Destiny of the Daleks
Lords of the Storm
Resurrection of the Daleks
45 minutes each
|Dates||Feb. 8, 1984 -
Feb. 15, 1984
With Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson.
Written and script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Matthew Robinson. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis: The Daleks return with a trap that ensnares the Doctor, and leads him to again confront Davros.|
A Review by Brett Walther 21/10/04
Although the plot is undoubtedly rather sketchy, Resurrection of the Daleks can only be regarded as a complete success in terms of re-establishing the Daleks as a force to be reckoned with.
They've certainly never been as deadly as they are here. Not only do they mow down entire groups of people with their weapons (the scene in which the entire bridge crew on the prison ship are exterminated is wicked cool), but the mutants inside the casings are just as murderous. The destructive power of the Daleks is also upped to a new level by the introduction of a nasty corrosive gas, which dispatches a number of prison ship crew in a horrific manner in Part One. As well, the Daleks' new voices have never been bettered -- their incomprehensible battle screeches as they withdraw from the airlock in Part One is one of my favourite scary Who moments. Director Matthew Robinson never lets the viewer forget that these Daleks are war machines.
Apart from his occasional ranting soliloquies -- some of which I must confess left me with goosebumps -- Davros actually has a much smaller role than I remembered. Terry Molloy is quite good, though, screaming and spluttering with manic energy throughout. A lot of fans have criticized Davros' transformation into a raging loony in Resurrection, but I think it's entirely appropriate -- it's terrifying to think that he's been frozen for 90 years, and been conscious that entire time... His bitterness towards his interment is completely understandable, and even offers him a powerful new motivation. Furthermore, the improvements made to the mask remain impressive to this day, and few Doctor Who monsters have ever looked as eerie as Davros lurking immobile in that cryogenic chamber in Part One.
Having said that, the script doesn't actually do Davros much justice. I could've done without the inclusion of Davros' slave-making magic wand thingy that is used to create a Dalek faction loyal to Davros. I mean, it's all very clumsy, isn't it, for Eric Saward to give Davros this handy little device that makes Daleks and humans into his slaves with a flick of the wrist, and to gives this unexplained device such crucial importance to the plot -- there wouldn't have been the Dalek battle at the end of Part Four if it weren't for this miracle of engineering -- is a serious flaw. It also denies Davros the opportunity to use his intelligence to manipulate others into following him or seeing his point of view -- a key character trait that is unfortunately ignored in Resurrection, save for the sequence in which the Doctor attempts to execute him.
This is the only scene in the story that the Doctor and Davros share, and it's a pretty decent one. Here, the Fifth Doctor is behaving completely irrationally -- his scheme to assassinate Davros is ill-conceived, and we don't believe for a second that he'll actually be able to pull the trigger, but isn't it fantastic to have Davros call him on it? With a gun to his head, Davros still calmly calls the Doctor a coward...
And how cool is Davros' little voice over in Part Four when he checks his escape hatch, and breaks the virus ampoule... "Now, for the Daleks!" Ooh, I love that bit. It's a gorgeous and subtle nod to the Doctor's discussion with Davros in Genesis of the Daleks about whether or not he would unleash a virus that would destroy all life. Here, it's no longer left for Davros to speculate on a theoretical situation -- he has the opportunity to do it, and does so without hesitation. It makes him so much more dangerous, and yet, as with his unfolding madness, is a natural character development.
And maybe I've got a soft spot for bitches, but I absolutely love Rula Lenska's Styles. If it wasn't for her, those scenes in the self-destruct chamber would be excruciatingly dull. Instead, she offers hints of a dry sense of humour under a gruff exterior as she's working out the code that will end in their own destruction. In fact, the rest of the prison ship's crew are perhaps surprisingly effective. Part One is given a tremendous boost in the personification of just about everyone on board as complacent arses -- the bitch factor is off the scale as personnel are smoking on duty, flashing their green and silver nails and grumbling about how they ended up on a forgotten prison ship.
Unfortunately, the loads of potential established in the first two episodes are, for the most part, completely ditched in the final two instalments. Whereas Part One is one of the most fast-paced episodes ever, Part Three is a perfect example of, well, a bad third episode. It's chock full of filler material and miles away from the frenetic energy of the first half. Here we have Mercer and Turlough wandering aimlessly through the ship, the Doctor strapped to a bubble-wrap bed, and Tegan escaping only to be recaptured -- none of which advances the plot whatsoever. There are a bunch of really stupid bits in the second half of the story as well, like how Tegan is sent as a prisoner to the Dalek ship sans escort, and how the Supreme Daleks suddenly decides to abandon the entire plan because it has decided Davros is untrustworthy...
