I hid the story’s author and title credit from Sue, and I was pretty subtle about it too. If I’d told her to look away, she would have concluded it was called The Something of the Daleks, The Something of the Cybermen or The Something of the Master. So I chose my moment carefully, and just a few seconds before the title appeared on screen, I distracted her with a red velvet cupcake Nicol had baked earlier.
Sue: So, he never mentions Romana again? She simply returns to Gallifrey between stories? That’s so sad.
That’s right, I threw spoilers out of the window and Sue knows that she’s seen Mary’s last episode, which means she’s really confused when the Doctor calls for his companion.
The person who appears in the console room is the spitting double of Princess Astra from The Armageddon Factor.
Sue: What’s she doing there?
Romana is regenerating.
Sue: But she’s wearing the same clothes as Princess Astra. She’s even wearing the same bracelet. If that’s supposed to be Romana, where did she get them from? I don’t get this at all.
Me: Patrick Troughton’s trousers regenerated, remember?
Sue: I’d managed to forget that, thanks.
The Doctor tells Romana to change into something else.
Sue: What? Another dress?
Romana returns a few seconds later, only this time she’s a blue dwarf. Sue glances at me and furrows her brow. The Doctor isn’t fussed, either, so Romana changes again.
Sue: It’s Lady Diamond, the drag act from Sitges.
The Doctor sends her away, claiming it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Sue: If that’s true, why does he keep turning down selections based on her appearance? What a hypocrite!
When Romana reappears with Princess Astra’s face and the Fourth Doctor’s costume, Sue makes me pause the DVD.
Sue: Where do I begin? Okay, so this means Time Lords can regenerate whenever they feel like it, and they can look like any person or species they want, yes?
Me: Well, yes.
Sue: So why did Jon Pertwee look like Jon Pertwee all that time, when he could have turned himself into Peter Gordeno or somebody like that? He could have done something about his nose at the very least.
Me: Well, he can only regenerate so many times, and that would be wasting a regeneration, I guess.
Sue: Like Romana is doing right now, you mean?
Me: Yeah, she’s wasted four already.
Sue: Ah, yes, but she said she was “regenerating” not that she had “regenerated”. So this may not be as bad as it seems.
No, that wasn’t a typo. Sue actually said that. We even agree that Pertwee couldn’t alter his nose because he’d already finished regenerating and he didn’t have a mirror handy at the time. Ditto for Eccleston’s ears.
Sue: So Mary never got a leaving scene. That’s sad. Does this woman…
Me: Lalla Ward.
Sue: Does she play the part like Princess Astra? I hope she doesn’t because I don’t think I could stand it.
Me: Wait and see.
Sue: What did you make of this when you were nine, Neil?
Me: I was living in New Zealand when this was broadcast, and they were years behind the UK, so I missed this season when it originally went out.
Sue: So where are we now? 1979?
Me: September 1st, 1979.
Sue: That would have been three days before my 18th birthday. I can’t remember what I did on my 18th birthday. Isn’t that sad?
Me: No. It means it must have been a good one.
Romana emerges in a pink version of the Doctor’s costume, which I love to bits but Sue doesn’t. It then takes 30 seconds of banter between the Doctor and Romana for Sue to make up her mind about Lalla Ward.
Sue: It’s going to be okay. She’s still Romana.
The TARDIS materialises at their next destination, and the Doctor is overjoyed when the scanner shows him nothing but rocks.
Sue: Why are they going outside? It’s a radioactive quarry. Why don’t they ever land anywhere nice, like Monte Carlo or Barcelona? Why are they always attracted to shit holes like this?
Me: They can’t control where they go. They’re using a randomiser so they can avoid the Black Guardian, remember?
Sue: Yes, but who says they have to leave the TARDIS every time they land on a dump? They should keep going until they land somewhere half-decent. With a beach.
The Doctor and Romana explore the planet’s surface.
Sue: This feels like the start of a new season. Apart from the new Romana, there’s something about this that seems very different to the last one, but I can’t put my finger on it yet.
The Time Lords arrive at some ruins.
Sue: That’s a nice doer-upper.
They spy a group of shambling humanoids who are busy burying a deceased comrade beneath a mound of rocks.
Sue: It’s Night of the Living Dead. I love zombie films. They’re the only horror films I can bear to watch.
Me: Don’t get your hopes up, love. Zombies aren’t exactly renowned for burying their dead.
The Doctor runs down a sand dune and intercepts Romana, who’s already waiting for him at the bottom.
Sue: She isn’t daft. She wasn’t going to get her new coat dirty. And where’s K9?
Me: He’s stuck in the TARDIS with laryngitis.
Sue: Laryngitis?! What? How can a computer get laryngitis?
Me: They covered this at the beginning of the episode, Sue.
Sue: I wasn’t concentrating. I was thinking about Mary Tamm and feeling sad.
The Doctor is trapped by some falling masonry, and while Romana heads off to retrieve K9, he amuses himself by reading Origins of the Universe by Oolon Colluphid. Which is when Nicol entered the room with more cakes.
Me: Does the name Oolon Colluphid mean anything to you, Nic?
