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13 October 2015 @ 09:40 pm
The Randomiser: Destiny of the Daleks  
Destiny of the Daleks has always had a somewhat poor reputation among fans. It is Davros's second outing and suffers I'm sure from not being Genesis of the Daleks and more generally from falling within the Graham Williams era of the show which, for a long time, was held in general low regard. I was surprised to find myself quite excited to rewatch it. It's one of the stories that fall in the period when I was starting to more consciously watch Doctor Who on a regular basis and I had some clear memories of it.

We actually enjoyed this a lot and, indeed, watched the whole thing in one session which we rarely do with Randomizer rewatches. It doesn't have the ambition, nor the doomed atmosphere of Genesis of the Daleks. In fact, like much of Williams' work it is mostly trying to be fairly light and entertaining, but that isn't necessarily a problem. The central premise, of two robotic races locked in a logical impasse is quite clever (and I suspect may owe something to Douglas Adams' script-editing hand). You could, justifiably, argue that the Daleks are not really the right monster for that central plot since they've never been portrayed (either before or since) as trapped by purely logical thinking but that is more of a fans' nit-pick than something inherently wrong with the story. It's even fairly tightly plotted, for although there is a certain amount of capture-escape padding it sets up its questions early: what are the Daleks looking for, and why? what exactly are the Movellans and what do they want? and most of the story is then driven by the answers.

It is unfortunate, in a way, that the Dalek's ultimate enemy turns out to be the Movellans who are a nice concept ("Why haven't we seen these again?" tame layman asked) trapped in an irretreivably disco costume and with a very silly Achilles Heel. Some of this could probably be overcome with a re-imagining, but why would one go to the effort of re-imagining a not-much loved monster from a not-much loved story when there is the rest of Doctor Who to plunder.

NLSS Child joined us (though mostly, I think, because she wanted to read TV Tropes on her phone in the company of the family) and was puzzled by Romana's regeneration, another rather infamous sequence which fans have argued about down the years (surely Romana didn't burn through four regenerations just because the Doctor didn't like how they looked?) - I hand-waved it with the normal explanation about "projections or something". Tame layman was very taken with her pink version of the fourth Doctor's costume and started making noises about how he'd like a version of it. In her first outing, Lalla Ward's rapport with Tom Baker, is already clear and as a Doctor/companion team they are already a lot of fun to watch.

All in all, Destiny of the Daleks was a very entertaining. It's not in the same league as some of the classics of Doctor Who, but it's a perfectly competent slice of 1970s television, with plenty to enjoy. It may have benefitted a little from low expectations and a greater tolerance for 1970s special effects and set/costume design than I once had but it remains a solid story, which moves along at a decent pace, and has a premise that raises it above a simple fight-the-daleks plot.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/174175.html.
 
 
 
philmophlegm: dalekphilmophlegm on October 13th, 2015 09:35 pm (UTC)
I've always quite liked Destiny. (And it sets up the great scene in Resurrection where Davros finds out that the Daleks lost against the Movellans.)


"You could, justifiably, argue that the Daleks are not really the right monster for that central plot since they've never been portrayed (either before or since) as trapped by purely logical thinking..."

Isn't there something in one of the Troughton Dalek stories where the Daleks are trying to inject themselves with the 'Human Factor' to introduce non-logical thinking? Or have I got confused?
louisedennislouisedennis on October 14th, 2015 11:23 am (UTC)
I've not seen Evil of the Daleks but I recall that actually they are seeking the Human Factor in order to eliminate it (they just tell the Doctor they are looking for it in order to get him onside). Descriptions of the story suggest that the Human Factor is framed more in terms of endurance, compassion and playfulness rather than non-logical thinking.

Mind you, daniel, below notes, that the concept of programming has frequently been used in conjunction with the Daleks.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on October 14th, 2015 10:28 am (UTC)
I like Destiny! It's a bit funny that it suffers from Williams-hate, as it's actually not got that many jokes in it, the notorious regeneration scene aside. As for the Daleks being logical, Genesis had them being programmed and no one complained. I think the model work is good too, although I think the effects in season seventeen as a whole are better than their reputation.

The logical impasse idea supposedly comes from an Isaac Asimov short story that Williams and Adams pointed Nation in the direction of, although I don't think anyone's ever identified the exact story...

why would one go to the effort of re-imagining a not-much loved monster from a not-much loved story when there is the rest of Doctor Who to plunder.

Well, Davies did it with the Macra in Gridlock (though I like The Macra Terror too).
louisedennislouisedennis on October 14th, 2015 11:25 am (UTC)
Hmm... well programmed isn't the same thing as logical, though that may be 21st century AI programmer's perspective rather than a 1970s general public perspective. Who has tended to emphasise that the Daleks have a biological component, and the more recent stories have tended to lean heavily on the concept of their capacity to hate.
a_cubeda_cubed on October 14th, 2015 12:36 pm (UTC)
It's been a while since I watched this, though I did a sequential run-through of Baker's on DVD a few years ago. I also quite like it for many reasons. Isn't this the story where the Doctor taunts a Dalek about stairs only to find they've developed an anti-gravity device for their tin cans?
louisedennislouisedennis on October 14th, 2015 01:56 pm (UTC)
He taunts them in Destiny, but they don't fly. Davros flies in Revelation of the Daleks but its such a rubbish effect and so badly directed you'd be forgiven for not realising that was what was happening, so the one most people remember is in Sylvester McCoy's Remembrance of the Daleks though I don't think he taunts it about stairs first. I think the first taunt-then-fly is in NuWho's Dalek.

Mind you wikipedia tells me they were flying back in The Chase in the Hartnell era - everyone presumably forgot about that.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on October 14th, 2015 04:23 pm (UTC)
In The Chase (and arguably The Dalek Invasion of Earth) we see Daleks in places that would be inaccessible without getting up stairs somehow, but strictly speaking we don't see them fly.