In our house growing up in the late 1970’s and 1980’s the family highlight of our TV week was sitting down to watch Dallas, the American super soap opera charting the rise of Texan oil family, the Ewings. There we were every Weds evening sitting on our lumpy sunshine yellow sofa, or the armchair huddled together around our television, cups of tea at the ready absorbing the latest plot instigated by the compelling JR Ewing as a wry grin and laugh would spread across over his face. We did it for so many years together even through the later years when it got a bit ridiculous even by its own standards.
Well there was a second highlight for me that was just mine, on a Saturday early evening after the afternoon wrestling (remember Big Daddy anyone?) and that was watching the latest episode of Doctor Who. I never was a ‘behind the sofa’ girl-child but I do remember having the sofa all to myself, lying there watching a thrilling adventure, the main character all teeth and curls, long coat, scarf, running tall. Yes the one and only Tom Baker had entered my consciousness. He had a huge presence and charisma much like Larry Hagman, with that deep melodious voice he has commanding all eyes on him. I never knew until a few years later there were other Doctors to become a super-fan of but for that 25 minutes for me he was ‘THE DOCTOR ’
If you were to ask me what was the first story I saw well my mind goes fuzzy as I seem to remember that TB Doctor Who episodes were repeated quite a lot over a couple of long rainy summers in the late 1970’s. But I definitely remember Romana (the second- Lalla Ward) in a pink matching Doctory coat walking in a quarry and also Movellans in ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ so that has to be that story for me. Being here is a beginning so it seemed the right time to watch Destiny again this week. We are in such a time of firsts at the moment. The 1st the 12th doctors will be together in a regeneration story at Christmas, there’s a female doctor round the corner….But let discuss Movellans as I need to get something off my chest. Writes note to series 10 production team… “Dear team as someone around the first time that they appeared, that they got a ten second ‘screenshot’ in ‘The Pilot’ (yes I counted all those seconds because I’m a geek) does not in any way, count as a re-appearance” It just didn’t feel worthy showing them for the older fans with so throwaway an appearance or worth doing as it added nothing to the story itself. I won’t use rude words but whoever decided it was a bright idea….was …wrong ….Hmmm ….let it go now….
So back to the original Movellans. I’m torn. On the one hand every time I see them on screen, all with those matching braids and tight white uniforms I can’t help thinking they aren’t unpleasant to look at in a sexy Disco Inferno Disco fever way and I want to put on the song ‘I lost my heart to a Starship Trooper’ (check out the YouTube video https://youtu.be/kii8Zsuo3_c it’s happily bonkers). They wouldn’t be out of place either in Blakes 7 as a subservient species of the Federation. I can imagine Servalan summoning one to feed her grapes on a silver platter and indulge her erotic whims.
On the other hand Terry Nation created one of the best dystopian sci-fi series with Blakes 7 ever so it really dissatisfies that he doesn’t give the Movellans a unique selling point to make them a worthy adversary to the Daleks. They are sleek and androgynous, the complete opposite of the dumpy monotone Daleks and they should have had Savitar speed aka the Raston Warrior in ‘The Five Doctors’. The Movellans ability to reanimate themselves after injury isn’t used to any great effect against the Daleks and watching how easily they can be deactivated just by removing their power pack is just poor. I think the Duracell bunny goes on longer than they do. Did anyone else wonder though how they managed to get Romana inside the glass bomb-tube?
So onto the story itself …. I had a face palm moment when Davros himself said the Movellan’s were ‘another race of robots’. Did Terry Nation forget that there was an organic being inside the casing of his own Dalek creations but I suppose it fed into the narrative for the story? It’s an interesting inventive use of the game rock, paper scissors how the Daleks and Movellans have been at stalemate for over two centuries, both sides’ battle computers calculating the best strategy but not a single shot has been fired. Dare I say it there was something reassuring in that position of mutually assured destruction deadlock for us common normal folk in the 1970 and 1980’s echoed quietly in Destiny of the Daleks.
The Cold War gave two distinct ideological visions of how to achieve the good life: The liberal democracies of the USA and Western Europe were then counterpoised with clear geographical boundaries, marking spheres of influence, from the communist Soviet Union and satellite eastern European states. opposing each other with the United Nations as a principal guarantor of world order. There isn’t a UN here in Destiny to keep a balanced existence, except the Doctor, and unfortunately there isn’t a bigger sense of the Daleks and the Movellans as two super-efficient blocs protecting their national interests and ideological identities. Whereas in Genesis the Daleks are quasi Nazis in a metal jacket, here they seemed watered down, a bit lost by searching for Davros.
However I do enjoy this story despite its faults. It feels like watching an old friend and even though this is probably only the third time I’ve seen it I love the location filming in a Dorset quarry using a Steadicam which looks brilliant. Seeing the Doctor and Romana running up and down those quarries is awesome. I miss all that getting stuck in at a location from classic Who.Nu Who is super slick and no-one really gets dirty anymore. Tim Barlow as Tyssan is giving his all and I can’t believe he was profoundly deaf whilst filming. I doff my imaginary cap off to his acting skills.
There was one scene in Destiny that I really enjoyed and is a highlight and that was when the Daleks burst into the room where the Doctor has Davros and there is the ‘Mexican standoff’ between them. The Doctor should surrender but wont and the Daleks start killing hostages, one, then a second and suddenly I’m really invested in the story wondering how long the Doctor will let the slaughter go on for. It’s an interesting moment which allows the Doctor to make his escape but surely he should have stayed to see the bomb go off and kill Davros?
So my fellow Whovians what was your first story ? Someone asked me the other day what was the earliest story chronologically that I saw and I said ….remember Leela and an enormous rat ….But that’s a whole different story…until next time