Terry Nations final contribution to the series. Destiny of the Daleks was also the only Dalek story in a span of 8 years.
Destiny of the Daleks is also notable for introducing one of the Daleks most dangerous adversaries, the Movellans.
The Doctor and a newly regenerated Romana arrive on a mysterious dead planet.
There they discover a work camp made up from different species across the universe. As they explore the ruins of an old building the Doctor is accidentally buried under rubble.
Romana goes to try and get help for him, but whilst she is away the Doctor is freed by a group of humanoids who call themselves Movellans. The Movellans take the Doctor back to their ship for his safety and tell him that the planet they are on is called Skaro, and they are here on a very important mission.
Romana meanwhile stumbles down a shaft where she is ambushed and captured by a squad of Daleks.
The Daleks interrogate Romana and after discovering that she knows nothing about the Daleks, they decide to send her to work in a mine, telling her that its all humanoids like her are good for.
Romana sees the brutal treatment the Daleks inflict on their prisoners first hand, but she is able to escape by faking her death before she reunites with the Doctor and the Movellans.
The Doctor, Romana and the Movellans discover that the Daleks are mining to below the old building where Romana was captured. The Doctor recognises the building as the remains of the Kaled bunker.
The Doctor, Romana, and the Movellans are able to make their way to the bottom of the old bunker before the Daleks where they discover what the Daleks have been looking for. Davros!
Davros despite being shot at by the Daleks has survived. His life support machine placed him into a state of suspended animation whilst it slowly regenerated his organs. Now after several centuries Davros is alive again.
Davros demands that the Doctor take him to the Daleks, boasting about how he will lead them to ultimate victory. The Doctor however reminds Davros that the monsters shot at him and left him for dead centuries ago, and begins to wonder what they could possibly want from him again.
The Daleks manage to corner Davros and the Doctor. The Doctor threatens to blow himself and Davros up unless they flee, but the Daleks begin to slaughter their own slaves in response.
The Doctor is forced to hand Davros over to the Daleks, but only on the condition that the slaves are freed, which the Daleks reluctantly agree to.
Back in the company of his creations, Davros (as well as the Doctor) discovers the real reason they have returned to their creator after so long.
The Movellans are a race of ruthless cyborgs, no better than the Daleks themselves. They have been fighting the Daleks in a war for many years, but neither side is able to triumph over the other, as they both rely on logic. Every time the Dalek battle computer attempts to launch an attack, the Movellan battle computer figures out a way to block it, and vice versa.
The Daleks hope that Davros who created them can help the monsters overcome this problem and destroy the Movellans. The Movellans meanwhile capture the Doctor and Romana and hope that the Doctor can break the stalemate for them. The Doctor however with the aid of the freed Dalek slaves is able slaughter the Movellan squad, whilst Romana stops the Movellans from detonating a weapon that would have destroyed Skaro.
Davros meanwhile grows paranoid and sends a Dalek squad of suicide bombers to the Movellan spaceship, whilst one Dalek guards him.
The Doctor however makes his way to the Daleks base and kills the Dalek guarding Davros, before detonating the bombs around the Daleks before they reach the ship, wiping them all out.
The freed Dalek slaves then leave for earth in the Movellan ship with Davros in tow. Davros is to be tried back on earth for his crimes against all of sentient life in creating the Daleks, whilst the Doctor and Romana depart the planet in the TARDIS.
Destiny of the Daleks is definitely among the weakest of the 70s Dalek stories. Its not a bad story by any means, but its a shame that Terry Nation’s final script for the series is not one of his all time best.
To be fair I don’t think this is down to Terry Nation himself, rather Douglas Adams who it is known performed a major rewrite of the story.
Adams humour though great in other stories like City of Death, is a horrible fit for the Daleks. He has them bumble around, and points out their biggest weakness, their then inability to get up stairs (something which apparently greatly angered Nation.)
Worst of all however the Doctor doesn’t even seem remotely scared of the Daleks or Davros for that matter. Here he outright mocks them as idiots “you’re misquoting Napoleon” and generally disposes of them both in easy, almost flippant ways.
Not exactly a career high point.
Whenever the Doctor goes up against Davros and the Daleks, he should not only be scared, but also repulsed at how twisted their beliefs are.
