The Dellon Godhead (1978)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Star Godzilla

Director's Cut

Nature Trail to Hell

Goliath and the Cheerleaders

A Very Star Wars Christmas

The Dellon Godhead

(The Doctor Who/New Avengers crossover)

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Our rating: two LAVA® motion lamps.

The Dellon Godhead is a bit of an enigma. We ran across it in the dealers' room of a local science-fiction convention, where we were effectively emptying our wallets. It appears to be the BBC's first attempt to cross over two of its popular television series -- and by the way it turned out, it could have been the Beeb's last attempt. (They did, however, cross over Doctor Who and EastEnders in 1993.)

Purdey (Lumley) is captured by Dellon's guards.
Apparently made in 1978 and never aired on the BBC affiliates (according to the vendor who sold us the tape), The Dellon Godhead is a very odd duck. The only character from the New Avengers that actually makes an appearance is Purdey, played by Joanna Lumley (better known to Absolutely Fabulous fans as Patsy). The Doctor, of course, is played by Tom Baker. Baker is the favorite Doctor among most American fans, and probably fans all over the world. For those not familiar with the Doctor Who series, the Doctor is a time-traveling alien who occasionally generates new bodies and personalities, thus allowing different actors to play the role. Baker played the Doctor for nearly 7 years, the longest of the ten actors to assume the mantle.

It's not hard to see why The Dellon Godhead never aired. Even by Doctor Who standards, it's poorly written, severely under-budgeted, and just plain silly. Although we love Doctor Who, and we like Lumley, it was almost more than we could bear.

The plot is as follows: Purdey is an Avenger, a member of an un-named British Intelligence task force. The Avengers tend to deal with the most bizarre and inexplicable threats to British national security that the BBC's meager budget can show on the small screen.

While investigating the disappearance of several scientists from an international conference being held in London, Purdey stumbles upon the evil genius, Eric Dellon (played by Geoffrey Palmer). Dellon has ensconced himself in his country mansion, and is holding the scientists there to help him perfect his ultimate weapon: the Time-Shot. The Time-Shot is essentially a ray gun which can send people and things backwards or forwards in time. However, Dellon has very little control over how far in time the subject travels. Thus he has kidnapped these physicists to help him complete the device.

Purdey infiltrates the mansion, and is captured almost immediately. Dellon, recognizing a good thing when he sees it, decides to use Purdey as a guinea pig for the recently completed Time-Shot.

Purdey is catapulted into the time stream (and a cheesy BBC video effect) with no direction. Luckily, she is rescued by the Doctor, who somehow pulls her into the TARDIS (the Doctor's time machine). The Doctor has been attracted by "anomalies in the time-stream" and is concerned that Dellon's mucking about with the course of history will have grave consequences for Earth and time in general. He seems to be proven right when the TARDIS lands in the near future of 1992. After they depart the TARDIS and do the usual "It's bigger on the inside than the outside" business, our two stalwart heroes discover that Dellon has used his primitive time machine to conquer the world, and he now lords over London like a king.

The Doctor surveys Dellon's London in 1992.
Dellon's method of conquering the world has been to develop the Time-Shot so that it works two ways: It can send things and people from his present to the future and the past, and it can grab things and people from the past and future and bring them to the present. Dellon, for reasons unexplained, never travels in time himself. In 1979, Dellon used the Time-Shot to grab some of the most infamous personalities from history to act as his generals. They include Ghengis Khan, Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard the Pirate), Napoleon, and King Charles the first, before he lost his head.

The Doctor and Purdey realize that the only way to avert Dellon's sudden rise to power is to go back to 1978 and keep him from perfecting the Time-Shot in the first place. After a run in with Dellon's troops, the pair escape back to the past, though Dellon, anticipating their plan, sends his villains back in time to stop them.

There are several reasons why the BBC did not attempt another crossover between Doctor Who and another series for 15 years. This special doesn't know whether to be a Doctor Who episode or a New Avengers episode. The Doctor's approach is largely non-violent, while Purdey tries to slug her way through this adventure. She also talks about football (soccer for us yanks) a lot, which we didn't really understand. The Doctor seems largely uninterested in Purdey herself, just sort of blazing his own trail while Purdey is on hand to knock out the occasional bad guy -- although she does take some lumps herself, spending a good ten minutes of the show unconscious.

Also, there doesn't seem to be any indication of where in the Doctor Who or New Avengers' continuity this adventure takes place. While we're not big fans of the New Avengers, we do know our Doctor Who. And there's no evidence in sight of when in the Doctor's life this is all happening, though if we had to guess, it would be during the hiatus between seasons 15 and 16. He has no companions (explainable by taking place after Invasion of Time and before The Ribos Operation) and makes no mention of any, nor does he refer to past adventures -- other than the fact that he recognizes Genghis Khan, even dressed in modern clothing in a newspaper photo.

One would think that a special like this would get a decent budget, but either that wasn't the case or the director of this episode wasn't smart enough to fill out the requisition forms. In the "future" 1992, London streets look about the same as they do in 1978, even down to the cars people drive and the clothes they wear -- not that they bothered to include very many extras for what was supposedly downtown London. The TARDIS effects are the same fade-in/fade-out as always, and Purdey's ride through the time stream wasn't anything you couldn't reproduce in your back yard with some crayons, paper, and an aquarium full of water.

Lumley and Baker seem to be having a good time. We suspect that they ad-libbed at least half of their lines. Geoffrey Palmer is his usual dour self, with a touch of menace added. For most actors, playing an older version of themselves would be daunting, but it's not much of a problem for Palmer. He always looks old. He was probably born looking about 35. Of special note among the rogues' gallery is Brian Blessed, who plays the blustery Blackbeard. We really love this guy, especially in the scene where he and Purdey argue over which football team won the All-Britain Cup in 1974. Apparently we are to believe that Blackbeard spent the majority of his time in the 20th century becoming a sports fan.

What this movie really suffers from is a lack of a good monster. The best Doctor Who episodes have great monsters and aliens, and here all we have is an evil scientist and a cast of British character actors impersonating people long dead. It all seems hardly worth the attention of the New Avengers, let alone the Doctor. It also suffers from the fact that the other New Avenger, Gambit, makes no appearance here. Why that is we can only speculate. Perhaps Gareth Hunt was on vacation (and a lucky thing for him, too).

The Dellon Godhead was written by Brian Clemens, who was the most common writer on the Avengers and The New Avengers. Perhaps The Dellon Godhead can be seen as a warm-up for Time Stalkers, a TV movie that Clemens wrote that has a similar theme. But here, Clemens' writing is just silly, and really kind of lazy. Perhaps this project foresees Clemens' later involvement with Highlander II: The Quickening.

The Dellon Godhead is a good example of why crossovers so often go wrong: there's not enough of one thing or the other to keep fans on both sides happy. At least they didn't attempt a crossover of Doctor Who and All Creatures Great and Small, although wouldn't it have been fun to see Peter Davison try to play both roles? In the end though, this is probably something the Beeb is sorry they ever cooked up, and those in charge will probably deny that they did.

Review date: 04/01/1997

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