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An energy drain traps the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith on the planet Exxilon with its hostile natives, causing the travellers to make an uneasy alliance with a Marine Space Corps expedition and a squadron of Daleks. The key to escape for all of them lies at the heart of a powerful and mysterious lost city, but only if they can navigate a series of deadly traps.
On the rocky surface of an alien planet one night, a blue-uniformed spaceman is carrying out an investigation. Suddenly, he is struck in the chest by an arrow, collapses and tumbles down a slope into a lake.
The Third Doctor and Sarah are en route to Florana for a holiday when the Doctor's TARDIS suffers a series of power failures. An unknown force somewhere on the nearby planet Exxilon is causing the energy drain. They are barely able to land on the arid planet. The Doctor and Sarah exit the TARDIS, but Sarah goes back to change clothes from the swimsuit she is wearing. The Doctor, exploring, is pursued and captured by the primitive, xenophobic natives.
Sarah searches unsuccessfully for the Doctor, finding his lamp covered in blood. She goes back to the Tardis where she defends against the native Exxilons who have broken into the ship. She is chased by the Exxilons, escaping briefly to an enormous city that pulses with energy. She is captured by the Exxilons, who consider her presence near their sacred city an abomination. They prepare her for sacrifice.
Meanwhile, dawn comes, and the Doctor encounters a Marine Space Corps expedition whose ship has also crash-landed because of the power drain. The team — Lieutenant Dan Galloway, Lieutenant Peter Hamilton, Captain Richard Railton, and civilian geologist Jill Tarrant — are in search of the rare mineral parrinium, which can be found in large quantities on Exxilon and is needed desperately to cure a galactic plague. Along with Commander Stewart, who is badly wounded after a previous Exxilon attack, they are the only survivors of their expedition; another member named Jack, whom Railton and Galloway were searching for, has disappeared without trace, but they don't know that he has been killed by the Exxilons. Another ship lands nearby. The Marines initially believe it to be a rescue vessel, but to their dismay a squad of Daleks emerge, guns at the ready. The Dalek leader gives the order for the Doctor and the humans to be exterminated...
The energy drain has disabled the Daleks' energy-based weaponry, much to the Doctor's glee and he taunts them. They are also seeking parrinium; their own worlds are falling victim to the plague — or so they say. What they don't say is that there are several more Daleks hidden on their ship. The Doctor, the Marines and the Daleks are forced into an uneasy alliance to find the source of the energy drain so they can escape. However, they are all captured by the Exxilons in a skirmish that ends with the death of Captain Railton and the self-destruction of one of the Daleks. The Doctor saves Sarah from sacrifice but is recaptured and is himself sentenced to die for assault on the High Priest.
Back at their ship, the remaining Daleks replace their electronic weaponry with mechanical projectile weapons (which they test on a model police box) and quickly master the Exxilons. In the confusion, the Doctor and Sarah flee down a nearby tunnel. The Daleks then "negotiate" a deal with the High Priest, which forces the natives to mine the parrinium. In return, members of the Space Corps are in charge of wiping out a renegade group of Exxilons. The deal also states the Doctor and Sarah will be returned to the Exxilons — dead or alive. Peter and Jill protest, but Galloway (who has taken charge despite the last wishes of expedition commander Stewart) insists it's the only way if they want the parrinium.
In the tunnel, Sarah realises that the sacrificial ritual had been meant to end with them being sent down the tunnel — something in here was meant to complete the sacrifice. Both realise that this is probably the source of the strange roars they hear echoing in the tunnel. Sarah also wonders how the Daleks were able to move if they were robots (and thus electronic); the Doctor explains that Daleks move by psychokinetic power (and are thus unaffected by the power drain). At a junction, the Doctor has Sarah wait whilst he has a look down the other tunnels for a way out. While she waits she is frightened by the appearance of another Exxilon.
In the new tunnel, the Doctor is about to head back when an enormous, metallic, snake-like creature rears up to strike at him.
The Doctor ducks out of the root's way, but he can't do it forever.
At the junction, a terrified Sarah is reassured by the Exxilon, who introduces himself as Bellal. Along with another Exxilon, Gotal, they conceal Sarah from pursuing Daleks, who head down both tunnels after the Doctor. In the tunnel the Doctor is in, the Dalek comes across the root probe and is destroyed, allowing the Doctor to escape and reunite with a very relieved Sarah.
