‘DEATH TO THE DALEKS’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Beneath the City of the Exxilons
The Daleks use machine guns in this!
‘Death to the Daleks’ is the third Dalek TV story featured in the Jon Pertwee era of ‘Doctor Who’. Beforehand, Jon Pertwee’s Doctor faced Daleks in ‘Day of the Daleks’ and briefly in ‘Frontier In Space’ leading into ‘Planet of the Daleks’. Does ‘Death to the Daleks’ top the Doctor’s previous encounters?
Well…not really in my humble opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed ‘Death to the Daleks’ as I’ll enjoy any ‘Doctor Who’ TV story from the classic series. But this is a Dalek story that I wouldn’t consider calling a classic. It has a slow build-up and at times it felt flat in places during the adventure.
This is a four-part story by Terry Nation, who makes his second contribution to the Jon Pertwee era of ‘Doctor Who’. Terry Nation reuses familiar aspects of the Daleks that he used in previous stories including a giant city on an alien planet. But he also presents us with a thought-provoking question.
What if the Daleks didn’t have their guns or couldn’t use them? This story is set on a planet where power failures occur for both the Doctor’s TARDIS and the Daleks’ power. For the Daleks, the power gets drained from their spaceship as well as their guns. Surprisingly the Daleks can still move around!
In the story, the Doctor intends to take Sarah Jane Smith to the planet Florana (although that won’t happen until he’s the Fifth Doctor with Nyssa and Tegan in ‘The Elite’). Instead of going to Florana, they end up going to the planet Exxilon where the power gets drained away from the TARDIS itself.
The first episode is meant to have a sense of mystery about it and doesn’t feature the Daleks in it at all until the very end. Now this does feel atmospheric and it’s an approach that Terry Nation has used before in previous Dalek TV tales such as the first Dalek story and also in ‘Planet of the Daleks’.
However the first episode doesn’t feel that exciting enough compared to how the build-up of the Daleks was in other stories. I don’t blame director Michael E. Briant for this, as he’s very good. But it was rather slow-paced as there wasn’t enough to engage me with appreciating the story’s beginning.
Things do get better when the Daleks turn up in their spaceship as the Doctor with the Marine Space Corps expedition finds them. The Daleks are about to open fire and exterminate. But then their guns aren’t working, which gives the Doctor the chance to gleefully gloat at them being pretty vulnerable.
Just to say, the lines that Jon Pertwee’s Doctor delivers when he says, “Well, well, well. Daleks without the power to kill! How does it feel?” I don’t know about you, but I found that line so similar to Christopher Eccelston’s line in ‘Dalek’ when he said, “The great space dustbin! How does it feel?!”
Even the Daleks from ‘Death to the Daleks’ saying “Keep away! Keep away!” is similar to “Keep back!” said by that lone Dalek in ‘Dalek’. Jon Pertwee’s Doctor tops this by saying, “And if I don’t what will you do?” This mirrors Christopher Eccleston’s “What for? What’re you going to do to me?”
Jon Pertwee is great as the Third Doctor in this Dalek adventure. I’m sure many of you ‘Doctor Who’ fans know that Jon Pertwee wasn’t a fan of the Daleks. He preferred the Draconians compared to the Daleks. I appreciate his dislike for them, since the Daleks must be difficult to work with in the studio.
But Jon Pertwee’s Doctor does well in confronting the Daleks in this story. I like how the Doctor attempts to rescue Sarah Jane when she’s about to be sacrificed and has a good camaraderie with her. I also like how the Doctor ventures into the Exxilon city with Bellal and how they confront many tests.
Elisabeth Sladen is wonderful as Sarah Jane Smith in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. I like how she’s all ready to go bathing on Florana in her skimpy bathing costume, before she finds it very cold on the planet Exxilon. Sarah Jane does get captured by the Exxilons when she trespasses on sacred ground.
It was unnerving when Sarah Jane was about to be sacrificed and was suffering from fumes of the flames by the Exxilons. I don’t think this is a standout story for Sarah Jane’s character in ‘Doctor Who’, but I do like how she gets to meet the Daleks for the first time before ‘Genesis of the Daleks’.
The story features John Abineri as Richard Railton, second-in-command of the Marine Space Corps expedition to Exxilon. John Abineri has been in ‘Doctor Who’ before in ‘The Ambassadors of Death’. He’s also been in ‘The Moon Stallion’ with Sarah Sutton. Railton sadly gets killed halfway in the story.
