BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

Destiny of the Daleks

Production Code: 5J

First Transmitted

1 - 01/09/1979 18:10

2 - 08/09/1979 18:10

3 - 15/09/1979 18:10

4 - 22/09/1979 18:15


The Doctor and a newly-regenerated Romana arrive on Skaro and discover that the Daleks are using explosive charges and a group of humanoid slave workers to mine the planet in search of their creator, Davros. A stalemate has arisen in an interplanetary war that the Daleks are waging against the robotic Movellans, and their hope is that Davros will be able to give them the edge.

A force of Movellans has also arrived on Skaro, determined to thwart the Daleks' plan. Davros is found in the ruins of the old Kaled city and immediately revives, his life support systems having held him in suspended animation ever since his apparent death. He quickly deduces that the battle computers of the two warring races are locked in a logical stalemate and that he can break this by introducing an element of intuition.

The Movellans, having reached the same conclusion, want the Doctor to do likewise for them. Davros attempts to destroy the Movellan ship using a suicide squad of Daleks loaded with bombs, but the Doctor returns to the Kaled city and tricks him into inadvertently detonating them before they reach their target.

The Movellans are deactivated and Davros is cryogenically frozen on board their ship until the freed slave workers can take him to Earth and ensure that he is put on trial for his crimes.

Episode Endings

Romana, trapped in the ruins of the old Kaled city, backs uneasily away from a vibrating wall. Suddenly Daleks crash through the wall and advance towards her, repeatedly telling her not to move and asserting that she is their prisoner.

Davros flexes his fingers, and his artificial eye lights up as he revives.

The Movellans set a trap for the Doctor, placing an unconscious Romana in a transparent cylinder with a 'nova device' capable of causing the air inside to catch fire when the countdown reaches zero. The Doctor stuggles desperately to find a way into the sealed cylinder as the countdown continues.

The TARDIS dematerialises from the surface of Skaro.


The film Stalemate provides the logic trap.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : [Reading a book called Origins of the Universe by Oolon Caluphid.] "He got it wrong on the first line! Why didn't he ask someone who saw it happen?"

Dialogue Disasters

Daleks : "Seek - locate - exterminate!"

Double Entendre

The Doctor : "I want to get a closer look at that body..."


Skaro is still radioactive, the Doctor and Romana taking anti radiation tablets (The Daleks). Skaro is known as D5 Gamma Z Alpha to the Movellans. Davros is resurrected without any apparent power source [it's almost as if the Doctor's entry into his sealed bunker wakes him up]. He survived the end of Genesis of the Daleks thanks to his chair's defence system.

It is not explained how Romana can 'try on' several bodies when regenerating [possibly a similar process to the options the Doctor was given at the end of The War Games, or the intermediate stage seen in Planet of the Spiders, Logopolis and 'The Trial of a Time Lord']. Much time has gone by since The Armageddon Factor (she's now much wiser) and she might have been suffering from some illness. Her stated reasons are, of course, very flippant.

Romana states that the Planet Kantria is a tropical paradise. The Doctor tells Davros that Arcturus won the Galactic Olympic Games with Betelgeuse coming second. The planet Magla is an 8000-mile-wide amoeba that has grown a crusty shell.


The Second History of the Daleks

The Doctor's Age


Skaro, 'many centuries' after Genesis of the Daleks.


The Doctor's first encounter with the Big Bang (he reads Origins of the Universe by Oolon Caluphid and comments 'He got it wrong on the first line! Why didn't he ask someone who saw it happen?').


Skaro sound effects from the first Dalek story, The Mutants, are reused here.

Romana wears a pink and white parody of the Doctor's costume.

A steadycam - a rig used to obtain smooth, stable shots from a hand held camera - is used for the first time in this story to breathtaking effect.

David Yip, later to star in the BBC's The Chinese Detective, plays the Dalek prisoner, Veldan.

Actor Tim Barlow, who played Tyssan, was deaf.

Although K9 has no dialogue in this story he is heard to croak at the start of Episode One. The croak was provided by Roy Skelton. Three alternative 'physical' forms of Romana seen in Episode One were played, uncredited, by Lee Richards, Maggy Armitage and Yvonne Gallagher.


The seismic activity on Skaro is caused by 'high impact phason drills'.


Davros sways alarmingly as the Doctor pushes him down the corridor.