As they are guided away, Bellal explains to the Doctor and Sarah about Exxilon. Their civilisation was once very technologically advanced, including space travel. Thousands of years ago, the Exxilons built the enormous city, one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. It became sentient and drove them out, and the Exxilons gradually degenerated into their current primitive society which worships the thing that destroyed them. Bellal and Gotal are from another, much smaller faction which wishes to destroy the City. After Bellal draws several of the images he has seen on the city walls, the Doctor realises that the advanced Exxilons had been to Peru on Earth. The Doctor decides they must infiltrate the city to deactivate the energy drain. Before leaving, with Bellal as his guide, the Doctor tells Sarah to make sure the Marines are ready for take-off when the beacon is disabled, because the Daleks will destroy the MSC ship once full power is restored. The Doctor also tells Sarah that if he should fail to return from the city, she must go with the Marines back to Earth.
On the surface, the deal between the Daleks and the human is fast becoming uneasy. The Daleks are upset that the Exxilons are not mining fast enough, much to Galloway's distaste. After another root comes to the surface through a body of water and kills an Exxilon and a Dalek, the Daleks are forced to move the mining operation to another location, as the Exxilons are refusing to go back to work otherwise.
The Daleks decide on a two-pronged plan to restore power: two Daleks are sent to infiltrate the city and hopefully destroy the controls (and thus restore power), while Hamilton and Galloway are made to scale the city walls to plant bombs on a beacon at its summit to blow it up.
The Doctor and Bellal arrive at the city and the Doctor works out how to get in — a non-matching symbol. With the Daleks in hot pursuit, they get in and face their next test in a room with several skeletons — evidence of their fate if they are unable to pass the next test. The Doctor traces a maze pattern without error, opening the next door just before the Daleks enter the first room. The Doctor and Bellal come to an area in a corridor where the floor is marked with a red and white geometric pattern. Suddenly, the Doctor pulls Bellal up sharply and warns, "Stop, don't move!"
The pattern is an electrified trap, but the Doctor is able to negotiate it with his sonic screwdriver. The 7000-volt electrical charge causes only minor damage to the Daleks. The next two tests are of the mind — the Doctor has to use his sonic screwdriver to stop Bellal killing him — and of their sanity. They manage to survive after the Doctor denies the reality of the mind-warping illusions. This opens the final area — the city's control centre, where the Doctor promptly starts tinkering with the city's "brain". It responds by triggering the creation of two humanoid "antibodies" to destroy the intruders; the Doctor orders Bellal to let him know when the anti-bodies are complete while he keeps working.
At the mining camp, Sarah finds Jill Tarrant, and the pair hatch a plan to replace the Daleks' parrinium sacks with sand-filled ones, whilst the real parrinium sacks are moved to the Earth spaceship. As dawn breaks, a Dalek guard finds that Jill has escaped and promptly self-destructs for failing in its duty, its voice rising to a maniacal pitch and then slurring away as it dies.
On the city exterior, Hamilton and Galloway have finally reached the summit and plant one of the two Dalek bombs on the beacon. Galloway, however, insists on keeping the second bomb, pointing out that the Dalek guard at the base won't be able to see them keeping it and one bomb will be enough to destroy the beacon. They start to descend.
The Doctor has almost finished with his interference with the city's "brain" when the antibodies attack him and Bellal. Fortunately, the pursuing Daleks arrive and promptly fire on the creatures, causing them to turn their attention to the Daleks. The fight causes a lot of damage in the control room, and that — plus the Doctor's tinkering — causes the city to start to die; the Doctor and Bellal escape.
The Dalek bomb goes off, and power is restored. As the Doctor and Bellal escape, they join up with the other humans, only to find that the Daleks are not only about to leave, but that they really were behind the plague. As soon as their ship is in orbit, the Daleks will drop a plague bomb to wipe out life on Exxilon and prevent anyone else from coming to the planet to get more parrinium, while the large quantity they mined will allow them to hold the galaxy to ransom.
However, Galloway, who hid on board before the launch while loading the parrinium, sacrifices his life to destroy the Dalek ship with his stolen bomb. Sarah and Jill then reveal that they had replaced the Daleks' parrinium with bags of sand, and that the real stuff is on their ship. Jill and Peter will now await the arrival of a rescue ship to bring the much-needed plague cure to the afflicted planets.
Everyone turns to look at the city as it melts away, screaming as it is destroyed. The Doctor bemoans the city's destruction — now the universe has only six hundred and ninety-nine wonders.
