Timestamp Special #9: The Curse of Fatal Death

Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death
(4 episodes, 1999)

 

Five Doctors in twenty minutes: That must be a record.

Starting off with a little backstory, this was shown as part of the 1999 Comic Relief Red Nose Day telethon. This comedic special starred Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean, Blackadder) as the ninth incarnation of the Doctor, Richard E. Grant (Scream of the Shalka, Logan) as the “quite handsome” tenth incarnation, Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Paddington) as the slapstick shy eleventh incarnation, Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill) as the (not “quite”) handsome twelfth incarnation, and Joanna Lumley (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Sapphire & Steel) as the thirteenth incarnation.

Alongside all those Doctors, we also had Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, Brazil) as an over-the-top version of the Master and Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous, Chicken Run) as companion (in more ways than one) Emma, and the adventure was penned by Steven Moffat, who would go on to Coupling before coming back to Doctor Who.

Got all that? There may be a quiz later.

On to the story…

After a revival of the Fourth Doctor’s title sequence, we watch as The Master chases the Doctor through the temporal vortex, maniacally blustering about his evil plan to kill the Doctor and spoiling the important parts through his inability to operate a speakerphone. The Doctor and his companion Emma meet the Master on Tersurus – the planet was previously inhabited by a race that was peace-loving, shunned because they communicated by passing gas through precision modulation, and were self-exterminated after they discovered fire – and of course the Master traps them by arriving early. The Doctor and Emma trade traps with the Master, each party having arrived earlier than the other. Emma interrupts the roundabout party with a revelation: The Doctor has found love with Emma and plans to retire, get married, and settle into domestic bliss.

The Master is disgusted, and he travels back in time to convince the castle’s architect to install a trap door to the sewers. The Doctor turns the tables again by going back even further to place the trap door under the Master. Before they can leave, an aged Master arrives (after three centuries trying to escape the sewer) with Daleks to exact his vengeance. The Doctor traps the Master in the sewers twice more, and a chase commences with the Daleks and an even more aged Master.

The Daleks capture the travelers for the Master (now rejuvenated by superior and firm Dalek technology), who has promised them the means to conquer the universe. Of course, the Daleks plan to exterminate the Master, and the Doctor informs the Master of this double-cross in Tersuran. The Daleks figure it out anyway and shoot the Doctor, who then regenerates from his ninth body into his tenth.

After a brief memory refresher, the Daleks ask the Doctor to stop the overload that they started, but a few crossed wires results in another regeneration, exchanging the tenth incarnation for the eleventh. Another short circuit causes another regeneration, and a residual discharge forces another (which needs a little prompting from Emma, the Master, and the Daleks).

In a moment of foreshadowing, the Doctor’s new body is female.

Unfortunately, Emma is not keen on marrying the Doctor in her new form, but the Master and the Doctor spark something special and walk off into the end credits together.

 

This was certainly funny (in the British comedy tradition of sex and bodily function humor) but not particularly deep. Honestly, there’s no particular need for depth since it’s played for laughs to spur donations. That’s the whole drive of Comic Relief after all.

The element of the Doctor finding romance is still a key element, but it’s hard to tell if Steven Moffat and company are spoofing the idea or trying to further it in the franchise. The continual ramping up of the Doctor’s sexuality in this twenty-minute segment points to the joke, but we certainly know what he’ll think of the concept in years to come.

And even though this was a BBC-authorized television production bridging the gap between the TV movie and the 2005 revival, I certainly disagree with his notion that this could have been a legitimate continuation of the franchise.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka

 

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.

 

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Timestamp #152: Remembrance of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks
(4 episodes, s25e01-e04, 1988)

 

Returning to where it all began.

The opening teaser reveals a large and foreboding spacecraft approaches Earth. Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, students arrive for classes at Coal Hill School while the Doctor and Ace discuss the anachronisms in Ace’s clothing, boombox, and a nearby van. Ace goes in search of food while the Doctor investigates the motor vehicle (and a strange little girl). The Doctor meets Professor Rachel Jensen, the van’s monitor, and Ace meets up along with Sergeant Mike Smith as the whole group rushes to the local junkyard.

I. M. Foreman’s junkyard, to be precise, at 76 Totter’s Lane.

Group Captain Gilmore shows Jensen and the Doctor to a corpse. The Doctor determines that soldier died after being shot by an energy ray, and he tracks the source to a nearby shed. Gilmore’s hand-picked troops arrive and take up positions. The soldiers engage as the hostile opens fire, but their bullets are no match against an armored Renegade Dalek.

The Doctor is (once again) disgusted by the military mindset while Ace marvels over their explosive firepower. The Doctor uses Ace’s supply of Nitro-9 (on a ten-second fuse) to destroy the Dalek. The military team (including Allison Williams, Professor Jensen’s assistant) investigate the remains while Ace and the Doctor borrow the van for a brief tutorial on the history of the Daleks. The Doctor believes that they are on Earth at this point not to conquer but to acquire the Hand of Omega.

Back at headquarters for the Intrusion Countermeasures Group (presumably the predecessor to UNIT), Gilmore meets with Mr. Ratcliffe while Jensen (the group’s scientific advisor, which makes her the Doctor’s predecessor) confers with Williams. Ratcliffe’s team takes possession of (read: kill the guards and steal) the Dalek’s remains and move it somewhere safe. That “somewhere safe” is exactly where Davros (or someone who looks like him, because Davros leads the Imperials, not the Renegades, right?) is hiding out.

Back at Coal Hill School, the Doctor and Ace investigate and meet the very strange headmaster. In a chemistry classroom (which looks a lot like the Third Doctor‘s lab at UNIT) they find evidence of a spacecraft landing. Ace questions if people would notice and the Doctor reminds her that no one paid attention to the “Yeti in the Underground” or the “Zygon gambit with the Loch Ness Monster.”

