At this point, I am rather unfamiliar with Romana, the Doctor's one and only fellow Gallifreyan companion. I don't seem to have encountered any of her stories at all, somehow – at least not recently enough to remember them or to know much about her, as a character. As I understand it, her first season travelling with the Doctor followed quite a clearly defined arc, as they had a very specific mission to undertake over the course of their adventures together. Destiny of the Daleks marks the start of their second season together – and the start of Romana's second incarnation, as she is in the process of regenerating as the story begins, although for no apparent reason (other than the departure of the original actress).
I think I need to watch more Romana stories – she has quite a fun rapport with the Doctor and it is such a different dynamic, seeing him with a fellow Time Lord. Or Time Lady, if you will.
Written by Terry Nation (his last Doctor Who story) and then re-written by Douglas Adams, who was script editor at the time, Destiny of the Daleks functions as a kind of companion story or sequel to Genesis of the Daleks, seeing the Doctor return to Skaro long after his failed mission to prevent the creation of the Daleks, to confront Davros once more. I can't help feeling that Davros should have been left dead – his fate at the end of Genesis was the perfect conclusion for the character – but Tom Baker really shines in their scenes together. The cast as a whole really hold this story together, they have great chemistry and energy, while the production values are impressively high for this story and the location scenes in particular look fab.
Random thoughts while watching:
We are not told why Romana is regenerating, since she was evidently not injured or ill at the end of the last story. Also, I would quite like to know how she seems to have so much control over her regeneration, able to pick and choose her new appearance at will. Regeneration is usually such a traumatic experience for the Doctor, yet Romana barely bats an eyelid! It is a shame that the process of regeneration is undercut like that, for the sake of a bit of weak humour. I am rather amused, mind, that Romana chooses to wear a ridiculously long scarf, like the Doctor's, with her new body and outfit.
Doctors One and Two had no control over the Tardis whatsoever, and never knew where it was going to land. Then the Third Doctor was exiled to Earth and couldn't fly it at all at first, only gradually regaining the use of it. The Fourth Doctor is able to control its destination better than any of his previous incarnations – or at least, he could, until now. But he has now fitted it with a randomizer circuit, actively choosing to land in completely random destinations rather than deciding where to go. This is apparently a security measure, to prevent anyone anticipating his moves and thus tracking him down.
The very first random location that the randomizer circuit drops the Tardis onto is Skaro, homeworld of the Daleks. Talk about coincidence. This is Skaro at a time when it has been completely abandoned, however, further in the planet's future than the Doctor has ever been before. I love that he recognises it immediately – he can't place the memory, can't put a name to the geography, but he knows that he's been there before. His local knowledge will prove useful to the story.
Of course, the main reason why the Doctor struggles to recognise Skaro is because it looks nothing like the Skaro we have visited before!
The Doctor cannot bring himself to leave a place without exploring it, no matter how inhospitable and certainly not just because he's got a bad feeling about it. That insatiable curiosity is one of his most enduring personality traits, surfacing in just about every incarnation he's ever had.
I am very amused by the fact that the Doctor cannot show off to Romana the way he would a human companion because she is also a Time Lord. Time Lady. Whatever. She is as brilliant and educated as him, so the showing off falls flat.
I very much like the ruins they found to film around in whatever quarry was used as the main location for this story. The ruins are a really nice touch and add a lot of realism to the idea that these are the long abandoned remains of the Kaled city on Skaro. The earthquake caused by underground drilling is pretty good, too, and so are the explosions, and as for the spaceship that we see landing and half-burying itself in the ground, that effect is remarkably good for Doctor Who in this period. I'm impressed by the production of this story all round, in fact; it's very well done. They must have had an actual budget for this one!
The Doctor and Romana see a group of downtrodden slaves burying someone beneath a heap of stones. The Doctor goes over and uncovers the corpse so he can get a look at it and try to learn more about the world he has landed on. That's fair enough – but it bugs me that he then walks away without covering the corpse up again. Bad form!
