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Oct 10

Time Reconsidered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Who Eps: #10 DESTINY OF THE DALEKS

FT6 comments • 3,780 views

… being a show-by-show TARDIS-esque (ie in effect random) exploration of Doctor Who Soup to Nuts, begun at LJ’s diggerdydum community and from now on also crossposted at FT.

OK for my tenth re-view, I have before me (a) the very famous (if arguably very unsuccessful) 1979 ep DESTINY OF THE DALEKS, this being (b) an ep I recall from its first broadcast: in which Davros, the legendary creator of the Daleks left for dead on Skaro, is dug back up and his robot eye, wheelchair and big red knob switched back on. GUESS WHO BY? Th outfall of (b) is that I was very grumpy they didn’t even refit Davros’s mask to the new actor; the out of of (a) is that HILARITY ENSUES, as Davros is quite the silliest megalomaniac ever to have called humans puny, and the Daleks behave like Kevin the teenager in his presence.

i: this isn’t an endorsement of my current opinion on predecessor (from 1975) GENESIS OF THE DALEKS — loveFILM hasn’t yet been kind enough to sent it to me — but the genesis consensus is, i believe, roughly this… that by taking the BadBaker back to the Thal-Kaled war and the dread moment the Daleks were born allowed for a rebirth of a much emblandened subfranchise (“iconic” comes from the Greek for “spotty teacosy”), plus gave the series a not-unuseful political-satirical slant, with said war presented as a DO-YOU-SEE blunt allegory not only of the stupidity of World War One — two hostile armies entrenched in violent stalement less than a gunshot’s distance from one another — but also the skreeking immorality of the cold-war strategic doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, the then-very-present nuclear-standoff-as-immanent-doomsday-weapon…
ii: … so here is part two of this critique, using paper-stone-scissors to explore REAL-ACTUAL GAMES THEORY as the framework of future war; two robotic nations (daleks&movellans) trapped at computer-logic stalemate, and needing a WILD A-LOGICAL THROW to break the impasse and thus win (or lose: not made clear why the non-logician will grasp the victory…)
iii: ok well DESTINY of the daleks proves that far from being the DR STRANGELOVE of the story arc Davros is none other than TERRY NATION HIMSELF, dug up by his flailing creation to make them less BORING AND ONE-NOTE IRRELEVANT. (“SEARCH AND LOCATE! DO NOT DEVIATE!”)
iv: small observations — there is really really almost no dialogue worth noting down (except that daleks like the word “penetrate” almost as much as “exterminate”); but since WHEN were the daleks a purely robotic race this is the cybermen’s shtick surely?
v: … that said, there are several moments where you wonder if there isn’t an element of low-key parody going on; BadBaker goads the Ds for not being able to climb at one point (i assume a v.whiskered gag even then); when he’s hurrying Mr Dav out of the dalek searchpath, there’s something v.komikal abt the chair being trolleyed along the corridors like something out of “some mothers do ave em”, banging recklessly into pillars and doorframes (why didn’t davros install his own engine? or was it always only on castors and he moves it with his withered little legs?); and in a late and VERY memorable (=hilarious) development, D tools up his pepperpot army as SUICIDE BOMBERS* and orders them to stand near the movellan ship while he presses the button (it’s a typically elegant and thought-through davros plan of course; foiled when the BadBaker presses the giant red button EARLY, having blinded the dalek guarding it with his never-not-annoying HAT) (“How we gonna make terry nation wise? agitate educate and organise!”)
vi: er do the movellans come back in later who? (why yes i COULD look this up! Wot of it?) — i quite liked their non-hysterical glam-swinger gentleness, and they didn’t actually kill or even harm anyone…
vii: “Have I the right?” [link] actually translates as “Have we a lock on the future ratings?” Instead of pushing Davros into a nearby stinky canal he is FROZEN FOR LATER CRAP SHENANIGANS :(

*Which is leadenly amusing given that they were reasoning thus, a little earlier: “Self-sacrifice is illogical therefore impossible” — obv they are being taught the error of their new robot ways by slyboots davros but BETTER WHOFOES plz! Kthxbye!

This was totally a trudge. My least favourite doctor; his new companion very new and not really plumbed in yet, let alone shaggedfallen in love with; a stupid old enemy being stupid; and a new enemy very underused. KICK THE DALEKS OUT OF THE CANON.

Comments

  1. 1

    (i will post links to the nine earlier who re-reviews in the next few days; the over-eager can hunt them down in diggerdydum)

  2. 2
    admin on 7 Oct 2010 #

    The ‘if you’re so awesome follow me up this rope ladder/chute’ line was added by the script editor D Adams

  3. 3
    Tom on 7 Oct 2010 #

    No more Movellans I’m afraid Mark! (Or at least, mentions but no appearances)

    Loved this age 6 – my first Dalek story, awed by the cleverness of the game theory/MAD stuff (not that I knew what it referred to), overall memory one of alien pinkness: a similar shade used in a favourite Tintin book (Cigars Of The Pharaoh), and I loved the tomb-exploration aspect of this too.

    It does not really stand up to grown-up inspection though.

    #2 With the “regeneration” stuff considered too, you can’t help feel Adams is on a kind of scorched-earth fuck-the-fans mission in this story (and season): bugger ‘continuity’ if it entertains the Saturday teatime viewers.

  4. 4
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 8 Oct 2010 #

    Yes, that idea makes sense: D’Ugg as an embattled junior insider sending out secret dogwhistles to let the cognoscenti know that someone inside the compound is not a total idiot, even if the non-idiot does not yet have the power to seize and transform stuff away from pervasive stupidity — my problem with DA has always been his nod-and-wink twinkling towards well-used material, turning it into knowing gags, which to me comes across as patronising timidity; but in a context where he really doesn’t yet have the battalions this is less aggravating and more understandable (he is obviously way less of a know-nothing gruffpot than nation, even if I think his solution to such self-awareness problems is at best a way station)

    (alan has pointed out that it’s a waystation for Adams himself also — which is fair enough, i don’t know his latterday work at all)

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 8 Oct 2010 #

    I tend to see Destiny of the Daleks as a fantastically odd hybrid of two possibly incompatible approaches to narrative – Terry Nation’s adventure/ peril mode, and Douglas Adams’ fantastical/ speculative, hence the game theory stuff.

    The real unsung hero of the story is director Ken Grieve, though, for the unsettling use of steadicam in the exteriors and the imaginative way that the Daleks are shown. You can see what an auteur Grieve was if you ever come across his 1970s Coronation Streets, sequences shown in dissolves, the Rovers shown from a completely new set of angles, etc.

  6. 6

    One thing I miss easily in this approach to re-visiting Who is precisely step-by-step changes in realisation style: because I’m not watching story-by-story in sequence. So observations like this are very helpful and interesting, Billy: Tom also pointed out to me that this was the first every Who ep where the corridors had ceilings (presumably a related development)!

    I’m also not doing pre-review homework on the dynamics of Who-auteurism, so discussion from this perspective — who wrote what when — is invaluable.

    I can’t actually watch as if I’m new to it — I was an eager viewer if occasional viewer as early as 1964 (we didn’t own a family TV but there was one in the staffroom of the building my parents’ flat was in) — but I don’t have a preset knowledge and learning to guide me, which means I maybe slip round the end of received opinion now and then!

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