This classroom is the same classroom where Ian and Barbara started things with Susan. Note the book on the French Revolution. These two stories must have just barely missed each other.

The Doctor and Ace continue their investigation, eventually ending up in the cellar. They find a transmat device and sabotage it just as a Dalek is materializing. (The effect is pretty neat since we get to see the biological creature first before the shell arrives.) The pair is immediately ambushed by an Imperial Dalek (which can climb stairs!) and Headmaster Parson (who is working with the Imperial Daleks!). The Dalek recognizes the Doctor and nearly exterminates him, but Ace saves him after knocking out Parson.

Does this mean that the Imperial-Renegade Dalek War is coming to a head?

The Doctor and Ace find an army truck outside with anti-tank rockets, and after (fraudulently) signing for the artillery they return inside to destroy the transmat. Instead, they encounter a Dalek and destroy it, then encounter Gilmore’s unit. Ace stays with the Jensen’s team while the Doctor leaves to deal with his past, finding advice at the local deli.

The next morning, the Doctor visits a funeral parlor and inspects a large casket. The funeral director calls “the governor” and reports the Doctor’s arrival, noting that he was expecting an older man with white hair. The Doctor orders the casket to follow him, and it does so by levitating and floating through the building. The Doctor leads the coffin to a local graveyard where his first incarnation has prepared a grave to hide the device. Mike Smith follows the Doctor to the graveyard, and Parson follows Smith before attacking the sergeant and demanding the location of the Renegade Dalek base. Smith defeats Parson, watches the Doctor bury the coffin, and then escorts the Doctor back to the team. The team (sans Ace) return to headquarters and prepare for battle. Ratcliffe and his mysterious Dalek overseer prepare as well. A frustrated Ace defies the Doctor and returns to Coal Hill to find the Imperial Daleks swarming the cellar.

I love how Ace is rejecting some of the more backward philosophies of the era: The sexism (“Back at six. Have dinner ready.”) and the racism (“No coloureds.”) hold no value for her. Also, what a fascinating Easter egg with the premiere of An Unearthly Child inside the Doctor Who universe.

The Doctor and his team return to Coal Hill where Ace (using a supercharged bat) is on the run from the Imperial Daleks. They find her cornered by three Daleks and save her with a combination of plastic explosives and a stunning device based on the Doctor’s adventure on Spiridon. While the soldiers storm the school, the Doctor and the scientists investigate the Imperial remains, noting that the Imperials have continued to evolve. They then head to the cellar and destroy the transmat.

While the team retires to the deli for lunch, Ratcliffe visits the graveyard and find the casket under a less-than-stealthy headstone marked with a lowercase omega (ω). When Ratcliffe meddles with the site, the Imperial Daleks in orbit detect the power signature and report it to the Emperor (who is looking rather goofy with a giant spherical head). Shortly afterward, the creepy girl from Coal Hill skips into the cemetery and watches Ratcliffe’s men unearth the casket.

Ratcliffe returns the casket to his hideout and notifies his agent, who turns out to be Sergeant Smith. After his men move the Hand of Omega into position, the Renegade Daleks execute Ratcliffe’s team, and his overseer reveals himself… or rather herself since she is the creepy girl, better known as the Battle Computer.

Nice!

Meanwhile, the Doctor tells Ace the story of Omega, the advent of time travel and Time Lord society, and the stellar manipulator called the Hand of Omega. With it, the Daleks can harness the power of the Time Lords, and the Doctor wants them to have it to avoid mass casualties, but he didn’t count on there being two factions competing for it. They leave the school and go to Ratcliffe’s yard where the Doctor confers with the Hand. They find the Battle Computer’s chair and the Doctor explains that the Daleks use the chair to harness a child’s creativity as an advantage in war. The Doctor disables the Time Controller and leaves a calling card, forcing the Renegade Daleks to pursue as they run through the streets of Shoreditch. The Doctor is gambling that the Imperial Daleks will destroy the Renegades in their search for the Hand of Omega.

The chase leads them back to Coal Hill, but a slip of the tongue reveals Smith’s role as a double agent. The soldiers engage the Renegades as the Imperials descend on the school. The Imperials engage the Renegades as the Doctor plots a little piracy and Ace confronts Smith. The sergeant is taken into custody shortly afterward, but he manages to escape and return to Ratcliffe’s side. As the fight intensifies, the Imperials deploy a Special Weapons Dalek which wipes out several Renegades in one shot.

The Doctor storms the shuttlecraft, disables the Dalek pilot, and studies the computer to find Skaro. He then repairs the transmat before heading back to Ratcliffe’s yard.

Across town, the Imperials storm the yard, providing the humans a chance to steal the Time Controller. Ratcliffe dies as the little girl channels her inner Emperor Palpatine and zaps him with hand lightning, but Smith carries on. The Imperials seize the Hand of Omega and return it to their shuttle, and Ace follows Smith and the Time Controller. The Battle Computer skips away without a care in the world.

Ace tracks Smith back to his home, but the sergeant gets the upper hand by gunpoint. Soon enough, the little girl arrives, zaps Smith, and confronts Ace.

The Imperials return to their mothership and the Doctor uses the transmat to make contact. After a lofty declaration of his credentials – that explains where the new Doctors get that particular trait – he gets the reveal we’ve all been waiting for: The bubble-headed Emperor Dalek is really Davros. After some imperial speechifying and beautiful verbal jabs from the Doctor, Davros activates the Hand of Omega. But there is a wrinkle in the plan as the Doctor has sabotaged the device to destroy Skaro, the feedback of which destroys the mothership. The Hand returns to Gallifrey and Davros escapes in a lifeboat.

