Death to the Daleks

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For the Big Finish Productions audio play, see Death to the Daleks!.
072 – Death to the Daleks
Doctor Who serial
Death to the Daleks screenshot.jpg
The Exxilons destroy a Dalek.
Cast
Others
  • Duncan Lamont — Dan Galloway
  • John Abineri — Richard Railton
  • Joy Harrison — Jill Tarrant
  • Julian Fox — Peter Hamilton
  • Neil Seiler — Commander Stewart
  • Arnold Yarrow — Bellal
  • Roy Heymann — Gotal
  • Mostyn Evans — High Priest
  • Michael Wisher — Dalek Voices
  • John Scott Martin, Murphy Grumbar, Cy Town — Daleks
Production
Writer Terry Nation
Director Michael E. Briant
Script editor Terrance Dicks
Robert Holmes (uncredited)
Producer Barry Letts
Executive producer(s) none
Incidental music composer Carey Blyton
Production code XXX
Series Season 11
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 23 February – 16 March 1974
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
Invasion of the Dinosaurs The Monster of Peladon

Death to the Daleks is the third serial of the 11th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 23 February to 16 March 1974. The narrative begins as the TARDIS suffers an energy drain and crash-lands on the planet Exxilon. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) are subsequently embroiled in a conflict between the Daleks and the human Marine Space Corp expedition over the mineral "Parrinium", which can cure and give immunity from a deadly space plague.

Plot[edit]

Travelling through space, the TARDIS suffers an energy drain and crash-lands on the planet Exxilon. The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith venture outside to investigate the cause of the interference, and become separated. The Doctor is captured by the planet's inhabitants - the savage Exxilons - but escapes. Sarah is attacked by one of the creatures in the TARDIS, and flees into the night, finding a huge white City with a flashing beacon.

When daylight arrives, the Doctor is found by a party of the Marine Space Corps; they take him to their ship, which has been stranded by a power drain. They are on an expedition to mine "Parrinium" - a mineral abundant only on Exxilon - which can cure and give immunity from a deadly space plague. The lives of at least 10 million people depend on the expedition's obtaining the Parrinium and leaving the planet within a month. They show the Doctor some photos they have taken of the nearby City - which the Exxilons worship, sacrificing anyone who ventures too close to it. Sarah does so, and is captured and taken to the Exxilons' caves to be sacrificed by their High Priest.

A ship containing four Daleks now arrives; both the Daleks' ship and their weapons have been rendered useless by the energy drain. The Daleks encounter the Doctor and attempt to exterminate him but their weapons do not work. The Daleks claim that several of their planetary colonies are suffering from plague; thus they need Parrinium for the same reason as the humans. The Daleks, the Doctor, and the humans form an uneasy alliance to obtain Parrinium and escape Exxilon. While the allies are making their way to the humans' mining dome, the Exxilons ambush them. A massive battle ensues and the Exillions end up killing a human and a Dalek and capturing the others. The prisoners are taken to the Exxilon caves where the Doctor interrupts Sarah Jane's sacrifice; therefore, he is also condemned to death. When the dual sacrifice commences, a second party of Daleks, who have replaced their energy weapons with firearms, attack in force, killing a number of Exxilons. They then force the Exxilons and humans to mine Parrinium. The Doctor and Sarah flee into underground tunnels. The other party of Daleks arrive and they discuss their actual plan to use Parrinium as a plague and spread it across every planet except their own.

The Doctor and Sarah meet a group of subterranean, fugitive Exxilons. Their leader, Bellal, explains that the City was built by the Exxilons' ancestors, who were once capable of space travel. The ancient Exxilons built the City to be capable of maintaining, repairing, and protecting itself. However, fitting the structure with a brain meant that the City no longer needed its creators. On realising this, the Exxilons had tried to destroy the City, but, instead, the City destroyed most of them; the savage surface dwellers and Bellal's group are the only survivors. Bellal's people seek to complete their ancestors' last, failed act - to destroy the City and ensure their race's survival. Bellal sketches some of the markings on the City wall, which the Doctor recognises from a temple in Peru. Bellal also explains that the City supports itself through underground 'roots' and the aerial beacon. The Doctor realises that the beacon must be the cause of the energy drain, and decides to go to the City and resolve the problem.

The Daleks separately come to the same conclusion and create two timed explosives to destroy the beacon. One Dalek supervises two humans placing the explosives, but one of the humans, Galloway, secretly keeps one bomb. Two other Daleks enter the City to investigate the superstructure, but the Doctor and Bellal enter the City just before them. The two parties then proceed through the City, passing a series of progressive intelligence tests. The Doctor fails one of the tests and the Daleks pursue them and a high speed chase begins. After a long chase the Doctor hides but the Daleks carry on. The Doctor reasons that the City has arranged the tests so that only lifeforms with knowledge comparable to that of the City's creators would reach the brain, allowing the City to add the knowledge of the survivors to its databanks. On reaching the central chamber, the Doctor begins to sabotage the City's computer brain; the machine responds by creating two Exxilon-like 'antibodies' to 'neutralise' the Doctor and Bellal. The pair are saved when the Daleks enter and fight the antibodies, and the Doctor and Bellal escape as the City's sabotaged controls begin to malfunction. The two Daleks inside are destroyed.

