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Destiny of the Daleks was the first serial of season 17 of Doctor Who. It was the first story to feature Lalla Ward as Romana, although it was the third to be produced.

It also featured the twelfth appearance of the Daleks and the second appearance of Davros, portrayed by David Gooderson for the only time, as Michael Wisher had a theatrical commitment in New Zealand and was unavailable. It was the final televised story to be written by Terry Nation, who had contributed scripts since 1963. It was the first story produced under the auspices of script editor Douglas Adams.

Notably, episode one saw K9 being voiced by Dalek voice actor Roy Skelton. This was because K9 had contracted laryngitis and all that was needed of him was a croaking sound.


The Doctor and a newly regenerated Romana arrive on Skaro to find that the Daleks are using explosive charges and a group of humanoid slave workers to mine the planet in search of their creator, Davros. A stalemate has arisen in an interplanetary war that the Daleks are waging against the robotic Movellans, and their hope is that Davros will be able to give them the edge.

A force of Movellans has also arrived on Skaro, determined to thwart the Daleks' plan. Davros is found in the ruins of the old Kaled city and immediately revives, his life support systems having held him in suspended animation since his apparent death. He quickly deduces that the battle computers of the two warring races are locked in a logical stalemate and that he can break this by introducing an element of intuition.

The Movellans, having reached the same conclusion, want the Doctor to do likewise for them. Davros attempts to destroy the Movellan ship using a suicide squad of Daleks loaded with bombs, but the Doctor returns to the Kaled city and tricks him into inadvertently detonating them before they reach their target.

The Movellans are deactivated and Davros is cryogenically frozen on board their ship until the freed slave workers can take him to Earth and ensure that he is put on trial for his crimes.


Episode one

The Doctor has installed a "randomiser" on the TARDIS to elude the Black Guardian. While he is repairing K9, the Doctor marvels at K9's impressive and complex electronic "brain". He notices that K9 is, unusually for a robot, coughing. He establishes that K9 has a form of laryngitis (which is, as the Doctor points out, pointless, as a robot would have no use for such an affliction). He calls for Romana, and is surprised when Princess Astra from the preceding adventure emerges (in full regal regalia). However this is not Astra at all: it is Romana, and she has regenerated into a form which she has modelled on the princess. The Doctor is not impressed and tries to dissuade her from "going around wearing copies of bodies". He urges Romana to try another body. She agrees and walks out of sight to do just that. When she returns she is a dwarfish, purple-faced female, who retains Romana's voice. Unhappy with the height, she is told by the Doctor to "lengthen it", and she leaves to try again. When she returns, she resembles a drag queen; the Doctor (possibly slightly disturbed by this) gives a polite, "No thank you, not today." Romana then tries an extremely tall, willowy and serious-looking female form, which the Doctor dismisses as being too tall. He advises her to wear something more sensible and stylish, and she returns in an outfit resembling his own. He is delighted, until he realises that she again resembles Astra, only in different clothing. He gives up, realising that her mind is made up, and agrees to let her resemble Astra. The TARDIS then lands...


The Doctor and Romana have no idea where they've landed

The TARDIS has landed on a very rocky planet which has breathable air and hospitable conditions, but has dangerously high levels of radioactivity. The Doctor gives Romana tablets to combat the radiation and a beeper-like device to inform her when she must take her pills. They exit the TARDIS and establish that this rocky planet has seismic disturbances. The Doctor has déjà vu upon inspecting the landscape. They witness what appear to be ragged-looking natives burying one of their dead. On closer inspection, they find that this deceased fellow is not what they thought: he is from the planet Kantra, a tropical paradise. How he came to be on this rocky planet is a mystery. They see a spaceship land, and find that it has half-buried itself into the ground in a valley. Just as the Doctor and Romana are about to investigate, underground explosions force them towards the ruins. While they explore, a column falls upon the Doctor. It is too heavy for Romana to lift alone. She agrees to reassemble the literally "brainless" K9 and get him to assist in removing the debris. She sets off, but finds the TARDIS half-buried in rubble. Unbeknownst to her, she is being followed. Realising that she cannot reach K9, Romana turns back.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is quite happily reading a book (Origins of the Universe by Oolon Colluphid), and remarks that he needs to remind Romana to take her anti-radiation pills. A troupe of silver-haired humanoids appear and point their weapons at him. He attempts to charm them, but it does not seem to work. Meanwhile, Romana returns to the ruin. The Doctor has vanished. As she turns to leave, she finds the man who has been following her blocking her path. She backs away, only to fall down a rubble chute, losing consciousness. The man prepares to climb down and help her.