The Doctor finds and confronts the Dalek Supreme. The logic of being defeated overloads the Dalek and its destruction kills the Battle Computer in the little girl’s head. The girl is traumatized but alive, and the planet is safe once again.

 

We have come a long, long way since Genesis of the Daleks. The Fourth Doctor asked if he had the right to destroy an entire race before they enacted their genocidal agenda across the universe, and here the Seventh Doctor tricks the same race into destroying themselves. I don’t know where the line is… has the Sixth Doctor’s darkness changed the Doctor overall, or since the Daleks pulled the trigger on the altered weapon, does the Doctor not share responsibility for the potential genocide?

Even the Doctor recognizes that he can’t call this act inherently good.

In terms of internal chronology, I wonder if the sabotage of the Hand was performed by the First or Seventh Doctor. It makes more sense that the Seventh did it, but I could see a case for the First Doctor setting things in motion. This also marks the end of the Imperial-Renegade Dalek War, and the Doctor has directly ended the Renegade line by working the Dalek Supreme into self-destruction. Again, a darkness rears its head in this incarnation of the Doctor.

External to the chronology, I love the nods to the franchise and its twenty-fifth anniversary. This was a fun and exciting way to kick off the celebration.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol

 

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.

 

 

Timestamp #143: Revelation of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks
(2 episodes, s22e12-e13, 1985)

 

A swing and a miss for an abusive Doctor’s last at-bat this inning.

Peri and the Doctor arrive on the snow-covered vista that is Necros. They are both wearing blue – the Doctor has a blue and gold cloak over his typical garishness while Peri is in an overcoat and beret – in honor of the planet’s traditions for mourning. While Peri complains that the garments are too tight, the Doctor engages in a little recreational body-shaming. Honestly, Doctor, Peri is far from overweight.

The Doctor has arrived to honor the memory of Professor Arthur Stengos. As the travelers plan, neither notices a hand emerge from the icy pond where Peri just threw the remnants of her lunch until the resulting large splash startles them. As they walk away, a humanoid emerges from the depths and pursues them. Hey, zombies gotta eat.

In a warmer place, planetary funeral director Jobel and his staff are making arrangements. The director is notified that the presidential spacecraft is on approach, and using gallows humor he gives orders for his staff to look their best. He also rebuffs the advances of his protégé Tasambeker, much to her chagrin. As the staff disperses, two figures bearing firearms pass their stealth checks, sneak through the center, assault guards with both energy and projectile weapons, then break into a locked room.

As the Doctor and Peri muse over the local flora, they are attacked by the humanoid from the pond. The Doctor attempts to hypnotize it, and when that fails Peri strikes the creature dead. Their exploits are captured by a local disk jockey whose broadcast is being watched by a Dalek and the head of Davros. The villains are distracted by the gunfire, and they miss the dying humanoid’s revelation that he is the product of experimentation by the “great healer.” The humanoid also forgives Peri for her actions.

The mysterious duo continues their quest, but their sneaking about is captured on video by the disk jockey. Tasambeker dispatches two of the funeral staff to find them and, interestingly, the two officials are able to walk right by the Dalek guards with a flash of identification. No exterminations, huh? Meanwhile, Davros summons Tasambeker to his chamber before contacting a woman named Kara. The discussion reveals that Kara is a food distributor who works for and funds Davros, the Great Healer. In fact, Davros takes pretty much everything she makes.

The sneaky pair finds evidence of… something… before running from guards that shoot on sight. They escape only to encounter Daleks escorting gurney and corpse down a corridor. They carry on, unknowingly being observed on Davros’s cameras, and find a room full of brains being preserved in giant glass tanks. They also find a glass Dalek containing a humanoid head. Creepy to be sure, but it gets creepier: The head recognizes Natasha, one of the rogues and his daughter, and calls her by name. He reveals that the corpses (really, beings on the edge of death placed in suspended animation) are being transformed into Daleks and he demands to be euthanized to prevent that grisly fate for himself. Reluctantly, Natasha obliges, but they are soon captured by the guards.

Oh, and Natasha’s father is none other than Arthur Stengos. <dramatic music cue>

Outside the facility, Peri and the Doctor are unable to find a door so they climb the wall instead. The Doctor continues his abusive barbs about her weight and she inadvertently destroys his pocket watch. Inside the facility, the disk jockey continues to be annoying.

Kara meets with an assassin named Orcini and his squire Bostock. She fawns, Orcini demurs, and Bostock leers. Finally cutting to the chase, Kara hires Orcini to eliminate Davros and free her supply chain. While they scheme, the Doctor and Peri continue their journey to the facility, a place called Tranquil Repose.

I agree with Peri: Yuck.

Tasambeker arrives before the Great Healer: Davros wants her to be transferred to his private staff, effective immediately. Outside, Peri spots (but does not recognize) a Dalek, followed by the spectacle of the Doctor’s face on a memorial plaque. It seems that the Time Lord is destined to die here… and he nearly does as the plaque falls on top of him.

You know, I don’t normally point out the flaws in set design, but that falling memorial was telegraphed multiple times as it swayed and swiveled on all of its seams for minutes before falling over. Downright distracting, that.

Anyway, as Peri runs to the Doctor’s aid, she is intercepted by Jobel. The Doctor emerges from the rubble unharmed – his cloak is stained with blood, but the whole event was theatrics staged by someone else – and the pair continues inside to unravel the mystery of attempted assassination. They receive a sales pitch from Tasambeker, complete with a commercial by the infernal disk jockey, and learn that only the Great Healer can erect monuments to the dead.