- Doctor Who - Jon Pertwee
- Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen
- Dan Galloway - Duncan Lamont
- Richard Railton - John Abineri
- Commander Stewart - Neil Seiler
- Peter Hamilton - Julian Fox
- Jill Tarrant - Joy Harrison
- High Priest - Mostyn Evans
- Bellal - Arnold Yarrow
- Gotal - Roy Heymann
- Dalek Voices - Michael Wisher
- Dalek Operators - John Scott Martin, Murphy Grumbar, Cy Town
- Zombies - Terry Walsh, Steven Ismay (uncredited on-screen for part four, but credited in Radio Times)
- Spaceman - Terry Walsh (uncredited on-screen for part one, but credited in Radio Times)
- Exxilons - Steven Ismay, Max Faulkner, Marc Boyle, Roy Pearce, Terence Denville, Derek Chafer, Leslie Bates, Nigel Winder, David Rolfe, Bob Blaine, Dennis Plenty, Terry Sartain, Mike Reynel, Terry Walsh (DWM 278)
- Exxilon messenger - Tex Fuller (DWM 278)
- Burning Exxilon - Terry Walsh (DWM 278)
- Assistant Floor Manager - Richard Leyland
- Costumes - L. Rowland Warne
- Designer - Colin Green
- Fight Arranger - Terry Walsh
- Film Cameraman - Bill Matthews
- Film Editor - Bob Rymer
- Film Sound - Bill Chesneau
- Incidental Music - Carey Blyton
- Make-Up - Magdalen Gaffney, Cynthia Goodwin
- Masks - John Friedlander
- Music - London Saxophone Quartet
- Producer - Barry Letts
- Production Assistant - Chris D'Oyly-John
- Script Editor - Terrance Dicks
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Derek Slee
- Studio Sound - Richard Chubb
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Visual Effects - Jim Ward
- Facilities Assistant - Jennie Betts (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Visual Effects Assistants - Mat Irvine, Peter Pegrum, Colin Mapson (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Location Make-Up - Cynthia Goodwin (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Grips - Alan Woods (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Vision Mixer - Nick Lake (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Props Buyer - John Stevens (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Production Secretary - Sarah Newman (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Director's Assistant - Margaret Lewty (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Assistant Film Sound Recordists - Clive Derbyshire, Chris Lovelock (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Film Lighting - Dave Smith (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Assistant Film Cameramen - Martin Patmore, Ian Pugsley (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Technical Manager - Eric Wallis (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Grams Operator - Gordon Phillipson (INFO: Death to the Daleks)
- Sulphagen tablets are pain killers.
- The Doctor sings "I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside".
- This story had the working titles of Dalek Story, The Exilons (also sometimes referred to as Doctor Who and the Exilons) and The Exxilons (also sometimes referred to as Doctor Who and the Exxilons).
- This story originally did not feature the Daleks, which were included because Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks wanted to cash in on their popularity.
- This story marks the first time the Daleks' weapons do not function on-screen. The Daleks can modify their casings relatively quickly, replacing their energy weapons with slug-throwing rifles.
- This is the last Dalek story where the Daleks' weapons are not a variant of the Dalek ray.
- The Daleks target practice with their new projectile weaponry aboard their spaceship using a miniature police box.
- This is the last Third Doctor story to feature the TARDIS console room and the last story to feature it until Planet of Evil. This is also the first story to feature Sarah Jane inside the console room on-screen.
- The story shows for the first and only time what illuminates the TARDIS console room: small hexagonal lights set high on the walls, which fade as the TARDIS is drained of its power.
- Many of the Dalek casings used for this story dated from the 1960s (due to the unsatisfactory quality of the casings produced for Planet of the Daleks).
- The cliffhanger to part three — the Doctor and Bellal walking towards a red and white geometric-patterned area on the floor, only for the Doctor to say, "Stop, don't move!" — was not originally going to be the cliffhanger. The original cliffhanger was going to be at the scene where the Doctor is trying to deduce the answer to the logic test concerning symbols, when two Daleks appear. Specifically, the cliffhanger would have hinged on the zoom towards the Dalek's gun. This was changed, however, for timing reasons.
- The original 625 line PAL colour videotape of part one was later somehow lost from the BBC archives, but a replacement copy was later found to complete the serial. This is the latest known episode of Doctor Who, for a time at least, for which no copy existed in any format; not even a 16mm black-and-white film telerecording.