You don’t really get that here. Instead as you can see from the above clip it more just feels like the Doctor views them as doofuses that he’s bored of having to deal with.
Its ironic in a way as in Classic Who, this is the only Davros story where he and the Doctor share more than one scene together, yet its the only one to contain no memorable showdowns between the two.
Still in spite of these faults Destiny of the Daleks does have a brilliant story and actually adds a lot to the Dalek and Davros saga in the long run.
Davros’ return isn’t that well handled. Its a bit silly that his life support machine kept him in stasis all of this time, but the reason the Daleks are looking for him is brilliant.
Also the relationship between Davros and the Daleks is quite interesting in this story. Here we discover that the Daleks did not intend to kill Davros, and have known he was alive all this time. Why else would they be searching if they thought he was dead?
Of course this begs the question of why didn’t they kill him, to which there is only one answer. The monsters obviously deep down do have some affection for Davros as he is the closest thing they have to a father.
Of course it could never manifest itself as genuine affection as the Daleks are incapable of that, but at the very least they could never truly kill him (which is pretty huge for a Dalek whose sole reason for existing is to you know kill all lesser life forms.)
At the same time Davros, even though he knows they will never truly accept him, can’t help but always return to them, as again they are the closest thing he has to children.
I love the way that Davros at first is delusional to believe that the Daleks have returned to him simply because they have realised that he should lead them.
When the Daleks however reveal that its just to help them with their latest problem, after which they will then most likely abandon him again, Davros is genuinely heartbroken.
We can also see the power struggle begin here with Davros reacting in rage and disgust at the idea of a Supreme Dalek.
Whilst the story might not always handle the Doctors relationship with the Daleks that well, at the very least the interactions between Davros and the Daleks is very interesting, and it sets the stage for future stories where we will see Davros and the Supreme Dalek fight for control over the monsters, as well as further examples of the twisted, father/son relationship between the Daleks and Davros.
The Daleks also are still menacing in certain moments too such as in the scenes during the Dalek camps.
We get the idea that the Daleks are a truly intergalactic threat the way that there are so many species from all over the universe trapped in their camps.
We are also given a wonderful little insight into the monsters psychology the way that they delight in persecuting humanoids because they were once humanoids themselves.
On the one hand they can’t stand being reminded that they were once in their minds, “inferior creatures”, but on the other perhaps the Daleks deep down are jealous of humanoids. After all they were once free to think for themselves, free to interact with the world around them and experience emotions that weren’t just bitterness and hatred.
Now however they spend their entire lives locked in a cage, ironically following the path set out for them by a supposedly inferior being, Davros. Perhaps deep down, there is a tiny little grain of the Daleks that is still self aware and hates being reminded of all that it has lost when it looks at a humanoid life form.
The Movellans, the Daleks sworn enemies are also a wonderful addition to the series. In a way they are quite good counterparts to the Thals, as both are humanoid rivals to the Daleks who are very beautiful, but with the Movellans, they turn it on its head by making them out to be evil themselves.
I’ve always thought it would be interesting to have the Doctor work alongside a race who were evil to stop the Daleks. After all the Daleks threaten to exterminate all other life forms in the universe, so you don’t have to be a good guy to be their enemy.
We had to ally ourselves with Stalin, one of the biggest mass murderers in human history to stop the Nazis, as ultimately the Nazis threatened everybody.
Thus the Doctors allies against the Daleks shouldn’t always be whiter than white Thals, or even just human resistance fighters who are willing to do whatever it takes. There should be a story where the Doctor has to work alongside aliens who in any other adventure would be the villains, but who are still threatened by the Daleks plans, as they are a danger to all life forms.
Sadly Destiny is the only story that plays around with that idea for a bit, as from the start the Doctor suspects the Movellans aren’t as rosey as they appear to be, but they are still not as bad as the Daleks and so the Doctor has to work alongside them for the time being.
Its a shame that we never got to see the Movellans again, barring a tiny cameo in the Pilot. The Daleks having a race of mechanical rivals is a brilliant concept, and one that worked well in the 60s with the Mechanoids too.