At the beginning of the story, the Doctor makes a big deal out of the fact that radiation levels on the planet are higher than normal and dishes out anti-radiation meds for himself and Romana to take, stressing that they must continue to take the pills at regular intervals and even going to the trouble of setting up a timer to remind them. That ties in with the Skaro we saw way, way back in The Daleks, when the First Doctor and his companions were badly affected by the radiation levels on the planet (although not so much with Genesis of the Daleks, which should have overwritten that story, in which radiation wasn't mentioned as a problem at all). But then Romana misses her second dose of medication, has a single giddy spell thereafter (although that might have been play-acting), and from then on the radiation levels are never mentioned as a problem again. Also, the human slaves working on the planet don't seem to be struggling with the radiation.
I like a lot of what we see of Romana in this story: she is very elegant and intelligent and capable. But I'm a little disappointed that when she sees a stranger coming toward her, she immediately panics and runs away from him. I mean, okay, she is a little freaked out at that point because the Doctor has just vanished, but even so, I can't help thinking that Sarah Jane, for example, would have stood her ground and said hello to the man; she'd have been wary, but she wouldn't have panicked like that until she knew she had something to panic about. As a result of Romana's panic, she falls down a shaft and ends up getting herself captured by the Daleks. And the man she ran away from was only Tyssan, a human slave who has escaped from the Daleks and who not only turns out to be very friendly, but a fantastic new ally for the Doctor.
Romana also gets a bit hysterical while being interrogated by the Daleks, who she doesn't seem to have encountered in person before. But I suppose she can be forgiven for that one, since the Daleks do tend to be rather deadly and she clearly knows their reputation only too well.
I really like Tyssan. I love his crazy hair and indomitable spirit. He is brave, resourceful and heroic, and totally epitomizes everything the Doctor loves so much about humans. Unlike Romana, the Doctor instantly recognises him as a kindred spirit (admittedly they meet under very different circumstances) and they strike up a fantastic rapport almost immediately. The Doctor loves meeting people like Tyssan and I love the relationship they form over the course of this story. They work together wonderfully well.
I'm especially impressed by Tyssan because actor Tim Barlow was very deaf at the time this story was filmed.
There are two opposing forces on Skaro at this time: the Daleks, who are digging through the ruins of their former city, and the Movellans, who have come to find out what the Daleks are up to. Romana falls into the hands of the Daleks while the Doctor falls into the hands of the Movellans. But neither side is what you'd call friendly – just because the Movellans are enemies of the Daleks, that doesn't make them the good guys, far from it. They are just another set of antagonists for our heroes to have to deal with. Once we find out that they are a race of robots locked in an endless, pointless stalemate with the Daleks they make a lot more sense, although they remain rather boring and charmless throughout.
Where do the Movellans come from? If they are a race of robots, surely someone somewhere must have built and programmed them in the first place? We aren't told their origin story, however, probably because they are too dull for anyone to really care, despite their startlingly original appearance.
I wonder what happened to the Thals. In both The Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks, there were Thal survivors still living on Skaro. They seem to be long gone now, which is a slightly depressing thought.
I'm not entirely sure why there were Daleks lurking around at the bottom of the shaft Romana fell into at just the right moment to capture her, yet it is deserted a little while later when the Doctor and Tyssan lead a rescue party to try and find her. Not that she is still there to be rescued, of course, having already been sent to join a slave work party and enacted her own escape plan. At least their trip isn't a waste, as the Doctor gets a good look at the floor plans and figures out both what the Daleks are looking for and that they don't know the area as well as he does. Well, he has been on Skaro more recently than they have. He was here with Sarah and Harry just five years ago, in his own timeline, although for the Daleks and Skaro it has apparently been hundreds if not thousands of years since that visit. I'm not even going to begin to wonder how the events of The Daleks factor into that timeline, I shall just take it as read that Genesis overwrote those events, however problematic that re-writing of the Doctor's (and his companions') personal timeline might be.
There are some really interesting shots employed at times in this story – the director was feeling creative, clearly.
The Doctor is horrified when he sees a cairn with Romana's name etched into the rock above it, starts frantically digging into the grave to find out what happened to her – and then is tremendously relieved to learn that she merely faked her death to escape the Daleks, rather than actually having been killed. He has clearly become very fond of his Time Lady companion since she joined him. And I am impressed by her resourcefulness, which compensates for her panic earlier.
