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Revelation of the Daleks

Review by Paul Bowler

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The Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) arrive at Tranquil Repose on the planet Necros, where a facility run by Mr Jobel (Clive Swift) is used by some of the wealthiest people in the galaxy to cryogenically freeze their remains, until a time where the aliments that caused their deaths can be cured. The Doctor wants to pay his last respects to his old friend, Professor Stengos (Hugh Walters). However, when they are attacked by a horrific mutant (Ken Barker), the Doctor’s suspicions about Stengos’ death are confirmed.

When they arrive at Tranquil Repose the Doctor is almost crushed by a huge memorial that has been fashioned in his own likeness. Once inside Tranquil Repose the Doctor is captured by a new breed of white and gold Daleks that have been created by Davros (Terry Molloy). The creator of the Daleks has adopted the identity of the Great Healer so he can use the frozen bodies stored at Tranquil Repose to secretly build a new Dalek army.

Davros runs his operation from deep in the catacombs. His head is stored in a tank, which now acts as his life support system, and he can monitor everything that happens on a sophisticated bank of computer screens. When Jobel openly challenges his authority, Davros has the chief embalmers assistant, Tasambeker (Jenny Tomasin), brought to him. Davros manipulates Tasambeker into helping him, using her infatuation with Jobel get her to kill him.

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Peri manages to avoid Jobel’s lecherous advances by making friends with the facilities resident DJ (Alexi Sayle). The Doctor finds himself imprisoned with Stengos’ daughter, Natasha (Bridget Lynch Blosse), and her friend Gregory (Stephen Flynn), who broke into Tranquil Repose so Natasha could find out what really happened to her fathers body. After finding his cryogenic chamber was empty, they later discovered his severed head growing inside a transparent Dalek casing. In a moment of lucidity, Stengos begs his daughter to kill him, rather than let himself become a Dalek. Natasha used her gun to vaporise her fathers head, but afterwards she was captured along with Gregory, and tortured by Takis (Trevor Cooper) and Lilt (Colin Spaull).

It would seem that Davros has made some great enemies during his stay on Necros. Having invented a food substitute to eliminate famine throughout the galaxy, by processing the corpses frozen in Tranquil Repose, the Great Healer forged an alliance with Kara (Eleanor Bron) and her assistant Vogel (Hugh Walters) to manufacture the food paste in her factory complex. But she has grown tired of Davros’ demands, and decides to kill him. Kara hires an assassin from The Grand Order of Oberon, Orcini (William Gaunt), and his squire Bostock (John Ogwen), and gives him a bomb to destroy the Great Healer and Tranquil Repose.

Kara’s plan is quickly discovered by Davros, he sends a squad of Dales to bring her to him, killing Vogel when he resists. After defeating a patrolling Dalek Orcini breaks into the facility, freeing the Doctor, who leaves Natasha and Gregory to destroy the incubation room – but they become trapped and are killed by a Dalek. Peri and the DJ try and hold off the attacking Daleks, but the DJ is killed and Peri is captured by the Daleks.

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Orcini and Bostock attack Davros in his lair, but the head in the tank is actually a decoy, and the real Davros is hovering behind him. The Daleks attack Bostock and shoots off Orcini’s artificial leg, leaving Davros to swoop in and blast Orcini with bolts of energy from his hand. The Doctor and Peri are brought before Davros, who gloats about his imminent victory, Kara’s treachery is also revealed and Orcini stabs her in the heart. Bostock manages to shoot off Davros’ hand before he can activate his Dalek army. The Daleks kill Bostock and rush to protect Davros. Chaos ensues as a squad of Daleks arrive from Skaro, having been called by Takis and Lilt, and it transpires that the Dalek Supreme wants Davros taken alive so he can be punished for his crimes.

The Daleks from Skaro overpower Davros’ new Dalek force and capture their creator. As the Daleks escort Davros back to their ship, Orcini stays with Bostock’s body in the catacombs, giving the others just enough time to get away before he uses the bomb to destroy Davros’ Daleks. Although they were unable to prevent the Dalek ship leaving with Davros, the Doctor and Peri manage to escape. Before he leaves the Doctor suggests that the survivors cultivate one of the planets flowers, which are rich in protein, and process it as a replacement for The Great Healers gruesome food supplement. As they leave the Doctor decides it time he took Peri on a holiday, and he knows just the place to go…

Season Twenty Two was Colin Baker’s first full season as the 6th Doctor. His new Doctor was initially quite unstable, and constantly at odds with his travelling companion Peri, but by the time of Revelation of the Daleks (1985) they are getting along much better. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant give terrific performances here, there is a touching moment where the Doctor is confronted by his own gravestone, and Peri proves to be just as resourceful as the Doctor when they are separated at Tranquil Repose. The Doctor also has a great confrontation with Davros, where the Time Lord is visibly disgusted by what lengths Davros has gone to build his new Dalek Empire.

