Doctor Who review: The Doctor faces Daleks, Davros and Movellans in Destiny of the Daleks

The Fourth Doctor returns to Skaro and meets Davros once more in the classic Doctor Who serial Destiny of the Daleks. Does this story live up to the success of their previous meeting?

Four years after Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor’s oldest enemies finally returned at the very beginning of Season 17, Destiny of the Daleks. The earlier story proved to be one of the most popular Dalek stories ever made, and that still holds true today. How well does Destiny serve as a follow-up?

What’s interesting about this serial is that there’s a real clash of styles. On the one hand, Destiny of the Daleks is firmly a part of Season 17 – a season that’s full of humor and colorful, distinctive villains. Not only do the Movellans stand out as the most gloriously disco races in Doctor Who history, but the serial begins with one of the strangest regeneration sequences ever. In many ways, it’s a very colorful story.

And yet, when you look at the script, it’s clearly a Terry Nation story i.e. one with an extremely dark heart to it. The Daleks are as ruthless as ever, pushing their slave force to work to the point of complete exhaustion – and even beyond. They don’t care if their slaves live or die. In fact, neither do many of the slaves themselves. This is particularly clear during one moment when they’re silently executed by the Daleks, one by one, and don’t even cry out in agony.

Doctor Who

Along with featuring the return of Davros, Destiny of the Daleks also sees Lalla Ward play Romana for the first time.
(Photo by Davidson/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The return of Davros

While I had seen Destiny of the Daleks before, I must admit, it’s not nearly to the same extent as Genesis. So naturally, I didn’t remember it quite as well as the earlier story. As a result, I was quite surprised to find out how long it takes for Davros to show up – it’s not until the end of part 2 that he finally appears. Considering that this is a four-part story, that’s considerably late.

However, it’s a move that surprisingly works. For one thing, Terry Nation makes sure to take the time to introduce the other major forces of the story first. Part 1 focuses on introducing us to the Movellans, while part 2 reveals the Daleks’ role in the story. After seeing the pepper pots’ origins in Genesis, it’s nice to be reminded of just how much of a powerful force they are in the Doctor Who universe. (Even if they’re not quite presented at their best in this story – there are way too many scenes where they make the same exclamation several times in a row, making them more frustrating than threatening, quite frankly.)

But now that Davros has been brought back, how well does he work in this story? Does his return live up to his original appearance in Genesis? Honestly, no, not really. Character-wise, he’s handled ok, although naturally, he doesn’t make quite as much of an impact as his original appearance. But, while David Gooderson tries his best, the truth is that Michael Wisher is sorely missed. Gooderson’s performance lacks some of the subtlety and chilling menace that Wisher’s had, giving us a version of the character that’s sadly forgettable.

Destiny of the Daleks isn’t a bad story. The Movellans are certainly memorable, and it’s nice to have some continuation from Genesis while also shifting the focus back to the Daleks themselves. But at the same time, it suffers from a slight identity crisis, with Terry Nation’s dark story clashing against Douglas Adams’s lighter script-editing style. In short, it’s a noticeable step down from Davros’s original appearance.

What are your thoughts on Destiny of the Daleks? Do you agree that it doesn’t live up to Genesis? Or are you a fan of this story? Do you think the Movellans should return on-screen at some point? Let us know in the comments below.