Doctor Who episode 369: Death to the Daleks – Part Four (16/3/1974)
This is possibly the most Star Trek episode of Doctor Who to date. While the Doctor and temporary companion Belal penetrate the interior of the Exxilon city (which has all the design elegance of an NHS hospital corridor circa 1988) to confront the insane computer that has destroyed the Exxilon civilisation and forced the survivors to worship it as a god. Meanwhile, the Daleks are also seeing a way into the heart of Exxilon power, while outside they force the natives into slavery. Replace the Daleks with Klingons, the Doctor with Captain Kirk and Belal with the local beauty and this has all the ingredients for a 1969 DesilLu budget spectacular.
Even Michael E Briant struggles to make much of the tedious stretches of wandering around grey sets occasionally punctuated by disco lights. Even the city’s motive is tiresome: a vague search for superior intellects who can solve its puzzles, in a way that felt witless when it was used in The Tomb of the Cybermen seven years ago. Terry Nation even struggles for consistency with his own work: Galloway, the ‘glory seeker’, sacrifices himself to blow up the fleeing Daleks, getting his grand self-sacrificing exit in a way that the similarly hot-headed Vaber was denied (and decried for) in Planet of the Daleks. And all this is explained rather than shown, as everyone has completely lost interest in the underwritten Marine Space Corps expedition as the second half of the serial slowly disappoints the expectations raised in the first. The Doctor can’t even be bothered to explain the logic paradox he uses to destroy the Exxilon city computer (presumably the same one he fed to BOSS), he just tells Belal he’s done it. And Sarah might as well not have been in it at all. No wonder the Exxilon sinisterly watching everything inexplicably turns out to be a mummy – it was probably bored to death.
There are a couple of good bits. The ‘antibodies’ generated by the city to defend itself look impressively like the Zombie Flesh Eaters, even if all they do in practice is hurl themselves at the Daleks like Frankenstein’s Monsters in a Universal monster mash. And the dying city itself achieves an eerie grandeur, imploding as it howls ethereally like something in a Lawrence Gordon Clark ghost story. But for the most part this is a deeply dull conclusion to a serial that comprehensively throws away its premise and promise. The first dozen episodes of Season 11 had a sense of momentum and possibility that the back half of Death to the Daleks has killed stone dead.
Next episode: The Monster of Peladon