- Clips from this story were used in part 5 of the 2001 documentary series "SF:UK".
- Radio Times credits Duncan Lamont (Dan Galloway), John Abineri (Richard Railton) and Julian Fox (Peter Hamilton) as "Lt. Dan Galloway", "Capt. Richard Railton" and "Lt. Peter Hamilton".
- The surname of Murphy Grumbar (Dalek Operator) is misspelled as "Grunbar" on all four episodes, but is spelled correctly in Radio Times.
- Terry Walsh (Spaceman) was uncredited on-screen for part one, but was credited in Radio Times.
- The humanoid antibodies, created by the City's "brain" to destroy the Doctor and Bellal in part four, were played by Terry Walsh and Steven Ismay, who were uncredited on-screen but credited as "Zombies" in Radio Times.
- The Exxilon masks were designed by costume designer L. Rowland Warne, and created by visual effects sculptor John Friedlander. Special credits, "Masks by" and "Masks designed by", appeared on the closing titles and in the Radio Times programme listings for parts one and four for Friedlander and Warne respectively.
- This was the final televised Dalek story not to feature their creator Davros or use the traditional "of the Daleks" naming convention until Dalek in 2005.
- The floor pattern trap resembles the chessboard trap used inside the Tomb of Rassilon in The Five Doctors.
- The arrowhead insignia the Marine Space Corps wears is similar to both the insignia of Star Trek's Starfleet (from which it is rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise) and the villainous Federation of Terry Nation's later project Blake's 7 (from which it is rotated 180 degrees).
- Behind the Magic showed an "early blaster prototype" reusing one of the Daleks' ballistic weapons from this story. The riffle was a Beretta M38A and the muffle was the fin of a world war II mortar. The muffle was later reused for Ponda Baba's custom DL-21 blaster pistol prop which itself was reused for a Hoth trooper in Empire Strikes Back.
- Paddy Russell was initially asked to direct the story but turned the request down, saying that she had no interest in directing a story about the Daleks or any other "tin can robots". She instead agreed to direct Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the previous story in Season 11's transmission order.
- A History of the Universe, aHistory and The Dalek Handbook arbitrarily date this story to 2600, as it takes place after the Dalek Wars. The Secret Lives of Monsters framed the story as taking place at the end of the Third Dalek War. Both The Whoniverse and The Dalek Protocol, however, place it in the same era as The Daleks' Master Plan.
- Michael E. Briant felt this was the least interesting serial he worked on, that the story had nothing to hang on to and he didn't really know what the story was about.
- Exxilon was originally a jungle planet.
- The Exxilon city's energy-draining properties derive from power-cuts throughout the seventies
- Originally, the Daleks escaped with the cure, but the humans worked with the Exxilons to set them back on the path to advancement and were given more of the cure in return
- Jill Tarrant was originally conceived as the equivalent of an "Israeli girl soldier".
- Terry Nation conceived the Exxilons as being bat-like, and the subterranean Exxilon Gotal was originally called Jebal.
- Michael E. Briant had to rearrange his shooting schedule when Jon Pertwee's arrival was delayed by a severe attack of his chronic back pain.
- Elisabeth Sladen injured her ankle while running on the muddy ground; fortunately, she had largely completed her location material.
- Michael E. Briant had silver-coloured Daleks, as he wanted to recapture how they looked in black-and-white.
- This was the first story that Robert Holmes oversaw, as he was shadowing Terrance Dicks as script editor. It is believed that he came up with the title out of his dislike of the Daleks.
- Nicholas Briggs proclaimed himself "the World's Greatest Death to the Daleks Fan". (VOR 72) He wrote and directed both The Exxilons and The Dalek Protocol, a prequel and a sequel respectively, in 2015 and 2021 for Big Finish Productions. The latter story gave Briggs the chance to voice Bellal, which he called "a dream come true". (BFX: The Dalek Protocol).
- No new Daleks were constructed for the serial. Michael E. Briant made use of the three surviving sixties-era casings, bolstered by a trio of lesser-quality “goon” Daleks built for Planet of the Daleks. Briant decided to repaint all six casings in a silver-and-black livery. He felt this echo of the Daleks' original monochrome appearance was more effective than the more colourful paint schemes employed over the last two years.
- Terrance Dicks suggested a narrative involving an intergalactic quest to find the cure for a space plague, and an advanced society which had reverted to barbarism. He wanted the Daleks to be less of a focus than in Planet of the Daleks, and he also asked Terry Nation to develop a more compelling female character than Rebec.