The Doctor (unharmed) is with the Movellans, as these silver-haired humanoids are called. He thanks them for helping him, and remarks at their strength. He asks their commander, Sharrel, what planet they are on, and is told that it is known as D-5-Gamma-Z-Alpha. The Doctor enquires to its name, and is astonished to hear that the answer is Skaro.

Before the old man has climbed down after her, Romana recovers consciousness and hears a drilling noise coming from one of the walls. The wall seems to be moving. She backs away from the wall. Suddenly a pair of Daleks burst through it: "Do not move. Do not move. Do not move. Do not move. Do not move. Do not move. You are our prisoner – do not move. You are our prisoner!"

Episode two

The Daleks threaten to exterminate Romana if she does not comply with their instructions explicitly, and then command Romana to come with them. The man, meanwhile, has seen the whole thing.

Floor plan

The Doctor examines the floor plan of the Kaled Dome.

The Movellans tell the Doctor that they are on Skaro to wage war against the Daleks. Meanwhile, Romana is being interrogated by the Daleks. After determining that she is no threat to them, the Daleks command Romana to work at one of their drilling sites.

The Doctor and the Movellans meet with the man who has been following Romana and him. He identifies himself as Starship Engineer Tyssan, captured by the Daleks two years ago. He collapses after revealing that the Daleks have used him as slave labour for drilling as part of a search operation. He soon comes around, and says he does not know what the Daleks are looking for. He tells the Doctor about what has happened to Romana, and they set out to rescue her.

In the meantime Romana meets with other workers, with whom she discusses the Daleks' hatred for humanoids. She learns that she is getting weaker as a result of radiation sickness, and is told that the only way out of captivity is to die. Within minutes, she collapses and seems to die. Her fellow workers remove her body.

The Doctor, Tyssan and the Movellans Sharrel, Lan, and Agella are shocked to find Romana's grave. As the Doctor frantically tries to dig her out, Romana appears and explains that she feigned death in order to escape. At school, she had been taught how to suspend her breathing and stop her hearts. They head to the Dalek headquarters. Lan is left on guard outside of the Control Centre, and is blasted down by a Dalek which is out searching for them. When the Doctor, Tyssan and the Movellans find Lan's body, Sharrel refuses to let the Doctor examine Lan – saying it is against the Movellans' code of honour to allow aliens to see the bodies of their dead.

The Doctor establishes that the Daleks are searching for something on a level that they have yet to access. He remembers an alternative route to this area, so he, Romana, and Agella make their way to this floor while Sharrel returns to his ship. They discover Davros, the creator of the Daleks, who had seemingly been exterminated when the Doctor last saw him. (TV: Genesis of the Daleks) Something gives way up above, and part of the ceiling collapses on Agella. While the party is distracted by this, Davros starts to stir: his fingers move, his central artificial eye lights up – and Davros awakens...

Episode three


The Doctor bargains with Davros.

"The resurrection has come, as I always knew it would", says the awakened Davros. The Doctor finds Davros and takes him into a blocked-off room in the old Dalek city. He lets Romana and Tyssan escape out the window, and they return to the Movellan ship. The two geniuses talk about the Daleks' "accomplishments"; whilst the Doctor comments on the countless lives the Daleks have ruined, Davros replies that this is only the beginning – the Daleks have only just begun their conquest of the cosmos. The Daleks find them and proceed to exterminate their prisoners until the Doctor complies. The Doctor threatens to kill Davros with a makeshift explosive he has just concocted. He orders the Daleks to free all their prisoners, and to let him escape. The Daleks say that these conditions are unacceptable and illogical - and therefore, to a Dalek, impossible. The exterminations will continue. Davros makes them see that the Doctor's logic is "impaired by irrational sentiment". The Daleks now comply. The Doctor attaches the explosive to Davros' chair, and tells him that it will detonate when he uses his sonic screwdriver. He escapes. Davros frantically orders the Daleks to remove the explosive, which they do. The Doctor detonates the explosive remotely, and the explosion seems to take a Dalek with it. Davros vows to make the Daleks invincible, and the supreme power of the universe. Unbeknownst to them, Agella is not dead. She returns and reports all she has just heard to her fellow Movellans.

