Serial 5J:
Destiny Of The Daleks


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 shatter the stalemate in the Dalek-Movellan war.


When Graham Williams became Doctor Who's producer towards the end of 1976, he quickly decided not to use the Daleks right away. The popular monsters had last been featured in 1975's Genesis Of The Daleks -- their fourth appearance in four years -- and Williams felt that the Daleks were less effective when they were overexposed. It was not until late 1978, when Williams and script editor Douglas Adams were planning Doctor Who's seventeenth season, that the producer decided the Daleks had been rested long enough. He approached their creator, Terry Nation, about having the Daleks appear in the Season Seventeen premiere.

Nation had last written for Doctor Who during its thirteenth season, when he contributed the Dalek-less adventure The Android Invasion. Since then, he had been heavily involved in the BBC science-fiction drama Blake's 7 -- even suggesting at one point that he would bring the Daleks into that show. In November, Nation indicated that he was agreeable to the Daleks featuring in a new Doctor Who serial, as long as he was the writer. However, his commitments to Blake's 7 meant that he would not be able to provide Williams and Adams with scripts quickly enough for the new Dalek story to be made at the start of Doctor Who's seventeenth recording block. Not wanting to lose such a strong hook to the season, Williams elected to push the Dalek tale back to third in the production roster (making it Serial 5J), although it would remain the first adventure broadcast.

Terry Nation was adamant that K·9 play only a small role, because he did not want the robot dog to upstage the Daleks

Destiny Of The Daleks was commissioned on December 20th. Williams and Adams suggested that Nation draw upon a short story (apparently written by Isaac Asimov) about two armies, each reliant upon a battle computer which is logically unable to outwit its counterpart. Nation, for his part, wanted to bring back the character of Davros, creator of the Daleks, whom he had introduced in Genesis Of The Daleks. Nation had been careful to depict Davros as being defeated but not destroyed in that story -- correcting a mistake he had made with regards to the Daleks in their debut appearance, The Daleks. Nation was also adamant that K·9 play only a small role in his scripts, because he did not want the robot dog to upstage his own inventions.

Destiny Of The Daleks underwent only minor changes during its development. K·9 was originally 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. The Movellans were called Petrans, while Tyssan's name was initially Valtan. Nation had also set much of the action at night, but the Doctor Who budget would not permit this kind of location filming, and so it had to be rewritten for the day.

Adams also made several contributions to the script. In particular, it fell to him to write the opening sequence involving Romana's regeneration. The original Romana, Mary Tamm, was now several months pregnant and so could not be asked back to appear in the scene. Adams decided that he would instead write the regeneration as a parody of the Doctor's costume changes in Tom Baker's debut serial, Robot, with Romana “trying on” different bodies instead of different outfits. Adams also added the scene in which the Doctor humorously taunts the Daleks about their inability to follow him up a vertical shaft. Nation disliked this, as he believed that pointing out the Daleks' apparent design flaws made them less menacing, and threatened their popularity with the viewing public.

Serial 5J was assigned to Ken Grieve, directing his only Doctor Who story. Grieve's prior credits included Coronation Street; he went on to helm episodes of programmes such as Poirot, Bugs and The Bill, and passed away on November 15th, 2016. Unfortunately, Grieve discovered that he was sorely limited in terms of the Dalek casings available to him. Although seven were retained by the BBC, four of these were inferior versions made for 1973's Planet Of The Daleks, of which two were deemed completely unusable and a third required a new skirt section. The other three props were holdovers from the Sixties. One of these was cannibalised to serve as a mould for several cheap, immobile versions which could be used for long shots and scenes in which a Dalek needed to be destroyed on-screen. This left just four working casings, and the budget did not permit the construction of any more.

Michael Wisher, who had originally played Davros, was performing in Australia and was therefore unavailable

Grieve also had to deal with the fact that Michael Wisher, who had played Davros in Genesis Of The Daleks, was performing in Australia and was therefore unavailable for Serial 5J. In Wisher's place he cast David Gooderson, but because the Davros mask had been designed specifically for Wisher, it did not fit Gooderson particularly well. The mask, costume and skirt section were also in a dilapidated state, having been on display at various Doctor Who exhibitions since 1975, but again the budget allowed for only minimal repairs.

Two quarries were utilised to represent the surface of Skaro. The first of these was Winspit Quarry in Worth Matravers, Dorset, where work began on June 11th, 1979. The next two days were spent at Binnegar Heath Sand Pit at Wareham, Dorset, before cast and crew returned to Winspit Quarry on the 14th and 15th. For the first time, a Steadycam (or Steadicam) was used during the location shoot. This was still a relatively new invention, having been introduced to the film industry in 1976, and only a handful were yet available in Britain; its use in a television production was virtually unheard of.

