Friday, 21 January 2011

Revelation of the Daleks

D.J. : Is that your real accent?
Peri: I should hope so!

Despite the title, it's not really about the Daleks, is it? It is a story about Davros, how he worms his way into an human society, manipulates others and attempts to build a new power base.

Revelation of the Daleks is a very good story that suffers from one major flaw; the fact that the Doctor plays so little part in the plot. All of the major events in the story would have happened without his being there. He is effectively reduced to being a bystander, much like in an Hartnell historical. In Caves of Androzani, the Doctor essentially took a passive role in the plot, getting captured, having to rescue Peri and then dying and regenerating. Nevertheless, he acted as a catalyst for the story. His mere arrival set in motion planet-shaking events. I think it is this irrelevance of the Doctor in Revelation of the Daleks that keeps it from being a classic like Caves of Androzani.

Despite this flaw, Revelation of the Daleks is a very good production. It evokes a very surreal, dream-like atmosphere. This is helped enormously by the snowy weather. This dreaminess makes the revelation of the mutant in the glass Dalek seem like the stuff of nightmares.

Like Snakedance before it, Revelation of the Daleks really creates the sense of an actual world inhabited by real people. The sets are a jumble of different styles, but this is much more true to life than the uniformity we usually see in Doctor Who sets. There is a sense of scale in the exterior shots of Tranquil Repose. We also get a bizarre cast of characters from all walks of life. The irrelevance of most of these to the plot about Davros and the Daleks makes this seem as though we are seeing a snapshot of the turbulent life in this future epoch. There is no real point to Davros' manipulating of Tasembeka and her subsequent murder of Jobel, except to provide an incredible piece of drama and a vision of a violent, nasty world.

William Gaunt plays the part of Orcini with an incredible stiffness and self-importance; yet this is so true to the character. His character evokes such a sense of world-weariness, yet he is resolved to the discipline of an inflexible code of honour. With his affectionate relationship with his squire, Bostock, he seems so much like a Robert Holmes creation. Or a character from a Shakespeare play. He is also really bad-ass with his leather outfit and casual flick knife killing of Kara. The faulty mechanical leg is a nice touch too!

Alexei Sayle comes across as quite deliberately annoying in his D.J. voice. What is clever about the character is the way that he is revealed to be a very shy, nervous chap. It is rather tragic the way he is shut up alone in his studio with only his records for company and then to die a tragic death. I was quite surprised at the quality of Sayle's acting after his quasi-standup performances in The Young Ones.

Terry Molloy really shines in this story. He gives a chilling performance as Davros that could rival that of Michael Wisher in Genesis of the Daleks. His moments with Tasembeka are particularly impressive. It is nice to see Eleanour Bron in Doctor Who again after her cameo appearance in City of Death. She is awfully good in the role of Kara. Does anybody else think her costume is awfully similar to that of Lady Adrasta in The Creature from the Pit?

I am not sure I like the idea of the Daleks being created from humans. Daleks are not Cybermen. The whole point of Daleks is that they are totally removed from any connection with humanity. I think Daleks created from human beings compromises this.

As with other Eric Saward stories there is an awful lot of violence in Revelation of the Daleks. I think he sometimes went too far and his habit of killing off nearly every non-regular character can get very irritating. However, I find the excessive violence in the Saward era easier to handle than the violence of the Hinchcliffe era. The violence of Saward stories might be more realistic but it is an essential part of his vision of a brutal, amoral cosmos in the far future. Saward was attempting to adopt a moral posture towards the violence in the show. On the other hand, Hincliffe seemed to include cruelty and death simply to arouse a morbid curiosity in the viewer. Hincliffe might not have gone so far in the realism, but he had a clear desire to shock and push the boundaries of what was acceptable. I find a lot of what Hinchcliffe introduced in Seventies Doctor Who to be rather tasteless. Doctor Who fans are far too quick to criticise Saward for excessive violence, while celebrating the torture and death in Hinchfliffe stories while sneering at Mary Whitehouse's sometimes legitimate criticisms.

Along with Earthshock, Revelation of the Daleks represents the best of Saward's script writing. I don't think it can called a classic, but it is undoubtedly one of the stronger stories of the Colin Baker period.


  1. I think you missed the point of the titular "Revelation" (the fact that Daleks can now be created out of Humans). Davros is effectively on the run, hiding out from the 'real' Daleks. He needs an army to fight back but he can't get his hands on any real Dalek DNA with which to create, so he improvises. Taking humans, turning them into food and ultimately a new generation of Daleks... it's pretty gruesome isn't it? The fact that he happens to be messing with his arch enemy's favorite race is probably just icing on his sadistic cake.

  2. Thanks for visiting and leaving your comment.

    It certainly is a gruesome idea, but it's not a development I would welcome in a Dalek story.

  3. "Saward was attempting to adopt a moral posture towards the violence in the show."

    I could not disagree more. There is no moral treatment of violence in his stories. In fact, the hallmark of his stories is the sidelining of the Doctor in favor of ruthless contract killers and the like. He also constantly allows cold, remorseless, ruthless characters to survive and softer-hearted characters to die.

    This goes right back to his very first script: the Richard Mace character was supposed to be a much harder, colder character and Saward was displeased with the actor's humanizing portrayal.

    The same trait is present in Earthshock (the ridiculously macho soldier Scott lives while the sweet Prof. Kyle dies), Warriors of the Deep (the unlikeable, unpleasant Bulic is the sole survivor thanks to Saward's script revisions), Resurrection (Lytton is the only survivor), and Attack (this time, having revised Lytton into a less sociopathic, more sympathetic person, Saward has to subject him to torture and death byh bludgeoning: the same fate that awaits all non-psychopaths in his universe).

    In Revelation, the same dynamic is in operation with a pair of enthusiastic torturers surviving while everyone without such a ruthless streak perishes.

    "On the other hand, Hincliffe seemed to include cruelty and death simply to arouse a morbid curiosity in the viewer."

    So did Saward: the only difference is Saward's body counts are higher and Saward works harder to make sure that only the ruthless and heartless survive in his universe.

  4. You may be right- thanks for your comment.