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4.0 out of 5 stars Day Trip to Exxilon, 18 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Doctor Who - Death to the Daleks [DVD] [1974] (DVD)
Does this have 'too much plot'? Not for me at the age of ten it hadn't. I liked it; I still do.

Admittedly, much of the plot was used a year previously in Planet of the Daleks (and in The Daleks in 1963, come to that) but I find one needs to focus on the variations rather than the theme.

Again there's a mission to save the world, and again it's in trouble; there's a dead commander again, and a surly lieutenant, a divided local population, and a city with a secret - I don't know how Terry Nation got away with it, especially since he stole the original idea from HG Wells!

But the Exxilons are very well realised, and I suspect there's a nod to Flash Gordon's Claymen, that used to morph out of the walls of their caves; in the very spooky first episode it isn't at all easy to distinguish Exxilon from rock - until it moves and comes after you.

The location filming looks very good and, in the new remastered version, jars much less with the studio stuff than it did on VHS. It does look like there's lots of aliens, rather than the usual six (I think there's ten, but in the ambush it looks like 40 odd) the costumes aren't expensive after all, but they are terribly effective at disguising the human shape, and the over the head poncho look implies that tailoring on Exxilon is pretty basic, and the masks have just the right wall-eyed stupidity which, coupled with the mooing dialogue tells us pretty much all we need to know about them. They're nasty and thick.

Except, of course, for Bellal and his people; Arnold Yarrow does a lovely job, even if he could hardly see, being covered head to foot in rubber. There's a certain Galen from Planet of the Apes crossed with Dobby the House Elf quality to him.

The production is not without its foibles; if the city drains power from everything, how come the Daleks can keep going? The Dr says something about 'psychokinetic power' which really means 'whacking great hole in the story - keep going and thank goodness they'll only ever see this once'. If the soil of Exxilon is so barren, what do the locals eat? Where do they get the feathers to fletch their arrows, and the tallow for their candles? And why can't Daleks count prisoners?

The Daleks are looking well, very nicely liveried in black and silver, and the new guns are good (even if the one talking to Galloway in Ep 3 has still got the non-working standard job), and they do glide along their Elamec Track nicely (even if Pertwee did inadvertently cause a pile up) but - and I'm sure that this isn't intentional - Nation keeps sending them off to do stuff in pairs. and (I suppose it could be the way Michael Wisher is doing the voices) they do come across a bit like Mutt and Jeff. In the right light, possibly with a glass or two of wine, they are really quite funny.

Then there's the city; it does boil down, fairly quickly, to Mr Pertwee solving series of decreasingly interesting puzzles; 'Is this really necessary Doctor?' 'This is a test of patience, Bellal; we have to endure this blatant padding with our sanity intact'. Long dead Exxilons are clearly human skeletons wrapped in sacking, and I'm sure the first room contains a chess set.

The ultimate brain room is anything but a climax, but the Dead Exxilon held together by surface tension looks good, and the antibodies look good, and the model of the outside is really rather lovely, and it melts very well.

It may not be deep - even if there may be a ref to the power cuts of 1973 - but it's a good tale well told, particularly by Miss Sladen and little Mr Yarrow. The feature 'Dalek Men' is worth watching.

Again, the Doctor leaves unfinished business; the high priest on one side, General Bellal on the other - there's going to be trouble.
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