On the surface, Orcini and Bostock continue their mission with pomp and circumstance. They encounter a Dalek and destroy it with bastic bullets, an act that raises the alarm in Davros’s chambers. Davros calls Kara (who is deeply invested in President Vargos’s approach) to investigate her involvement, and she deflects as best she can.

Peri asks to meet the disk jockey. The Doctor agrees, though troubled that Jobel is accompanying her while he investigates the Great Healer. He’s even more troubled a few moments later as he is taken prisoner by the Daleks. Peri ditches Jobel and meets the DJ, obsessed by his patter which reminds her of home. Sadly for her, he’s only imitating what he knows from historical records of the United States.

The Doctor wakes up in the same cell as the two rogues, and they fill him in on the goings-on. As they chat, Daleks apprehend Kara and take her to Davros, Jobel schemes to take down the Great Healer, and Davros manipulates Tasambeker into killing Jobel in exchange for immortality as a Dalek. Orcini and Bostock make their way to Davros’s sanctum, stopping along the way to release the rogues and the Doctor.

Tasambeker tries to reason with Jobel in order to save his life but ends up killing him in a fit of rage. Daleks kill her shortly afterward. Meanwhile, Peri contacts the Doctor and he asks her to warn the president away. Davros dispatches Daleks to capture Peri and orders a new glass Dalek incubator to be prepared, forcing his guard to leave as Orcini makes his attempt on Davros’s life. Orcini destroys the head, but it was a ruse; the real Davros emerges (apparently unscathed by the Movellan virus), kills Bostock, and incapacitates Orcini. Elsewhere, the rogues are killed in the incubation chamber by a self-destructing Dalek (after it inexplicably levitates) and a wasteful plot.

In the DJ’s studio, Peri warns the president as the disk jockey sets up a “rock and roll” cannon to defend against the incoming Daleks. It works until the DJ gets cocky and is exterminated. Peri is captured, as is the Doctor after hearing the entire battle on the compound’s intercom.

In his chamber, Davros entertains Kara with the “transmitter” that she gave to Orcini, revealing it to be a bomb. Orcini kills Kara as the Doctor is brought before Davros, and the leader of the Imperial Daleks gives the Doctor his best “evil plan” lowdown speech as the assassin schemes with Kara’s bomb. Davros plans to take over the galaxy with his new Dalek army while winning over the populace by eliminating famine. Of course, he’s taking the Soylent Green approach by turning people into food for the masses. After Peri arrives, a not-quite-dead-yet Bostock manages to shoot Davros’s hand off, and he pays for it by being exterminated for real this time. The Daleks squash the escape attempt and an irate Davros swears that the Doctor and Peri will become Daleks in exchange.

Despite Jobel’s death, his loyal staff have called in reinforcements: Daleks loyal to the Supreme Dalek arrive from Skaro and the civil war hostilities come raging onto Necros. The Renegade Daleks storm Davros’s chambers and apprehend their creator. Davros offers the Doctor in exchange, but the Renegade Daleks don’t recognize the Time Lord in this regeneration and they take Davros away.

In a nice touch of this incarnation’s caustic wit, the Doctor offers to shake Davros’s stump in farewell.

Using the gun with bastic bullets, the Doctor shoots the eyepiece off their Dalek guard before destroying it with a grenade.

(I’ve heard arguments that the Doctor doesn’t use guns, which is obviously false. I’ve also heard the argument that the Doctor only uses guns as tools, which is obviously false in this story.)

He then convinces Jobel’s staff to leave Tranquil Repose and start farming the purple flowers on the surface for food. In exchange for the Doctor’s promise to tell his order of his sacrifice, Orcini decides to remain with Kara’s bomb so he can destroy the Dalek incubation chambers. Everyone, including the Renegade Daleks, escapes just in time as the bomb reduces Tranquil Repose to shambles.

With the crisis solved, Peri asks for a real holiday somewhere fun. The Doctor agrees, deciding to take her to—

 

You know, I’m not even angry that the ending is freeze-framed as an artificial cliffhanger. In fact, I’m glad that the story is over.

The DJ is an annoying extravagance that could have been cut with no real consequence to the story. His exit was an addendum on a high body count plot that sidelined the protagonists for a long time as the plot eventually unfolded itself.

The whole thing was dragged down even further by the Doctor being abusive toward his companion. First, because body shaming her is unacceptable, period. Second, it has no narrative basis during the Sixth Doctor’s run except as an escalation of his petulant and boorish behavior.

I am beyond weary of this Time Lord equivalent of an internet troll.

The only benefit I could find to this tale was exploring the Dalek Civil War – in order to stop the Daleks, Jobel’s staff calls in more of them… that was an intriguing solution – but even that was tacked on as a means to stop the threat when the Doctor couldn’t.

 


Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

UP NEXT – Twenty-Second Series Summary

 

 

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.

Timestamp #134: Resurrection of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks
(2 episodes, s21e11-e12, 1984)

 

This story gets dark fast and leaves a lot of room to think in the end.

In a disused modern day alley, several men in anachronistic costumes run from police officers and their machine pistols. When the runners (and one innocent bystander) are shot down, they are transmatted to a nearby starship. There are two survivors as the execution squad beams away, and they return to the warehouse to warn others only to find that the time corridor has been closed. They are spooked by a remaining executioner who kills one, but the other (a man named Stien) escapes. The executioner returns to the starship and the crew sets course for a nearby prison station, assuming an attack posture.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS has been careening out of control through a time corridor since the end of Frontios. The danger of destruction is quite real (so says the Cloister Bell), but in moments the time capsule stabilizes and materializes near the murder alley. The travelers set out in search of the time corridor they detected, but instead, they find Stien. They investigate the warehouse, lose Turlough under mysterious circumstances, and find a military bomb disposal squad.

All things considered, can we call the exchange even? I guess not.