Nicol: Of course it does. It’s another Hitchhikers reference. Is this one by Douglas Adams? Why didn’t you come and get me?
The Doctor is rescued by three Movellans.
Sue: It’s Boney M.
Me: (Singing, badly) “Ma… Ma… Ma… Ma… Tom Baker.”
When the Doctor is told he’s on the planet Skaro, Sue actually gasped.
And then the episode concludes with Romana surrounded by the titular bastards.
Sue: If they hadn’t told us we were on Skaro, that would have shocked me. But we knew they were coming, so that’s a shame.
Me: Well, they do appear in the title.
Sue: So why did you hide it from me? Don’t do that to me again, please. It’s really annoying.
I don’t distract Sue from the title this time.
Sue: Oh, so that’s why the cliffhanger didn’t make any sense. It was all Terry ****ing Nation’s fault.
Me: Incidentally, Terry insisted K9 shouldn’t meet the Daleks in this story because he was worried the dog might show them up.
Sue: Terry ****ing Nation.
Romana is interrogated by the Daleks.
Sue: That voice is very familiar. Who is it?
Even Nicol, who has stuck around for this episode, looked up from texting her boyfriend.
Nicol: Yeah, that voice is very familiar.
I put them out of their misery. We’ll be here all night, otherwise.
Me: It’s Zippy.
Nicol: Oh, yes, so it is!
Sue: We should definitely mention that on the blog. It’s very funny.
Me: I don’t think we’re the first people to notice that, Sue.
The Daleks chant in unison: “Obey! Obey! Obey!”?
Sue: They’d make an excellent barber’s shop quartet.
Romana is sent to toil in a mine while the Doctor wonders what the Daleks could be searching for on Skaro.
Sue: I know!
Yeah, I bet she does.
Me: Go on then, love.
This will be good. I bet she’ll say something really stupid, like Rod, Jane and Freddy.
Me: Hey, I’m impressed.
Sue: What else could it be? An overdue library book?
A Dalek glides through a corridor.
Sue: Ooh, I like the white Daleks.
Me: That’s just the lighting. It’s still grey.
Sue: Oh, for a minute there, I thought the BBC had splashed out on some new ones.
Romana fakes her own death so she can escape from the mine.
Sue: Time Lords can do that. She’s perfectly fine. See, I do remember stuff, Neil.
The Doctor joins forces with an escaped convict named Tyssan, and together they investigate the Daleks headquarters.
Sue: There’s definitely something different about this story. But what is it? It’s bugging me.
She chews it over.
Sue: Are they using a Steadicam?
Me: Yes, they are. But the BBC spell it with a y.
Me: I don’t know.
Sue: Well, whatever they called it, it looks great. It gives them so much more freedom. This is very well-directed, actually. The low angle shots of the Daleks are great, and the camera work makes this appear more claustrophobic and scary than it really is.
A Dalek pursues the Doctor to a ventilator shaft high up in the infrastructure. When it doesn’t pursue him, the Doctor decides to take the piss.
Sue: But they can fly, so that doesn’t make any sense.
Sadly, the Daleks aren’t exactly wowing Sue.
Sue: The Daleks are a mess. They’re battered to bits. I’ve seen ones in better condition on eBay.
Me: Have you really been looking at Daleks on eBay?
Sue: I was just curious about how much they went for. And it’s ridiculous, so don’t expect one for your birthday. I tried to bid on a TARDIS wardrobe last week – the people who were selling it lived a few minutes down the road – but I was outbid. It was probably for the best.
Me: You can say that again. I’m beginning to worry about you.
The Doctor finds Davros in his bunker, covered in cobwebs.
Sue: So he’s dead. I don’t see how this helps the Daleks.
The episode concludes with Davros’ third eye winking into life.
Sue: Now that’s how you do a cliffhanger.
Davros is alive!
Sue: But he doesn’t sound anything like him!
She isn’t very happy about this development.
Sue: It sounds like he can’t be arsed!
The Doctor takes Davros for a quick spin in his chair.
Sue: Scream if you want to go faster!
It doesn’t take Davros very long to segue into a megalomaniacal rant.
Sue: That mask doesn’t fit him properly. It’s too slack. What went wrong?
Me: They couldn’t get the same actor and they had to use the same mask. They’re trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Sue: I don’t see how it could be any worse. He’s rubbish! I could play Davros better than him!
The Movellans do some basic research on Davros.
Sue: Their version of Wikipedia is a bit shit, isn’t it?
The Doctor and Davros catch up on old times.
Sue: This is a good scene. I could watch these two chatting away all day. Tom Baker is very good in this. It’s just a shame I can’t take Davros seriously. He was great in Genesis of the Daleks, but he’s crap here.
The Doctor threatens to blow Davros up if the Daleks don’t stay back.
Sue: Spack off? Did he really just tell the Daleks to spack off?
Sue: Poor Tom. He must have confused “back off” with “stay back” and his brain couldn’t decide on which one to go with. I bet he had a couple of drinks at lunchtime.
The Daleks begin executing the slaves in an attempt to force the Doctor’s hand.
