Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks
(4 episodes, s11e11-e14, 1974)
Sometimes you get to go to the beach, and sometimes you get enslaved by xenophobic mutants in armored cans bent on galactic domination.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane are getting ready for a sandy vacation when the TARDIS loses all power and crashes. Main power, backup power, battery power, all of it gets drained away. Luckily, the Doctor has a kerosene lantern to light the way and they pair goes outside to investigate, but when Sarah Jane returns to the TARDIS to change out of her swimsuit, the Doctor gets pursued the planet’s natives. Sarah Jane returns and looks for the Doctor, but only finds a blood-stained lamp. Sarah Jane is pursued by the aliens and discovers a city with a large pulsing light. The city is a holy shrine, and trespassing is punishable by death. Of course, Sarah Jane is discovered and captured.
It’s a somewhat clever device to keep the travelers engaged on the planet: The TARDIS is utterly useless at this point.
The Doctor escapes captivity and encounters a Marine Space Corps expedition. The planet is Exxilon, and the expedition commander was gravely injured by the Exxilons. The humans are in search of parrinium, which is abundant on Exxilon and desperately needed to treat a plague. On their way to harvest it, their ship also lost power and crashed.
I did note that the human expedition badges look like a sideways version of the insignia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It’s probably just coincidence.
On cue, another ship arrives. The expedition mistakes it for a rescue mission, but it is actually a Dalek ship. The Daleks disembark and try to exterminate, but their weapons are disabled by the energy drain. The combined stranded groups consider forging an alliance since the Daleks are also seeking the parrinium. The allied team returns to the mining dome, but are ambushed en route, and the Exxilons kill one of the humans and a Dalek before taking the entire group into custody.
When they arrive at the Exxilon camp, the Doctor saves Sarah Jane from being sacrificed, but is in turn sentenced to die for his actions. The Daleks negotiate terms with the High Priest, which the humans presume are for everyone’s release. Back on their ship, the Daleks who remained on board replace their ray weapons with projectile weapons, and those Daleks arrive and take over the Exxilons. The Doctor and Sarah Jane escape into the tunnels, which is where something is lurking that will complete the interrupted sacrifice. The Daleks enslave the Exxilons for mining the parrinium, and the humans are to hunt a renegade group of Exxilons in exchange for the minerals they need, as well as hunting the Doctor and Sarah Jane.
Smart Daleks. They keep evolving as the franchise carries on, as they also now move under psychokinetic power.
The Doctor investigates a tunnel as Sarah Jane waits, where she is approached by one of the renegade Exxilons. The Doctor discovers a strange tentacle that looks like the Martian eyestalks from 1953’s War of the Worlds, and it strikes at him. He evades until a Dalek arrives, which provides him a chance to escape. The renegade Exxilon offers them refuge from the patrols, and they agree.
The Doctor was actually cheering the tentacle’s destruction of the Dalek. What was that about abhorring violence?
The renegade Exxilon, Bellal, tells the tale: The civilization was once very technologically advanced, including travelling in space. Thousands of years ago, the Exxilons built the enormous city, which the Doctor thinks might be one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. The city became sentient and drove the Exxilons out, and the Exxilons gradually degenerated into their current primitive society which worships the thing that destroyed them. Bellal and Gotal are from another, much smaller faction which wishes to destroy the City. The Daleks also plan to destroy it so they can escape the planet, which they will do by force with explosives.
The Dalek-human alliance begins to fracture as the Exxilons are not mining fast enough. After another root comes to the surface through a body of water and kills an Exxilon and a Dalek, the Daleks move the mining operation.
Bellal describes several images from the city walls, which the Doctor has seen before on a temple in Peru on Earth. He’s not saying that it’s aliens, but maybe ancient astronauts? He decides to infiltrate the city, and tells Sarah Jane to get the humans ready for takeoff when the beacon is disabled. If he fails to return, she must leave with the humans. Two Daleks also attempt to infiltrate the city, causing Bellal and the Doctor to flee through a secret doorway. The path forward is via a series of logic, mental acuity, and intelligence tests. The Daleks are in pursuit by way of the same tests.
The Doctor and Bellal reach the city’s brain after passing the tests, but the city attempts to prevent the Doctor’s meddling by creating antibodies. He completes his modifications as the pursuing Daleks arrive, and the antibodies attack the Daleks as the Doctor and Bellal escape.
Sarah Jane finds the human camp and works with Jill Tarrant, one of the expedition members, to exchange the full mineral sacks with ones full of sand. A Dalek discovers that Jill has escaped, and instead of sounding the alarm, it self-destructs from the sheer guilt of its failure. As the Daleks load their ship, the beacon is destroyed by the explosives team and power is restored. The Doctor, Sarah Jane, Jill, and Bellal are all captured, but instead of killing them, the Daleks leave the group to die when they infect the surface with the plague. They plan to use their mineral supply to corner the market and take over the weakened powers of the universe.
No one expects Galloway, however, who kept one of the Dalek explosives and suicide bombs the ship. The remaining humans wait with the parrinium for rescue, and the city dies and melts away. The Doctor laments the loss of such a wonder.
This was along the same lines as Invasion of the Dinosaurs in that it was a decent enough story, and even with some sketchy effects, it holds its own to reach a high 3 mark. Again, I round up.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.