Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks
Directors - Paddy Russell
Cast - Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen
Country of Origin - U.K.
MSRP - $24.95
Distributor - BBC Home Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Serial (4/5)
Dalek suicide is HYSTERICAL!
If you don't believe me watch episode 4 of Death to the Daleks, I was literally in stitches during this bit.
Outside of that little digression I have to say that Death to the Daleks is quite a fine entry into Dalek-lore from the man who created the Daleks Terry Nation. This would seem like a very simple task, the creator of the Daleks returning to write another story, but Nation's scripts had a tendency over time to either liberally borrow from earlier entries or totally ignore elements that he established earlier on, in order to service the current story needs.
Death to the Daleks is the Third Doctor's (Jon Pertwee) third and final outing against the Daleks following Day of the Daleks (also featuring the Ogrons), and Planet of the Daleks. I still find Day of the Daleks to be Pertwee's finest outing against the intergalactic pepper pots, but upon closer inspection Death to the Daleks definitely comes in a very close second.
Death to the Daleks opens with the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith attempting to land on the beach planet Florana in an attempt to find relaxation, instead of adventure. Unfortunately for the duo it appears adventure was in the cards instead, and they are nowhere near Florana. They have been forced to land on the planet Exxilon home to the Exxilons, and to an Earth expedition mining the mineral Parrinium, which can save millions of lives back home should it be recovered.
Unfortunately, the TARDIS is without power, and the mining expedition is similarly without a way to escape Exxilon. In the midst of this Sarah Jane is kidnapped by the primitive Exxilon people and offered up as a sacrifice to their God, which so happens to be a living city that their descendants created, and were killed by many millennia ago. If that was not trouble enough for the Doctor and the crew, the Daleks have landed, also in search of the rare mineral which can also assist in saving the lives of many plague-ridden Daleks. However, due to the overwhelming power of the city the Daleks, the Doctor, and the expedition must join forces if they are to recover the Parinium and escape Exxilon.
OK, so in the spectrum of 70's Dalek stories Death to the Daleks would fall third for me, behind Genesis..., and Day... of the Daleks, but before Destiny..., and Planet..., of the Daleks. It definitely has a lot going for it, it feels like a Terry Nation penned script, but does so without feeling derivative (see Planet of the Daleks for a good example). The serial starts with Sarah Jane and the Doctor in a blacked out TARDIS, in a state of chaos, and then has them walking out into a mist-enshrouded landscape. Even though the Daleks are mentioned in the title, they aren't seen front and center until the end of episode 1 giving the plot a little time to expand before setting the real villains into the mix.
Also, I know it's a cliché concept, but I love watching the Doctor having to team up with the Daleks even for a short while. I know it's a short, improbable truce, but it creates an air of suspense, and you have to wonder exactly how it's going to end, and which side is going to end it.
The writing as I've pointed out is quite solid, and is conceptually awesome, with a scientifically advanced society being driven back to a primitive state by it's own creation, and living near extinction. Also, the political and social subtext with the crew of the mining expedition trying to decide whether or not to sacrifice the Doctor and Sarah Jane, or kill the rebel Exxilons was a nice touch that added another interesting layer to the piece.
The performances were across the board very good, from the primary cast of Sladen and Pertwee, but also the mining crew, and even the monster-suited Exxilons. I found myself quite impressed by the rebel Exillons, who sort of looked like incomplete versions of something that might appear in a Lucio Fulci zombie film (Zombi 2, House by the Cemetery) a few years later, and also the model work and set-design was quite good for the period.
Overall, it's an excellent entry into the Dalek cannon, and one of the finest of the 70's Dalek stories.
The Doctor Who Restoration Team in conjunction with BBC Home Video have presented Death to the Daleks in it's original 1:33:1 broadcast ratio. They have done their usual fantastic job with the material as their is great amounts of detail, colors are vibrant, and black levels are solid. The flesh tones are accurate, and the exterior film scenes have a healthy level of grain appearing throughout. Overall, another excellent transfer from the DWRT!
The audio for Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks has been presented in the shows original Dolby Digital English mono track with Optional English subtitles. The track is completely solid. The dialogue is completely clear and audible throughout, and mixed well with the music and effects. I could not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
The Doctor Who Restoration Team in conjunction with BBC Home Video have put together a nice slate of extras for their DVD release of Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks. The disc kicks with an audio commentary moderated by DW Comedian, and superfan Toby Hadoke and featuring actors Julian Fox and Cy Town. They are assisted by assistant floor manager Richard Leyland, Director Michael E. Briant, costume designer L. Rowland Warne, and Special FX Sound guy Dick Mills. We then have a 26 minute making of featurette entitled Behind the City of the Exxilons which is very interesting, and goes into detail great detail about the production with members of the cast and crew. We then have 23 minutes of Studio Recordings that show behind the scenes footage from the period, this is followed up by Doctor Who Stories - Dalek Men a 13 minute long interview with Dalek operators. We then have a 7 minute featurette called On the Set of Dr. Who and the Daleks basically a behind t he scenes retrospective of the first Peter Cushing Dalek film. The disc is rounded off by a stills gallery, and PDF materials, and a subtitle trivia track.
An interesting, and definitely worthwhile entry into the Dalek canon. Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks has been lovingly restored with great A/V for this DVD release. It has been loaded up with some great interesting and informative extras and definitely comes Highly Recommended for Doctor Who fans!