Doctor Who #510: Destiny of the Daleks Part 3

"Do you believe your puny efforts can change the course of destiny?" "Well, let's just say I might tamper with it."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.15 1979.

IN THIS ONE... The Daleks want Davros, the Doctor tries to explode him, and the Movellans are revealed to be robots.

REVIEW: Davros stirs. Davros speaks. And - major disappointment even if I knew it was coming - he's not played by Micheal Wisher. David Gooderson's voice is all wrong (is that the hint of a Scottish brogue?) and the ill-fitting mask's mouth doesn't move along with his speech. And you see him pedal off in a most unDavros way, banging into walls, his body moving from side to side, near the end of the episode. It just doesn't work, even if he uncharacteristically keeps quiet most of the time. It's a bad performance, but not the worst of the episode, unfortunately. I don't know whether I should give that particular award to the hostages who get shot and kind of decide to drop and die casually, or to the Movellan the Doctor and Tyssan play keep-away with, dreamily looking into the clouds. No really, what is UP with the acting in this thing?

From the visual standpoint, while director Ken Grieve's keeping the camera low and mobile is effective in the outdoors scenes, you may start to wonder if he has any other tool at his disposal. The sets I complimented earlier now give way to black corridors with anachronistic studio lights. And while that scene with the Kaled mutant in the sand pit is one of the most memorable images I have from my first ever viewing of the Tom Baker era 25+ years ago, there's something extra icky about how the Doctor casually seems to murder it by snapping it into the ground. Not that it was really animated or anything. This is a Doctor that's got uncommon disregard for life though. He's just come back from letting a couple of hostages get killed before actually intervening, and then attempting to murder Davros with a remote-controlled bomb (he fails).

So the big reveal is that the Movellans are robots too. I say "too", because the episode is intent on casting the Daleks as machines. They "used to be" organic, and they're slaves to logic, etc. That's a new one, and it doesn't really wash. Daleks are incredibly emotional creatures and have always been. Have they finally shrugged off the last vestiges of their "humanity"? That's the only way this story makes sense. Both "species" need Davros for something, or the Movellans at least need to keep the Daleks from finding Davros, but we still don't know why. The Movellans are ready to deploy their Nova device if need be, a bomb that can burn up an entire atmosphere, and their test tube makes a handy death trap for Romana, though probably a dud to lure the Doctor. They want to capture him, even though he's been readily available to them as an ally up until now... Yeah, not the most tightly-written of scripts. I guess now that the Daleks have Davros, they need his opposite number in their employ.

VERSIONS: The CGI option on the DVD makes all the effects glow brighter, which doesn't really help anything, though the beams added to the Movellan weapons help clarify some of the action.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Oh, the Doctor is pleasantly insolent with Davros, and the plot moves along well enough, but the episode is by turns illogical, inconsistent or terribly acted.

4 comments:

Erich said...

Yeah, it always struck me as odd that the Doctor didn't shout 'STOP!' until after the SECOND hostage was killed...did he think they were going to do something different with her?

And that "exterminated" woman really does take the cake for one of the worst-acted death scenes in Doctor Who history. I wish we knew the actress/extra's name, so we could give her an award...

Siskoid said...

Mmm... I bet we could divine it based on extra credits in the production notes subtitles...

There are a number of editing/pacing problems in the episode just like that. There's a missing reaction shot in there, where the Doctor might have been shown not seeing the fist one, or trying to react in time, or something. The bit where Tyssan gets shot on the rocks makes it look impossible for him not to have been destroyed. Bit rough overall, and the episodes are busting the 25-minute mark and could have been trimmed.

Jeremy Patrick said...

I think I would classify myself as a casual fan of the show, both the newer seasons and occasional viewings of classic serials. I have been keeping up with your episode reviews, and I have to say they have made me wonder, for the first time, why the show was so popular for so many decades: as you accurately describe, it frequently had incredibly sloppy scripts, poor acting, and goofy cheap special effects. I say this with love, not impertinence. Maybe all t.v. was so bad at that time that classic Doctor Who didn't seem so bad in comparison? ;)

Siskoid said...

Looking back at my TNG reviews, I think dissecting a series, any series, will turn up every piece of bad acting, dodgy effects and lame brain plot hole. There's an overall effect that's not as well reflected in these. Sure, Destiny has major problems, but I think I've been fairly consistent in my Terry Nation criticisms. Next up is City of Death, which is a classic worthy of the name. The Key to Time season had 3 excellent serials (out of six), but more good episodes than that.

Ultimately, there's more good than bad in Doctor Who, especially the premise and the lead characters. No matter the story's flaws, the Doctor and Romana (or Leela, or Sarah Jane) are always watchable, old friends you want to invite into your living room, people who make you care and laugh. Probably why I'm so disappointed when they get lesser material to work with.

The show was popular in the UK because it was an institution, and there as here because there really is nothing like it. It had no competition, and couldn't actually be compared to anything. I love it warts and all, and I'm surprised you've walked away from recent reviews with an overall negative view of the show. It's true the last three serials have been weaker, but I wrote some glowing reviews before that. Ah well.

 

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