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Revelation of the Daleks

Production Code: 6Z

First Transmitted

1 - 23/03/1985 17:20

2 - 30/03/1985 17:20

Plot

The Doctor and Peri arrive on the planet Necros where, in a facility called Tranquil Repose presided over by Mr Jobel and his assistant Tasambeker, the wealthy can have their newly-deceased bodies cryogenically frozen until such time as medical science can cure whatever killed them.

The Doctor wishes to pay his last respects to his friend Professor Arthur Stengos, and also to assuage some nagging suspicions about the man's death. His suspicions prove justified, as it turns out that this is just a ruse to lure him into a trap.

The Great Healer masterminding Tranquil Repose is Davros, who is using the organic material in the cryogenic storage units both as the raw material for the synthetic food that is Necros's biggest export and also to create a whole new army of Daleks with which to take control of the universe.

Davros's plans are foiled when Daleks loyal to the Dalek Supreme arrive on Necros and take him prisoner. The Doctor suggests to the planet's inhabitants a new basis for their economy.

Episode Endings

The Doctor is shocked to find a giant carving of his own face on a huge gravestone in the Garden of Fond Memories on Necros. He believes this means that he will die here in his current incarnation. Peri cries out in alarm as suddenly the gravestone topples over and falls toward the Doctor, threatening to crush him.

The Doctor decides to take Peri on a holiday and prepares to tell her their intended destination.

Roots

Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One.

Soylent Green.

Callan (professional killer plus smelly sidekick).

The Avengers (Bizarre).

American Graffiti.

Dark Star (DJ).

Dialogue Triumphs

Orcini : "This is Bostock, my squire. I'm afraid the only philosophy practised by Bostock is to do as little about his personal hygiene as possible."

Kara : "Not at all! The odour of nature has... charms all of its own..."

Orcini : "Yes, well, he may smell like rotting flesh, but he's an excellent squire."

Peri : [Being helped over a wall by the Doctor] "Don't drop me."

The Doctor : "Drop you! I'll be lucky to lift you, the amount you weigh."

Peri : "Watch it, porky!"

Jobel : [To Tasambeker] "I would rather run away... with my mother!"

Dialogue Disasters

Grigory : [Goes Trek] "I'm a doctor, not a magician!"

Peri : [of the DJ] "I'm curious to know where he picked up his patter."

Double Entendre

Vogel : "I'm a past master at the double entry."

The Doctor : [To Peri] "We go over the top."

The Doctor : [A conversation that turns out to be about the Doctor's broken fob watch] "I rarely use it, I shall learn to live without it."

Peri : "I'll find you a new one."

Continuity

Bastic headed bullets can destroy Daleks. Davros' Daleks recognise the Doctor [Davros has obviously been tracking him for some time], but those of the Supreme Dalek do not. Davros' Daleks are white and gold, and the others grey. The Imperial Daleks travel in saucers, come from Skaro, and are contactable by anybody.

Davros' Daleks (and Davros) can hover (see Remembrance of the Daleks). Natasha recognises Daleks on sight, and the President knows what they are. [The Imperial Dalek faction are still rebuilding after some military defeat, and, while known and feared, are not being actively aggressive towards humanity.]

Humans are also aware of Davros [his trial a century or so earlier made him infamous] and his appearance. Davros knows about regeneration [having spent his time researching the Doctor], and already has ambitions to be Emperor. Davros can now fire electric bolts from his hand, and has the ability to make a convincing robotic or cloned head of himself. His blood is green. He came straight to Necros from his escape pod (Resurrection of the Daleks), having got a lift from a carrier [and found that he was, in fact, mostly immune to the Movellan virus]. He loses his hand in this story.

The flowers of Nekros are known as Staff of Life (Herbabaculum vitae or weed plant), and are a good source of protein. A spielsnape is a Nekrosian animal. The Doctor is still a vegetarian and makes nut rolls for Peri.

QV

The Second History of the Daleks

The Doctor's Age

Location

Necros [some time after Destiny of the Daleks and Resurrection of the Daleks. The statement that this is three generations after the time of radio DJs on Earth is unhelpful.]

Future History

The galaxy has been freed of famine, and is ruled by a male President called Vargos.

Untelevised

The Grand Order of Oberon is a group of religious knights which the Doctor can recognise a member of at a glance. Perhaps he's met them before. Arthur Stengos, the agronomist, was an old friend of the Doctor's.