The battlecruiser arrives at the prison station and the latter is no match for the starship’s might. The station is invaded by Daleks who make short work of the defending humans, but they are driven back by surprise mines in the corridors. The invading humans flood the airlock with gas and drive the prison staff back, and an attempt to destroy the prisoner the Daleks seek fails. We also find out that Turlough has transmatted to the Dalek ship.

The prisoner of interest is Davros. As the prison crew works to destroy him, they are overcome by the face-melting side effects of the gas and a human raiding party. Back on Earth, the Doctor and the military compare notes before being confronted by a Dalek who traveled through the time corridor. Tegan is injured, and the Doctor advises to shoot for the eyestalk and after the Dalek is blinded, the soldiers toss it out a second-floor window and watch it explode. At this point, the Daleks know that the Doctor is on the battlefield.

Four human survivors prowl the passageways of the prison station in an attempt to mount a resistance, possibly by way of the station’s self-destruct sequence. Meanwhile, Turlough finds the chamber housing the corpses from the story’s prologue and nearly loses his lunch, the Doctor cleans up the Dalek in the alley, and the invaders revive Davros at his prison cell. Davros is incensed to learn that the Movellan-Dalek war did not go well for his children and that the Daleks now rely on human allies to survive. The Movellans developed a virus to attack the Daleks, forcing the Daleks to seek Davros and develop a cure.

On Earth, the soldier watching the Dalek remains doesn’t notice movement under the pieces and parts and only realizes his mistake when the Kaled mutant strangles him. The hunt is on for the murderous wayward blob, which is further complicated by the arrival of an execution squad. On the ship, the Daleks find Turlough skulking, recognize him as the Doctor’s companion, and allow him to roam to use him as bait. Soon after, he passes several stealth checks (good DEX score?) and ends up on the prison station, but is soon intercepted by the resistance survivors.

Those Dalek-inspired helmets for the human invaders are something else.

The Doctor’s team hunt for the Kaled mutant, finding a stray cat before locating the alien and gunning it down after it takes a chunk out of another soldier.

(And, yes, the Doctor is using a gun again so we can put down that old myth. TV Tropes has done some pretty good work on that already. Let’s just say that the Doctor doesn’t use guns often and call it good.)

The Doctor and Stien head back to the TARDIS to investigate the time corridor as the soldier who was bitten by the Kaled goes bonkers. The search for the infected goes south when three Daleks appear in the warehouse and, with help from the execution squad, take everyone hostage. The TARDIS materializes on the Dalek ship, and Stien double-crosses the Doctor. The Daleks move in for the kill, but the Supreme Dalek puts that to a halt. Apparently, the Doctor and his companions are to be cloned (on a bed of bubble wrap nonetheless) and used as an assassin against the Time Lord High Council.

The resistance team finds the self-destruct mechanism and begins working on it. To avoid becoming a martyr, Turlough suggests using the time corridor to escape the blast. Turlough joins resistance member Lieutenant Mercer to scout the path out, but the way to the time corridor is swarming with Daleks, and when they return to the self-destruct chamber they find it under siege. Turlough deduces that Davros is still on the station. He’s right, of course, and the Dalek leader is slowly building an army of humans and Daleks using a mind-control device. The resistance team in the chamber is destroyed and Davros begins an analysis of the virus which has been stored in the warehouse all this time (and explains the location’s importance in the story).

Back on Earth, Tegan and Professor Laird (the military team’s scientist) engineer an escape from the execution squad before they are transferred to the Dalek ship. Tegan escapes as Laird remains behind to sell the bluff. Laird is captured and Tegan is pursued by the executioners for a short time before being captured herself. Laird is killed attempting escape and Tegan is forced into the time corridor. When she arrives on the other side, she finds Mercer and Turlough and begins plotting the Doctor’s rescue.

In the cloning chamber, the Doctor’s procedure is slowed by the emergence of the real Stien’s memories. Stien begins downloading the Doctor’s memories but short circuits as the real Stien emerges. The Doctor and Stien meet up with Tegan, Mercer, and Turlough, and the group returns to the TARDIS after destroying the tapes housing the Doctor’s memories. The Doctor leaves the companions in the safety of the TARDIS and sets out to kill Davros, joined in his reluctant and heavy task by Mercer and Stien.

The Doctor arrives in the lab and takes aim on Davros, but his gruesome task is interrupted by an argumentative distraction by Davros and the re-emergence of Stien’s Dalek programming. With Mercer dead, Stien runs off into the station, leaving the Doctor locked out of the lab and separated from Davros. Back on the TARDIS, the time capsule initiates a time-delayed flight (which the Doctor programmed) through the time corridor to the warehouse (which the Doctor did not program). They arrive in time for an all-out (and one-sided) battle between the Daleks and the remaining soldiers, but they end up snagging a sample of the Movellan virus before seeking refuge in TARDIS. During the battle, the Daleks split allegiances and create two warring factions: The Imperial Daleks led by Davros and the Renegade Daleks led by the Supreme Dalek.

A Dalek civil war cannot end well.

Stien arms the self-destruct while the Doctor returns to Earth and plants bombs on various Daleks before joining the companions in the TARDIS. Back on the station, Davros unleashes the Movellan virus against the Renegade Daleks, killing the Daleks and (in an unforeseen consequence) himself. Similarly, the Doctor introduces the virus into the warehouse, killing every Dalek inside.

The Supreme Dalek contacts the Doctor and promises him that the Dalek race will survive. Before the Daleks can implement this plan, the self-destruct triggers, destroying the station and the docked ship. The threat is over with the exception of the surviving execution squad. Gotta leave room for a sequel, right?

