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Published on June 5th, 2012 | by James Whittington

Death To The Daleks

Stilted, over-long and flat, Death To The Daleks is one of the weaker adventures for Doctor Who’s number one bad guys. It looks cheap, the Daleks even cheaper and Pertwee looks as bored as I was watching it.

Yes, I know this is harsh, but time has not been kind to this story. Even forgiving the production crew for the poor effects the story really is uninvolving and lacks any sort of dramatic intensity beyond the second episode.

A power failure in the TARDIS draws it off course, and the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith end up stranded on the bleak planet of Exxilon. They soon meet members of an Earth expedition in a similar situation. The humans are searching for a rare mineral, but first they must find out what is draining their power and avoid what’s inside another grounded spaceship – the Doctor’s oldest enemies, the Daleks (voiced by future Davros Michael Wisher).

Jon Pertwee stars in 1974's Death to the Daleks

It’s hard to find positives about this story. Lis Sladen is a joy as you’d expect and the Exxilons have a certain charm but over the course of the four episodes the story drags with plot strands signposted well in advance. I can’t quite put my finger on it, maybe because it is simply too bleak a story to actually engage you fully. Some scenes are over-long, as if people are waiting for cues which breaks any sort of tension that might have built up. The Doctor and Sarah are separated for too long so the Doctor has Bellal (played beautifully by Arnold Yarrow) as a companion for a while. Now here was an opportunity to bring something new to the series, watching the Doctor really get acquainted with an alien race but instead the Doctor talks down to him and is – to put it bluntly – patronising.

Even the score is annoying, very experimental and quite tedious. Composed by Carey Blyton and performed by the London Saxophone Quartet it sounds like meaningless jazz and is just so wrong for the story, trivialising the Dalek threat.

Terry Nation’s script “borrows” from past Dalek adventures, but it’s a shame he didn’t pick out more interesting plot strands. Daleks with machine guns should be fun; shame its not. The abrupt ending leaves you not wanting more but just glad it’s finished.

Extras

Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks out on DVD, June 18thCommentary – The ever-reliable Toby Hadoke moderates Julian Fox, Cy Town, director Michael Briant, assistant floor manager Richard Leyland, costume designer Rowland Warne and special sounds creator Dick Mills in this amusing gag track. Briant seems to relish in pointing out the Dalek that didn’t have an operator!

Beneath the City of the Exxilons – Arnold Yarrow, Julian Fox, Michael Briant, Richard Leyland, Rowland Warne and Dalek voice artist Nick Briggs take a look at the creation of this story. Briant is becoming a bit of a star in this making of extras and is as honest as he can be. Fox too is good value, enlightening on the problems of location filming as well as recalling the time Pertwee informed him he was holding his bow and arrow incorrectly.

Studio Recording
– 4th December 1973 and recording is taking place for this adventure. This raw footage is fascinating to watch as the cast and crew try and create TV magic. Well worth viewing.

On the Set of Dr. Who And The Daleks – Film and TV Historian (what a fabulous job) Marcus Hearn, Jason Flemyng (son of Gordon), First Assistant Director Anthony Waye and Dalek Operator Bryan Hands chat affectionately about the first Dalek film. Coupled with mute black and white behind the scenes footage this could have easily been longer and loved it. Seeing Peter Cushing and Roy Castle dancing on set is a joy.

Doctor Who Stories-Dalek Men – A basic and flat piece interviewing Dalek Operators John Scott Martin and Nicholas Evans all culled from interviews that took place in 2003. Splattered with behind the scenes snaps and footage I felt this didn’t do their important roles justice.

Photo gallery – The usual compilation of production shots from the creation of this adventure.

Audio Options – Here you can choose between the usual audio, the commentary or isolated score. I’d only recommend the first two.

Info Text – Regular readers will know how much I enjoy this extra so do check it out.

PDF Materials – For those who like TV listings just pop this into your PC or Mac and enjoy scans of the original Radio Times listings.

Coming Soon – A smart and exciting piece of promo work for The Krotons DVD release.

So then, although this adventure has never looked better this is a poor entry in the Daleks mythology and though it will sell well because it’s simply a Dalek story I feel it’s for completists only, although the Dalek movie-centric extra is worth a look.

Released on June 18th 2012, Death to the Daleks has an RRP of £20.42 – but you can save by ordering from Amazon, where the DVD is available to pre-order now for just £13.00!

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About the Author

James has been a Doctor Who fan for as long as he can recall. A child of the 70s and 80s, he weathered all the storms and controversies the show encountered, though he didn’t buy the “Doctor In Distress” single.




5 Responses to Death To The Daleks

  1. Rick Lundeen says:

    Evidently, Liz Sladen enjoyed working on that one quite a bit.

  2. Gavin Noble says:

    Just goes to show how personal tastes differ so much. I think this is one of the more fun Dalek adventures and have always had a soft spot for it. Okay it may not be iny my top ten but it’s far more watchable than the other Pertwee Dalek stories and indeed a lot of the Pertwee era overall.

    The Daleks have to be a bit more devious than usual to overcome the power drain and the scenes where the TARDIS loses power and then Sarah is attacked inside it are quite spooky. The Exillons are good looking aliens and the quest through the city is good.

    I think part of my enjoyment comes from this being one of the better Target novelisations and was one of the most borrowed Who books from my library when I was a kid. I loved reading and re-reading it. Sometimes when seeing the video a few years later the story would not match up to the Target books but Death to the Daleks did measure up. I’ve been looking forward to this DVD for a while and I know it won’t disappoint.


    • Personally I’ve been in and out of love with this serial, but the thing that does it the most damage is the soundtrack which totally disperses any threat from the Daleks.

      Some of the location work is good though, and the model work and CSO on the city of the Exxillons is superb for the era, IMHO

  3. CastellanSpandrel says:

    I agree with you on this one, James. A very tatty story; does for the Daleks what Revenge of the Cybermen does for the Cybermen.

    A pity, as the idea of the Daleks without their weaponry is inspired and allows Terry Nation to show their cunning. However, the ‘ancient, advanced civilisation that’s descended into savagery’ is well past its sell-by date by this stage and it just looks shoddy (even by old Who’s often-cheap standards) and the music sounds ropey too.

  4. CastellanSpandrel says:

    And, if memory serves (having not watched the DVD release, the Daleks’ eye point of view is basically just a camera looking down a metal tube – no hint of peripheral vision or technical enhancements whatsoever. What would be the point in Daleks having such a limited field of vision when their technology could provide better?

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