Another big addition to this story is the introduction of Lalla Ward as Romana. Her regeneration scene is utterly ludicrous, though its not a millionth as bad as the shit New Who has done to regeneration over the years.
Its not like they made out that she was actually dying, and thus destroyed the entire point of regeneration, and made the new actress feel about as welcome as a foot fungus like RTD did with Tennant and Smith. Its also not like they made out she can grow a new head either, or had her regeneration nuke a Dalek fleet, and at least they didn’t cast someone like Wilfred Bramble as Romana 2 for some cheap virtue signalling, headline grabbing bullshit either.
The worst you can accuse Adams of here is being a bit silly.
Still daft opening aside, Lalla Ward gets a brilliant introduction. She brings a sensitive vulnerability to the part such as when she is being terrorised by the Daleks, yet she also gets plenty to do on her own as well. She escapes the Dalek camps through her own guile and intelligence, and she later stops Skaro from being destroyed on her own, by literally kicking a Movellan to pieces.
Her and Tom’s chemistry is also brilliant too. She can match Tom’s humour and quick wit perfectly, but there is also a really obvious bond of affection between them that’s stronger than that between the Doctor and most of his companions.
A favourite moment of mine is when the Doctor discovers Romana’s grave and he is so grief stricken that he starts to pull it apart. He has no reason to think that Romana wasn’t killed by the Daleks at that point, but he just can’t accept that she is gone so he starts literally tearing the grave to bits. His joy at finding out she survived is also really sweet too.
Overall Destiny of the Daleks is a strong story that serves as a good introduction for one of the best companions in the shows history, and moves along the Davros and Daleks story arc nicely, whilst setting things up for future stories with the villains at the same time.
Its only let down by the injection of some of Addams humour into the script, which just isn’t a good fit for the atmosphere Nation is clearly trying to build, and worse undermines the Daleks and Davros as villains at certain points.
Some of the more shoddy production values let the story down too. I don’t actually mind the Daleks looking a bit battered. After all they are meant to be in the middle of a war. If anything it makes more sense than to always have them look so polished. With Davros however he just looked a bit crap. David Gooderson who plays the villain is also nowhere near as strong as Michael Wisher, though he does a fine job overall and at least tries to do something new with the part.
Wisher portrayed Davros as a power mad sociopath, whilst Gooderson explores Davros’ relationship with his creations more, showing how Davros is hurt on a personal level by their rejection of him, as well as how he is genuinely grief stricken when he is unable to help them at the end, for their sake, and not just his own.
Terry Molloy and Julian Bleach would later incorporate the fanaticism of Wishers portrayal, and the more complicated relationship between Davros and the Daleks from Gooderson’s into their portrayals.
Overall Destiny of the Daleks manages to rise above its faults however to be an entertaining story at the least, and an important one in the long history of Doctor Who.
- This was Terry Nation’s final contribution to Doctor Who. Overall he wrote more episodes of the series than any other writer, save for Robert Holmes. Nation also created two more iconic and successful sci fi series, The Survivors and Blake’s 7. In the later years of his life, Nation tried to revive Doctor Who along with Gerry Davies, the co creator of the Cybermen, and the creator of regeneration. Nation and Davies pitch for the show was a sequel to the original series, and their choice for the Doctor was Tim Curry. Sadly however the BBC rejected their pitch as they wanted to sell the series to America at that point. Nation passed away in 1997 in his home in Los Angeles. His work has continued to inspire such high profile figures as Joseph Michael Strayzcinski and Dennis Potter, and there was even a blue plaque placed outside his former home in Cardiff in 2013.
- Graham Williams said of the decision to bring the Daleks back that “its something that should never work, but for some reason it always does.”
- Prior to the broadcast of this story (which was the first in season 17) there was a trailer where the Doctor is told by a mysterious voice that he will soon encounter a race known as the Daleks. The Doctor joking responds that he has never heard of the Daleks, before reacting seriously to the warning.
- Though Terry Nation would never write for the show again, he did still influence the next three Dalek stories to an extent by demanding that Davros be included in them all.
- The last time Skaro is visited by the Doctor in the classic era.
- This is the last appearance of the Daleks in 4 years, though they do make a cameo in The Five Doctors in the meantime.