Doctor Who #649: Revelation of the Daleks Part 1

"Assassins, like debt collectors, are rarely welcome. When we are allowed on the premises, it's usually through the side door."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Mar.23 1985.

IN THIS ONE... Davros lures the Doctor to a mortuary planet.

REVIEW: Revelation has Eric Saward's best script, the show's best director in Graeme Harper and some pretty wonderful guest characters. It's really too bad the Doctor and Peri don't get to meet any of them, or participate in the story much at all. This is the ultimate example of Saward sidelining the stars of the show in favor of his own creations. Taking a page (or more) from Robert Holmes, Saward built the story around a series of double acts (one character even meta-textually comments on one of them in those terms). Jobel the funeral director with his gallows humor and cruelties towards the vile Tasambeker in whom Davros sees the spirit of the Daleks. Kara and her cornucopia of compliments and Vogel her unctuous toady. The knightly assassin Orcini and his stinky but perceptive squire Bostock. Takis the flower-loving security chief who looks away when the violent Lilt does his thing. Natasha the wronged daughter and Grigory the sarcastic physician trying to get answers. The Doctor and Peri are a double act too, grumbling at each other, and giving in to double entendre - the highly amusing bit where Peri accidentally kicks the Doctor in the crotch and breaks his watch becomes something else when you abstract the watch, and on a less sexual note, you feel the 18-month hiatus looming as the Doctor waxes about his never having another regeneration after seeing his tombstone. Each duo gets at least one fun piece of dialog, and it's the characters that AREN'T paired up that disappoint.

The DJ (or VJ, really) is the worst of these. Though as a conceit to tell the story in an unusual way, an evolution from Harper's (initially accidental) asides to camera in Caves of Androzani, the DJ is just horribly annoying. He makes me want to throw things at the television. Amusing in concept, taking on different guises - hippie, rock'n'roll, country - while he keeps the cryogenically preserved denizens of Tranquil Repose entertained, the result is equal parts boring, bad accents and lack of charisma. If I were in suspended animation, I would gladly welcome getting turned into a Dalek if it meant I didn't ever have to hear "Hey guyyyys" ever again. Another loner is the only character the Doctor and Peri meet, a rabid mutant that was famously almost played by Laurence Olivier. Imagine that. As it is, he spends time underwater (not sure that makes sense unless Dalek mutants are basically aquatic) and tries to strangle the Doctor a bit before Peri hits him on the back a couple times with a stick. Turns out, he's fairly nice and just a victim of the "Great Healer"'s experiments. What I find a little disturbing here is that Peri thinks she killed him with those two whacks, and the Doctor doesn't disabuse her of the notion. Erm... And then there's Davros, of course, now just a spinning head, curing galactic famine and building a new, white and gold, Dalek army. Living in a mortuary's basement, he's been reduced to haggling over money with Kara after the events of Resurrection of the Daleks.

The various stories are interesting and mostly well thought-out. Natasha finds her father being transformed inside a glass Dalek shell, a bit of nonsense that seems to imply the "travel machine" is grown around the subject (with nanotech, I suppose it could be), but a cool visual that makes a neat reference to the "glass Dalek" in the very first Doctor Who novelization, Doctor Who and the Daleks. Jobel has moments where he talks to the security cameras, as if he's in some kind of reality TV program, either playing to the DJ's audience or to Davros. The mortuary's staff mock Tasembeker's ill-considered feelings for Jobel. Kara and Davros work hard to keep things civil though they plainly loathe each other. Orcini's artificial leg was a result of not listening to Bostock, though here again he ignores the squire's intuition, blinded by the potential for glory in ridding the universe of Davros and his nascent Daleks. The reason no one gets decanted from suspension is that the new 1% hardly wants to share their money and power with old has-beens. Meanwhile, lured to a friend's funeral, the Doctor, in more pleasant blue, confronts his own mortality (in a scene that prefigures The Name of the Doctor), though obviously, it's just Davros trolling him. It's just so unfortunate it takes the entire episode for he and Peri to get within a stone's throw of all that interesting action.

THEORIES: Still tracking the Doctor's age? He says he's 900 years old here, the same as at the start of the new series. We could give him the benefit of the doubt and say he's rounding the figure way up. (But it doesn't explain how he can claim he's 953 by Time and the Rani...)

VERSIONS: The DVD's CGI option I guess puts a bit more glow on laser beams, but it's hardly necessary.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Great dialog, memorable characters (aside from the irritating DJ), and an unusual story that reminds one of the best of Robert Holmes. Sadly, the Doctor and Peri are late to the party.


CiB said...

On the age theory- I'd suggest he is 900 here. RAs for how much time passes, keep track of which companion he leaves the Trial with, and what that companions has already experienced compared to what the Doctor has (not saying more for spoilers). This allows for a lengthy time gap (in which he travels with Evelyn, Jamie, etc in Big Finish audios) which could easily be 53 years of his life. Time and the Rani is the only time the Doctors age is given by someone other than him (as it's another characters age who happens to be the same age as the Doctor- chances of them both being wrong here bu the Doctor being right elsewhere are slim)

My theory on the age contradiction is "mid life crisis". In his 9th incarnation, the Doctor remodels his vehicle to make it look more alive and colourful, starts lying about his age and tries to seduce a 19 year old blond. What more evidence of a mid life crisis could you possibly need?

Siskoid said...

I'll wait til Doc9 comes around to drop by theory bomb on you, but yours works ;-).

karl said...

The Sixth Doc stories are always the same...the Doctor and Peri spend the first episode arguing with each other before finally joining the action, and each story is full of double-acts, rinse repeat, rinse repeat.

LiamKav said...

There's an interview with Steven Moffat in the September 2016 issue of Doctor Who Monthly that migtht bear repeating here. He mentions that when he was writing The Magician's Apprentice two-parter, he went back and watched all the old Davros episodes. When he got to this episode, he says...

"I thought 'Well, this is, presumably, going to be the tough one'. In the first episode, Colin is mostly wearing a cloak over his costume... and bloody hell, he's a really good Doctor. He's charming and funny... Then Part Two comes along, and he takes off the cloak. You thin, 'Oh God." But I did this one, simple thing:..."

(I'll post the rest on the next episode.)


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