Destiny Of The Daleks
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Lalla Ward (The Second Romana).
Having installed a Randomiser in the TARDIS to avoid the attentions of the Black Guardian, the Doctor and the newly-regenerated Romana find themselves on a bleak planet the Doctor is sure he has visited before. The two are separated in a cave-in, and Romana finds herself a captive of the Doctor's oldest foes, the Daleks. The Doctor encounters the Daleks' enemies, the ruthless android Movellans, who reveal that the planet is in fact Skaro. The Daleks are searching for their long-lost creator, Davros, in an attempt to tip a stalemate in the Dalek-Movellan war.
The Daleks had been absent from Doctor Who since Genesis Of The Daleks in 1975. In 1978, producer Graham Williams decided that their return would be the perfect way to start off the programme's seventeenth season, and in November approached their creator, Terry Nation, about penning a return. Nation agreed in principle, but was tied up with assignments on his own science-fiction series, Blake's 7, then entering its third season. In the end, Williams agreed to Nation's timetable, slotting the Dalek story third in the production order; this would still permit it to be broadcast first, albeit narrowly. Destiny Of The Daleks was formally commissioned on December 20th.
This was Nation's first Doctor Who assignment since The Android Invasion four years earlier. His script experienced a number of changes as writing proceeded, ranging from the trivial, such as the renaming of the "Petrans" to the "Movellans", to the significant, most notably the removal of costly night filming (originally, all the location material was set at night). Furthermore, Nation left the matter of introducing a new Romana to script editor Douglas Adams. With Mary Tamm unable even to return for a brief regeneration scene (being visibly pregnant at the time), Adams elected to write the scene as a pastiche of Tom Baker's introductory scene from Robot, in which he tries on several outfits before settling on his familiar costume. The gimmick this time would be that Romana would essay various bodies before settling on the form of Princess Astra, the character played by Lalla Ward in the previous season's The Armageddon Factor. Romana's alternate forms were played by extras Lee Richards (short), Maggy Armitage (tall; her height was accentuated by having her stand on a box), and Yvonne Gallagher (blue).
Director Ken Grieve, making his first and only Doctor Who serial, would quickly find his production burdened with budget problems. The removal of the night filming eased this somewhat, but there was still the matter of the Dalek and Davros costumes. Only seven Dalek casings could be located, and none of these were in mint condition. Cannabilising these and refurbishing the results yielded four workable suits, while a fifth was used as the basis for a number of cheap, immobile versions which could be used for long shots and scenes with explosives. The problem with the Davros costume -- and in particular the mask -- was that it had been made to fit actor Michael Wisher, who was unavailable for Destiny because he was on tour in Australia. David Gooderson was cast to replace Wisher, but unfortunately he proved to be a somewhat larger man. Unfortunately, the budget only permitted repair work on the mask, not the construction of a new one.
Location work got underway on June 11th, 1979, and went on for five days at Winspit Quarry and Binnegar Heath, both in Dorset. Destiny Of The Daleks enjoyed the usual five studio days as well, broken up into a two-day block on July 2nd and 3rd, and a three-day block from the 15th to 17th. Episode one aired a month and a half later, on September 1st, kicking off Season Seventeen of Doctor Who. At the time, ITV -- BBC1's main competition -- was embroiled in a labour strike and was not transmitting. The result was some of Doctor Who's highest ratings ever, reaching an all-time high of 14.4 million viewers for part four. This record would go on to be broken with the very next serial, City Of Death.
Destiny Of The Daleks was Terry Nation's final Who script, a situation mainly stemming from Nation's decision to move to California in 1980. In the United States, Nation worked on a number of projects, most notably the long-running adventure series MacGyver for ABC. In the 1990s, Nation would express renewed interest in Doctor Who when he and former Who producer Gerry Davis unsuccessfully attempted to obtain the rights to revive the series for the BBC as an independent production. His health failing through much of the decade, Nation eventually succumbed on March 9th, 1997.