The Doctor and Turlough prepare to leave, but Tegan hesitates. She is disgusted by the massacre and can no longer follow the Doctor in his current mindset. In a heartbreaking farewell, she runs away, and her parting words remind the Doctor of who he truly is. Dejected, he and Turlough depart, and as the TARDIS fades from view, Tegan returns to tell the absent Doctor that she will indeed miss him.

 

“Brave heart, Tegan.” She certainly did have that in this story, as it takes a lot to tell off the Doctor when he’s really screwing things up. My appreciation of Tegan has been up and down through her tenure on the TARDIS, and this story didn’t do a lot by removing her from the plot for a significant portion of the story, but her exit highlighted her strength. She brought heart to the team, and she’ll be missed.

She also highlights a small trend in the show this season. Every one of the stories in the Twenty-First Series have showcased a lot of death, and Warriors of the Deep highlighted the start of the trend with a plaintive plea: “There should have been another way.” Tegan slapped the Doctor with her farewell, reminding him that he can be more. That he should be more.

He’s going to need to be more now that he’s alone with Turlough. I don’t like Turlough.

On the story side, setting aside everything already mentioned, I enjoyed the serial and how well the story was constructed. The plot moved efficiently and kept me engaged. The big downside was the magnitude of the deaths, especially the obviously gratuitous ones like Laird, the innocent bystander in the alley, and the treasure hunter at the docks.

Finally, it was nice to get the ties back to the Doctor’s history – the memory download highlighted Turlough, Tegan, Nyssa, Adric, both Romanas, K9, Harry Sullivan, Sarah Jane Smith, Jo Grant, the Brigadier, Liz Shaw, Zoe Heriot, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield, Ben Jackson, Polly Wright, Dodo Chaplet, Sara Kingdom, Katarina, Steven Taylor, Vicki Pallister, Barbara Wright, Ian Chesterton, and Susan Foreman – which I feel keeps a strong tie through the franchise. All of the other issues aside, it’s nice to have a sense of continuity with the franchise’s title character.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet of Fire

 

 

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.

Timestamp #104: Destiny of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks
(4 episodes, s17e01-e04, 1979)

timestamp-104-destiny-of-the-daleks

 

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.

 

 

Timestamp #78: Genesis of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks
(6 episodes, s12e11-e16, 1975)

Timestamp 078 Genesis of the Daleks

 

The last story was an experiment in splitting six-part serials into smaller pieces to remove story padding. That two-parter is followed by this six-parter, which would be ironic if not for that fact that it’s one of the most beloved stories in classic Who. When I ask classic fans what the Doctor means to them, this is usually the story they point to.

Because of that, I was really excited to watch this one.

The Doctor and his companions have departed future Earth after defeating the Sontarans, but they don’t arrive as expected on Nerva. Instead, they are on misty planet drowning in a battle that echoes World War II. In short order, the Time Lords arrive and reveal that they redirected the Doctor to Skaro in the distant past. The Doctor is upset about the manipulation, but acquiesces when the Time Lords tell him about his mission: To interfere in the development of the Daleks. They provide him a Time Ring to return to the TARDIS after his mission is complete.

The travelers soon find a warrior, who is soon killed in an artillery barrage, and note the distinct anachronisms in everything around them. They continue on, stumble into a minefield, and eventually discover a large domed city surrounded by trenches. The Doctor theorizes that the anachronisms are due to the battle raging on so long that technology has regressed as resources were depleted. The trench is attacked by chemical gas rockets, and the Doctor and Harry are spirited into a bunker and transported into the city.

The attackers are the Thals, and the Doctor’s captors are the Kaleds, a very Nazi-like organization. The Doctor surprises the Kaled commander, who keeps referring to the Doctor as a “muto”, and takes him captive. The Doctor and Harry return to the wasteland, but Sarah Jane has already recovered and moved on, and the duo are surprised by Security Commander Nyder, who raises the alert in the base. The pair of travelers are soon captured and interrogated by Nyder, who refers to Davros, the greatest scientist of the Kaled people. He also explains that the mutos are Kaleds who have been genetically scarred by the war, and that they are exiled to keep the Kaled race pure.

They are laying this Nazi allegory on thick.

Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is on the surface being pursued by the mutos as night falls. She comes across a weapons test led by Davos, a scarred man with a third eye in a robotic chair. The test is of a Dalek, which isn’t quite autonomous yet. After the test, Davros departs, and Sarah Jane is nearly spotted by the Kaleds before being abducted by the Mutos. The Mutos fight over whether or not to kill Sarah Jane since she is a “norm.” They are interrupted by a Thal patrol who take Sarah Jane and the Muto Sevrin for physical labor.

Back in the bunker, the Doctor and Harry are delivered to the holding area where they are scanned. The scanner detects the time ring, which is physically removed under the Doctor’s protest. As scientific examiner Ronson examines the Doctor and Harry, he discovers that they are aliens to Skaro. That discussion is interrupted by Davros, who demonstrates the Dalek – known at this point as a Mark III Travel Machine – for the assembled scientists. When shifted to automatic mode, it detects the Doctor and Harry and almost exterminates them until Ronson interrupts the experiment. A furious Davros gives Ronson the night to investigate the travelers, but it must be done from their holding cells.

The Doctor discovers from his interrogation that the Kaled scientists were formed as an elite group for research, but over the years they became more powerful and influential. Ronson notes that the Doctor used the term “Dalek” well before Davros called the machine by the same name, and the Doctor reveals that he is from the future. Ronson discloses his fear that the Kaleds are becoming more evil and immoral, including experiments by Davros to create the final form the Kaled mutation. The travel machine, the Dalek, is the vehicle to house and propel that being. Ronson believes that if the government knew about any of this, they would shut down the entire program, and engineers an escape into the cave system surrounding the bunker.