Romana reaches the Movellan spaceship, but learns that the Movellans are not as altruistic as they appear. Agella uses her weapon on her and knocks her out. The Movellans test out their nova device, a weapon which changes air molecules so a planet's atmosphere becomes flammable and can be set alight – killing all lifeforms.

The Doctor meets up with Tyssan and they find a Movellan scout. The Doctor deactivates her by removing the power pack/controlling circuit on her belt and reveals that the Movellans are, in fact, robots. He finds that the unconscious Romana has been attached to the nova device, sealed inside an airtight container. He sends Tyssan away and tries to open the container, as the timer is ticking down...

Episode four

As the timer approaches zero, the Doctor is knocked out by one of the Movellans' weapons. However, the nova device was revealed to be a "dud" – a decoy used to lure the Doctor.


Bomb-laden Daleks on the move.

The Doctor learns that the Daleks and Movellans have been in a stalemate for over two centuries, and that both sides' battle computers have been calculating the best strategy and precise moment at which to attack – so far not a single shot has been fired. The Daleks want Davros to help them gain an advantage and pledge their loyalty to him. The Movellans want the Doctor to do the same for them, which the Doctor refuses to do. Davros, on the other hand, is eager to give the Daleks the upper hand; he orders them to make a suicide bombing attack on the Movellan craft on realising that the Doctor might do the same thing for the Movellans. The Doctor leads an attack by the slaves on the Movellans, which ends with them all being deactivated.

While the prisoners take control of the Movellan ship, the Doctor makes his way to the city to confront Davros. He tells Davros that the Movellans have been disabled; unfortunately Davros does not believe him and intends to destroy the Movellan ship anyway. As the Daleks approach the ship, the Doctor goes to detonate the bombs prematurely, only to discover too late that Davros didn't send all the Daleks on the suicide run when one ambushes him and holds him at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, Tyssan instructucts the former slaves to go out to defend the ship, however the former slaves are no match for the Daleks, who begin exterminating them as they approach the ship;.

Destiny title

The Doctor and Romana escape the Movellan ship.

Whilst chatting with Davros the Doctor throws his hat on the Dalek's eye-stalk, blinding it. As the Dalek fires around blindly (nearly killing Davros in the process), the Doctor attaches an explosive to it and blows it up, then activates the bomb detonator and destroys the attacking Dalek squad. He takes Davros into the custody of the former slave workers. Davros shall be placed in Cryogenic suspension and taken to Earth to stand trial for his crimes. The Doctor and Romana surreptitiously leave the Movellan ship before take-off and return to the TARDIS where, after having cleared the fallen rocks away, they remark on the fact that whoever makes mistakes often wins (as the Doctor knows only too well). They enter the TARDIS and dematerialise, only to rematerialise a few seconds later after the Doctor presses the wrong switch. After Romana points out this mistake, the TARDIS dematerialises again — successfully this time.


Uncredited cast




Cultural references to real world

  • The Doctor and Romana play rock paper scissors to demonstrate the cause of the stalemate of the robotic war.
  • According to the Doctor, Davros misquotes Napoleon.
  • The Doctor defines his strategy of holding Davros hostage as a Mexican standoff.
  • The Doctor says Romana has "all the makings of a first-class navvy".


  • The Doctor teases the Daleks' inability to climb: "If you're supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don't you try climbing after us?"
  • Davros learns of the Daleks' recent battles and defeats through information provided on a computer sphere.
  • Davros is vexed when hearing about a Supreme Dalek.


