Saturday, October 15, 2005

'Death to the Daleks'

4 episodes

Well, as Locus pointed out to me a while ago, it's pretty much the quintessential middle-of-the-road Doctor Whostory - 'Death to the Daleks' is four 25-minute episodes long, features the combination of a 1970s Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, a couple of wobbly sets and costumes, some polystyrene modelwork, plenty of mist and fog, a quarry doubling as an alien planet, lots of corridors, lots of tunnels with an oo-nasty lurking in them... and, of course, the series' defining monsters the Daleks. You could show it to anyone and they'd be able to tick most of the boxes for what is commonly understood to constitute Doctor Who.

Alas, while a little better than the prior two, this is the third and final disappointing Daleks story out of three for the Third Doctor, with nothing much to say about it bar the above. The beginning is marvellously sppoky, with the TARDIS losing every vestige of power and the Doctor disappearing into the fog leaving Sarah alone to fight off an assailant inside what should be a safe place; unfortunately I could never look at the cloaked Exxilons without thinking of Star Wars' Tusken Raiders, rather undermining the drama even while they were having a big voodoo ceremony to sacrifice Sarah... The later involvement of the Exxilon Bellal is welcome, as he makes a likeable and interesting surrogate companion for the Doctor for the latter parts of the story, although their progress through the city's puzzles seems rather too easy considering - but in fairness this is meant to be the case, it turns out. Likewise, the 'cliffhanger' of episode 3 of the Doctor spotting a TILED FLOOR (gasp) is so insignificant I had to rewind to check I hadn't missed anything... but again in fairness this was apparently not meant to be the original cliffhanger! Otherwise, the Daleks have had a nice spruce-up but are a little irrelevant, although their menace in some ways seems greater for being a small party terrorising a backwater mining plant rather than plotting galactic domination etc. It is edifying to see how ineffectual they are once stripped of the ability to exterminate anyone, and scary to see how quickly they develop new, non-energy weapons as substitutes - and laugh-out-loud funny to witness them using a small model TARDIS as target practice! The scene where one, consumed with distress at perceived 'failure', self-destructs, is simultaneously also funny yet quite shocking too. Otherwise, the mechanical "root" that defends the city and its environs is an interesting idea that doesn't receive enough screentime; looking like a cross between a hoover and a giant Red Dwarf Scutter, it nevertheless makes for an impressive Watcher-in-the-Water-style monster in its devastating waterhole-side attack on the Daleks; of the supporting cast, all are bland with the exception of the wily veteran Galloway, who while perhaps a touch loose with his morals is nevertheless personable enough to not be truly unpleasant.


Episodes watched: 261
Episodes still to watch: 461

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