Okay, so the Doctor figures out that the Daleks have returned to Skaro to retrieve their creator, Davros, who was exterminated there at the end of Genesis of the Daleks. So he leads his rag-tag party through a short-cut he remembers but the Daleks don't know about, and finds his way back to the control room where he saw Davros killed all those years ago. And there Davros still is, having been entombed there all this time, un-decayed (or at least, no more decayed than he already was). I…find the timescales and logistics of all this a bit problematic, so try not to think about it too closely. In Genesis, the Daleks were entombed along with Davros. Presumably they broke out at some point and have since spread across the galaxy, but during the period they were trapped in the remains of the Kaled bunker…you'd think they would have tidied the corpse of Davros out of the way, surely, rather than just leaving it there to clutter up the place. They must have moved the other corpses that were littering the room, since there is no sign of any other remains, so why not also move Davros? It isn't as if they would have felt sentimental about him, since he specifically designed them to feel no such emotion.
So anyway, the Doctor and co. find the corpse of Davros, which promptly comes back to life. I would take major exception to this, except that the Doctor does make a point of asking Davros how he managed it and he does give an explanation that sounds technobabbly enough that it just about passes as plausible, in a universe where Daleks exist and time travel is possible. What I don't quite understand is why he came back to life at that precise moment. Was he just lounging there dormant until movement nearby set off a motion detector and roused him, or something? If no one had ever returned to the control room to disturb him, would he have lounged there dormant forever? Was he waking himself up periodically to check that nothing had changed? Was he simply comatose from boredom, after long centuries alone? Has he really discovered the secret of eternal albeit artificially prolonged life? Or what?
In Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor was sent back in time to Skaro to try to prevent the creation of the Daleks. He failed in that mission. At the end of that adventure, he tried to brush his failure off as no big deal and not such a bad thing, offering the optimistic hope that maybe some good would come from the development of the Daleks, as well as bad. Here though, back on Skaro and confronted once more by Davros, creator of the Daleks, his mood is instantly grim and self-recriminatory. "I could have stopped him," he admits to Romana and Tyssan. In all his dealings with the Daleks and Davros ever since, I'm not sure he has ever quite forgiven himself for that failure. It casts a shadow over their every encounter, especially in the new show, in the wake of the devastating Time War.
The biggest problem I have with this story isn't the science or logistics or timescale, it is the voice of Davros. Michael Wisher wasn't available to reprise the role, so there is a different actor inside the Davros costume and he sounds wrong, completely and utterly wrong. He doesn't even try for so much as an approximation of the proper Davros sound! I can forgive this story for a lot of things, but I absolutely cannot get past Davros sounding so very wrong. He just…he isn't Davros.
It kills me that the Daleks in this story trundle around shouting slogans at each other all the time, like they feel the need for a bit of pep or something!
I am very amused by the Doctor's blithe abduction of Davros. He just grabs the maniac's wheelchair and wheels him away, and Davros seems absolutely helpless to stop him. He makes an awful lot of noise, though, considering the Daleks aren't far behind – they should find it much easier to follow him than they do, if only they were listening out a bit more closely for the racket he makes.
Once they find themselves stuck in a dead end that they can't get Davros out of, the Doctor sends Romana and Tyssan off to the Movellans for help, which rather conveniently provides an opportunity for the Doctor and Davros to have a few scenes alone together, talking – an attempt to recapture the magic of the scenes they shared in Genesis. On the one hand, it doesn't quite work because this story doesn't come anywhere near the heights of Genesis. But on the other hand, it does kind of work, just because it is the Doctor and Davros and something about the combination of those two characters always generates intensity. Tom Baker's performance is what really sells it. The Doctor attempts his usual studied air of nonchalance but can't maintain it, not consistently, because he hates Davros so very, very much. We rarely see the Doctor hate anyone or anything with such a fiery passion. His scenes with Davros fairly crackle with the intensity of that hatred, which is the best thing about this story.
Ooh, when the Daleks start executing their human slaves, one by one, to force the Doctor to surrender, that's very, very nasty. He is forced to back down because he is the Doctor, he cannot just stand by and watch the slaughter, but he still tries to bargain his way out of it. We rarely see him this desperate. He does at least manage to secure the release of the surviving slaves in exchange for Davros.
I like that the human slaves always tend to their dead. It's a nice little touch that marks them out from both the Daleks and Movellans.
In Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor found that he didn't quite have the stomach for cold-blooded murder, even of embryo Daleks. He has learned from that mistake and is much more ruthless in this story – having attached a bomb to Davros's wheelchair before making his escape, he doesn't hesitate to detonate as soon as he is clear himself. That is how much he hates Davros and how much he regrets his failure in Genesis. It is just a shame the Daleks managed to detach the bomb before it blew, thus saving Davros.
I am rather impressed at how easily the Movellans' guns destroy Daleks. I can think of plenty of occasions when that technology might have proved handy.
I am less impressed by the Movellans using Romana as bait to recapture the Doctor. Bad form! Not as bad as the Daleks, though, since they don't actually harm her, in contrast to the malicious ruthlessness displayed by the Daleks. I'm sure they would have if they thought it necessary, though.
I am enormously entertained by how jealous Davros becomes when the Daleks mention their Supreme Dalek to him.
During their standoff with the Doctor, the Daleks declared that self-sacrifice was illogical and therefore impossible. Yet Davros later sends them on a suicide mission and they apparently have no problem with that whatsoever. The two positions seem rather contradictory to me.
Romana seems to understand the Doctor very well – she doesn't hesitate to play along with him when he initiates a little game of rock, paper scissors to demonstrate a point to the Movellans. He once said that, as fellow Time Lords, in many ways he and the Master have the same mind (well, okay, technically he hasn't said that yet as it was in a later story, but still) – I wonder if that also applies to Romana?
I rather enjoy how disgusted Davros is when he learns that the Daleks and Movellans have been locked together in battle without a single shot fired for centuries, because both battle fleets are led by computer, able to predict and cancel out one another's moves exactly. They are caught in a logical impasse and that is why the Daleks want Davros, hoping that the input of his organic, non-computerised mind will give them the advantage. And the Movellans now want the Doctor to do the same for them. There is a tremendous irony in the fact that both of these utterly logical races have seen the need for illogic to break the deadlock, yet remain incapable of it themselves.
I would take exception to the presentation of the Daleks as purely robots in this story, since their robotic outer casing should still house mutated organic beings, except that in Genesis of the Daleks it was made clear that those mutated organic beings were effectively programmed just like a computer. Their ability for independent thought is and always was pretty much nil.
The Doctor can be so very sarcastic. And arrogant. I love the way Romana rolls her eyes in scorn of his hubris when he describes Davros's computer skills as 'almost' as great as his own.
Tyssan really is great. He's capable and pro-active and willing to take action on his own initiative. He gathers together the other ex-slaves and forms them into a fighting unit, he makes use of what the Doctor has taught him to re-programme several Movellans and he rescues the Doctor and Romana. Great stuff. In different circumstances, he might have made an admirable companion. I'm sad that so many of the former slaves are then killed by the approaching Daleks, however, just when they were so close to escape.
I am rather amused by the way the Doctor jumps out of his skin when a Dalek sneaks up behind him, just when he thought he'd found Davros alone and unguarded.
Ooh, Romana gets in a good, very physical fight scene, tussling with the Movellan leader Sharrell to stop him detonating his nova device. She beats him, as well – you go, girl!
I am highly entertained by the way the Dalek panics when the Doctor tosses his hat over its eyepiece and blinds it.
Okay, so the Movellans are all captured and deactivated and the Dalek suicide squad is blown up before they reach the Movellan spacecraft. Davros is then frozen in cryogenic suspension to be taken away to stand trial 'for crimes against the whole of sentient creation', and I find myself wondering just what kind of court a trial like that would be held in. The Doctor says that a high security prison ship has set out from Earth to meet the Movellan vessel, now commandeered by Tyssan and the other former slaves. So he is to face a human court, then? How is that supposed to work? I can't help feeling that the Doctor might have done better to refer the matter to the Time Lords, if not for the fact that he is evidently in no hurry to get involved with his own people again. Also I sincerely hope that Tyssan and his stolen Movellan ship don't encounter either the Dalek or Movellan fleets en route to his rendezvous with the prison ship! After all, we know that a Dalek battle cruiser is on its way, so it seems a situation fraught with danger still.
Romana never did get her second dose of anti-radiation meds.
I do enjoy the way Romana teases the Doctor.
The Tardis door doesn't seem to shut straight! The wood looks warped – the Doctor really should get that seen to…
DOCTOR: "What are you doing in that body?"
ROMANA: "Regenerating. Do you like it?"
