The TARDIS arrives on the planet Exxilon, where all electrical energy is drained off by an unknown force.
The Doctor meets a Marine Space Corps expedition from Earth who tell him that a plague is sweeping the galaxy and that the antidote, parrinium, can be found only on Exxilon. Their ship has been disabled by the energy drain, so they are unable to leave with the mineral.
The commentary team for DOCTOR WHO – DEATH TO THE DALEKS represents a broad church of expertise and talent that has not been congregated for some time by BBC DVD CLASSIC SERIES Producers, and, all of whom, ministered over by the revered Toby Hadoke (Parish of Muswell Hill).
Recorded after the death of Elisabeth Sladen, Michael Briant (Director) is joined be fellow production team members Dick Mills (Special Sound Effects), Rowland Warne and Richard Leyland (Assistant Floor Manager), whilst from the ‘front of the camera’ Dalek Operator, Cy Town glides (with a slight whiff of burning) in front of the microphone alongside Julian Fox (played Peter Hamilton).
On stuntman Terry Walsh, Michael Briant: A legend I his own lunchtime; a leading stuntman character. Even the Exxillon looking at the screen (episode four) was Terry Walsh as the Extra (read: non-speaking actor) booked to do it couldn’t keep still.
On the limitation of adding sound effects to the story, Dick Mills: I was allowed a hum or two.
On the re-designed TARDIS console room, Richard Leyland: Jon (Pertwee) didn’t like the set much. He didn’t like change as an actor. He was particularly difficult to work with…
Michael Briant: Do you think so? I adored Jon. He was the easiest of the Doctor’s to work with actually.
Richard: But I was way down in the pecking order. He was quite hard with the ‘underlings’ let’s put it that way.
Rowland Warne: I found his quite easy to work with, as long as you paid a certain amount of attention.
Richard Leyland recounts a story about two Exxillon actors falling asleep on location, and, due to the excellence of the costumes, were unable to be found amid the rocky landscape of the quarry.
On the atmospheric sound effects, Dick Mills: “Less is more” as they say.
On Elisabeth Sladen, Julian Fox: She was a movie buff.
Richard Leyland: Lovely lady. Always took time to speak to everyone.
Michael Briant: Of all the companions, she was the actress. She would try out everything that she was to do. Impressed with her.
On the use of “Chromakey” (CSO), Michael Briant: (DEATH TO THE DALEKS) was a major effects show.
FACT: This four-parter was the first DOCTOR WHO to be produced as a “rehearse-record” format.
On flying arrows, Julian Fox: We had to duck low in that pit when the arrows came.
On seeing the Exxillon Priest’s sacrificial chalice, Michael Briant: I still have that, and it has a certain “Grassy” (read: cannabis) smell about it in the past.
On actress Joy Harrison (played Jill), Michael Briant: She and Lis were very good mates.
Toby Hadoke reading a message from Joy Harrison about Lis: Gifted actress.
FACT: Australian Broadcasting deemed that the scene when Bellal stalked Sarah Jane-Smith too scary and was edited from their broadcast version.
On seeing Terry Walsh being killed again the story, Michael Briant: There’s Terry Walsh. It’s the 14 th. Time he dies in this story. Here he goes…
On the set design graphic showing a Maze, Michael Briant: I was told be a fan that you cannot actually get out of it. Too much time on his hands.
On DEATH TO THE DALEKS scriptwriter, Michael Briant: I think Terry (Nation) was a brilliant writer at action scripts but his characterisation was not that good.
On the costumes of the Exxillon City ‘zombie-guards’, Michael Briant: Good frocks.
On the sound effects of the dying City, Richard Leyland: It is the screaming voice of Michael Briant.
Sometimes honesty if the best policy and, sadly, for this single-disc release the DVD ‘value added material’ is disappointing as if the production team have run out of steam, demotivated, lacking inspiration as if they know their time is nearly up (fresh CLASSIC SERIES releases will conclude in 2013) – ripe for “production team regeneration?
With DOCTOR WHO STORIES – DALEK MEN it seems that it is the final opportunity for the aging cast & crew to recount their memories before it is all too late. Don’t get me wrong listening to the gapes and encounters drawn from making DOCTOR WHO are interesting but it is the fault of the documentary’s interviewers that they fail to tease and tempt from the subjects a fresh way of telling the stories.
The only incident of note is sixties dalek operator, Nicholas Evans attending an annual event as the metal-cased alien to see the horror on the cherub-like faces of children; “…as we came the children runs to their mum’s and wet themselves”. The children not the mothers, I take it.
However, if that documentary is unsatisfactory, the PHOTO GALLERY and the STUDIO RECORDING are essential items to view as it steers the 21 st century DOCTOR WHO fan onto Television Centre’s studio floor in December 1973. This demonstrates that both the filming/recoding process is meticulous and that actors and crew have to work symbiotically with equal patience.
The highlight being Pertwee singing at the end of a ‘take’; “Bye, bye Dalek”.
Universally, the Peter Cushing movies are generally accepted as DOCTOR WHO ‘canon’ and regarded as more of aberration than ‘spin-off’. In ON THE SET WITH DR WHO AND THE DALEKS, unused clips from the 1965 ITV magazine programme, MOVIE MAGAZINE, are presented alongside interviews from production crew & character actors form the film. Concise but enjoyable.
As a “Making of…” feature, BENEATH THE CITY OF THE EXXILONS is creative and will ensure that you are positively glued to the screen. Formatted as a “Dalek Information Archive File” (and voiced by NEW SERIES Dalek-master, Nicholas Briggs), it chronicles the initial development of Terry Nation’s four-parter (seemingly an allegory of the 1970’s electrical power-cuts due to industrial action by the UK Miners), the location filming amid the freezing landscape of a Poole Chine Clay excavation pit, to the polystyrene (read: boulders) replete studio of BBC Television Centre witnessing that even a consummate actor such as Jon Pertwee can ‘fluff’ his lines.
In a ‘well, this is a great surprise’ appearance by Arnold Yarrow (Bellal), Briggs even suggest that the subterranean Exxillon could have easily transferred to being a TARDIS companion (with some difficulty, he adds), whilst Yarrow appreciated the support from the lead actor.
DOCTOR WHO – DEATH TO THE DALEKS is not as polished and creative as previous CLASSIC SERIES releases but is worthy of both of your time and well-earned money. Whilst it may not be the stimulating and groundbreaking story but for many fans, like myself, it holds a level of affection that acts as an smoke screen to its inadequacies. For a seven-year old even the red electrified “game of hop-scotch” within the Exxillon city was as exciting as it could possibly get at the time.
Treat yourself to your very own time machine, and enjoy a glimpse of classic DOCTOR WHO history, DOCTOR WHO – DEATH TO THE DALEKS.