Trivia

Davros and his Daleks are seen for the first time to be able to hover some distance from the ground.

A transparent Dalek appears for the first time - an idea devised by the series' original story editor, David Whitaker, for his 1964 novelisation of the creatures' debut story.

Comedy performer Alexei Sayle appears in a semi-serious role as the DJ who broadcasts to the dead on Necros.

William Gaunt, well remembered as Richard Barrett in the ITC series The Champions amongst many other notable roles, appears here as the noble mercenary Orcini.

Distinguished actress Eleanor Bron, who had previously made a cameo appearance in season seventeen's City of Death, is seen here as Kara, who hires Orcini to assassinate Davros.

Goofs

Davros' dialogue is often inaudible.

Davros' chair is missing a bit of its base when hovering, leading to Orcini passing his leg through it.

Why does Davros lure the Doctor across the galaxy to drop a polystyrene statue full of fake blood onto him?

If she'd thought a moment, Peri would surely have realised that the Doctor couldn't possibly be killed on this visit, since the grave must already have had a body in it.

Davros does make some mention of turning the Doctor into a Dalek, but why not just capture him the instant he arrives?

When captured, how does the Doctor know that Davros is still alive? (Natasha and Grigory can't possibly have told him, because they don't know either.)

Tasambeker stabs Jobel without pushing the plunger on the syringe.

Fashion Victim

The blue cloaks look rather good, and even Peri's casual wear is subtle this time. But as for Jobel... Oh dear.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Colin Baker

Peri - Nicola Bryant

Bostock - John Ogwen

Computer Voice - Penelope Lee

D. J. - Alexei Sayle

Dalek Operator - John Scott Martin

Dalek Operator - Cy Town

Dalek Operator - Tony Starr

Dalek Operator - Toby Byrne

Dalek Voice - Roy Skelton

Dalek Voice - Royce Mills

Davros - Terry Molloy

Grigory - Stephen Flynn

Head of Stengos - Alec Linstead

Jobel - Clive Swift

Kara - Eleanor Bron

Lilt - Colin Spaull

Mutant - Ken Barker

Natasha - Bridget Lynch-Blosse

Orcini - William Gaunt

Takis - Trevor Cooper

Tasambeker - Jenny Tomasin

Vogel - Hugh Walters

Crew

Director - Graeme Harper

Assistant Floor Manager - Jo O'Leary

Costumes - Pat Godfrey

Designer - Alan Spalding

Film Cameraman - John Walker

Film Editor - Ray Wingrove

Incidental Music - Roger Limb

Make-Up - Dorka Nieradzik

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Elizabeth Sherry

Production Associate - Angela Smith

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Don Babbage

Studio Sound - Andy Stacey

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - John Brace

Writer - Eric Saward

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

It looks wonderful and the plot is just about consistent and straightforward. The lack of involvement of the Doctor (and the Daleks!) is startling, showing that Eric Saward is once again more interested in telling mercenary stories, but at least this one's interesting and well played.

William Gaunt scores hugely for playing against the pathetic and cynical nature of his lines, managing to make Orcini genuinely noble instead of merely a paper tiger. Alexei Sayle surprises by being sweet and subtle (and one of the few sentient life forms in the galaxy who doesn't want to molest Peri) and the Doctor finally gets to be Doctorish, with proper doses of compassion. Quite promising for the future, really. Strange what that future turned out to be...

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

One of the most frustrating things about mid-eighties Doctor Who is its extreme inconsistency of tone and quality. Earlier periods of the series' history had had their ups and downs, of course, but within any given season the stories had all tended to be produced in a similar style and to be of a roughly comparable standard. In seasons twenty-one and twenty-two, on the other hand, for every gritty classic like The Caves of Androzani there is a gaudy clunker like The Twin Dilemma, for every derivative travesty like Attack of the Cybermen there is an innovative triumph like Vengeance on Varos. Revelation of the Daleks is arguably so superior in almost every way to disappointments such as Attack of the Cybermen and The Two Doctors that it is difficult to believe that they are all part of the same series, let alone the same season.

'It was splendid,' enthused Andrew Stirling-Brown in TARDIS Volume 10 Number 2, dated June 1985, 'Saward's intriguing script, Harper's captivating direction, Limb's atmospheric score... pure magic. The only story this season to have enough impact to keep me watching on the edge of my seat.'