Sue: Look at this guy! He’s trying not to laugh even though he’s just about to be killed. He actually looked at the camera and smirked!
The Dalek shoots the extra, who slumps to the floor with the conviction of someone working for a minimum wage.
Sue: Put some effort into it, man!
Another slave is executed and, once again, there isn’t a scintilla of emotion.
Sue: Were they specifically told not to act?
When the slaves are eventually set free, thanks to the Doctor, they don’t seem very pleased about it.
Sue: Look at them! They’re acting as if they’ve been given an extra 15 minutes for their tea break. They should be overjoyed that they’ve survived certain death, but instead they look like they’re having a ****ing picnic. This story includes some of the worst background acting I’ve ever seen.
The Doctor attaches a bomb to Davros’ chair and threatens to detonate it with his sonic screwdriver.
Sue: He’s bluffing. The Doctor would never do that.
The Doctor legs it outside and whips out his sonic.
Sue: What’s he doing?
The Doctor activates the sonic and the bomb explodes.
Sue: I’m really shocked by that. What happened to having the right, and all that crap? Christ!
However, the Daleks removed the bomb in the nick of time and Davros lives to fight another day, which he celebrates by hurtling down a corridor and slamming into a wall.
Sue: Oh dear, that was really shoddy. Why didn’t they cut away a couple of frames before he hit the flat? It’s lazy. Shoddy and lazy.
Meanwhile, on Skaro’s unremittingly bleak surface, the Movellans are conducting tests on the Nova device.
Sue: That’s a funny place to install a shower cubicle.
Sue spends the rest of the episode slating the acting, whether it’s Tim Barlow as Tyssan or, well, any Movellan, really. And then she learns the Movellans are actually robots.
Sue: I didn’t see that coming at all. Their stilted delivery actually makes sense, now. Still crap, though.
The Movellans lock Romana in a perspex cubicle with the Nova device, which is slowly ticking down to zero.
Sue: This will be a good cliffhanger.
The Doctor struggles to free his companion and the episode concludes with the countdown reaching 33 seconds.
Sue: Rubbish. What a place to cut it. There was no attempt to generate any tension in that scene at all. I get the distinct feeling that no one can be bothered with this story.
Sue: There’s still one thing I don’t understand.
Me: Only one thing?
Sue: Yes. Why is Davros helping the Daleks? They shot him in the face and left him for dead. He’s awfully eager to lend them a hand considering what they did to him last time.
Davros wants to give his creations the advantage.
Sue: I can’t accept this actor as Davros. His voice is just wrong. I don’t buy it. And what is that ball doing on top of his chair? Is his pet hamster in there?
The Doctor demonstrates how the Movellans are locked in a perpetual stalemate with the Daleks with a quick game of rock-paper-scissors.
Sue: Well, that’s just bollocks, isn’t it?
A Movellan, who has been left to guard the Nova device, passes the time crushing rocks.
Sue: What the hell was that?
Me: He crushed a rock with his bare hands. It’s supposed to show that they have superhuman robotic strength.
Sue: Oh, I thought he was playing with some fossilised shit.
Tyssan disables a Movellan by removing a power pack from its belt.
Sue: That’s a stupid design flaw. They may as well have a big off switch on their backs.
The Movellan expresses his untimely death through the medium of dance.
Sue: I’ve just remembered what these robots remind me of. Hot Gossip.
Davros assembles a squad of suicide Daleks. Sue can’t stop laughing.
Sue: I know I shouldn’t laugh, but this is very silly. It looks like a cartoon.
Davros gives the Daleks their final orders, which he has to repeat because they aren’t in any hurry to blow themselves up.
Sue: That was very, very funny.
The slaves storm the Movellan ship.
Me: I can’t believe you didn’t recognise Big Ron from EastEnders!
Sue: He’s definitely the best extra in this. You can see why he went on to better things.
The Dalek suicide squad approaches the Movellan ship.
Sue: They may as well have little round bombs with TNT stamped on them. Hang on a minute, are the Dalek operators standing up and walking?
Sue: Jesus Christ.
Romana rushes to stop a Movellan from setting off the Nova device.
Sue: Things are so bad, she’s decided to get her coat dirty.
Romana grapples with the Movellan on the sand.
Sue: It’s just like Get Carter, this.
The Movellan’s arm goes flying through the air and Sue collapses into a fit of hysterics.
Sue: This is a full-on pantomime. Is it supposed to be this stupid?
The Doctor blows up the Daleks, but even that makes Sue laugh.
The episode concludes with Davros imprisoned in a block of ice, and when the credits roll, I prepare myself for the worst.
Sue: I hated that. The acting was abysmal, the plot was ridiculous, and it looked too bright and comedic. The direction was pretty good, but what a mess.
Me: What about the new Romana?
Sue: She’s alright, I suppose. It’s too early for me to compare them, and it wouldn’t be fair anyway. I’ll miss Mary Tamm’s Romana for a long time to come.
Me: Well, you might be pleased to know that Destiny of the Daleks is Terry Nation’s final contribution to Doctor Who.
Sue: Is it Douglas Adams’ final contribution as well?
Me: No, he’s the full-time script editor now.