This is without a doubt my least favourite characterization of the Fifth Doctor. He's a complete moron in Resurrection, and an unlikeable one at that. It bothers the hell out of me that the Doctor so neglects the safety of his companions throughout the four episodes. He doesn't seem to be in any sort of hurry to get Turlough off the Dalek ship after he gets snatched up by the time corridor, and when he does decide to venture to the ship in the TARDIS at the end of Part Two, he leaves an injured Tegan in the hands of people he's barely met, in a building that at any moment, could become infested with Daleks. His callous behaviour and uncharacteristic ineptitude in dealing with his enemies -- from deciding at the spur of the moment to gun down Davros to using the Movellan Virus -- makes Tegan's departure all the more realistic.
The Doctor, quite frankly, deserves to be punished for his complete failure as a hero in Resurrection. The violence is sickening -- Laird's murder, in particular, coming across as completely sadistic and unnecessary -- and the Doctor really hasn't done all that much to prevent the death and suffering of those around him. Rather, his "solution" merely consists of further death and destruction. Janet Fielding is superb in her final scene. It could have so easily been maudlin, but instead, it's utterly painful to see her go this way. It's the reference to Auntie Vanessa that always breaks me down, and the "it's stopped being fun" bit... It's perhaps the closest to achieving realism that a companion ever got after Ian and Barbara in Season One.
Forget the Doctor's failure to save Adric in Earthshock -- it's in Resurrection that he fails completely, and if it weren't for Tegan's brave decision to part his company, I'm not entirely sure he would've recognized his folly. A fantastic ending.
A Terrible, Terrible Waste by Ewen Campion-Clarke 21/1/06
"Hide your eyes if it offends you."Resurrection of the Daleks has to be the most bored Doctor Who story ever.
Not that it's dull, or boring, but bored. The story seems to be looking around, desperate to find something interesting, and then dropping it, bored, before finding something new.
Look at the way it treats the Doctor. For two episodes he's stuck in a plot that has nothing to do with the rest of the story - skulking around some eerie docklands patrolled by sinister police force that he never meets. Working with the bomb disposal squad that ignore pretty much everything he says. At the half-way mark, the Doctor travels into the main plot with the Daleks... and gets locked in a room for another episode, getting his memories sucked out in a flashback sequence. When he gets out, he picks up a gun (something he was deliberately avoiding all through the first two episodes) and heads off to kill Davros. Except he doesn't. Then he goes back to the warehouse plot and releases a virus that blows up the Daleks.
Resurrection of the Daleks is a story that has no interest in the Doctor, Tegan or Turlough. And considering it's Tegan's swansong, that's a bit of a shame. She gets knocked out in part two, then hides in the TARDIS for the rest of the story, leaving it and running away, and then changing her mind at the last minute. Her departure is one thing that's handled well, but it would make more sense for her to depart in the belief the Doctor's become a hardened killer than a general "being sick of it". Tegan seemed "sick of it" before she joined in Logopolis and didn't want to leave in either Time-Flight or The King's Demons.
No, Resurrection isn't interested in the TARDIS crew.
Maybe it's the Daleks? Yes, the Daleks! After all, first time since 1979 we get to see the metal pepperpots from Skaro and this time no Douglas Adams "sillyness". Yes, we can forgive a story for focussing on the monsters that made the series famous.
One problem. Resurrection seems less interested in the Daleks than it does the TARDIS crew.
Now, if I was in the position for writing a story for the Daleks, I'd want to use them. Make them deadly, kill-all-biped psychopaths or very cunning, self-controlled alien death machines. Make them scary, nasty and feared by one and all.
Resurrection doesn't do that, does it?
The first time we see the Daleks, they explode through a door and... get blown up. This gives them their new catchphrases. Forget "Exterminate!" or "Resistance is useless!", the Daleks spend most of the story shouting "Retreat! Withdraw!" or "My vision is impaired, I cannot see!" They aren't even able to defeat a bunch of smoking layabouts who run the space prison. They need Lytton and his men to get the job done, to defeat Styles and Mercer, to face off against Davros. The Daleks have seemingly dozens of plans working all at once and not one of them works. The Supreme Dalek spends the entire story staring at a crystal ball and complaining.
