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24 September 2014

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Death to the Daleks

Production Code: XXX

First Transmitted

1 - 23/02/1974 17:30

2 - 02/03/1974 17:30

3 - 09/03/1974 17:30

4 - 16/03/1974 17:30


The TARDIS arrives on the planet Exxilon, where all electrical energy is drained off by an unknown force. The Doctor meets a Marine Space Corps expedition from Earth who tell him that a plague is sweeping the galaxy and that the antidote, parrinium, can be found only on Exxilon. Their ship has been disabled by the energy drain, so they are unable to leave with the mineral.

Sarah meanwhile has seen a magnificent white edifice with a flashing beacon on top. She is captured by a group of savage Exxilons and taken to their cave to be sacrificed for defiling their city. The Doctor and the humans enter into an uneasy alliance with a group of Daleks who also land on the planet and whose weapons are rendered inactive by the energy drain. They too are taken prisoner by the Exxilons.

The Doctor interrupts Sarah's execution but is then sentenced to death himself. The two travellers escape into some tunnels as the cave is attacked by a second force of Daleks armed with mechanical guns. There they meet Bellal, an enlightened Exxilon, who tells them that the city was created by his own race but then brought about their downfall. The Doctor, realising that the city's beacon is causing the energy drain, resolves to put it out of action.

He and Bellal enter the city and, by passing a series of potentially deadly tests, reach its centre. There the Time Lord uses his sonic screwdriver to give the controlling computer a brainstorm.

The Daleks plan to take all the parrinium but their ship is destroyed with a bomb triggered by one of the humans who has stowed away on board. Sarah then reveals that she and another of the humans had already smuggled off all the parrinium and transferred it to the Earth ship.

Episode Endings

A spaceship lands on the planet and the Doctor goes with the MSC group to greet it. A door opens and Daleks glide out. The Daleks fire their weapons.

Making his way through the tunnels beneath the Exxilon city, the Doctor is confronted by a metallic root that rears up before him.

The Doctor and Bellal, progressing through the corridors of the Exxilon city, come to an area where the floor is marked in a red and white pattern. Suddenly the Doctor says 'Stop - don't move!'

As the Exxilon city collapses, the Doctor sadly muses that the universe now has only 699 wonders.


Von Daniken.

Hamlet ('A palpable hit').

70s power cuts.

The Doctor sings 'Oh I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside'.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "Inside each of those shells is living, bubbling lump of hate."

Bellal : "Exxilon had grown old before life began on other planets."

Dialogue Disasters

Dalek : "Human prisoner has escaped. I have failed. Self Destruct!"


The holiday planet Florana has effervescent water.

The TARDIS has emergency storage cells in case of power failure. Without power, its doors need to be hand cranked. Sulphagen tablets are pain killers. The Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver for various feats of electrical trickery in the City. He carries a five piastre coin, of unknown origin: he says he's unlikely to need it. [Is it Gallifreyan?]

Parrinium is a chemical that is rare on Earth but is as common as salt on Exxilon: it's also the cure for the space plague, which was caused by the Daleks' 'plague missiles'. Jill Tarrant estimates ten million people on the outer planets and colonies will die without parrinium. The Doctor says the Daleks have a 'scorched planet policy'. The Daleks move their casings by psychokinetic power.

Bellal states that 'Exxilon had grown old before life began on other planets'. The Doctor believes the Exxilons travelled to Earth and taught the Peruvian Incas how to build their temples. Then they built their City as a living entity, and it all but wiped them out.


The First History of the Daleks




Future History

Stewart's group are members of the Marine Space Corps.



The Daleks practice their replacement machine guns on a model TARDIS. Where they got it from is never explained. [Standard issue to encourage hatred for the Doctor?]

Bad editing at the end of episode one makes it clear that the Daleks' guns don't work.

What happened to the Exxilon in the TARDIS after Sarah knocks it out? Is it still wandering around in there?

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Bellal - Arnold Yarrow

Commander Stewart - Neil Seiler

Dalek Operator - John Scott Martin

Dalek Operator - Murphy Grumbar Murphy Grumbar's surname was mis-spelt as Grunbar on all episodes

Dalek Operator - Cy Town

Dalek Voices - Michael Wisher

Dan Galloway - Duncan Lamont

Gotal - Roy Heymann

High Priest - Mostyn Evans

Jill Tarrant - Joy Harrison

Peter Hamilton - Julian Fox

Richard Railton - John Abineri


Director - Michael E Briant

Assistant Floor Manager - Richard Leyland

Costumes - L Rowland Warne

Designer - Colin Green

Fight Arranger - Terry Walsh

Film Cameraman - Bill Matthews (2)

Film Editor - Bob Rymer

Incidental Music - Carey Blyton performed by the London Saxophone Quartet

Make-Up - Magdalen Gaffney

Make-Up - Cynthia Goodwin

Masks - John Friedlander

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - Chris D'Oyly-John

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Derek Slee

Studio Sound - Richard Chubb

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Jim Ward

Writer - Terry Nation

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Inside each of those shells is a living, bubbling lump of hate.' A confused story with, for once, too much rather than too little plot. There really doesn't seem any need to have the Daleks in it at all. There are some adequate sacrifice scenes for Sarah to scream in, but the production seems tired and insipid, Terry Nation signposting his forthcoming interest in plague (Survivors.)

