Timestamp #143: Revelation of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks
(2 episodes, s22e12-e13, 1985)

 

A swing and a miss for an abusive Doctor’s last at-bat this inning.

Peri and the Doctor arrive on the snow-covered vista that is Necros. They are both wearing blue – the Doctor has a blue and gold cloak over his typical garishness while Peri is in an overcoat and beret – in honor of the planet’s traditions for mourning. While Peri complains that the garments are too tight, the Doctor engages in a little recreational body-shaming. Honestly, Doctor, Peri is far from overweight.

The Doctor has arrived to honor the memory of Professor Arthur Stengos. As the travelers plan, neither notices a hand emerge from the icy pond where Peri just threw the remnants of her lunch until the resulting large splash startles them. As they walk away, a humanoid emerges from the depths and pursues them. Hey, zombies gotta eat.

In a warmer place, planetary funeral director Jobel and his staff are making arrangements. The director is notified that the presidential spacecraft is on approach, and using gallows humor he gives orders for his staff to look their best. He also rebuffs the advances of his protégé Tasambeker, much to her chagrin. As the staff disperses, two figures bearing firearms pass their stealth checks, sneak through the center, assault guards with both energy and projectile weapons, then break into a locked room.

As the Doctor and Peri muse over the local flora, they are attacked by the humanoid from the pond. The Doctor attempts to hypnotize it, and when that fails Peri strikes the creature dead. Their exploits are captured by a local disk jockey whose broadcast is being watched by a Dalek and the head of Davros. The villains are distracted by the gunfire, and they miss the dying humanoid’s revelation that he is the product of experimentation by the “great healer.” The humanoid also forgives Peri for her actions.

The mysterious duo continues their quest, but their sneaking about is captured on video by the disk jockey. Tasambeker dispatches two of the funeral staff to find them and, interestingly, the two officials are able to walk right by the Dalek guards with a flash of identification. No exterminations, huh? Meanwhile, Davros summons Tasambeker to his chamber before contacting a woman named Kara. The discussion reveals that Kara is a food distributor who works for and funds Davros, the Great Healer. In fact, Davros takes pretty much everything she makes.

The sneaky pair finds evidence of… something… before running from guards that shoot on sight. They escape only to encounter Daleks escorting gurney and corpse down a corridor. They carry on, unknowingly being observed on Davros’s cameras, and find a room full of brains being preserved in giant glass tanks. They also find a glass Dalek containing a humanoid head. Creepy to be sure, but it gets creepier: The head recognizes Natasha, one of the rogues and his daughter, and calls her by name. He reveals that the corpses (really, beings on the edge of death placed in suspended animation) are being transformed into Daleks and he demands to be euthanized to prevent that grisly fate for himself. Reluctantly, Natasha obliges, but they are soon captured by the guards.

Oh, and Natasha’s father is none other than Arthur Stengos. <dramatic music cue>

Outside the facility, Peri and the Doctor are unable to find a door so they climb the wall instead. The Doctor continues his abusive barbs about her weight and she inadvertently destroys his pocket watch. Inside the facility, the disk jockey continues to be annoying.

Kara meets with an assassin named Orcini and his squire Bostock. She fawns, Orcini demurs, and Bostock leers. Finally cutting to the chase, Kara hires Orcini to eliminate Davros and free her supply chain. While they scheme, the Doctor and Peri continue their journey to the facility, a place called Tranquil Repose.

I agree with Peri: Yuck.

Tasambeker arrives before the Great Healer: Davros wants her to be transferred to his private staff, effective immediately. Outside, Peri spots (but does not recognize) a Dalek, followed by the spectacle of the Doctor’s face on a memorial plaque. It seems that the Time Lord is destined to die here… and he nearly does as the plaque falls on top of him.

You know, I don’t normally point out the flaws in set design, but that falling memorial was telegraphed multiple times as it swayed and swiveled on all of its seams for minutes before falling over. Downright distracting, that.

Anyway, as Peri runs to the Doctor’s aid, she is intercepted by Jobel. The Doctor emerges from the rubble unharmed – his cloak is stained with blood, but the whole event was theatrics staged by someone else – and the pair continues inside to unravel the mystery of attempted assassination. They receive a sales pitch from Tasambeker, complete with a commercial by the infernal disk jockey, and learn that only the Great Healer can erect monuments to the dead.

On the surface, Orcini and Bostock continue their mission with pomp and circumstance. They encounter a Dalek and destroy it with bastic bullets, an act that raises the alarm in Davros’s chambers. Davros calls Kara (who is deeply invested in President Vargos’s approach) to investigate her involvement, and she deflects as best she can.

Peri asks to meet the disk jockey. The Doctor agrees, though troubled that Jobel is accompanying her while he investigates the Great Healer. He’s even more troubled a few moments later as he is taken prisoner by the Daleks. Peri ditches Jobel and meets the DJ, obsessed by his patter which reminds her of home. Sadly for her, he’s only imitating what he knows from historical records of the United States.

The Doctor wakes up in the same cell as the two rogues, and they fill him in on the goings-on. As they chat, Daleks apprehend Kara and take her to Davros, Jobel schemes to take down the Great Healer, and Davros manipulates Tasambeker into killing Jobel in exchange for immortality as a Dalek. Orcini and Bostock make their way to Davros’s sanctum, stopping along the way to release the rogues and the Doctor.