During one of Davros' rants about his 'perfect' creations in episode three, one of them can be seen adjusting the top half of its casing.

A Dalek also crashes into a door frame.

The Daleks say that self sacrifice is illogical, so why do they go on a suicide mission in episode four?

In 'scissors cut paper' there is no logically superior choice so the Movellans should not be trapped in the game as they are.

The Doctor gives Romana a bleeper to tell her when to take her radiation tablets but forgets to give her any of the actual pills.

Fashion Victim

The Movellans: silver dreadlocks and skin tight one piece 'space suits'.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Romana - Lalla Ward

Agella - Suzanne Danielle

Commander Sharrel - Peter Straker

Dalek Operator - Cy Town

Dalek Operator - Mike Mungarvan

Dalek Voice - Roy Skelton

Davros - David Gooderson David Gooderson also supplied some Dalek voices in this story, but uncredited

Jall - Penny Casdagli

Lan - Tony Osoba

Movellan Guard - Cassandra Although she is credited on Episode Four, the appearance of the Movellan Guard played by Cassandra is actually in Episode Three.

Tyssan - Tim Barlow

Veldan - David Yip


Director - Ken Grieve

Assistant Floor Manager - David Tilley

Assistant Floor Manager - Anthony Root

Costumes - June Hudson

Designer - Ken Ledsham

Film Cameraman - Philip Law

Film Cameraman - Kevin Rowley

Film Cameraman - Fred Hamilton

Film Editor - Dick Allen

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Cecile Hay-Arthur

Producer - Graham Williams

Production Assistant - Henry Foster

Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner

Script Editor - Douglas Adams

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - John Dixon

Studio Sound - Clive Gifford

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

Visual Effects - Peter Logan

Writer - Terry Nation

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Oh look, rocks!' Despite some interesting visuals, 'Destiny' has a tacky, inconsequential feel that comes from a decade of having its best jokes sneered at. After a while it becomes difficult to work out where Nation's plot ends, and Adams' script editing, complete with Hitch Hikers in-jokes, begins.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The opening scenes of Destiny of the Daleks get the new season off to a shaky start, Romana's regeneration - in which she 'tries on' a number of unsuitable bodies before settling on the Lalla Ward version - being played very much for laughs. 'The [regeneration] scene was handled abysmally,' complained Chris Dunk in Oracle Volume 3 Number 3, dated December 1979. 'There was a total lack of convincing acting, although to be fair to the actresses involved the script could hardly have allowed less for it. What really made me cross though was the lack of explanation. I am quite open to any new theories thrust at us and I will readily accept that Romana can change like this, but we were not told so. We were not even given the briefest mention of why she had to do it.'

On a more positive note, Lalla Ward's debut performance as the new Romana is very promising, as Chris Marton suggested in TARDIS Volume 4 Number 6 in 1979: 'Lalla Ward's Romana seemed more natural and spontaneous than Mary Tamm's..., and her mixture of... Time Lord intellect and little girl innocence could prove a winning formula.'

Writer Terry Nation was not in fact responsible for the regeneration scene - it was added by script editor Douglas Adams - and, as Marton noted, the story subsequently settles down into his well-established style: 'The usual Nation trademarks are well in evidence - the long exploration of a seemingly desolate, uninhabited terrain; the incapacitation of one of the TARDIS crew by a run-of-the-mill hazard, the other running off to locate help; return to the TARDIS barred; the encounter with a group of visitors to the planet; and the inevitable melodramatic appearance of the Daleks at Episode One's climax.'

The scenes set on Skaro's surface are very effective, as Richard Walter observed in Matrix Issue 4, dated November 1979: 'The location work gave [it] tremendous atmosphere and the effect of the Movellan ship landing was not at all bad. From their first appearance, the Movellans had a sense of mystery surrounding them. They looked human, and yet...'

Nation had toyed before with the idea of the Daleks having a race of robot rivals - specifically the Mechanoids in season two's The Chase and, perhaps more particularly, the TV Century 21 comic strips of the mid-sixties - and the Movellans are a worthwhile addition to the series' mythology, even though their appearance leaves a little to be desired.

