Doctor Who #622: Resurrection of the Daleks Part 1

"Dark, isn't it."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD, and now on a Special Edition DVD. First aired Feb.8 1984 in a double-length omnibus containing both Parts 1 and 2 (to make room for Olympic coverage), though it was originally made as a 4-parter. Both versions are featured on the DVDs (in 4 parts on the original release, in both 4 and 2 in the Special Edition). These reviews have kept the original intent and will look at Resurrection of the Daleks in four parts/reviews, not two.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS gets snagged on a time corridor used by Daleks attempting to free Davros from prison.

REVIEW: As not for whom the cloister bell tolls, Tegan, it tolls for thee. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The emergency is caused by the TARDIS getting caught in a time corridor linking the two worlds of this story. Present-day London and a future obsessed with hats, where Davros is being held prisoner aboard a space station/prison devoted to guarding his cryogenically frozen form. Oddly, the creator of the Daleks doesn't get a proper introduction. His name isn't mentioned and the first time we see him, it's between two members of personnel, as a prop in the background. The Daleks likewise just "show up" after the program's introduced their human troops. Nothing is played as a surprise, it's all very matter of fact. Who in the 80s progresses towards a product aimed principally at fans, not the entire family, and fans know all the relevant history, even if Davros hasn't appeared for some 6 years.

Looking at the story's DNA, it's probably no surprise that it's so violent. Eric Saward wrote it, and he at least oversaw, if not rewrote, all of the 5th and 6th Doctor adventures, adventures that grew more needlessly violent over time. And it's directed by Matthew Robinson, whose only other Doctor Who credit is Attack of the Cybermen, generally held to be the most excessive of this era's violent stories. So we're introduced to a large guest cast, but many of them have been massacred by the end of Part 1, several of them through the use of some Dalek nerve agent that satiates the program's current hunger for body horror. I was surprised the Dalek mutants didn't wriggle in their death throes when their casings exploded, as they did in The Five Doctors. Those that survived the gas were shot with conventional weapons, exterminator beams or SF guns that go AWAAAAA.

As if to presage the massacre's continuation, there are still LOADS of guest characters to go. In fact, looking at my notes, so many are introduced, I've written hardly anything about the Doctor and his companions. They do some shaky TARDIS acting, Turlough wanders into the time corridor, and the others run afoul of the army who seem to be investigating the end of the corridor that's in 1984. I don't know why these guys are UNIT. They really should be UNIT. UNIT know how to act as cannon fodder. Also present are Stien and Galloway (oops, just Stien), runaway Dalek slaves. The stammering Stien basically becomes Turlough while Turlough is in the future, i.e. a cowardly traitor. The future introduces two factions. The Dalek troopers led by Lytton, a hard-nosed mercenary who doesn't care if the Supreme Dalek doesn't like him. And the prison personnel, a rag-tag bunch with low morale and dodgy morals. They might have had potential - Osborn is a bit of pretty - but most die in the Dalek attack, including the never-seen captain (another strange non-introduction). Left alive are Mercer the security chief, a more righteous character than anyone else on the space station, and Styles, the rather bloodthirsty physician who apparently takes beauty tips from Princess Leia (matching, in her way, Lytton's troopers and their obvious steals from Darth Vader). It's not all Star Wars, of course, I was also reminded of Star Trek (red alerts and deflector beams) and Battlestar Galactica (send the fighter pilots, how desperately rickety the base is). Let's just say Resurrection borrows heavily on the best-known space operas in terms of aesthetics.

VERSIONS: Scenes cut from this chapter and available on the DVD add a reference to the prison losing several security chiefs over the past couple of years, but without explanation.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It's not unexciting, and Who usually does well when the mundane and the strange clash, but the main characters are in danger of getting lost in the violent shuffle of the guest cast's storylines.


CiB said...

This story has a higher body count than Terminator 2.

snell said...

Something to watch for: The BBC was so thrilled with the ratings of the "two-parter" that they decided to make the episodes in season 22.

But what they forgot was that while Resurrection was broadcast as a "two-parter," it was still written and filmed as a "4-parter." Hence, it still had the momentum and plot beats and cliffhangers of a regular episode--they had to make the story progress because they only had 25ish minutes.

But for S22, they knew they were writing with no break/cliffhanger until 45 minutes, and the pacing of the stories suffered tremendously, especially in the first chapters. Without the 25-minute cliffhanger looming over them, Saward and the writers allowed languid stories where it took forever for the Doctor and Peri to get involved in the action. (I'm looking at you. Revelation...)

So the BBC and Saward and JNT learned the wrong lesson from Resurrection: it's not the size of the episode, but how you use it...

Siskoid said...

JNT and Saward were past masters at learning the wrong lessons.


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