  • The Doctor and Romana take anti-radiation pills to sustain the contaminated environment of Skaro.
  • The Doctor experiences a deja vu when landing on Skaro.



  • The Dalek and Movellan Fleets are locked in stalemate.
  • Tyssan was an engineer working for the deep space fleet out of the planet Earth.
  • The Daleks have a prison ship orbiting around Skaro.


  • Romana regenerates into something that looks similar to a Crespallion or to Dorium Maldovar or Dahh-Ren's species.
  • When they bump into the human slaves of the Daleks, the Doctor and Romana wonder if the planet is ruled by zombies.


  • The Daleks are using high impact phason drills to dig the planet.
  • The Daleks use a lie detector during the interrogatory of Romana.
  • Davros is imprisoned in a cryogenic freezer.


Time Lords

  • According to Romana, Time Lords are trained to be able to stop their hearts at will. This allows her to feign death.
  • The Doctor mentions his cybernetics tutor at the Academy.
  • Romana tastes a mineral with her tongue to guess its composition.


  • The Movellans meant to destroy Skaro with a nova device, able to burn its atmosphere.
  • The Daleks sent to destroy the Movellan spacecraft are charged with explosives for more than half a megaton.


Story notes

  • The Skaro sound effects from TV: The Daleks are reused here (but see Myths, below).
  • In episode one where Romana changes her bodies, one of her costumes is Zilda's from TV: The Robots of Death.
  • Tim Barlow, who plays Tyssan, was partially deaf, but could lip-read and ran a school for deaf actors.
  • This is Terry Nation's final script credit on Doctor Who. However, director Ken Grieve claimed that the script was in fact "98% written by" script editor Douglas Adams. (BBC DVD: Destiny of the Daleks). These remarks seem consistent with comments by Adams quoted in Don't Panic by Neil Gaiman (published within the lives of both Adams and Nation). Adams states therein that he had discovered that other writers on Doctor Who considered it the role of the script editor to get the scripts into the correct broadcast order.
  • Romana wears a pink and white outfit stylistically similar to the Doctor's, complete with scarf.
  • The Davros mask was Michael Wisher's from TV: Genesis of the Daleks, and was only repaired to fit David Gooderson as there wasn't money in the budget to construct a new mask for Gooderson. Because the mask was too small to fit properly, Davros's mouth is noticeably stiff whenever he talks.
  • The addition of Douglas Adams is evident here with references to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Adams' own brand of humour.
  • A steadicam — a rig used to obtain smooth, stable shots from a handheld camera — is used for the first time in this story.
  • The three alternative physical forms of Romana seen in part one were played by Yvonne Gallagher, Lee Richards and Maggy Armitage respectively, who remained uncredited both on-screen and in Radio Times.
  • Although K9 has no dialogue in this story due to suffering from laryngitis, he is heard to croak at the start of episode one. The croak was provided by Roy Skelton.
  • This story has (arguably) a Dalek joke, one of the few attempts in the series to add an element of humour to the Daleks. The Doctor climbs up a shaft, and from the top, taunts a pursuing Dalek, "If you're supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don't you try climbing after us?" The Dalek fires at the Doctor in frustration. Other attempts at humour occur in TV: The Chase and TV: Doomsday. Incidentally, it is later established on screen in TV: Remembrance of the Daleks that Daleks can in fact elevate to surmount obstacles of height (a fact initially revealed in the original Daleks comic strip of the 1960s). In the Ninth Doctor episode TV: Dalek the (in)ability to navigate stairs is again made into a joke and shown to be false, they can hover up stairs.
  • The pink costume worn by Romana was worn again by Lalla Ward in the infamous "Dr. Who Meets His Match" TV commercials for Prime Computers of Australia, which ended with the Doctor proposing marriage to her.
  • This is currently the only story since 1973's The Green Death where each individual segment is labelled as an "Episode" rather than a "Part", the latter having been utilised since The Time Warrior.
  • Cassandra (Movellan Guard) is credited for episode four, but actually appears in episode three.
  • The effects of the Daleks' weapons hitting their targets are changed from previous stories: rather than the whole screen turning negative, only the basic area around the victim becomes so.
  • Parts of the Dalek slaves' costumes were recycled from previous aliens — for example, one wears the costume (but not the mask) of a Draconian, another the trousers from an SV robot, (TV: The Robots of Death) another has the head of a humanoid-form Axon, and another is wearing a blue Morestran spacesuit.