Duncan Lamont guest stars as Dan Galloway, weapons officer of the Marine Space Corps expedition. Galloway seems ruthless and can easily be a villain, especially when he agrees for his people to wipe out the rebel Exxilons to get the mineral parrinium. But he could have a chance to redeem himself.
Joy Harrison guest stars as Jill Tarrant, a civilian scientist with the Marine Space Corps expedition. Jill seems to be a pleasant, kind-hearted person who gets involved with the dangers on Exxilon. I liked that moment when she hides her face to be protected by the Doctor as the Daleks are about to fire.
Julian Fox guest stars as Peter Hamilton, a young man who is a member of the Marine Space Corps expedition. I get the impression that Peter and Jill share a certain attachment in this story, almost like they’re in love with each other. But then again, I didn’t pick this up clearly as I watched the story.
Neil Seiler guest stars as Commander Stewart, leader of the Marine Space Corps, who’s sadly injured for the time he’s in this story. He passes away in ‘Part Two’, telling Galloway that Peter Hamilton is now in command of the expedition. However Galloway pretends not to listen to Stewart’s request.
The Exxilons themselves…well, I didn’t find them very impressive. Now I’m not saying that the prosthetics and make-up are bad. In fact, I applaud the actors and extras who wore the Exxilon make-up in this story. But the eyeballs were static and you couldn’t see so much under their hoods.
The only Exxilon that impressed me was Arnold Yarrow as Bellal. I like Bellal! In the story, he becomes a helpful ally to the Doctor and Sarah Jane, especially when he helps them to escape death from Daleks and his own people. Even through the Exxilon make-up, the performance impressed me.
I did like it when the Doctor and Bellal venture into the Exxilon city and they go through all the tests in order to reach the power hub and try to shut everything down. The way that Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and Bellal communicated with each other was superb, as the Doctor spoke to an alien-looking alien.
There’s a moment in the tale that I liked when it came to the cliff-hanger of ‘Part Three’. The Doctor says to Bellal, “Stop, don’t move!” and there’s a kitchen-like chess floor before them. That’s the cliff-hanger to ‘Part Three’! What was going to happen next? Is there a fear of flooring in this adventure?
The stars of the story of course are the Daleks. The Daleks don’t seem to do too well at first when they can’t fire their weapons onto the Doctor and the human expedition. They’re forced to form a temporary alliance with the humans to get off Exxilon. But the Daleks aren’t to be trusted, are they?
In the story, the Daleks build their own machine guns weapons in the story. Seeing Daleks with machine guns instead of their ray guns was astonishing and an amazing change. They even shoot toy-sized TARDIS for target practice with their machine guns. How many toy TARDISes do Daleks have?
There’s a moment in the story when a Dalek realises Jill Tarrant has escaped. But instead of going out to find her, the Daleks goes into a panic saying “I have failed!” before going into self-destruct. I don’t know why the Dalek would have a nervous breakdown at that point with a comic sound effect.
The Dalek voices are provided by Michael Wisher. Michael would go on to play Davros in the next TV story, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. It was eerie to hear Michael Wisher’s voice as the Daleks in this story without having to think of Davros all the time. It was a struggle to distinguish both as they’re similar.
The story’s musical score is composed by Carey Blyton. I’m sorry to say this, but I’m not a fan of Carey Blyton’s music for ‘Doctor Who’. It doesn’t feel exciting enough and the instruments feel wrong for an action-packed ‘Doctor Who’ story. Also it isn’t very good as ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Beneath the City of the Exxilons’ making-of documentary with cast and crew interviews. There’s studio recording footage of the story as well as ‘On the Set of Dr Who and the Daleks’. There are the ‘Doctor Who Stories – Dalek Men’ interviews with John Scott Martin and Nicholas Evans and there’s also a photo gallery of the story. There are audio options including a DVD audio commentary with Julian Fox, Dalek operator Cy Town, director Michael E. Briant, assistant floor manager Richard Leyland, costume designer L. Rowland Warne and special sounds maestro Dick Mills, moderated by Toby Hadoke. There’s also an isolated music score option by Carey Blyton and an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There are PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Krotons’ with Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury. There’s also an Easter Egg to look out for on this DVD.
‘Death to the Daleks’ is not a great Dalek story in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. But it’s hardly awful. It’s a decent story with good performances by the cast including Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen. It’s also good to see the Daleks in it. But this one sadly doesn’t rank very highly in my top favourites.
‘Death to the Daleks’ rating – 6/10
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