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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Death to the Daleks


Starring: Jon Pertwee
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Available 18 June 2012

Whilst in transit, the TARDIS loses power and is forced to land on the planet Exxilon. The Doctor and Sarah-Jane set out to explore their new surroundings, but are soon separated. Both are attacked by the planet's inhabitants, though the Doctor escapes, finally meeting a group of stranded Space Marines, Sarah ventures too close to a city which is held to be a sacred place and condemned to death by the local inhabitants. Meanwhile, the rescue ship, which the Marines are waiting for, arrives, but it is not the ship they are expecting, instead it is a ship full of the Doctor's most deadly enemy, the Daleks...

Death to the Daleks is a Jon Pertwee, four part story from the eleventh season, originally broadcast between 23 February and 16 March 1974; the show was written by the Daleks creator, Terry Nation and directed by Michael E. Briant. Both the sound and the picture have been digitally remastered.

On one level the story very much retains the common structure of many of the seventies Doctor Who tales, The Doctor arrives on a new planet to be confronted by an evil conundrum, there is a bit of problem solving before the whole thing is wrapped up before tea time. That said, there are some outstanding aspects of the show which still amaze today. The audioscape of the show is very different to that which had defined the show, which previously has been a point of contention. The point of view shots were unsettlingly innovative for the show and the ending is almost a direct parallel to the Doctor Who Annuals, with puzzles and mazes which would have been familiar to rabid fans of the day.

One of the breakthrough aspects of the show was to have the Dalek’s just as powerless as the other characters. For an audience used to seeing them float around, intimidating and killing anything which didn’t immediately bow to their power, removing said power, however temporarily, to kill, forces the Daleks to cooperate with their enemies allowing a more strategic side of their nature to be explored. Don’t worry they don’t turn into pussies, having quickly cobbled together machine guns, they revert to glorious genocidal type.

Pertwee is at his height as the Doctor, full of confidence, with his beautiful companion, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) who still represents the most independent companion until possibly Ace and Rose came along. Acting chops have to go to Arnold Yarrow (Bellal) who even through the most unconvincing costume is still able to imbue his character with real personality.

Once again the disc is resplendent with extras, which kicks off with the full length commentary with Julian Fox (Peter Hamilton) Dalek operator Cy Town, Michael E. Briant, assistant floor manager Richard Leyland, costume designer L. Rowland Warne and sound creator Dick Mills, the whole thing is moderated by Toby Hadoke.

Beneath the City of the Exxilons (26 min, 47 sec) is the main documentary dealing with the making of the show with contributions from Nick Briggs, Arnold Yarrow, Julian Fox, Micheal E. Briant, Richard Leyland and L Rowland Warne, which not only looks at the making of the show, but also places it in its cultural time. The whole thing is presented as if it were a Dalek archive.

Studio Recording (23 min, 36 sec) has footage of the show being made with text annotations. These peeks behind the curtain are always my favourite if only to prove that making television can be a long, drawn out and boring experience.

On the set of Doctor Who and the Daleks (7 min, 50 sec) has mute footage from the making of the first movie. Doctor Who Stories - Dalek Men (13 min) has interviews with some of the first people to inhabit the pepper pots. The disc wraps up with the usual Photo Galley, PDF, Production Subs and the Coming Soon (1 min, 20 sec) for The Krotons.

There was some criticism about the portrayal of the Daleks in this story and if you like your Dalek flavour to be overpowering you may find some elements of this disappointing. Personally, I feel that enough chances were made with the show to make it stand out from the crowd to become an unloved little classic.


Charles Packer

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