Tasambeker tries to reason with Jobel in order to save his life but ends up killing him in a fit of rage. Daleks kill her shortly afterward. Meanwhile, Peri contacts the Doctor and he asks her to warn the president away. Davros dispatches Daleks to capture Peri and orders a new glass Dalek incubator to be prepared, forcing his guard to leave as Orcini makes his attempt on Davros’s life. Orcini destroys the head, but it was a ruse; the real Davros emerges (apparently unscathed by the Movellan virus), kills Bostock, and incapacitates Orcini. Elsewhere, the rogues are killed in the incubation chamber by a self-destructing Dalek (after it inexplicably levitates) and a wasteful plot.

In the DJ’s studio, Peri warns the president as the disk jockey sets up a “rock and roll” cannon to defend against the incoming Daleks. It works until the DJ gets cocky and is exterminated. Peri is captured, as is the Doctor after hearing the entire battle on the compound’s intercom.

In his chamber, Davros entertains Kara with the “transmitter” that she gave to Orcini, revealing it to be a bomb. Orcini kills Kara as the Doctor is brought before Davros, and the leader of the Imperial Daleks gives the Doctor his best “evil plan” lowdown speech as the assassin schemes with Kara’s bomb. Davros plans to take over the galaxy with his new Dalek army while winning over the populace by eliminating famine. Of course, he’s taking the Soylent Green approach by turning people into food for the masses. After Peri arrives, a not-quite-dead-yet Bostock manages to shoot Davros’s hand off, and he pays for it by being exterminated for real this time. The Daleks squash the escape attempt and an irate Davros swears that the Doctor and Peri will become Daleks in exchange.

Despite Jobel’s death, his loyal staff have called in reinforcements: Daleks loyal to the Supreme Dalek arrive from Skaro and the civil war hostilities come raging onto Necros. The Renegade Daleks storm Davros’s chambers and apprehend their creator. Davros offers the Doctor in exchange, but the Renegade Daleks don’t recognize the Time Lord in this regeneration and they take Davros away.

In a nice touch of this incarnation’s caustic wit, the Doctor offers to shake Davros’s stump in farewell.

Using the gun with bastic bullets, the Doctor shoots the eyepiece off their Dalek guard before destroying it with a grenade.

(I’ve heard arguments that the Doctor doesn’t use guns, which is obviously false. I’ve also heard the argument that the Doctor only uses guns as tools, which is obviously false in this story.)

He then convinces Jobel’s staff to leave Tranquil Repose and start farming the purple flowers on the surface for food. In exchange for the Doctor’s promise to tell his order of his sacrifice, Orcini decides to remain with Kara’s bomb so he can destroy the Dalek incubation chambers. Everyone, including the Renegade Daleks, escapes just in time as the bomb reduces Tranquil Repose to shambles.

With the crisis solved, Peri asks for a real holiday somewhere fun. The Doctor agrees, deciding to take her to—

 

You know, I’m not even angry that the ending is freeze-framed as an artificial cliffhanger. In fact, I’m glad that the story is over.

The DJ is an annoying extravagance that could have been cut with no real consequence to the story. His exit was an addendum on a high body count plot that sidelined the protagonists for a long time as the plot eventually unfolded itself.

The whole thing was dragged down even further by the Doctor being abusive toward his companion. First, because body shaming her is unacceptable, period. Second, it has no narrative basis during the Sixth Doctor’s run except as an escalation of his petulant and boorish behavior.

I am beyond weary of this Time Lord equivalent of an internet troll.

The only benefit I could find to this tale was exploring the Dalek Civil War – in order to stop the Daleks, Jobel’s staff calls in more of them… that was an intriguing solution – but even that was tacked on as a means to stop the threat when the Doctor couldn’t.

 


Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

UP NEXT – Twenty-Second Series Summary

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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4 thoughts on “Timestamp #143: Revelation of the Daleks

  1. Fun fact, Sir Laurence Olivier actually contacted the Doctor Who office about doing a role in the series. However, he insisted that he only appear on the show in film. Well, they only had a single role in any upcoming stories for a character that would only appear on flim rather than video tape (in those days outside shots were filmed, while inside-the-studio scenes were video taped). That role was the mutant that attacks the Doctor and Peri in this story. So they offered that to Sir Laurence Olivier. It seems insane that they did, but apparently he was really keen to be on Doctor Who, so they tried. Of course he turned it down…

    They actually did record the Doctor saying that they’d head to Blackpool, but by the point that this one was ready for transmission they were already told that they were going on hiatus and that season 23 may not happen. As a result they free-framed him and had the story end there. (The story that was to be the first of season 23, The Nightmare Fair, had its script ready. It was never made, but there was a novelization made based on the script and Big Finish did their own adaptation of it)

    Like you, I don’t have much time for this one. It seems overly long with very little happening of any substance. I feel like the creators at the time never got the hang of pacing the 45-minute long episodes correctly. After the hiatus they go back to 25 minute episodes, which I think helps immensely.

    I hope that you like season 23. There’s a big time skip and Colin reforms the character in a way that he says that he always wanted to do gradually over time. He’s still brash, but it’s nowhere near to the degree that it has been up to this point.

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