Recap / Doctor Who S17 E1 "Destiny of the Daleks"
Well, best to get the new Romana in tip-top shape, I guess...
"Well Davros, I see the long dark has done nothing to cure your megalomania. Have a jelly baby!"
The Doctor

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 very alien 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.) Also, K-9 comes down with a case of robot laryngitis and stays in the TARDIS for the rest of the adventure.

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


  • Adaptation Expansion: The novelisation adds a few things:
    • During the Doctor's escape from the Dalek command centre, the Daleks use hoverbouts to chase him.
    • Tyssan tries to bully the Doctor and Romana into going with the prisoners to put Davros on trial.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The Doctor and Romana use one of these to escape the Daleks, which gets not-so-subtly lampshaded.
  • 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.
  • Can't Use Stairs: This trope is referenced directly as the Doctor taunts a Dalek:
    Doctor: "If you're supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don't you try climbing after us?"
  • 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.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Post-regeneration Romana not only acts more like the Fourth Doctor than her predecessor, she even dresses in a feminine version of his costume.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Her: Romana regenerates undramatically, and for no apparent reason, in the first scene.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Doctor ends up in a Mexican Standoff with the Daleks. He is threatening to destroy Davros with a bomb unless they let him leave with his captive, but the Daleks respond by bringing in several human captives and exterminating them one by one until the Doctor surrenders. He threatens to set off the bomb right on the spot, but the Daleks argue that such an action would be irrational and impossible because it would kill the Doctor as well. Davros tells them that the Doctor is actually willing to do just that since "his logic is impaired by irrational sentiment".
  • Faking the Dead: Romana.
  • Finger Twitching Revival: Twice!
  • Hand Wave: K-9 sits out the adventure in the TARDIS with robot laryngitis.
  • Hypocritical Humor: During Romana's regeneration scene, the Doctor talks about how it's "what's inside that matters," yet he rejects each of Romana's prospective bodies purely due to their appearance. When Romana comes out dressed exactly like him, he applauds her newfound sense of style. Romana, of course, calls him out on this.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the last Dalek story, this one is much more comedic.
  • Magic Countdown: The countdown for the Nova Device tends to jump around quite a bit during the third episode cliffhanger.
  • Mexican Standoff: A squad of Daleks corner the Doctor, but he threatens to blow up Davros if they don't "spack off!" When they do stand down momentarily, the Doctor says "I believe this is what's called a Mexican Standoff".
  • Mood Whiplash: It's pretty obvious where Terry Nation ends and Douglas Adams begins. Dark scenes (the Daleks executing prisoners) are followed with comedic scenes (the Doctor making fun of Davros).
  • The Nth Doctor: Romana becomes only the third Time Lord in the show's run — the first obviously being the Doctor, and the second K'Anpo/Cho-je — whose regeneration we actually get to see, albeit without the Mary Tamm version being seen.
  • Not Quite Dead: Davros, who was saved by the backup functions of his life-support system.
  • 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
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Skaro sounds from "The Daleks" can be heard.
  • 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.
  • Unexpected Character: Davros returns, despite being killed in his first appearance.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The Doctor tells the Daleks to "Spack off!" when he's threatening to blow up Davros. (This was Tom Baker messing up a line, but it's entered into Doctor Who history as a particularly vicious Gallifreyan insult.)
  • 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!"
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Davros apparently still thinks it's the Hinchcliffe era, and that the story is another grim Nazi allegory. In the far Lighter and Softer Williams/Adams era, he ends up coming across as an overblown idiot rather than a dangerous villain.
  • The X of Y: The title, which the story at least tries to make relevant by having Davros rant about destiny several times.