Friday, February 01, 2008

Not even a good runaround

I can remember a time when the Pertwee years were considered beyond the pale by fickle fandom, and other times when they were seen as the very essence of good Doctor Who.

They've been rewritten and deconstructed in New Adventures by Jim Mortimore and Lawrence Miles, the Third Doctor himself has appeared as a ghostly voice in Big Finish's execrable Zagreus, and the biggest name from the good ol' days to turn up in Russell Davies' Shiny New Escapades of Rose, Martha and their friend the Doctor made her debut in the Pertwee story, The Time Warrior.

In short, the Pertwee era is an important one in the success of the series as whole, and a personal favourite of mine. So when deranged fools say things like "It's just 'runaround - get captured - escape -runaround - get captured - escape' until six episodes are used up' I simply shake my wise old head and ask considerately if they've forgotten to take their pills that morning.

Death to the Daleks, though...Death to the Daleks might well be the sort of thing they mean. It's poor, thin stuff, without a shadow of a doubt and the poorest Dalek story until Daleks in Manhatten came along and proved that expensive special effects cannot entirely cover paucity of authorial ability. It's not entirely runaround-capture-escape but the bits that aren't are actually even less interesting than that.

It's actually so stultifyingly bad that it's not even fun, which is about as bad as Doctor Who ever gets for me. So bad in fact that I'm not going to do a proper review, just highlight ten of the odder things that go on in Nation's Money for Nothing of a script.

1. It's an unusual title, in that it doesn't work in the usual 'Doctor Who and the...' format
2. The Daleks switching to machine guns is a good idea but one which could have been far better utilised (where the visceral impact of bullets rather than disintegration should have been flagged up, for instance)
3. In episode two, Sarah-Jane takes part in a ritual sacrifice ceremony which seems to be in something considerably longer than real time.
4. The cliffhanger to episode one is appallingly badly shot.
5. But episode three may in fact contain the weakest cliffhanger ever- a close up of a small red pattern on the floor.
6. At one point an Exxilon calls one of the Daleks 'he' rather than 'it'
7. Hey, let's not even try to disguise the fact that the city is made out of polystyrene as it collapses at the end (is that unfair? Was polystyrene - like the infamous bubble-wrap in Ark in Space - a novel substance in the early 70s?)
8. If the Exxilon slaves are meant to be mining for a rare mineral which is found underground, why are the majority of them shown panning a big puddle of dirty water on the surface?
9. The puzzles are ridiculously simple - were the earlier explorers of the City in some way mentally retarded?
1o. And finally, the Dalek suicide - 'I have failed, I have failed, I have failed' - sorry, what on Earth was that all about?

Death to the Daleks might actually be my least favourite Doctor Who story pre-1989.

And I've seen both Time and the Rani and The Moonbase, so it's not like there's no competition...

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15 Comments:

Blogger SAF said...

Ooer, probably a fair review - since it's you and I have to trust your judgment. The memory almost certainly cheats on that one then, but to be fair, maybe I only remember it for its good ideas - e.g. the Daleks with machineguns, an energy-draining, almost vampiric living city (albeit, polystyrene :) ), the space plague etc. On the other hand, it might be the novelisation's fault, as Target books - in the years between original broadcast and eventual release on VHS - often became muddled in the memory with what was shown on TV. I'd heard plenty of people slag 'Planet Of' and 'Death To' before, but generally that was from folks who I would tend not to heed as a rule. Now, if/when it does emerge on DVD, I'll be sure to approach this one with caution, bearing your words in mind. :) Thanks for that.

1:41 pm  
Blogger SK said...

I remember the novelisation, and the quite scary scenes of Sarah etc being hunted down tunnels by mechanical, laser-bolt-firing snakes.

I'm guessing that 70s budget TV was not up to doing those ideas justice, so I have decided never to pay to see the TV version.

1:56 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SAF: "it might be the novelisation's fault"

SK: "I remember the novelisation"

I think the novelisation may well be to blame for at least part of my dislike since I also remember the description of the snake-like root destroying a Dalek. And while the root actually looks reasonable (sort of similar to the Martian probes in War of the Worlds) the scenes where they attack anything are rotten.

In even the worst Doctor Who I can usually find one or two things that are worth watching the show for, but in this there was nothing at all.

What's truly sad is that I'll still buy it on DVD when it comes out.

2:39 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

Stuart: "What's truly sad is that I'll still buy it on DVD when it comes out."

Hahaha! You sad completist you ;) I might just stick it on a birthday or Christmas list, get someone else to buy it for me :)

2:53 pm  
Blogger MediumRob said...

The reason you're saying "Death to the Daleks might actually be my least favourite Doctor Who story pre-1989." is because you've clearly forgotten the mind-numbing averageness of "Day of the Daleks". Oh no, we're being attacked by three Daleks that can't move much. Save us. If it were any more dull, you'd remember how dull it was; if it were any more interesting, you'd remember it as being "okay". But it's just so average, it completely passes out of everyone's memory.

3:22 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

mediumrob: "But it's just so average, it completely passes out of everyone's memory."

It does have the Ogrons. They're interesting enough - visually - to cement it in most people's memories. Them and the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. :)

But boy, that battle at the house was always so much better in my imagination!

3:58 pm  
Blogger MediumRob said...

Ah, but do you remember them in Day of the Daleks or Frontier in Space? Day of the Daleks? Frontier in Space? See, it's all getting hazy now, isn't it? Which one was it? Have you been secretly remembering Frontier in Space and then retro-fitting back onto Day of the Daleks?

Do you see what I did there? I'm like Derren Brown, me.

4:09 pm  
Blogger SK said...

I haven't seen Frontier In Space. I have seen Day of the Daleks.

I cannot call an image of an Ogron to mind.

4:18 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

sk: "I cannot call an image of an Ogron to mind"

It's the image I *always* have in mind when, if I don't actually know what the individual looks like, I end up butting heads with anyone on a mailing list.

4:30 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Rob: "The reason you're saying "Death to the Daleks might actually be my least favourite Doctor Who story pre-1989." is because you've clearly forgotten the mind-numbing averageness of "Day of the Daleks"."

But 'Day of the Daleks' has yer actual time paradox in it - a proper one you could take home and show your mum, even if your mum was Steven Hawking.

That has to count for something :)

5:28 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SK :"cannot call an image of an Ogron to mind."

SAF: "It's the image I *always* have in mind when, if I don't actually know what the individual looks like, I end up butting heads with anyone on a mailing list."

There you go - an Ogron looks a bit like that Steven Kitson :)

5:34 pm  
Blogger MediumRob said...

You just go watch it again. You'll see. Cursing Death to the Daleks will be a thing of the past. You will worship at its quality altar.

5:35 pm  
Blogger Scott Liddell said...

saf: "Hahaha! You sad completist you"

It'll be on his gravestone. He won't be in the grave, he'll get burned. The grave will be full of books and DVD's preserved for future generations.

I'd imagine the archaeologists of the future will be beside themselves with joy...

4:42 pm  
Blogger goofy said...

You forgot to mention the saxophones!

3:17 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

Scott: "I'd imagine the archaeologists of the future will be beside themselves with joy..."

Not if they find a copy of Death To The Daleks in there, apparently :)

3:36 pm  

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