On June 20th, various effects inserts were filmed at the BBC Visual Effects Department. Studio recording then began with a two-day block on July 2nd and 3rd, at BBC Television Centre Studio 3. July 2nd dealt with scenes in the ruined building where the Doctor is trapped beneath a pillar, the underground chamber and various corridors. The next day centred on the small room where the Doctor holds Davros captive and the adjacent underground space.

The second studio session lasted three days, from July 15th to 17th, with recording taking place in TC1. The first day dealt with scenes in the TARDIS -- with Roy Skelton, who was voicing the Daleks, providing K·9's laryngitis-induced coughing -- as well as those in the underground area where the dormant Davros was found. The next two days were each dedicated to a single set: the Dalek control centre on the 16th and the Movellan spacecraft on the 17th.

Production was not without incident. On July 3rd, the Daleks' destruction of the Doctor's barrier had to be refilmed when the smoke from the explosion was sucked into the fan built into Davros' chair. A visiting Doctor Who aficionado named Kevin Davies was accused of changing the setting on the fan; many years later, Davies would direct various Doctor Who documentaries beginning with 1993's Doctor Who: Thirty Years In The TARDIS as well as the spin-off video Shakedown: Return Of The Sontarans. The Davros mask was in such disrepair that after one of the studio days, it was discarded by a cleaner who mistook it for garbage. Fortunately, it was recovered in time to be used again.

The Davros mask was in such disrepair that it was discarded by a cleaner who mistook it for garbage

On September 1st, Destiny Of The Daleks part one inaugurated Doctor Who's seventeenth season. At the time, ITV -- BBC1's primary competitor -- was embroiled in a labour strike and had gone off the air. As a result, Destiny Of The Daleks enjoyed some of Doctor Who's largest ratings ever, averaging 13.5 million viewers and reaching an all-time high of 14.4 million for the final installment. This record would quickly be quashed with the very next serial, City Of Death.

Destiny Of The Daleks turned out to be Terry Nation's final Doctor Who serial. Nation moved to California in 1980 and chiefly worked on projects for American television thereafter, most notably the long-running adventure series MacGyver. In the early Nineties, Nation and former Doctor Who story editor Gerry Davis put together an unsuccessful proposal to resurrect Doctor Who following its cancellation in 1989. Nation also mooted the possibility of relaunching Blake's 7. However, Nation's health waned throughout the Nineties, and the man who created the Daleks died of emphysema on March 9th, 1997.

  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Fourth Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20369 8.
  • Doctor Who: The Seventies by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1994), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 444 1.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #283, 20th October 1999, “Archive: Destiny Of The Daleks” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #9, 22nd December 2004, “One Step Beyond” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In·Vision #39, October 1992, “Production” edited by Justin Richards and Peter Anghelides, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 1st Sep 1979
Time 6.14pm
Duration 24'03"
Viewers (more) 13.0m (28th)
· BBC1 13.0m
Appreciation 67%
Episode 2
Date 8th Sep 1979
Time 6.10pm
Duration 25'14"
Viewers (more) 12.7m (39th)
· BBC1 12.7m
Episode 3
Date 15th Sep 1979
Time 6.08pm
Duration 24'32"
Viewers (more) 13.8m (28th)
· BBC1 13.8m
Appreciation 63%
Episode 4
Date 22nd Sep 1979
Time 6.17pm
Duration 26'05"
Viewers (more) 14.4m (27th)
· BBC1 14.4m
Appreciation 64%

Doctor Who
Tom Baker
Lalla Ward
Tim Barlow
Commander Sharrel
Peter Straker
Suzanne Danielle
Tony Osoba
Dalek Operators
Cy Town
Mike Mungarvan
Dalek Voice
Roy Skelton
David Gooderson
Penny Casdagli
David Yip
Movellan Guard

Written by
Terry Nation
Directed by
Ken Grieve
Produced by
Graham Williams

Incidental Music by
Dudley Simpson
Special Sound
Dick Mills
Production Assistant
Henry Foster
Production Unit Manager
John Nathan-Turner
Director's Assistant
Roz Berrystone
Assistant Floor Manager
David Tilley
Film Cameramen
Phil Law
Kevin Rowley
Fred Hamilton
Film Recordist
Graham Bedwell
Film Editor
Dick Allen
Studio Lighting
John Dixon
Studio Sound
Clive Gifford
Technical Manager
John Dean
Senior Cameraman
Alec Wheal
Visual Effects Designer
Peter Logan
Electronic Effects
Dave Jervis
Vision Mixer
Nigel Finnis
Video-tape Editor
Alan Goddard
Costume Designer
June Hudson
Make-up Artist
Cecile Hay-Arthur
Script Editor
Douglas Adams
Ken Ledsham

Updated 27th November 2016