The Thals are using the slave labor to pack a rocket with distronic explosives, but they are not provided any shielding or protection, so the workers will die from exposure to the material. After the first shift of rocket loading, Sarah Jane attempts to spark a rebellion and plots escape through the top of the dome. She distracts the guard and the prisoners flee. The guard sounds the alarm as the prisoners climb, and the Thals open fire, killing several of the prisoners. Sarah Jane loses her grip and falls, landing on a lower platform unharmed. Sevrin helps her recover and pushes her onward, and they nearly escape before the Thals catch up to them.

The Doctor and Harry reach the city tell the Kaled Council about the Daleks and the future. The Council won’t shut down the bunker entirely, but decide to inspect and audit the programs. As the Council adjourns, the Doctor and Harry learn about Sarah Jane’s whereabouts and set out after her. Davros discovers that the Councilors are meeting in secret and that the travelers were in attendance. He agrees to the investigation, but in secret begins his plan for complete extermination of the Kaled people by arming the Daleks with the mutations.

The Doctor and Harry infiltrate the Thal dome to discover Davros petitioning the Thal Council for peace, claiming that the Kaled Council is not interested in ending the conflict. Davros provides the Thals the means to weaken the Kaled dome and exterminate the Kaled people with their rocket. The Doctor and Harry jump two guards and steal their suits – “Excuse me, can you help me? I’m a spy.” – before rescuing Sarah Jane and the captives. Harry leads them out of the city as the Doctor works to sabotage the rocket. One of the guards triggers an anti-intrusion system and captures the Doctor.

The Doctor wakes up in the Thal dome’s control room with the bombardment of the Kaled dome underway. They launch the rocket as the Kaled scientists watch in dismay, and the Kaled dome is destroyed. Davros calls in the Daleks and orders them to exterminate Ronson before declaring their rise as the ultimate supreme race. The Doctor is freed in the Thal celebration, and the Thals see Davros as a hero of the people. After Davros orders changes to the Daleks that will remove their consciences completely, the Daleks attack the Thal dome and exterminate with prejudice. The Doctor and a Thal woman, Bettan, escape the dome and she decides to raise a rebellion.

A temporal inconsistency: These Daleks don’t require the static tracks like they did in the Hartnell era, which falls after this war’s conclusion. Did something change in the timeline to remove this detail?

The Doctor makes his way to the Kaled bunker to retrieve the time ring, and is attacked by Mutos and saved by Sarah Jane and Harry. Scientists begin to foment a rebellion against the Dalek program, but are interrupted by Nyder and Davros just as the travelers break into the city and are subsequently captured. Davros discusses time travel with the Doctor and demands that he disclose exactly how he defeats the Daleks in the future. When the Doctor refuses, Davros uses the threat of harm to the companions as leverage. I see where the Daleks get their stunning personalities and penchant for temper tantrums. The Doctor yields to Davros and provides a litany of Dalek defeats which are recorded for the future. As they take a break, Davros trusts the tape to Nyder as he sits down to confer with the Doctor. The Doctor tries to persuade Davros to abandon the Dalek project, but Davros is not swayed. Convinced that Davros is insane, the Doctor seizes control of the leader’s chair and threatens to disable it and kill him if he doesn’t shut down the program. He nearly succeeds before Nyder stops him.

Kavell, one of the leading scientists, breaks Sarah Jane and Harry out of the confinement cells. Nyder escapes, and the Doctor warns that Davros knows what Kavell is planning. The travelers set out to retrieve both the time ring and the recording of the future. Meanwhile, the Daleks have destroyed all resistance in the Thal city, and all that remains is Bettan’s rebellion. Inside the bunker, rebellion also breaks out, but Davros surprisingly orders Nyder’s forces to surrender. Davros tells Nyder that this is a ruse, as is the conference to listen to the rebellion’s demands. At that conference, the rebellion demands that the Dalek project be terminated. Davros asks for time to consider the demands, and agrees to the demands on the condition that the military and scientific elite present the demands to a vote before him.

The Doctor discovers plastic explosives and detonators, and plots commit genocide by destroying the Dalek embryos in the incubation room. He enters the chamber to place the charges, and emerges with Dalek tentacles wrapped around his throat. After being freed, he holds the conductors in his hands but cannot detonate the explosives. Does he have the right? Killing them would secure freedom and peace for the future, but the action would make him no better than the Daleks themselves. He pulls the plug on the plan when he hears that Davros is willing to discuss the demands.

That epic moment in the franchise was worth the price of admission alone. Tom Baker sells it with passion.

The travelers attend the discussion, secretly returning the Doctor’s possessions to him. Davros shows his opponents a button that will destroy the entire bunker — seriously, a big red button to destroy everything? — but no one will press it, which Davros sees as an argument in his favor because it shows weakness. Meanwhile, he has been maneuvering the Daleks to assault the rebels, and Bettan’s forces set charges to seal the bunker permanently.

Nyder sneaks out during the vote, and the travelers follow him. In the ensuing altercation, the Doctor drops the time ring, but convinces Nyder to take them to the tape recording. As the travelers destroy the tape, Nyder escapes and locks them in the office. They bring up the camera feed of the vote as the Daleks roll in and kill everyone. The travelers are soon rescued by Sevrin and start running from the Daleks, and the Doctor sends the companions with Sevrin and the rebels while he returns to destroy the incubator chamber. At this point, he’s at his last straw, and it seems that he’s willing to become the villain to save countless lives. His efforts are thwarted by a Dalek who fires on him, but the Dalek rolls over the conductors, completes the circuit, and destroys the chamber and itself.