'Has to go down as one of the best Dalek stories of all time,' agreed Danny Neill in the same magazine. 'The newly [redesigned] Daleks, better designed Davros/Great Healer, the soldier type Orcini and his comrade and even the DJ were brilliant.'

The two regulars, Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, give outstanding performances here, and the positively stellar guest cast are uniformly excellent. Graeme Harper's stylish and atmospheric direction is also superb, as John Pettigrew observed in DWB No. 113, dated May 1993: 'This director seems to have a genuine love for his job... Jon Pertwee has been quoted as saying that Daleks are boring. With flat, run of the mill direction, they can come over as bland and ordinary. In Revelation of the Daleks they are shot from low down, from high up and [from] close up to portions of their frame. The effect is one of sheer menace, a larger-than-life image of alien terror.'

Eric Saward's scripts provide, as Pettigrew put it, 'a brilliant mix of horror, pathos and irony'. 'Revelation of the Daleks handles the question of cannibalism with greater sensitivity than The Two Doctors,' noted Diane McGinn, also writing in DWB No. 113. 'Indeed, it's ironic that The Two Doctors does not, strictly speaking, feature cannibalism at all, but provoked a storm of criticism, while the implied consumption of human flesh on a massive scale in Revelation of the Daleks passed almost unremarked. What takes place off screen takes place out of mind, it would seem... Rewatching Revelation of the Daleks, it is astonishing how close to the wind it sails, how adult is its general attitude. Grigory's drunkenness is obvious, and it doesn't do to dwell upon the images brought to mind by Jobel's comment about "cleaning out the preparation room with a toothbrush," but what about the sexual undercurrents which pervade the story, undercurrents of all types, even down to vague implications of necrophilia, not to mention the tiny moments of disgusting reality such as the nose-picking [by one of Jobel's attendants].'

The main source of inspiration relied upon on by Saward on this occasion is an unusual one: Evelyn Waugh's humorous novella The Loved One. McGinn thought this worked very successfully: 'Revelation of the Daleks is not a typical Doctor Who story. The Doctor's role is far too small and it ends with its resolution still to come off screen. But, in that it is not typical, it epitomises the series at its best. It demonstrates how the series can surprise, how it can take a work of literature and reinterpret it, turning it upside down. It demonstrates that there are, genuinely, no limits to the subjects it can take within its stride, that its format is flexible enough to encompass anything.'

As McGinn observed, the Doctor does have rather less involvement in the main action here than would normally be the case; indeed he and Peri do not even reach Tranquil Repose until the end of Part One. This has contributed to a feeling amongst some commentators that the story is slow and lacking in excitement. Another negative point that could be made is that it is a little disappointing to see the Daleks yet again having to share the limelight with Davros, whose elaborate plan to trap the Doctor seems somewhat far-fetched. 'Unfortunately... wherever there are Daleks, now there is Davros...' noted Stephen Murphy, another contributor to TARDIS Volume 10 Number 2. 'I have never been over-fond of Davros, and certainly don't think the character has merited so many appearances. Nice to see, though... the re-emergence of the "civil war" idea as in The Evil of the Daleks and Resurrection of the Daleks. The creations of Davros, however, have lost their dependence on him, and it would be nice to see a script that just featured Daleks.'

John Binns, writing in Matrix Issue 51, dated summer 1995, recognised that that there were complaints that could be levelled at the story, but considered that they would be misplaced: 'It would be possible to say that Revelation of the Daleks was very slow paced, that it was lacking in action, that it had only a minimal role for the Doctor and Peri, that the role of the Daleks was as little more than decoration. One could also point out that the story was not only laced with gratuitous horror, but had main and subsidiary plots which could easily be called unsuitable for a young audience. But using these points as criticism would, it seems, be missing the point somehow. While they would all be fairly damning to a normal Doctor Who story, the mere fact that all could be levelled at Revelation of the Daleks indicates that it was trying to do something [different].'

The great majority of commentators would agree with Diane McGinn when she wrote: 'Revelation of the Daleks is perhaps the most successful story of the Colin Baker era - a story which can hold its head high amongst the greats of Doctor Who.'

< TimelashSixth DoctorTrial of a Time Lord: 1-4 >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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