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Eric Saward’s script for Revelation of the Daleks contains elements of Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, a satirical novel about a funeral business. Revelation of the Daleks is also bleak and full of graphic horror. The scene where Natasha and Gregory discover Stegnos’ head growing inside the transparent Dalek are some of the most horrific in the shows history. Add to this the morbid setting of Tranquil Repose, the unsettling way Jobel behaves towards his staff, and the horrific practice of corpses being used to create Dalek mutants and processed food in Kara’s factory, it becomes clear why Season Twenty Two was heavily criticised for its excessive levels of violence. Much as I enjoy the grittier stories in Doctor Who, sadly this trend of increasingly dark stories also led to the show being put on hiatus by the BBC at the end of the season, so we lost the stories already in development for Season Twenty Three – they were replaced by The Trail of a Time Lord when Doctor Who returned in 1986.

Revelation of the Daleks has an impressive guest cast, many of whom play a pivotal role in the action. Tassambeker’s unrequited love for the slimy Jobel is quite unsettling, and Jenny Tomasin and Clive Swift really hold our attention as their macabre relationship is manipulated like a plaything by Davros in his lair. Elanore Bron is supremely elegant as the scheming Kara, whose plan to kill Davros takes up most of the story, and ultimately leads to her being killed by the very assassin she hired to do her dirty work for her. William Gaunt steals the show from everyone as Orcini, a Knight of the Grand Order of Oberon, who, along with John Ogwen as his faithful squire Bostock, accept Kara’s mission for the honour of killing Davros.

Terry Molloy is simply magnificent as Davros in Revelation of the Daleks. When we first see the decoy in the tank, it would appear that this is all that remains of the Daleks creator. It’s quite chilling to observe him as he watches events unfold around him, with Davros sitting in the middle of events like a great spider in a web, slowly drawing his victims to their doom. Admittedly, his plan to lure the Doctor into his trap does seem somewhat extravagant, but having worked in secret for so long it would seem that Davros has become even more deranged. He cackles maniacally, spitting orders as his head swivels in its tank, manipulating everyone around him. Of course this is all a ruse, the head is just a decoy for the assassins bullet, and when Davros is revealed his chair can now float and he can shoot bolts of energy from his hands and sensor array. Molloy exudes pure evil as Davros, especially in his exchanges with the Doctor, and it seems he has been monitoring the Time Lord for some time. Even after he loses his remaining hand, Davros refuses to give up, ranting at the Daleks loyal to the Supreme Dalek, telling them that he can make them all supreme Daleks if he so desires.

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The forty five minute formant adopted for this season really plays to the strengths of Revelation of the Daleks, there is virtually no padding in this story, and the plot thunders towards its epic climax in the second episode. A sudden snowfall meant that the location scenes were filmed in the snow, which really helps build an eerie atmosphere, and it makes the Doctor and Peri’s encounter with the Mutant even more terrifying. The Doctor and Peri also wear striking blue cloaks for the early stages of the story. Once we reach tranquil repose the interior sets are also impressive, especially Davros’ lair deep in the lower levels of the catacombs. The action set-pieces where both factions of Daleks are fighting are brilliantly choreographed by director Graeme Harper; you really get the sense that you are in the thick of the action, and the body count it shockingly high.

Although it takes a whole episode for the Doctor and Peri to get involved in the story, this is still one of their best adventures, and it really gives Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant a chance to shine as they battle against the Daleks. Eric Saward’s story is full of fantastic characters, all trying to outwit and deceive each other, yet ironically nearly all of them end up being killed. The new white and gold Daleks look really good as well, although their voices are strangely muffled. Graeme Harper often films them close up, making them seem even more menacing, especially when they glide around inside Davros lair.

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Revelation of the Daleks is my favourite 6th Doctor story, it’s an incredibly dark and violent adventure, and it should have paved the way for another great season. As it is we will never know what could have been. Soon the show would face a long hiatus, production difficulties would disrupt The Trial of a Time Lord, ultimately leading to the recasting of the Doctor. I think it’s a real shame that Colin Baker’s tenure ended so abruptly, as it would have been great to see the 6th Doctor battling the Celestial Toymaker and the Ice Warriors. Fortunately the Big Finish audio adventures have given us the chance to enjoy Colin Baker’s Doctor once more, with scores of memorable stories; they have helped create the legacy that the 6th Doctor so rightly deserves.