The Daleks start the assembly line without Davros’s approval, and kill Nyder as he attempts to shut it down. They rebel against Davros, apparently exterminating him as he attempts to destroy the bunker with that big red button. The travelers escape as Bettan’s forces seal the bunker and use the time ring to return to the TARDIS.

This was a really good story, and it earns the admiration that fans bestow on it. On the downside, it is a bit padded and long, but that easily washed out by the quality and performances.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Revenge of the Cybermen

 

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.

 

 

Timestamp #72: Death to the Daleks

Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks
(4 episodes, s11e11-e14, 1974)

Timestamp 072 Death to the Daleks

 

Sometimes you get to go to the beach, and sometimes you get enslaved by xenophobic mutants in armored cans bent on galactic domination.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane are getting ready for a sandy vacation when the TARDIS loses all power and crashes. Main power, backup power, battery power, all of it gets drained away. Luckily, the Doctor has a kerosene lantern to light the way and they pair goes outside to investigate, but when Sarah Jane returns to the TARDIS to change out of her swimsuit, the Doctor gets pursued the planet’s natives. Sarah Jane returns and looks for the Doctor, but only finds a blood-stained lamp. Sarah Jane is pursued by the aliens and discovers a city with a large pulsing light. The city is a holy shrine, and trespassing is punishable by death. Of course, Sarah Jane is discovered and captured.

It’s a somewhat clever device to keep the travelers engaged on the planet: The TARDIS is utterly useless at this point.

The Doctor escapes captivity and encounters a Marine Space Corps expedition. The planet is Exxilon, and the expedition commander was gravely injured by the Exxilons. The humans are in search of parrinium, which is abundant on Exxilon and desperately needed to treat a plague. On their way to harvest it, their ship also lost power and crashed.

I did note that the human expedition badges look like a sideways version of the insignia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It’s probably just coincidence.

On cue, another ship arrives. The expedition mistakes it for a rescue mission, but it is actually a Dalek ship. The Daleks disembark and try to exterminate, but their weapons are disabled by the energy drain. The combined stranded groups consider forging an alliance since the Daleks are also seeking the parrinium. The allied team returns to the mining dome, but are ambushed en route, and the Exxilons kill one of the humans and a Dalek before taking the entire group into custody.

When they arrive at the Exxilon camp, the Doctor saves Sarah Jane from being sacrificed, but is in turn sentenced to die for his actions. The Daleks negotiate terms with the High Priest, which the humans presume are for everyone’s release. Back on their ship, the Daleks who remained on board replace their ray weapons with projectile weapons, and those Daleks arrive and take over the Exxilons. The Doctor and Sarah Jane escape into the tunnels, which is where something is lurking that will complete the interrupted sacrifice. The Daleks enslave the Exxilons for mining the parrinium, and the humans are to hunt a renegade group of Exxilons in exchange for the minerals they need, as well as hunting the Doctor and Sarah Jane.

Smart Daleks. They keep evolving as the franchise carries on, as they also now move under psychokinetic power.

The Doctor investigates a tunnel as Sarah Jane waits, where she is approached by one of the renegade Exxilons. The Doctor discovers a strange tentacle that looks like the Martian eyestalks from 1953’s War of the Worlds, and it strikes at him. He evades until a Dalek arrives, which provides him a chance to escape. The renegade Exxilon offers them refuge from the patrols, and they agree.

The Doctor was actually cheering the tentacle’s destruction of the Dalek. What was that about abhorring violence?

The renegade Exxilon, Bellal, tells the tale: The civilization was once very technologically advanced, including travelling in space. Thousands of years ago, the Exxilons built the enormous city, which the Doctor thinks might be one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. The city became sentient and drove the Exxilons out, and the Exxilons gradually degenerated into their current primitive society which worships the thing that destroyed them. Bellal and Gotal are from another, much smaller faction which wishes to destroy the City. The Daleks also plan to destroy it so they can escape the planet, which they will do by force with explosives.

The Dalek-human alliance begins to fracture as the Exxilons are not mining fast enough. After another root comes to the surface through a body of water and kills an Exxilon and a Dalek, the Daleks move the mining operation.

Bellal describes several images from the city walls, which the Doctor has seen before on a temple in Peru on Earth. He’s not saying that it’s aliens, but maybe ancient astronauts? He decides to infiltrate the city, and tells Sarah Jane to get the humans ready for takeoff when the beacon is disabled. If he fails to return, she must leave with the humans. Two Daleks also attempt to infiltrate the city, causing Bellal and the Doctor to flee through a secret doorway. The path forward is via a series of logic, mental acuity, and intelligence tests. The Daleks are in pursuit by way of the same tests.

The Doctor and Bellal reach the city’s brain after passing the tests, but the city attempts to prevent the Doctor’s meddling by creating antibodies. He completes his modifications as the pursuing Daleks arrive, and the antibodies attack the Daleks as the Doctor and Bellal escape.

Sarah Jane finds the human camp and works with Jill Tarrant, one of the expedition members, to exchange the full mineral sacks with ones full of sand. A Dalek discovers that Jill has escaped, and instead of sounding the alarm, it self-destructs from the sheer guilt of its failure. As the Daleks load their ship, the beacon is destroyed by the explosives team and power is restored. The Doctor, Sarah Jane, Jill, and Bellal are all captured, but instead of killing them, the Daleks leave the group to die when they infect the surface with the plague. They plan to use their mineral supply to corner the market and take over the weakened powers of the universe.

No one expects Galloway, however, who kept one of the Dalek explosives and suicide bombs the ship. The remaining humans wait with the parrinium for rescue, and the city dies and melts away. The Doctor laments the loss of such a wonder.

This was along the same lines as Invasion of the Dinosaurs in that it was a decent enough story, and even with some sketchy effects, it holds its own to reach a high 3 mark. Again, I round up.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon

 

 

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.