  • This is the least-scored story in all of Dudley Simpson's time as incidental music composer. No episode has more than 90 seconds of music; episode four has none at all.
  • Much of the story originally took place at night, but the budget would not permit this kind of location filming, and so it had to be rewritten for daytime.
  • In the original script, K-9 was trapped in the TARDIS due to a rockfall, while the Daleks searched for Davros because he can supply information about special circuitry which will help them break the deadlock.
  • Of the four Dalek casings used in this story, one was reused from Planet of the Daleks and the other three were left over from the 1960s.
  • Terry Nation was unhappy with Douglas Adams's rewrites, particularly the scene where the Doctor taunts the Dalek by suggesting it climb after him, as he believed that pointing out the Daleks' apparent design flaws made them less menacing, and threatened their popularity with the viewing public. This turned out to be his final contribution to the series.
  • The Daleks executing prisoners to get the Doctor to surrender is similar to a scene in the Blake's 7 episode Space Fall, which was also written by Terry Nation.
  • According to David Gooderson, Tom Baker would never allow people to think the series was a joke and would reprimand actors he felt were out of order.
  • Winspit Quarry in Dorset was used for the planet Skaro, also used were the quarry's small stone cottage and two larger brick buildings, (which all stood side by side and were just empty derelict shells, with their roofs missing). The BBC added to the flooring of the two larger buildings a large number of silver-coloured cylinders and pipes, sticking out of the rubble; the cylinders transformed these two derelict shells into the external ruins of the long abandoned Dalek city and the disused Kaled bunkers.
  • The serial was one of the first British productions to make use of a Steadicam; due to the high cost of such a set-up, nearly all the props and sets were reused, including the Davros mask.
  • It was Lalla Ward's idea for Romana to wear a costume similar to the Doctor's, because she thought that her ego was great enough for her to believe that she was on par with him.
  • Tyssan was initially named Valtan.
  • The Movellans were first called the Petrans, and were conceived as being exclusively female.
  • Romana's regeneration was written by Douglas Adams. The scene was a parody of the costume montage in Robot.
  • Ken Grieve developed a number of concerns about the production, and convinced Douglas Adams to accompany him to Paris, where Graham Williams was involved in location filming for City of Death. Despite Williams' misgivings about Adams' absence from the production office, the trip turned into a continental pubcrawl which also encompassed a stop in West Germany, before the two men returned to London the following day.
  • The Dalek casings were in poor condition as a result of spending four years in storage. The budget would permit some refurbishment, but could not extend to new construction. One Dalek was made up of elements left over from the 1960s, one was composed of “goon” components created for Planet of the Daleks, and one was a mixture of both. A fourth Dalek was assembled from the top section of a “goon” Dalek and an unusually symmetric skirt section which had been built in 1978 for display at exhibitions. These diminished ranks were bolstered by six immobile, vacuum-formed Daleks which were intended only for long shots and scenes in which a Dalek needed to be destroyed on screen.
  • The Daleks' destruction of the Doctor's barrier had to be refilmed when smoke from the explosion was sucked into the fan built into Davros' chair. A visiting fan named Kevin Davies was accused of changing the setting on the fan; years later, Davies would direct various Doctor Who projects beginning with More than Thirty Years in the TARDIS.
  • The Davros mask was in such disrepair that, after cast and crew had gone home one evening, it was discarded by a cleaner who mistook it for rubbish. Fortunately, the mask was soon recovered.
  • The short story The Lying Old Witch in the Wardrobe would later controversially posit that the Romana in this serial was the TARDIS masquerading as her and that she was actually trapped in the TARDIS wardrobe room for the duration of this serial.
  • According to Tony Osoba, because of all white costumes the actors playing the Movellans were wearing the performers were not allowed toilet breaks so that the costumes would not be soiled or damaged.
  • The look of the Movellans was modelled after ancient Egyptians.


