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Doctor Who XI.11-14: Death to the Daleks

February 13th, 2013 (01:32 am)

Today's Doctor Who DVD catch-up exercise was Death to the Daleks. I realise that I had never recognised John Abineri as Railton until now, perhaps because of his wig and also that he is unceremoniously dispatched by an Exxilon arrow early in part two. The casting of Duncan Lamont, the original Victor Caroon in The Quatermass Experiment, is appropriate as well as occasioning some frisson from the juxtaposition of a symbol of early British television science fiction with the Daleks. (ETA: my own historical perspective is of someone who has always viewed Quatermass as 'past' and the Daleks as 'current', but this was not the case for those who were making Death to the Daleks just a little over twenty years after The Quatermass Experiment.)

The production subtitles benefit from our knowing more about the development of Sarah Jane Smith and the subsitution of the (excellent and deservedly legendary) Elisabeth Sladen for the (taller, more 'womanly') April Walker. For all he says in interviews nowadays about the place of women in adventure stories, ropes and railway tracks, the Terrance Dicks of 1973 emerges as someone keen to enhance the role of women in Doctor Who, unsuccessfully urging Terry Nation to make Jill Tarrant second-in-command of the expedition, and emphasising Sarah's resourcefulness.

Lesser-known personalities are given coverage too - Arnold Yarrow, one of the acting profession's sprightly nonagenarians, is a cogent presence on the DVD's making-of documentary and the subtitles emphasise the breadth of his career. While Yarrow was glued into grey latex as the subterranean Exxilon Bellal, another studio in Television Centre was recording an episode of Softly Softly: Task Force quite possibly commissioned by Yarrow in his just-former capacity as that programme's script editor.

I'd come across a newspaper cutting from 1974 publicizing the London Saxophone Quartet's involvement with Death to the Daleks, and here they are on the soundtrack, performing the music of Carey Blyton. Blyton was in the process of leaving his long tenure as music editor at Faber, where he had been Benjamin Britten's editor, seeing his compositions through the press. Production subtitler Martin Wiggins draws attention to the quotations from music hall and nursery rhyme which pepper this score. His contributions to this period are understandably overshadowed by those of Dudley Simpson, but his determination to avoid electronic music (on the grounds that synthesizers were depriving musicians of income) was rewarded in a memorable score which arguably set a precedent for the rest of the 1970s as Dudley Simpson was steered away from close collaboration with the Radiophonic Workshop and back towards conventional music.

Visually Death to the Daleks supports my argument that it is in this, the last Pertwee/Letts/Dicks season, that the programme begins its Gothic phase, with Sarah finding her way through a temple set lit with flickering candles before being trussed up by priests ready to sacrifice her for bringing the latent past of the intelligent living city into the present of fear and ignorance. The execution of the scene is far more steeped in threat than the near-sacrifice of Jo at the end of The Daemons.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/579917.html.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: February 13th, 2013 04:44 pm (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

I also noted the Gothic here.

Re: Terrance Dicks' supposed sexism, I think some fans have a tendency to take everything Doctor Who's Founding Fathers say in interviews very literally and forget that they also have a sense of humour...

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: February 13th, 2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

Forgot to say: I also think Blyton's music for the programme is good, particularly ...and the Silurians. And I don't care what everyone else thinks!

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: February 13th, 2013 05:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Also...

Oh look, a Scotsman called Galloway defending his alliance with a bunch of violent tinpot dictators... (He also seems to be taking sartorial tips from the Master).

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: February 13th, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Also...

Of the two Galloways, I know which one I prefer. I can't see this one sacrificing himself voluntarily any time soon.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: February 13th, 2013 11:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Also...

All three (am I forgetting one?) of his scores I good. I'm not surprised that he founded the first course in composition for film and television.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: February 13th, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Also...
Eleventh Doctor

(am I forgetting one?)

Not unless I am too!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: February 13th, 2013 10:54 pm (UTC)

Most certainly. Terrance enjoys depicting himself as a force of reaction in a liberal age, but it's not the whole truth.