When the bomb on the beacon explodes, all power is restored. The Daleks order the humans to load the Parrinium onto their ship. On leaving Exxilon, the Daleks intend to fire a plague missile onto the planet, destroying all life and making future landings impossible, so that they will have the only source of Parrinium. Their true intention for hoarding Parrinium is to blackmail the galactic powers to accept their demands; refusal would mean the deaths of millions. As their ship takes off, Sarah reveals that the Daleks have only bags of sand while the real Parrinium is on the Earth ship, which is now ready to take off. Galloway has smuggled himself and his bomb aboard the Dalek ship; he detonates the bomb, destroying the Dalek ship before it fires the plague missile. Back on Exxilon, the City disintegrates and collapses, the Doctor sadly commenting that the Universe is now down to 699 Wonders.

Continuity[edit]

The Daleks seen here have a livery unique to this story – reflective silver with black spots and trim. The Doctor attempts to destroy the Exxilon supercomputer by feeding it illogical paradoxes. This is the same tactic he used against the mad BOSS computer in The Green Death in the previous season. This is the only story where the Daleks do not fire their energy blasters, due to the Exxilon power drain (although they technically do "fire" them, albeit without any success). Instead, their weapons are substituted for rifles, which they describe as "Moderately efficient". Death to the Daleks marks the last appearance of the TARDIS console room until Planet of Evil. Sarah later references this story in Pyramids of Mars by remarking the inner catacombs of the Pyramid reminded her of the Exxilon City, despite the fact that she never entered the city herself.

Production[edit]

Working titles for this story were The Exilons and The Exxilons.[1] The incidental music for this serial was composed by Carey Blyton and performed by the London Saxophone Quartet.

This is one of two Third Doctor serials (the other being The Claws of Axos) to still have a 90-minute PAL studio recording tape.

Missing episodes[edit]

Episode one of this story was chronologically the last to have its original master videotape wiped for re-use. This was initially returned to the BBC archive through the discovery of a 525-line NTSC recording. Subsequently, two separate PAL recordings were discovered, including a high quality 625-line recording returned as part of a shipment from Dubai.[2]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
Archive
"Part One" 23 February 1974 (1974-02-23) 24:32 8.1 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Two" 2 March 1974 (1974-03-02) 24:25 9.5 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Three" 9 March 1974 (1974-03-09) 24:24 10.5 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Four" 16 March 1974 (1974-03-16) 24:35 9.5 PAL 2" colour videotape
[3][4][5]

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "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".[6] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker were more positive, even opining that it was the best of the eleventh season. They wrote that, despite the "small scale" action, "the scripts are still well-written and entertaining, with a good premise and some interesting concepts", and the story overall was "of excellent set pieces and impressive images". However, Howe and Walker were less impressed with the model shots of the city disintegrating, the Exxilons' character depth, and the incidental music.[7]

In 2010, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times wrote that the story had appeal, with the Daleks at their "duplicitous best" and the first episode being "arguably the most effective episode of season 11". However, he was critical of Blyton's score and felt that Pertwee and the guest cast seemed unenthused, and also noted that the Doctor and Sarah lacked chemistry and the Doctor "verges on insufferably patronising and is landed with dreadful lines".[8] DVD Talk's John Sinnott gave Death to the Daleks four out of five stars, praising the Daleks, the pace, and the supporting characters, and in contrast to Mulkern, he praised the chemistry between the Doctor and Sarah. However, he felt that the ending in which the Doctor solves puzzles was simplistic and lacked suspense.[9] Ian Berriman, reviewing the serial for SFX, rated it three out of four stars, describing it as "a perfectly adequate four episodes of generic action-adventure". Berriman praised the atmospheric direction, Bellal, and felt that the score "effectively conjures an air of the uncanny". However, he felt that the Daleks were "daft", and criticised the puzzle plot and Jill, the "feeble" sole female character.[10]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Death to the Daleks
Series Target novelisations
Release number 20
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Roy Knipe
ISBN 0-426-20042-X
Release date 20 July 1978

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in July 1978. A German translation was published in 1990 by Goldmann.

Home media[edit]

The serial was released on video in an omnibus format in July 1987, the first Doctor Who video to be released on just VHS, instead of both VHS and Betamax. As the PAL version of episode one was not yet known to exist, this used the NTSC version of the episode. An episodic release (with the PAL version of episode one) was released on 13 February 1995, although episode two was slightly edited due to BBC Video mistakenly using a cut version of episode 2 returned from ABC TV in Australia (episodes 3 & 4 were also from ABC TV), instead of the UK master tapes of episodes 2-4. Death to the Daleks was released on DVD in the UK on 18 June 2012, and in region 1 on 10 July 2012.[11][12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Serial XXX: Death To The Daleks: Production". A Brief History of Time (Travel). Retrieved 31 December 2006. 
  2. ^ Molesworth, Richard (24 September 1997). "Out of the Vaults—The Seventies". Doctor Who Magazine (256): 16–21. 
  3. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (31 March 2007). "Death to the Daleks". Outpost Gallifrey. Retrieved 30 August 2008. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Death to the Daleks". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (7 August 2007). "Death to the Daleks". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  6. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Death to the Daleks". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  7. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed. ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  8. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (14 March 2010). "Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  9. ^ Sinnott, John (6 August 2012). "Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks". Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  10. ^ Berriman, Ian (15 June 2012). "Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks Review". SFX. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Doctor Who - Death to the Daleks [DVD] [1974]: Amazon.co.uk: Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, Michael E. Briant, Terry Nation: Film & TV". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  12. ^ "Doctor Who DVD news: Announcement for Story #047: The Krotons and Story #072: Death to the Daleks". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 

External links[edit]

Fan reviews
Target novelisation