Doctor Who #650: Revelation of the Daleks Part 2

"Only fools would take the risks I do."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.30 1985.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Peri finally enter the mortuary and almost everybody dies.

REVIEW: This may be the purest Eric Saward episode ever. The Doctor goes missing for huge chunks of the action, and the non-recurring cast is largely massacred. Only Takis and Lilt, probably the lowliest of the characters, survive to contemplate a life of farming the soy flowers, as telegraphed in part 1. That was damn messy of Davros to overlook the nutritional value of the planet's most common element in favor of a Soylent Green solution, though he's just evil enough to do it on purpose. We can always blame the plot holes on the villain's madness, but it seems the cheap way out and it's the only way to explain why the Doctor's tombstone is made of styrofoam. Did he not lure the Doctor to Necros so he could kill him? Or did he really want to take the risk turning the Doctor into a Dalek would entail? He shouldn't have worried, the Doctor has almost nothing to do with Davros' defeat. It's all Kara, Orcini and Bostock.

Peri actually makes out better than the Doctor does (and over the past couple stories has evolved her fashion style to darker colors and classier cuts), expertly rebuffing Jobel's creepy advances (a girl like her would be past master at doing this, one would assume, and maybe that's what she likes about the Doctor - no hanky-panky in the TARDIS) and pairing up with the DJ to fight the Daleks and divert the President's ship. Turns out, he's a pretty nice guy and not at all annoying when not doing the DJ act, plus he's got what he calls a rock'n'roll gun that will cut Daleks in half. Amusingly, the two of them compare American accents. Of course, he's in a Saward script and must die. As must everyone. At least, several of the actors find a way to die poignantly. Jobel, cruel to the end, refusing Tasambeker's offer of help, is stabbed with embalming fluid and flops to the ground, dislodging his toupée. A pathetic death that reveals his vanity. Kara's secretary Vogel has one last moment, looking into his mistress' eyes after being exterminated, a silent goodbye before he drops, their whole relationship written between the lines. Orcini sacrifices himself, fulfilling a death wish and cradling his squire in his arms.

Orcini was the actual hero of this story, a great presence on screen, giving silent signals to the Doctor - in short, doing the stuff the Doctor should have been doing. Similarly, Natasha and Grigory are sent to destroy the Dalek farm while the Doctor wanders through tunnels. For all that, the protagonist is Davros, who plays a deadly chess game with Kara, and attempts the sickening seduction of Tasambeker, trying to change her unhealthy love for Jobel into unhealthy hate and offering to turn her into a Dalek. Bit of a turn-off, that last bit Davros. But he's a smooth manipulator until then. Once the Supreme Dalek's forces arrive - courtesy of Takis, another "hero" taking the Doctor's role away from him - and the first shot is fired in what will become a Dalek Civil War, it all gets rather chaotic. Lots of explosions, fire fights and screaming, death and destruction, so much it actually gets a little boring. Famously, the episode ends on a freeze frame, just before the Doctor can name their next destination. It was to be the Blackpool fairgrounds and a rematch with the Toymaker. However, the 18-month hiatus on which the program was put for "retooling" made the production err on the side of caution, leaving it up in the air as a sort of weird cliffhanger. Given the number of destinations mentioned by the Doctor but never seen over the course of the program, it's more than a little gauche. Blackpool would have made a fine punchline without resorting to a bad editing tricks. Personally, I find this one a lot more irritating than The Deadly Assassin's controversial drowning cliffhanger.

The CGI option on the DVD puts glowing effects around all the energy weapons, materializations and explosions. The biggest difference with the broadcast episode is the Dalek bearing down on Natasha and Grigory is clearly flying the same way Davros does. This is one of the few stories Target did not novelize.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Some of the dialog sparkles, but I think it's mostly the work of the director and actors that make this far-too-Doctorless blood bath recommendable.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Revelation disappoints for the lack of attention it gives to the show's stars, but otherwise creates a memorable guest cast, dialog that channels Robert Holmes, and an important and unusual piece in the tapestry of Dalek history.


Anonymous said...

I saw Season 22 for the first time in the mid-eighties when the US first got the Colin Baker episodes, and taped them all on VHS. The first four stories I've rewatched a healthy number of times, but "Revelation of the Daleks", along with "Timelash", I've probably only seen two or three more times since then. When I've decided to watch a Doctor Who I'm in the mood for, those are two I've rarely reached for.

I'll say something you almost never hear. I think I like "Revelation" LESS than "Timelash". I think because it's so unlike what I'd come to think of as "Doctor Who", at least until McCoy shows up, it put me off the first time I saw it. Destroying the Daleks with blasts of rock and roll music, for example, just felt embarrassing. You'd never catch Sarah Jane Smith doing that. I found Orcini and Bostock to be characters that might be cool in a sci-fi movie, but just don't fit in Doctor Who, in my opinion.

I understand what people like about "Revelation" and I can't tell you objectively that it's one of the worst Doctor Who stories (as you deconstructed "Timelash" so well), but it's definitely one of my personal least favorites.

- Jason

Siskoid said...

I can't disagree, even if I have a very open definition of what Who can be and can do.

I don't think I ever saw a Colin Baker story as a kid (maybe one episode of The Twin Dilemma, or maybe it was Terror of the Vervoids), so I saw Revelation when the DVD came out, basically, which means I saw it POST-New series.

Anonymous said...

I guess "Revelation of the Daleks" could seem even retro compared to the new series, but it does seem to have more in common with Eccleston's era than Tom Baker's in some ways.

- Jason

Siskoid said...

Oh I agree. I'm struck at how much of Season 22 has found its way in New Who:
-Doctor-lite episodes
-Sadistic Reality TV
-A celebrity historical writer
-Taking some modern concept to SF extremes (mortuaries, TV, meat-eating, where New Who goes to gridlock, diet fads, etc.)

LiamKav said...

(Continuing the Moffat interview...)

"But I did this one, simple thing: I turned the colour off.

"I turned the contrast up a bit as well. It looks great. And Colin's costume sort of vanishes into a pretty standard-issue Doctor's costume. You can see him, and he's really good. He's not at all what you rememeber him being, the vulgar, brash Doctorl he's kind, he's sweet. The pomposity is loveable, because he's aware of it and jokes about it."

(There's more stuff about the costume in general, which I might add onto another episode review. But it echos a point I've made before... When he does the "I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not", lots of people take it as a threat. But it's not. There's a twinkle. There was often a twinkle to Colin's performance that gets lost in the memories.)

LiamKav said...

(Actually, I'll post the rest here. It's an end of season episode, after all.)

"The point about Colin's costume, deardul though it is, isn't just that it's bad, but that it's entirely the wrong costume for his character. The Sixth Doctor isn't a vulgarian. He's a snob. But a funny, charming snob. He's cultured, but sort of common too. He's the opera buff who sits in the cheap seats because he prefers the company. He's the kind of man who would hate someone who wore that costume. Colin's Doctor would be the first person t otake the mickey out of it. That costume undercuts and drowns out every other thing that Colin does so well in the role. It's come to define him, but it defines a performance he simply wasn't giving. If you'd like to see it, just turn the colour down - introduce yourself to a great Doctor."

(You know, I wonder if this is reflected in Big Finish stuff. Colin Baker is definitely the Most Improved audio Doctor. I used to think that was because he'd been tweaked ever so slightly to add in more of those mishevious twinkles, but now I wonder if it's just because we can't see his outfit. Anyway, back to Steven for the final thoughts:)

"So that's my new theory on Colin Baker: that his costume is worse than we thought."

Siskoid said...

Yep, he's the best audio Doctor. It was all the costume's fault, no joke.


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