Thursday, 6 June 2013

Story 72 - Death To The Daleks

In which the Doctor's attempts to take Sarah to Florana go awry, the TARDIS breaking down on the barren rocky world of Exxilon with a complete power failure. The Doctor is surprised at the extent of the energy drain - as every electrical system is affected. He ventures outside into the night and is captured by a group of robed figures - the planet's inhabitants. Another Exxilon attacks Sarah in the ship but she escapes and tries to find the Doctor. Next morning, She discovers a huge pyramidal city, with a great pulsing beacon on a pillar at the top. She is then captured by Exxilons. The Doctor escapes his captors and meets a party of Earth people, members of a Marine Space Corps expedition. They inform him of the Exxilon city and its energy draining beacon - which has caused them to be stranded here too. The natives worship it and anyone found near it is put to death. They have come here in search of the rare mineral Parrinium, from which the cure for a virulent space plague can be obtained. If they don't get the mineral off this world, millions will perish.
A rescue ship is heard overhead, but when the craft lands it is not of a recognised Earth design. It is actually a Dalek vessel. The creatures emerge and attempt to exterminate the humans.

The same power drain that has affected the spacecraft causes their energy weapons to fail. They have also come for the Parrinium. The Daleks are forced into an alliance with the Earth expedition. The Exxilons attack in force and one of the Daleks is destroyed, with everyone else captured. The Doctor is reunited with Sarah in their underground temple - he saving her from being sacrificed. Unfortunately, he will now join her in being offered to the city. In their spaceship, other Daleks experiment with mechanical weapons to get round the energy drain - projectile firing ones. The newly armed Daleks attack the temple and free their comrades. The MSC officer Galloway, who has taken over as leader after the death of their commander, tries to maintain their agreement to co-operate, but the Daleks no longer need allies.
The Doctor and Sarah escape into a tunnel complex, aware that this is where they were to be sent as part of the sacrificial rite. The Doctor encounters a serpentine electronic probe - part of the city's defence systems. Sarah meets Bellal - member of another Exxilon tribe who live underground and who are persecuted by the city worshipers.

Bellal explains that his people once had a great civilisation, capable of visiting other worlds. They applied all their scientific knowledge into the construction of the city. Its systems were so advanced it developed a form of sentience. So advanced was it, that it came to see its creators as inferior and so ejected them. The Exxilons turned their backs on science and technology and reverted into a superstitious, primitive state. The Doctor and Bellal will go the city to study it and find a way of disabling the beacon, whilst Sarah will try to free the MSC party.
The Daleks also intend to visit the city, and Galloway and Lt. Hamilton will be despatched to plant a bomb on the beacon. The city fights back against the Doctor and Bella once they reach the control centre after a number of lethal traps - creating zombie-like "antibodies". The Doctor sabotages the city's "brain" and Dalek bombs destroy the beacon. The city starts to malfunction. The Daleks depart, threatening to launch a plague-missile which will make it impossible for anyone to land here again. However, Galloway has stowed away onboard their craft with one of their bombs. He destroys the ship, sacrificing himself. The city - once one of the 700 Wonders of the Universe - crumbles to dust.

This four part adventure was written by Terry Nation, and was broadcast between 23rd February and 16th March, 1974. It is a fairly standard runaround. We didn't know it at the time, but it is actually the last of the old school Dalek stories. Davros would soon be introduced - often rendering the Daleks mere bit-part players in their own stories.
There are a few good ideas hidden away in the story. We get to see a couple of new TARDIS features - the hexagonal light units and the hand-crank door opening mechanism. The Exxilons are an interesting alien species, with two factions represented. The costume and make-up design is highly effective (masks by John Friedlander). They are slowly being petrified, and we see some rock formations that appear to be ex-Exxilons. The concept of a machine outgrowing its creators and rejecting them is not new, but provides an interesting backdrop to the story. Bellal is played by Arnold Yarrow.
The Daleks are at their most cunning - true survivors. They ally themselves with the humans when it suits them, drop them when no longer needed, and find an ingenious way of getting round the loss of their energy weapons. There is an explanation for them not suffering total power loss and dying - they use psycho-kinetic power. One rather odd Dalek feature is their reaction to failure - one Dalek committing suicide on losing its prisoners. The voices are courtesy of Michael Wisher.

The humans are a pretty dull bunch. Commander Stewart and his successor Railton (John Abineri, who had previously appeared in Fury From The Deep) are killed off quite early on. Hamilton and Jill Tarrant (Nation using his own name gimmick yet again) are both a bit wet. Only dour and duplicitous Scotsman Dan Galloway (Duncan Lamont, who had played Carroon in the original Quatermass series) stands out.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. The Daleks emerge from their spacecraft and open fire on the Doctor and his friends at point blank range...
  2. A snake-like electronic root rears up in front of the Doctor as he explores the tunnels beneath the Exxilon city...
  3. The Doctor stops Bellal stepping onto a patterned floor section, for no apparent reason... (Turns out it is a deadly floor. A floor of deadly death! Well spotted, Doctor).
  4. The Doctor and his friends watch as the city crumbles, and he bemoans the loss of one of the Wonders of the Universe.

Overall, not a bad little story, There is enough to keep you interested throughout. I have a personal soft spot for it. Just a shame about the incidental music.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Doctor gives one of his most succinct summations of the Daleks: "Inside each of those shells is a living, bubbling lump of hate".
  • Do all Dalek spaceships hold a stock of little model TARDISes for target practice?
  • This almost became Terry Nation's second Dalek-free story. He was encouraged by Barry Letts  and Terrance Dicks to include them in a story that was originally called "The Exilons", then "The Exxilons"
  • Regarding that very naff part three cliffhanger, the intended ending was supposed to be the Doctor and Bellal outside the city trying to work out the means of entry, with the Daleks about to round the corner and discover them.
  • The decision to have voices wailing as the city crumbles was a late one - indicating that it is a living thing which is dying. The voices were provided by some of the cast members.
  • Every Dalek in this story is destroyed. So how come there is at least one of them in the Asylum?

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