by Mark Greig
Douglas Adams was one of the best writers of his generation. And the absolute worst person you could hire to take over as script-editor of Doctor Who.
Adams had been drafted in during the previous series as script-editor after the departure of Anthony Reed. By his own admission, Adams was notoriously leisurely as a writer and no more energetic as a script-editor either. At the same time he was also extremely busy. Not only was he script-editing Doctor Who, he was also working on the second radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the novel and the television series. The poor bloke was stretched to the absolute limit and this season suffered as a result. Season 17 is considered by many fans to be one of the absolute worst in the show’s history.
'Destiny of the Daleks' gets the whole thing off to a very shaky start. It's the last Dalek story written for the series by Terry Nation. Like Adams, Nation could be a rather lazy writer, but a very different type of lazy writer. While Adams would write a sentence and then wait three years before writing another, Nation would simply rehash one of his previous scripts and hope no one noticed. At the time, Nation's attention was fixed on Blake's 7 so his script was heavily rewritten by Adams creating an uncomfortable clash of styles.
If the task of re-writing the script had been left in the hands of someone like Robert Holmes I'm sure he would've done wonders to Nation's generic script and breathed some life into his one dimensional stock characters, just as he did with 'Genesis of the Daleks'. Adams, by contrast, just seems like he can't be bothered. The first two episodes are comprised almost entirely of lots and lots of scenes of people endlessly wandering around corridors and quarries with a load of random comedy bits thrown in. And the last two aren't much better.
One of the worst things about 'Destiny' is that it is a Dalek story written by someone who doesn't seem to understand the first thing about Daleks. I don't know if it was Nation's idea or Adams', but for some bizarre reason the Daleks are no longer hate filled jelly globs in personal tanks, but purely robotic machines who only think logically. A silly idea that was mercifully forgotten about by the following story. The Dalek props themselves are looking a little worse for wear. Auntie Beeb clearly can't afford to fork out for new ones.
No explanation is given for how Davros is resurrected. One minute he's dead and the next he just isn't. I've always thought that bringing him back was a huge mistake. He was an effectively chilling villain in 'Genesis', but here and in subsequent stories he's nothing more than a rent-a-rant megalomaniac who does nothing but boss the Daleks around and making boring speeches about how they are going to conquer the universe, blah, blah, blah.
This story introduces a new enemy for the Daleks: the Movellans, a race of androids who, with their silver dreadlocks and skin tight space suits, just scream seventies with a capital D.I.S.C.O. They would look more at home on Top of the Pops than Doctor Who. I can just see them dancing away on stage to Boney M's latest hit. The Movellans seem to be doing some sort of dance whenever one of their power packs is removed.
Mary Tamm left the series between seasons so at the start of this story we're introduced to a new Romana in the delightful form of Lalla Ward. She's amazing, but I'm biased since I worship the ground she walks on. Seriously, how can you not love her? This new incarnation is more playful than her predecessor and very much sees herself as something of a female version of the Doctor.
Notes and Quotes
--Michael Wisher was unavailable to reprise the role of Davros so David Gooderson was brought in to replace him. Since the BBC couldn't afford to make a new mask for Gooderson they just reused the old one which, quite noticeably, didn't fit.
--One of the most controversial parts of the episode is the regeneration scene where Romana tries on new bodies like she's trying on dresses. This goes completely against everything we've ever been told about regeneration.
--I just love the way Tom Baker says "Skaro".
--Why do the Movellans need to explain what their own device does to each other?
--While he is pinned under the column, the Doctor reads Oolon Colluphid's book The Origins of the Universe. Colluphid is a character from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
--The Daleks say that self sacrifice is illogical. Later they go on a suicide mission in episode four.
The Doctor: "Say 'aah.'"
The Doctor: "Aaaah!"
The Doctor: "I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing."
--Which is 70% of the time.
The Doctor: "I don't know. I have the feeling I've been here before."
Romana: "Déjà vu?"
The Doctor: "Oui".
The Doctor: "If you're supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don't you try climbing after us?"
Two out of four Boney M hits.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.