5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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DESTINY OF THE DALEKS
"Get rid of those silly clothes, eh?"
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In Genesis of the Daleks, our emotions churned as the Doctor fenced with Davros and pondered the morality of genocide. Now he's back on Skaro, so is Davros and so are the Daleks. But this time, it's our stomachs that are churning.
It's not as if the ideas behind Destiny Of The Daleks are all bad. The notion of a robot race locked in combat with the Daleks is a pretty interesting one, and the Movellans have a lot of good points. They're visually very striking, and they make a refreshing change from the usual run of psychotic killer androids. We particularly like the way they spare Romana's life because there's no utility in killing her - a logical decision, but an unusual one, given the irritating kill-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude of most SF androids. Sure, they want to conquer the universe, but then who doesn't?
Unfortunately, though, the execution of this idea totally undermines its merit. The whole rock-scissors-paper thing is completely ridiculous: there's no logical response, so there's absolutely no reason why the Movellans would keep making the same moves. If they had to use the tired old device of a humanoid totally befuddling an android race - who've obviously had plenty of contact with humanoids before and are sophisticated enough to have developed an advanced technology - in about three seconds with a logic puzzle, couldn't they at least have made the puzzle plausible? The Movellans are also depressingly easy to disarm, making them about as terrifying as your old Action Man.
And then, of course, there's Davros. Now you might have thought that Davros's end in Genesis was a fitting one that perfectly completed the story and left no more to say. No such luck. They insist on digging him up and wheeling him on (and on and on), totally wrecking the impact he had in Genesis in the process. David Gooderson isn't a patch on Michael Wisher, of course, but there isn't an actor alive that could have rescued this botch-up job.
Some of this is about the writing, and some of it is about the editing. This isn't exactly Douglas Adams as script editor's shining hour. The Hitchhiker's Guide references are just plain wanky, for a start. Romana's regeneration scene tries for wit, but as a pastiche of the Fourth Doctor's regeneration scene in Robot, it's just smartarsy and embarrassing. And there's a knowingness about some of the dialogue that bites the hand that feeds it: the Doctor constantly takes the piss out of Davros, and his yeah-yeah-you-want-to-take-over-the-universe attitude to Davros completely defangs him. And the Doctor's taunting the Daleks about not being able to climb the shaft has the same effect.
Let's face it, when it comes to the Daleks there's not a lot of distance between scary and silly, and if the programme itself insists on pushing them to the gigglesome end of the axis, how is the audience supposed to find them a credible threat? And if the Daleks and Davros are just punchlines, and the Movellans could be disarmed by a toddler, dramatic tension disappears for a nice little lie down.
None of this is helped, either, by the staging of the Davros/Dalek scenes. Davros makes us collapse in uncontrollable fits of laughter every time he pedals furiously across the set, and the poor old Daleks have definitely seen better days, particularly the cardboard ones they prop up round the edges. There's one particularly brilliant sequence that nearly makes us wet ourselves: after Davros delivers his "perfect creatures" speech, he pedals off, swaying back and forth, bumping into a Dalek on the way and boinging off the corridor wall. Meanwhile, a Dalek's top casing suddenly shoots into the air and clangs down again. Priceless! And then there's the scenes of the Daleks in the quarry who are obviously tiptoeing across the sand... stop, our ribs are cracking.
Overall, though, what really sinks Destiny Of The Daleks is a meandering plot stuffed with stupidity. While it starts well, with an intriguing setup and some tension, it quickly degenerates into a lethargic string of vaguely related events.
And there's just no good reason for half the stuff that happens. Why does Davros wake up when the Doctor comes into the room? And wasn't Davros in Genesis in a bunker outside the city, not inside it? Why does Romana run away from Tyssan without asking him what he wants, and why doesn't he call out to her? Since the Daleks know they killed Davros, why are they looking for him? Why doesn't Davros, in the standoff at the end, get the Dalek to exterminate the Doctor? And why, for God's sake, are Romana and the Doctor continuing to move rocks away from the TARDIS when the door's obviously unobstructed? It's not like they have to clear the runway.
Let's not forget the padding, either. If they took out all the Davros and Dalek repetitive ranting, they'd probably have ended up with about one and a half episodes. And do they have to have the oh-so-surprising reveal at the end of the first episode for every single Dalek story? Considering that they helpfully put "...of the Daleks" in the titles, the amazing appearance of, guess what, Daleks leaves just a little to be desired in the astonishment department.
Characterisation, in line with the rest of it, is in the main undistinguished. The Movellans are quite nice, but the humans are pretty much a personality-free zone.
As for the principals, well. There's a great rapport between them, but then that's hardly acting, is it? The new Romana doesn't get off to a very good start. While Mary Tamm delivered knowledgy stuff beautifully, when Lalla Ward does it, it's smugarama. And the first Romana would never have been reduced to a snivelling mess by a few pepperpots. (We often see the second Romana referred to as "beautiful" or "gorgeous", which puzzles us. It must be a boy thing. The first Romana is stunningly beautiful yet hardly ever gets any credit for it, whereas we think the second looks ever so slightly like a pug.) She's a hairtosser, too. Oh, woe is me. Toss. The evil Daleks have taken me captive. Toss, toss. Pardon us while we roll our eyes.
It's the Doctor, though, that really worries us. Who is this guy? Someone who stands back and watches two people executed before doing anything about it is not the Doctor we know. Nor is someone who deliberately and cruelly throws a Kaled mutant onto the ground. And he says "ha ha!" a lot. Anyone'd think he was morphing into a villain.
There's a lot more fudging of the violence issue in this, too. The worst culprit is the spectacularly unconvincing armwrestling match the Doctor and Davros engage in, just so it can be contrived that it's not the Doctor who pushes the button to blow the Daleks up. And while the Doctor doesn't stab Davros in the eye or anything, he does detonate an explosive with the intent of killing him. Just because he does it from outside doesn't mean he's not attempting murder.
No, no, no. Take it away before it overwrites Genesis altogether.
MORAL: You can never go back.
When they get out of the TARDIS, the Doctor says he doesn't know where they are. Why didn't he take a reading?
FOUR QUID FROM THE EVIL DICTATORS' CHARITY SHOP
Is that black mirror thing the same one the Marshall was using in The Armageddon Factor?
WELCOME TO SKARO. NOW SPACK OFF
The Doctor's "spack off" line is justifiably a classic, but Davros also tries to join in with the bizarre "weaponery".
NOT JUST A PRETTY PEPPERPOT
That's a smart move by the Daleks to take the humans hostage as a bargaining chip with the Doctor - they've really got his number. When the programme itself insists on sending them up, it's difficult to remember just how scary they can be.
I KNEW THEM WHEN
"I think you just told me what the K- what the Daleks want with Davros."
A BIT BELOW THE BELT
What exactly is Romana grabbing at when she's wrestling with Commander Sharrel?
JUST MY LITTLE JOKE
The Doctor gives the Movellans' ship to the humans to return home in. Surely it wouldn't have any life support?
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