DOCTOR: "But you can't wear that body."
ROMANA: "I thought it looked very nice on the Princess."
DOCTOR: "But you can't go round wearing copies of bodies."
ROMANA: "Why not? We're not going back to Atrios, are we?"
ROMANA: "Well, then."
DOCTOR: "What you want is something warm and sensible. Something that will wear well. Something with a bit of style and…well, style."
ROMANA: "I thought you said external appearances weren't important."
DOCTOR: "Ah, but it's nice to get them right, though, isn't it."
ROMANA: "Ah, but it's what's inside that counts."
ROMANA: "Shall we go back inside?"
DOCTOR: "What, and never know where I've been until the end of time? I wouldn't sleep at night."
ROMANA: "For a place that looked dead, there's a lot going on."
DOCTOR: "Yeah, probably hit it at the beginning of the tourist season."
SHARREL: "The planet is listed in our star catalogue as D5 gamma zed alpha."
DOCTOR: "Well, that's not much help. See, I'm terribly old-fashioned. I prefer names."
TYSSAN: "I've nothing to lose. Ever since I was brought here, I've had an awful premonition I'd die on Skaro."
DOCTOR: "Well, you wouldn't be the first."
ROMANA: "The only way to escape the Daleks was to feign death. It's lucky they didn't know I was a Gallifreyan."
DOCTOR: "Good girl."
ROMANA: "Yes, they taught me at school how to stop my hearts."
TYSSAN: "Hearts? How many have you got?"
ROMANA: "One for casual, one for best."
DALEK: "Seek, locate, exterminate. Seek, locate, exterminate!"
DOCTOR: "Davros, the evil genius who created the Daleks."
AGELLA: "He created the Daleks?"
DOCTOR: "Yes. I could have stopped him."
DOCTOR: "Davros. You don't look a day older and I'd hoped you were dead."
DAVROS: "Dead? I do not die. Mark this moment, Doctor. In the history of the universe, this moment is unique. Davros lives!"
DOCTOR: "Yes, well, I can see your long rest hasn't done anything to cure your megalomania."
ROMANA: "That wouldn't keep out a determined mouse."
DOCTOR: "Well, it's got to serve."
DAVROS: "Do you believe your puny efforts can change the course of destiny?"
DOCTOR: "Well, let's just say I might tamper with it."
DOCTOR: "What were we talking about?"
DAVROS: "Your inevitable destruction."
DOCTOR: "No, no, no, we had that conversation last time we met. I'm more interested in your survival. I saw you destroyed. The Daleks blasted you at point-blank range."
DAVROS: "Ha! There was damage to my primary life support system. The secondary and back-up circuits switch in immediately. Synthetic tissue regeneration took place whilst bodily organs were held in long-term suspension."
DOCTOR: "Blimey, wasn't that outstaying your welcome in rather a big way?"
DAVROS: "Until the Dalek's universal supremacy is accomplished, I cannot allow myself the luxury of death."
DOCTOR: "Oh, poor Davros."
DAVROS: "However, it is a luxury I shall delight in bestowing upon you."
DOCTOR: "You're very generous."
SHARREL: "We function logically."
DOCTOR: "My condolences to you."
DOCTOR: "Ha! You see? You're caught in an impasse of logic. You've discovered the recipe for everlasting peace. Congratulations. I'm terribly pleased."
DOCTOR: "You've overlooked something. Suppose I was willing to help you to change the balance of power, which I'm not, Davros will be doing exactly the same things for the Daleks. I mean, he may be mad, but his computer skills are almost as great as mine."
DOCTOR: "I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing."
DOCTOR: "All elephants are pink. Nellie is an elephant, therefore Nellie is pink. Logical?"
DOCTOR: "You know what a human would say to that?"
TYSSAN: "Elephants aren't pink."
DAVROS: "Bah. Humans do not understand logic."
DOCTOR: "Make mistakes and confuse the enemy."
ROMANA: "Is that why you always win?"
ROMANA: "Because you always make mistakes."
DOCTOR: "Mistakes? Me? Well, perhaps once a century or so."
Overall, I find Destiny of the Daleks an entertaining story, although slightly more lightweight than it maybe wants to be. The story rattles along at a fair lick with strong production values, engaging character dynamics and an energetic performance by the cast. It's a good, strong season opener.