Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Death to the Daleks written by Terry Nation and directed by Michael E. Briant
This story in a nutshell: The Daleks are forced to work with the Doctor...
Juicy Journalist: Sarah can sink anywhere, apparently. I love her sense of humour in adversity (‘hooray for old fashioned oil!’) and at this stage of the game I've long forgotten all about Jo Grant (Who fans are fickle like that). She’s smart enough to head back into the TARDIS when she is wearing inappropriate clothing for the climate, more in tune with the new series companions in that respect (or more specifically, Donna). The Doctor admits that Sarah is rather headstrong and is probably out looking for him rather than remaining in the safety of the TARDIS. He's got the measure of her alright. She's not afraid to get into something of a scrap either, roughing up Bellal when he tries to drag her away from the Doctor and hysterically attacking the Doctor with questions when he manages to escape the Dalek. The Doctor needs an assistant who can think on her feet and the way Sarah gets Jill to fill the bags full of sand and sneak the perrinum away from them proves she is made of the right stuff.
The Bad Stuff: If Galloway is the most interesting of the human characters, Jill Tarrant (what is it with Nation and that name?) is the most irritating and played with robotic incredulity. Why we need a character this goofy who states the obvious all the time baffles me...isn't that what the companion is for? The Dalek saucer once again looks remarkably like a bottle top…did they learn nothing from Planet of the Daleks? The root sequences might feature some explosive Dalek action but hanging a hoover pipe from a string is precisely the sort of nonsense that non-fans are expecting when they tune in. The chatter between the Daleks is as banal as ever and in the least subtle plotting ever witnessed they scream their underhanded plan aloud metres from their new allies. The editing of the third cliffhanger is bizarre, showing the Doctor's horrified reaction to...flooring! Is this the first time we have seen a Dalek have a nervous breakdown because it has failed one task? Michael Wisher is having a field day with the voice work but it really does seem that these creatures fall to pieces at the slightest possibility of failure. It’s a shame the death of the city is so clearly model work although the melting walls and screaming are both great touches.
Result: I got this story for my twelfth birthday and can still remember trembling with excitement as I inserted the video into the machine and sat down by my mums feet in the near dark of the living and watched Death to the Daleks from beginning to end. It had it all as far as I was concerned; the Doctor doing aikido, Sarah Jane being menaced in the TARDIS, a creepy foggy planet to explore, aliens, fights, sacrifices, hidden secrets, sentient buildings, puzzles...and Daleks! To this twelve year old boy there was never going to be a Doctor Who story that topped this one. Unfortunately jaded adult eyes have since viewed Death to the Daleks and spotted strings holding up the root, dodgy CSO and bottle cap Dalek saucers and so it has lost a little of its edge but when I slip in the shiny DVD version I still get that buzz of excitement when watching. I wish I could turn off my critical faculties sometimes and simply enjoy something for what it is (Simon has this ability and I would love to be able to adopt it at times) but Death to the Daleks still works for me for the most part.At four parts this story has a fantastic pace and there’s always half a dozen things to overcome that keeps the momentum going. The new look Daleks are pretty snazzy, looking for all the world as though they have stepped off an assembling line rather than tatty BBC props. It's little but a stack of really groovy set pieces but each of them work to a greater or lesser extent and Michael Briant keeps the story visually arresting throughout. Nowhere near as tired and worn as people will lead you to believe, this is an inventive and snazzy little piece with plenty of atmosphere: 8/10