Rather more surprising is the fact that in this story the Daleks themselves are on several occasions referred to as robots. This has been roundly condemned by most fan commentators, although William Gallagher made an interesting point in Web Planet Issue 2, dated July 1980: '"He referred to the Daleks as robots!" many of you have shrieked in your profound certainty that Mr Nation was wrong to do so. But was he? It was then many years since the Daleks had been created, so it was natural for them to have improved themselves in every way possible.' It does indeed seem that Nation - or could it have been Adams? - was quite consciously suggesting that the Daleks had evolved from organic creatures into robotic ones. The scene in which the Doctor finds a Kaled mutant lying on the ground and recalls that the Daleks were once organic themselves is particularly significant in this regard. If so, however, his motivation for introducing such a change remains a mystery.

It is admittedly very difficult to believe that the Daleks could ever have become locked in a logical stalemate with the Movellans unless they had evolved into robots, given that they are normally highly emotional creatures, but Nation attempts to address this problem in a different way by suggesting that it is the races' respective battle computers that have led to this situation. In the end, the impression given is that Nation is simply struggling to come up with a plausible reason why the Daleks should need to go in search of their creator for assistance.

This brings us to the nub of the story's problems. Davros was a character positively crying out not to be resurrected after his unbeatable debut in season twelve's Genesis of the Daleks. The plot device by way of which this is achieved in Destiny of the Daleks is frankly ludicrous, and the character in general is nowhere near as well-written or as subtle here as in the earlier story. It doesn't help matters, either, that Michael Wisher, whose wonderful performance in Genesis of the Daleks was such a crucial factor in Davros's success, proved to be unavailable on this occasion, necessitating a recasting of the part.

David Gooderson's acting here is unfortunately not in the same league, and the net result is that this wonderful character is very much devalued. 'David Gooderson tried,' wrote Marton, 'but he seemed more crusty and bad tempered than Michael Wisher's ruthless fanatic. His somewhat humiliating fate reduced his evil stature greatly, though the possibility of his release by the Daleks is open...' Even Davros's mask and chair, designed for an actor of a different build, are less effective this time around, as Ian Wishart pointed out in Ark in Space No. 1 in 1979: 'It was amusing to watch Davros - the evil genius, brilliant creator of the Daleks - bobbing up and down on his squeaky chair every time he moved about.'

Francis Danes, writing in Fendahl Number 6, dated August/September 1979, thought that the Daleks too were poorly presented in this story: 'The Dalek machines themselves were in appalling condition... It is sad that the most famous monsters of science-fiction were so tatty... The dummy Daleks were very obvious; they just looked completely unfinished. The one that stood behind Davros when the "real" Daleks had departed was particularly bad.' Richard Walter took a similar view in Matrix Issue 4, dated November 1979: 'Where in the universe can a Dalek get a respray and service? What did annoy me was that the four Daleks used were each slightly different, which meant that if one was blown up... it was easy to spot the same one guarding a prisoner down the tunnel in another scene. It was made very obvious that the [BBC] only had the four machines.'

Wishart, however, argued that the Daleks came out quite well: '[They] appeared a little bashed up - but surely a race of space/time travellers in the middle of a gigantic space war would get a little knocked about now and then? At the end of Episode One, when [they] burst through the glass wall... and captured Romana, I was really glad to see them portrayed as terrifying and callous, as they should be... Some... thought that the way the Daleks kept repeating what they were saying, and shouting things like "Seek, locate and destroy!"... made them appear stupid and, to a certain degree, primitive. However, to me, this is exactly how they should be: thoroughly evil and really terrifying. It was interesting to note how less dominant the Daleks became after Davros came on the scene...'

Destiny of the Daleks ultimately manages to rise above all its undoubted failings and provides a fair degree of entertainment. Contemporary viewers certainly thought so, if the BBC's Audience Research Report on the story gives any indication: 'Most viewers found the programmes enjoyable, feeling that the plot had been a good one. The teenage and adult audience did not find the story particularly exciting or at all frightening but they felt that children did. "The Daleks always create good opposition" was the general view, and respondents said that Doctor Who was "always reliable entertainment".' Opinions on Lalla Ward were mixed, but Tom Baker again 'was often praised for his portrayal of the central character, a few adding that his was "the best Doctor Who of all".'

As Marton put it: 'After a couple of hit and miss seasons, the dreaded Daleks once more come to the aid of the Doctor in a most enjoyable, if not exactly vintage little story.'

< The Armageddon FactorFourth DoctorCity of Death >

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.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy