Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks
(4 episodes, s17e01-e04, 1979)
A new series starts with repairs from the previous one. First, K9 and his magnificent brain need a tune-up, but after he (somehow) contracts a form of laryngitis, he’ll have to sit this one out. Second, Romana thinks she also needs a tune-up, so she regenerates into Princess Astra. She cycles through several forms before deciding on the Astra in a pink version of the Doctor’s costume.
For all the drama in fan circles about Romana’s regeneration, it made sense to me. Since the Tenth Doctor was able to rebuild his missing hand within fifteen hours of regeneration, why shouldn’t Romana be able to adjust her form within the same period? The bigger question I now have: Since Time Lords can apparently make these adjustments and perfect their changes, why does the Doctor rely on a cosmic lottery each time?
Back to the story, the TARDIS is still traveling under the influence of the randomizer. They arrive on a planet with a lot of seismic activity and strong radioactivity, and as they explore, the Time Lords find a lot of concrete debris and a mechanical shaking of the ground. They encounter a group of natives who are observing a funeral. After they leave, the Doctor inspects the corpse and discovers that it was a combat pilot from the planet Kantra. The odd thing is that they are not currently on Kantra.
They pursue a landing spacecraft – “It’s not a flying saucer” is funny given the serial’s villain – and after it lands, it drills into the surface before the hatch opens. As the Time Lords move in to investigate, the ship’s unseen occupants open fire, forcing the Doctor and Romana into the ruins. An explosion rocks the building, trapping the Doctor under rubble. Since Romana cannot move the debris, she sets off to find K9 so he can help. When she arrives, a new series of explosions buries the TARDIS, preventing her from entering. K9 cannot blast out of the debris since the Doctor failed to reinstall his brain, so Romana heads back to the Doctor. She doesn’t see a mysterious figure pursuing her, and when she gets back, the Doctor is gone. Romana’s pursuer startles her and she falls down a nearby shaft while trying to escape.
The Doctor was rescued by the crew of the spacecraft – the Movellans – and they inform him that they are on the planet D5GZA, better known as Skaro. Well, that got the Doctor’s attention. The Movellans are on Skaro to wage war against the Daleks.
When Romana wakes up, she explores the area and encounters several Daleks. Meanwhile, her pursuer has rigged a rope to come rescue her and ends up watching as Romana is taken captive. Does Romana know who the Daleks are? She is very afraid of them, but apparently does not know anything about them based on their interrogation of her. The Daleks assign Romana to a labor camp.
The man who was pursuing Romana, starship engineer Tyssan, arrives at the Movellan ship and declares himself as a human prisoner of the Daleks. After he explains what he was working on and reveals Romana’s fate, the Doctor decides to go after her. The Movellans and Tyssan join him.
Working with her labor group, Romana learns about her captors and their goals. If anyone attempts to escape, the Daleks kill the entire group as a deterrent to other groups staging escape attempts. As the radiation poisoning catches up to her, Romana collapses and her fellow workers remove her body from the site.
The Daleks discover the Doctor’s intrusion and move to intercept his group. They are able to evade the patrols and end up in the control room. The Doctor recognizes a map of the old Kaled city, and tries to reason out what the Daleks are after. The patrols find and exterminate one of the Movellan sentries before discovering the Doctor’s team. The group escapes, pursued by the Daleks, and are able to climb back up the shaft. The Doctor taunts them – “If you’re supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don’t you try climbing after us?” – before leaving. Moments later, he finds an empty grave and a healthy Romana: The Time Lady feigned death by stopping her hearts to escape the Dalek camp.
The Doctor returns to the Dalek headquarters though the back door based on his knowledge of the city. He finds the object that the Daleks are hunting for: Davros. The Dalek creator is in a comatose state after his last encounter with the Doctor, but he begins to wake up as another tremor buries a Movellan in debris. The Doctor examines the body – he was earlier told that it was against the Movellan custom to allow an alien to look upon their death – and proclaims that he was right. About what exactly? That revelation is saved for the back half of the story.
Davros wheels out of his tomb to find the Doctor, who then takes him to a blocked off room for a discussion. Meanwhile, the Daleks have finally broken through to the third level, find the empty tomb, and track the Doctor’s tracks. As they leave the area, the Movellan corpse awakens. There’s a lot of that happening in the Kaled underground these days.
As the group blocks off the room, the Doctor sends Romana and Tyssan out through a window so they can return to the Movellan spaceship. The ensuing discussion is the typical back and forth between the Doctor and the embodiment of the Dalek psyche. As they talk and the Doctor plots, the Daleks discover them and blast into the room. The Doctor threatens Davros with a homemade explosive, forcing the Daleks to back off and setting up a standoff. The Daleks up the stakes by exterminating prisoners until the Doctor surrenders, but Davros recognizes that the Doctor is not bluffing. The workers are released and the Doctor escapes, setting the explosive to remote detonation. The resulting explosion misses Davros but takes out a Dalek.
Romana makes it back to the Movellan spaceship – Tyssan was separated from her to assure her survival – and discovers that the previously dead have returned to life. They stun her, then set to work on something they call the Nova Device, a weapon that will incinerate the atmosphere and destroy the planet.
Tyssan meets up with the Doctor, and they meet up with a Dalek. They are rescued by a Movellan, but the Doctor pulls an object from her belt and she collapses. The object was a power pack, and the Movellans are robots. They continue on, finding Romana in a test chamber with the Nova Device. The Doctor attempts to free her as the counter ticks down, but is found and stunned by the Movellans.
Davros calls for a spaceship to retrieve him, but it will not arrive for six hours. He then reviews the battle fleet’s logistics and status – the details were supervised by the Supreme Dalek, but Davros has none of it and effectively strips the supreme commander of his title – and discovers that the Daleks and Movellans are locked in war, robotic fleet engaged with robotic fleet in logical impasse.
The Doctor also deduces this and, using Rock-Paper-Scissors, demonstrates that a biological influence will alter the balance of power and sway the war. This is why the Daleks sought Davros. The Movellans suggest that the Doctor should become their war planner, but he refuses.
Tyssan leads a prisoner revolt, storming the ship and systematically deactivating the Movellans. Meanwhile, Davros dispatches the Daleks, armed with the Doctor’s explosives, to destroy the Movellan ship. With the ship under Tyssan’s control, the Doctor leaves to confront Davros, but is trapped by a single remaining Dalek who did not join the suicide squad.
The prisoners attempt to defend the ship, but are no match for the Daleks. Romana leaves the group to stop the last Movellan from using the Nova Device. The Doctor distracts the Dalek guard by covering its eyestalk with his hat and causing it to explode. He then triggers the explosives, destroys the Dalek squad, and captures Davros. In the custody of the former prisoners, Davros is placed in cryogenic suspension and sent to Earth for trial.
The Doctor and Romana sneak away and watch the Movellan ship depart, then dig out the TARDIS and prepare to leave. Over a discussion of the Doctor’s ability to win by making mistakes, including a false start dematerialization, the Time Lords leave Skaro for another adventure.
It’s good to see the Daleks and Davros again, and I appreciate a story like this that has a few twists and turns. Romana’s ignorance of the Daleks is a little odd – One would think that Time Lords would learn about a serious threat like them in the Academy – but was a great way to re-establish some power to an enemy that the Doctor has easily and frequently vanquished. It also helps solve one of the big issues that I had with Romana in the Sixteenth Series: This time she’s not just playing “Doctor Lite.”
All told, this was a good start to this series.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: City of Death
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.