It's too easy to criticize Destiny of the Daleks for losing scope and focus in the face of other, better Dalek stories, but it's not without merit. The episode begins with a highly controversial scene showing Time Lady Romana regenerating by choice into multiple forms until she settles on one she likes. Not only does this throw all Time Lord science out the window, but it simply detracts from the narrative as a whole. Thankfully, Lalla Ward is an absolutely stunning choice for the role. What a pity that her introduction arrives deflated and failed.
The Doctor and Romana find themselves on Skaro once more, hundreds of years after the events of 'Genesis of the Daleks.' They soon encounter captured humans serving as slave labor for the Daleks, who are mining into the ancient Kaled city in an attempt to locate their creator, Davros. It seems the Daleks are locked in a logical stalemate against their equally robotic-thinking enemies, the Movellans, with neither side able to calculate an appropriate course of action. It is their hope that Davros may hold the key to breaking the stalemate by introducing the human element into the equation.
'Destiny' missteps quite a lot, unfortunately. The Movellans appear more at home in a Saturday night disco club than the Dalek's sworn enemies. Call it a byproduct of 70s mentality, but there's nothing frightening, or even intimidating about these would-be aggressors. There are times when the story blatantly walks nose-first into walls, and it isn't shot nearly as well as it should be, even for such an admittedly low-budget production. Davros' return is hampered by Michael Wisher's absence from the role, which is glaringly apparent both physically and in terms of acting skill. No true explanation is made as to how Davros managed to survive the scathing death of a Dalek gun at point blank range, instead relying on all too convenient half-hints and speculation. Thankfully, the Daleks themselves seem to be in rather top form. The Daleks do look the most menacing in grey, and they're in abundance here, but some bad writing and redundant filming can make them appear like lumbering tin pots in many scenes.
The highlight of the story is definitely Tom Baker's performance. Without it, I doubt 'Destiny' would have been half as entertaining. Baker's bug-eyed, toothy insanity plays out well for the story, but for every moment of powerful urgency, there's equal parts over the top silliness. Baker can't be blamed, really. The script can't quite decide whether to be dark and tense, or humorous and campy, instead settling into an uneasy middle ground between the two. In reality, none of the problems with 'Destiny' were anything that a few simple re-shoots couldn't have solved. Honestly. I'm also a bit surprised by the general lack of music in this story, which was either done on purpose to create a sense of dread, or perhaps the budget ran out. Indeed, the special effects are stock 70s Who, and won't be blowing a new generation away anytime soon, but the DVD does allow you to watch the story with new CGI effects which, while not perfect, certainly make the story a lot more enjoyable to watch.
'Destiny' is a crossroads episode in Doctor Who history. It sets the stage for Davros' future appearances in the series, and silently establishes that the Time War (a focal point of the 2005 Doctor Who series) is in full swing.