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The knowledge that a story is to feature the Daleks always induces a feeling of excitement and anticipation. Expectations are higher than they would normally be, and if the story proves to be anything less than spectacular this can sometimes lead to it being judged unduly harshly. This may perhaps help to account for the fact that Death to the Daleks has, over the years, come in for far more than its fair share of criticism.

An example of this is to be found in Trevor Wayne's evaluation in Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time in 1987: 'The arrival of the Daleks in the closing minutes [of the first episode] sets the scene for a nightmare... Unfortunately it is a recurring nightmare; deja vu rather than death seems to be stalking the Daleks. If Planet of the Daleks... was a rewrite of the seminal Dalek story, then Death to the Daleks contains a wealth of SF cliches, many of which have turned up before in Dalek stories and in Doctor Who more generally: mysterious cities degenerating; ancient civilisations; the inevitable tunnels and corridors; the quest/race through the elaborate IQ test; and cliched and monotonous dialogue.'

Admittedly the action is somewhat low key and played out on a relatively small scale (although references to the space plague sweeping the galaxy give a tantalising glimpse of the bigger picture), but the scripts are still well-written and entertaining, with a good premise and some interesting concepts. The Daleks are at their scheming best here and also look very impressive, their casings having been refurbished for the production.

Even before they arrive on the scene, there is much to enjoy in a first episode that begins very effectively with the violent slaying of an astronaut (played by stuntman Terry Walsh) and the apparent 'death' of the TARDIS as all its power is drained away, and then continues in a suitably creepy and atmospheric vein as the Doctor and Sarah venture out to explore the mist-swathed surface of the planet Exxilon.

The subplot involving the Exxilons and their city is one of the story's most intriguing aspects, although again Wayne felt that it was both unoriginal and inadequately developed: 'Central to [the plot] is one of Terry Nation's obsessions...: that science and invention may become too complex or clever for the scientist or inventor... But whereas such ideas can be fully developed in a [series] like Doomwatch, they all too often get buried under the weight of plotting needed to sustain a Doctor Who story over four or six episodes.'

Keith Miller, writing in DWFC Monthly Number 19 - Special Review Edition in the spring of 1974, liked the modelwork by way of which the Exxilon city was realised, and indeed the depiction of the Exxilons as a whole: 'The [exterior of] the citadel was a magnificent piece of alien architecture. Really terrific. After Sarah had been captured, the Exxilon singing was great and frightening.' On the downside, however, the closing model shots of the city disintegrating are very unconvincing. And while the Exxilons are good characters, being both well written and effectively presented with some great masks courtesy of visual effects sculptor John Friedlander, the members of the human expedition are all rather one-dimensional, and in a couple of cases not very well acted.

Carey Blyton's incidental music is another aspect of the story's production that is less than wholly successful, tending to grate on the nerves after a while - and quite a short while at that - although some commentators have praised it and it does undeniably blend in well with the superb atmospheric sounds created for the planet by the Radiophonic Workshop's Dick Mills.

Above all else, though, this is a story of excellent set pieces and impressive images. Notable examples not already mentioned include Sarah fending off an Exxilon attacker in the TARDIS in the first episode; the Daleks using a model police box for target practice with their new weapons; and one of the city's defensive roots emerging from a lake in the mining area, where it spectacularly destroys a Dalek.

The various challenges that the Doctor and Bellal face as they make their way through the Exxilon city are also memorable - although the cliffhanger ending to Part Three is rather strange (in fairness it was not originally supposed to be a cliffhanger at all, and became one only because the episode had to be edited for timing reasons), and the Doctor's subsequent use of 'Venusian hopscotch' to overcome the problem of the booby trapped pattern on the floor is stretching things a bit. 'Venus must rate pretty highly in the [Doctor's] book,' observed Miller, 'what with Venusian measurements, karate, lullabies and now hopscotch! The lightning bolts as the Dalek skimmed over the floor were well done, as was the floor repairing itself.'

Death to the Daleks is overall a highly enjoyable story, and probably the best of the series' eleventh season.

< Invasion of the DinosaursThird DoctorThe Monster of Peladon >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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