- The word Exxilon was inspired by the healing “elixir”.
- Part one - 8.1 million viewers
- Part two - 9.5 million viewers
- Part three - 10.5 million viewers
- Part four - 9.5 million viewers
- The spaceman seen on the surface of the planet at the start of the story is killed by an Exxilon spear. (Although some of the Exxilons in the story are seen to be armed with spears, others have bows and arrows — and it's definitely an arrow that finishes off the spaceman.)
- In part one when the TARDIS is drained of its power, and the Doctor attempts to enable the reserve power, he says "Not sure, I'll switch on the emergency, Liz", referring to Elisabeth Sladen. (The line is actually "Not sure, I'll switch on the emergency units".)
- The TARDIS is shrunken down, due to the energy drainage. (The only reason this is rumoured is because the DVD trailer depicts the TARDIS console room energy drainage scene, followed by the Daleks testing their new weaponry on the miniature TARDIS, leading fans to believe this.)
- Hanson's Aggregates Sand Pit, Puddletown Road, Gallows Hill, Dorset
- BBC Television Centre (Studio TC4), Shepherd's Bush, London
- When Galloway attacks the Doctor in part one and they struggle before hitting the ground, it is apparent that the Doctor is actually just a stunt double in a wig.
- Near the end of part one when the Doctor and the Earth expedition first see what they believe is a relief ship, Railton is looking in a different direction to the rest of the group.
- In part two, when the Daleks interrupt the sacrifice, a close-up shot of a Dalek's weapon is in black-and-white.
- When the "root" beneath the city destroys the Dalek in the far shots it has white speech globes and when zoomed in it has orange. The other Dalek in the tunnels has the default white lights.
- The wires holding up the city "roots" are clearly visible, especially in the location filming.
- At the mining area in part three, the Dalek that responds to Galloway's protests about their agreement by repeating "You will obey!" is seen at one point as it moves away to have its sucker arm and gun on the sides opposite to their usual positions.
- In part four, immediately after the sanity test, the Doctor can be seen brushing his hair, with a reflection in the foreground echoing his movements, despite there being no mirrors in the room.
- Also immediately after the test, actor Arnold Yarrow's eyes are visible behind Bellal's mask as the Doctor helps him up, then again as they walk into the next room.
- The Daleks who escaped defeat here were imprisoned on the Dalek Asylum in a special ward with other survivors of encounters with the Doctor. (TV: Asylum of the Daleks)
- In PROSE: The Left-Handed Hummingbird an Exxilon craft is seen.
- Sarah later compares the puzzles on Mars to the Exxilon City. (TV: Pyramids of Mars)
- This is Sarah Jane's first encounter with the Daleks. She later witnessed their creation (TV: Genesis of the Daleks) and, decades later, encountered them again as they invaded Earth in 2009. (TV: The Stolen Earth / Journey's End)
- The Daleks here move by telekinesis. In previous encounters, they relied on electricity. (TV: The Daleks, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Power of the Daleks) The Daleks eventually adapt to other sources of energy, such as the Time Vortex. (TV: Dalek, Doomsday)
- Prior to their destruction by the Great City, the Exxilons sent teams to other inhabited worlds where they would construct great beacons on their surface that would drain the mental energy of the natives and send it back to the Great City. During his fourth incarnation, the Doctor, Leela and K9 would encounter such a team on E9874. (AUDIO: The Exxilons)
Home video and audio releases
This story is available:
Death to the Daleks was released on VHS in July 1987 in the omnibus format, with part one being a 525 line NTSC conversion as no 625 line PAL colour videotape of the story was known to exist at the time.
The story was later released in February 1995 in episodic format for the UK, Australia, and the US, with part one taken from the newly recovered 625 line PAL colour videotape. Although the sleeve bore a yellow "COMPLETE & UNEDITED" flash, the release contained a couple of small edits in part two: namely, the removal of the Doctor's line "Myself, chiefly" in answer to Sarah's question "Who are you kidding?"; and the beginning of the scene towards the end of the episode where Sarah first encounters Bellal, where the close-up of Bellal has been removed. This was because BBC Video had mistakenly used an Australian-censored version of the episode.
- Death to the Daleks at the BBC's official site
- Death to the Daleks at RadioTimes
- Death to the Daleks at BroaDWcast
- Death to the Daleks at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Death to the Daleks at The Locations Guide