  • Episode one - 13.0 million viewers
  • Episode two - 12.7 million viewers
  • Episode three - 13.8 million viewers
  • Episode four - 14.4 million viewers


  • K9 does not appear because a replacement for John Leeson (who voiced K9) had not yet been cast. David Brierley had already been given the role over three months before the serial was made (specifically, for The Creature from the Pit, which was the actual first story filmed for Season 17). The actual reason for K9's absence was because the prop was unsuitable for the large amount of location filming. In addition, David Bailey's "Fact of Fiction" article in Doctor Who Magazine #389 states that Terry Nation had refused to include K9 in his storyline, as he felt that for the Daleks not to be able to destroy K9 would make them seem weak.
  • Mary Tamm either refused to film the regeneration scene from Romana I to Romana II, or was unable to do so because she was pregnant. According to comments made by Tamm in the 2007 Key to Time DVD set, she was willing and available to film the scene, but was not invited.
  • Romana used up several of her allotted regenerations frivolously by trying on the different forms. This has never been supported by other stories or media. The Christmas Invasion revealed that Time Lords have the ability to regrow severed limbs within fifteen hours of regeneration, suggesting a similar ability to change form might have been possible soon after her regeneration.
  • The DVD release claims that the original Dalek city corridor sound effect (The Daleks) is reused in this story; the effect used is the atmosphere of the planet Mira (The Daleks' Master Plan), itself reused as the atmosphere of the underground base of The Sea Devils.

Filming locations

Production errors

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In the underground scenes, set lights can be seen, most notably in episodes one and two in the shaft Romana falls down.
  • Because the Dalek props had severely deteriorated in storage as the result of poor practices, they are rife with cracks, dents (particularly in their gunsticks, where the outer rails are conspicuously caving in), and misplaced sections. The clear tape used to repair some of the damage is clearly visible from the light it ends up reflecting.
  • When the Daleks burst through the wall at the end of episode one, one of the Daleks initially has a piece of debris from the wall draped over its eyestalk and suction cup. However, in the next shot of said Dalek, the debris has vanished without explanation.
  • In episode four, a Dalek moves up a small slope. When it does this, a hand can just slightly be seen at the edge of the screen pushing it up the slope.
  • When the slaves storm the Movellan ship, the one wearing a Draconian-style outfit is killed, yet he is later seen alive and well.
  • Close-up shots of the Movellan ship burying its lower section are poorly scaled, giving the impression of giant grains of sand.
  • After the Doctor escapes from Davros in episode three, in an overdubbed line of dialogue Davros orders that the slaves be exterminated, yet this never transpires. The DVD production notes acknowledge that this line of dialogue appears to serve no purpose.
  • In episode four, there is a scene where you can clearly see though a Dalek's midsection.
  • When Davros tries to escape near the end of the serial (while at the same time describing his proposed improvements to the Daleks), it is clear from David Gooderson's gyrations that the actor is simply pushing a modified swivel chair to move about.
    • In the same scene, Davros hits the side of the door on his way out, causing it to visibly shudder.
    • Still in this scene, after the camera can see Davros again, a Dalek's top section comes off its body.
  • David Gooderson's uncredited voice acting for certain additional Daleks noticeably stands out from that provided by Roy Skelton.
  • Cassandra (Movellan Guard) is credited on-screen and in Radio Times for episode four, but actually appears in episode three.
  • During the interrogation scene in episode two, it is apparent that the lower part of one of the Daleks' casings has been placed on back-to-front, as the slanted portion appears on the Daleks' rear end rather than its front.


Home video and audio releases

DVD releases

This story was first released on DVD in the UK on 26 November 2007 as a single release and as part of The Complete Davros Collection box set. The one disc set includes a restored version of the story, as well as the following special features:


Video releases

Audio releases

  • The story was released as a soundtrack CD by BBC Audio in November 2012 with linking narration by Lalla Ward.
  • The story was released again on Vinyl by Demon Records, also with the Lalla Ward narration, on 13 April 2019 to coincide with Record Store Day.

External links