth history cannot be re-written, but future history (and fictional present history) can. If the former theory is true, it isn’t quite clear enough to come across. If the latter, it is also not clear, and a heavy-handed way of addressing the old dilemma in Doctor Who of “if history can’t be changed, why does the Doctor interfere with future-history and change it all the time?” Surely all the alien planets The Doctor visits have their own history? If either of these theories are true, I don’t think they work, but I prefer the first one, even if it doesn’t quite come across.
I also couldn’t help but wonder if, in allowing Bracewell to escape in the end, The Doctor was already planning on visiting a time when Bracewell died to make sure the technology that made him was disposed of properly. We’ll just assume that he does.
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin
In the wake of the attack on The Dalek ship, our heroes must make their way out of London before it is destroyed.
“I never realized walking was so difficult.”
The attack is a mess. Many of the resistance are killed, others scattered. Even Susan is lost. Barbara, Dortmun, and a young woman named Jenny set off on their own to find a new base. London is to be destroyed by The Daleks. The ship is recalled to the mines. Ian is still on the ship, but he is in hiding. Craddock is also on the ship. He hopes to find his brother, who was sent to the mines.
Susan and David are chased by a Dalek through the ruins of London. We also have a bit of foreshadowing when Susan laments that she wants to leave. David says he cannot leave because Earth is his home. Susan says she doesn’t have an identity or a home, and David tells her one day she will have to stay somewhere. One day she will arrive. As the moment threatens to grow more intimate, they are reunited with The Doctor.
The next few minutes are spent watching Barbara, Jenny, and Dortmun run through the streets of London, trying not to be spotted by The Daleks. This scene seems to be present to emphasize The Daleks are on Earth as we see them and the survivors running past famous landmarks. Having never been to London, I really can’t feel the emotion of these scenes. I get what the director is going for, it just doesn’t work for me and it seems to go on a bit too long. The music is fun, however.
At an abandoned base, Dortmun feels that his bomb is finished (again). He wants very much to meet The Doctor, wishing to meet a man of science. Jenny gets some characterization in this scene. She is strong, a survivor. However, she has a strong cynicism from years of fighting The Daleks. Dortmun sends Jenny and Barbara to prepare for departure. While they are gone, Dortmun decides to try his bomb on The Daleks that have been following them. He hopes to buy the two women time. He is killed as he throws his bomb, which proves ineffective.
The episode ends with Robomen moving bombs into position so that London can be destroyed.
The tone of this episode has shifted somewhat, moving away from the eerie dread that defined the two previous episodes. The sense of urgency is still present, but this story is one of regrouping and planning. Each group plans to abandon London for the north, for the mine. This is convenient. We also see Susan and David growing close to one another. There isn’t a lot of chemistry, but Susan does talk about him a lot and she even contradicts The Doctor with advice David had given her. The Doctor is put off at first, but when David defers to him, The Doctor decides he likes the boy. I must admit that wasn’t as much fun as the previous episodes, but it is by no means bad. We are transitioning to the next phase of the story. We have moved from horror to adventure. This probably means we’ll get some caves before too long.
Dortmun was a sad waste of potential. Yes, the pace was fast in these stories, but we hardly had any time with him and we didn’t really get to know him beyond his leadership position and the fact he is in a wheelchair. His death was tragic, but not terribly emotional. But as stated before, Jenny is becoming a strong character. Even Craddock is getting some good moments. Since these latter two are still alive and Dortmun isn’t, perhaps Dortmun should have been given priority.