Thursday, 6 September 2012

'Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks' (1979)

So, last night Hope and I settled down and watched 'Destiny of the Daleks' together. This isn't such a big deal as it sounds, as we've just come out of a phase where every mealtime had to be accompanied by this particular DVD, but I will always take repeated viewings of Dr Who over repeated viewings of Thumbelina so...
Watching Dr Who with Hope is always great as she provides her own running commentary. Last nights commentary included the gem, "woman pulled the man's arm off..." There's a little extra resonance, to watching this particular story with Hope, though as 'Destiny of the Daleks' was the first ever Dr Who story I saw, just over thirty years ago. I get to share it with my daughter and I also get to see how the story itself holds up after all this time. Quite well as it happens...

The Doctor and Romana have returned, quite by chance, to the Dalek home planet of Skaro; now a radioactive ruin. That hasn't stopped others visiting though. Who are the Movellans and why are the Daleks so intent on burrowing deep into their old city? The answer lies deep underground and when it wakes up... The Doctor is going to have to make a hard decision all over again.

The thing about old Dr Who (and I'm talking thirty three years old in this instant) is that when it inevitably starts to look dated... Well, it really starts to look dated... You have a Davros who can't control where he is going (I had to laugh when he rebounded off the wall...), Daleks with wobbly heads and it all taking place in that same quarry where all 'alien' adventures seemed to take place. Seriously; what was it with that quarry? Even the Doctor remarks that it all seems familiar (I'm putting that quip down to Douglas Adams being at the helm of the story). In this respect, I watched 'Destiny of the Daleks' and couldn't help but wince at the reality of a story that had taken on a different form, in my head, over the years.

Luckily though, there is still plenty to recommend this tale including a lot of stuff that I would never have picked up on the last time I saw 'Destiny'. Well, I was four years old at the time ;o)

The plot itself is interesting enough but ultimately limited. After all, when you have two races trapped in a logical impasse there's only so far you can take that (although the Daleks are intuitive enough to come to Skaro in the first place)... Having said that though, I did enjoy watching Doctor play 'Stone, Paper, Scissors' with the Movellans. I think this incarnation of the Doctor is a poor winner :o)

There are also some really dark elements to 'Destiny' that help you get past the dated production. The Daleks are as evil as ever, of course, but take things up a notch by exterminating prisoners during a standoff with the Doctor. The introduction of Dalek suicide bombers also gives you a real insight into their mindset as well as their creator Davros. The Daleks hate the rest of the galaxy so much that they are prepared to destroy themselves to give their comrades an edge. Davros is more than prepared to give the orders.

The Doctor also has his dark side either, more than prepared to kill his enemies (perhaps in order to make up for past decisions?) This is a side that you don't normally see (the Doctor being more of a pacifist usually) and this adds another edge to a tale that is edgier than it at first appears.

'Destiny of the Daleks' isn't the story that I first saw back in 1979; it's both more and less than that and all at the same time. I've had my say so I'll sign off with Hope's summing up of the story - "Daleks say exterminate, then they blow up!"

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