Well Davros, I see the long dark has done nothing to cure your megalomania. Have a jelly baby!
Is there a stowaway aboard the TARDIS? No, it's just Romana, who has regenerated off-screen, for no apparent reason, and has chosen to do so into an identical double of Princess Astra
. The Doctor tells her to pick something better, and she shows off several more bodies (none of which meet the Doctor's approval either) before returning to the one she started with. (The Doctor Who Expanded Universe
has made several attempts to explain why
Romana regenerated, as well as why
she was able to change her form several times without wasting regenerations. Few make real sense.)
Meanwhile, the TARDIS has arrived on a seemingly deserted planet that the Doctor finds naggingly familiar. It's Skaro, home planet of the Daleks. The Doctor last visited it five seasons ago, when he crossed metaphorical swords with the Daleks' creator, Davros
. The Daleks have also returned, looking for their creator; they'd left him for dead when they decided he had outlived his usefulness
, but now they've found a new use for him.
The Daleks' problem is that they've reached a stalemate in a war with the human-looking Movellans, and need Davros to cast a fresh eye on the problem. Speaking of Movellans, there's a group of them come to find out what the Daleks are up to, and when they find out they decide that if the Daleks are taking advice from Davros, they'll take advice from the Doctor — whether he wants to give it to them or not.
The Doctor teams up with La Résistance
and very gleefully plays cat and mouse with Davros for a while. Romana gets herself kidnapped by the Movellans, who turn out to be not human at all, but a race of robots led by a central computer. They're locked in a war with the Daleks, and — as the Doctor points out — the two sides are so logical that they can always perfectly anticipate each other. They need a random element, which the Doctor happily provides by annoying Davros some more. He defeats a Dalek with his hat
, and pushes Davros' only remaining hand down on the big red "blow up the entire Dalek suicide squad" button. He and Romana high-tail it off the planet very quickly.
This story was a turning point for the Daleks — every Dalek story for the next decade was more of a Davros story with some Daleks in it than an actual Dalek story.
It's worth noting that, though this story was credited to Terry Nation, the director
claimed on the DVD release that it was "98% written" by then-Script Editor Douglas Adams
The Daleks in this story are also a bit more on the Straw Vulcan
side than usual, and Adams insisted on calling them "robots" and "computers" a lot. A Dalek without its casing is encountered by the Doctor, though, and the episode does emphasize that they're a living race, so it can be assumed that Adams just really liked the word "robot".
Watch it here
- Air-Vent Passageway
- BBC Quarry: Mocked by the Doctor.
- Big Little Man: Romana is trying out different bodies into which to regenerate, while the Doctor is crouched on the floor fixing K9. Romana reappears as a silver-skinned alien babe, towering over him.
Romana: "I thought I'd try this one, but it's a bit short."
(The Doctor stands up, revealing Romana is the size of a child)
Doctor: "Well lengthen it then, go on."
(Exit Romana. The Doctor crawls along the floor for a while and then bumps into a toga-wearing beauty. He stands up...only to find he only goes up to Romana's shoulders)
Doctor: "Too tall, take it away!"
- Black and Grey Morality: The Daleks are fighting the Movellans, who don't really appear to be all that much better than the Daleks because they were prepared to cause Skaro's atmosphere to spontaneously combust without any apparent concern for the fact that there were plenty of innocent people still on the planet who would have been incinerated by the resulting firestorm. The Movellans are only better by virtue of not being Absolute Xenophobes - they come across as indifferent to other species (albeit perfectly willing to use them to their own advantage), rather than trying to wipe them all out.
- Costume Test Montage: Romana gets one.
- Deadpan Snarker: Romana and the Doctor keep it up even when the Doctor is pinned under a large rock:
Romana: Don't go away, will you?
Doctor: I'd rather hoped you'd resist the temptation to say that.
- Dropped A Bridge On Her: Romana regenerates undramatically, and for no apparent reason, in the first scene.
- Faking the Dead: Romana.
- Finger Twitching Revival: Twice!
- Hand Wave: K-9 sits out the adventure in the TARDIS with robot laryngitis.
- Human Popsicle: Davros becomes one.
- Lampshade Hanging: "Oh look, rocks!"
- "How can a robot catch laryngitis? I mean, what do you need it for?"
- Lie Detector: The Daleks use one while questioning Romana.
- Magic Countdown
- The Nth Doctor: Romana mk. II
- Not Quite Dead: Davros.
- The Other Darrin: David Gooderson as Davros. Also a general Man in a Kilt, as Davros has magically become Scottish.
- Plot Hole: Romana's regeneration comes absolutely out of nowhere, is (as far as anyone can tell) not even remotely linked to anything we know about regeneration, and was subsequently never mentioned again. In fact, later writers went out of their way to establish that regeneration does not work that way.
- The Tenth Doctor's later explanation about a Time Lord's physical form being slightly malleable post-regeneration is generally accepted by the fans as a halfway decent Hand Wave as to why this could happen.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: K-9's sidelining due to robo-laryngitis. Sources differ on to why exactly this happened — some say it was because Terry Nation hated K-9 and didn't want to "degrade" his Daleks by making them appear with K-9 on-screen, while others have said that because of the amount of quarry filming in this episode, there was no way that K-9 would ever have been able to play a major part in the episode.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: The Movellans.
- Rock-Paper-Scissors: Used by the Doctor and Romana to show the Movellans the fallibility of fighting only with logic.
- Shout-Out: The Doctor reads a book by Oolon Colluphid. (Douglas Adams was the script editor for this season, and probably added that bit himself.)
- Straw Vulcan: Both the Daleks and the Movellans.
- Suicide Attack: The Daleks attempt one.
- Weaksauce Weakness: The Movellans can be killed by removing the unprotected power pack on their waist.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: "Humanoids are effective work machines!"
- The X of Y
- You Look Familiar: Lalla Ward, after guest-starring as Princess Astra in the previous episode, takes on the role of Romana; the episode spends several minutes climbing out from under the weight of the lampshade. (It doesn't help that Terry Nation turned in his scripts before Romana's re-casting was confirmed; Douglas Adams had to write the new opening scene himself, and the resultant change in tone is jarring.)