The Daleks don't seem to have any reason to be in the plot. When two of them appear and wipe out the control deck crew, it seems like a token gesture. See? Daleks are in this one! But Lytton's mercenaries do more work. The Daleks pop in for a gloat at the Doctor when they record his memory, and then run away leaving the human character Stien to do their work. As many troopers are ambushed by Davros' little laser gun as are Daleks, and they are interchangeable on a story level.
Not only are the Daleks badly used, they're treated with open contempt. Lytton calls the Daleks stupid to their faces, plots behind their backs and escapes with his life. Davros, their creator, is determined to make a new race of Daleks that aren't as crap as the one that are here. The Daleks explode, froth, melt and disgorge their contents at the slightest provocation. They can't even go through doors without blowing them up first and it's painful to see the humans using normal doorways you have to step through while the Daleks have to wait to slide the entire wall back to let them through. The Daleks we discover are, in fact, on the edge of extinction with those rastafarian androids the Movellans completely defeating their enemies off screen.
We're supposed to be impressed by these things? Scared by them? The policemen are more intimidating!
No, the Daleks are as irrelevant to Resurrection as the Doctor.
Maybe it's Davros?
After all, Davros definitely gets a lot of screen time. He's the prisoner who, in an hour after his release, has brainwashed four troopers, a chemist and two Daleks to his cause and sensible created a batch of weapons of mass destruction. Davros also appears, for some reason, to have the moral high ground. The Doctor strides in, picks up a gun and is about to kill this one-armed, blind cripple in a wheelchair.
And Davros stops him using the power of words alone.
Um, forgive me, but the Doctor is the hero of the series, isn't he? Not Davros. Davros is an insane megalomaniac directly responsible for wiping out his own species. Yet the scenes in Resurrection show him cleverer than the Doctor and the Daleks combined. The Doctor is said to be the insane one, rejecting the fact that all sentient life exists merely to beat the crap out of each other. The Doctor said to be the weak one for not murdering a helpless victim right away. Humans are pathetic too, apparently, because we don't slaughter prisoners as soon as look at them. <
Of course, Davros gets his comeuppance in the end. But the Doctor doesn't defeat him, or the Daleks, or all the characters united. Davros loses because he is stupid and forgets that a virus designed to wipe out Kaled mutants might just effect his mutated Kaled body.
Well, maybe Resurrection is more concerned with original characters...
Wait a minute, what original characters? We get three groups - Archer, Laird and the troops on Earth, 1984; Mercer, Styles and the prison gang in space, in the future; and Lytton, Stein and the mercenaries. These characters aren't treated particularly reverently. Archer and his gang are systematically killed and then replaced with clones. It takes ages to drain the knowledge of the Doctor and it seems to be important for the victim to be alive, but the Daleks are able to copy and convert several dead soldiers as well in the living in around ten seconds. And why are these perfect copies such crap actors? Why isn't Laird copied?
Now, it strikes me that if you kill off a character and then replace it with a clone, in storytelling terms you might as well not have killed them off at all. Are we supposed to care when the evil cloned soldiers get shot by Daleks? But if it were the original, fighting desperately to keep the Daleks in the warehouse and away from the rest of London, we might actually care.
But we don't. They die. So do a lot of people. A lot of good people, according to Tegan, and it's lucky she tells us that because we certainly don't get a chance to make our own mind up.
Take Mercer and Styles. We get a good chance to know them. A chance, anyway. The first sequence shows Mercer as young, idealistic and rebellious and Styles as tired, desperate and corrupt. The crew of station are more interested in relaxing and playing cards and smoking and laugh aloud at the idea of their workplace actually getting attacked. But in ten minutes Styles is gleefully determined to sacrifice her life on a suicide charge into the Dalek ship, not to mention blowing up the station. In the final battle, she's the first to be shot - which is either shockingly innovative or dramatically pathetic, I'm not sure which. Similarly, Mercer doesn't get any real emotion to his death, he doesn't even scream.
Indeed, there is so much carnage, you wonder if you're supposed to care. The opening scene where a bunch of alien prisoners and a harmless tramp are machine-gunned to death, that's shocking. Like the opening to the author's The Visitation on speed. But then there's another massacre on the space station when the mercenaries gas the workers and the Daleks blast those that are left. By the time Turlough has hopped over the heap of corpses, either trying to prevent infection or stop himself vomiting with a hanky, I think we're fully desensitized. Daleks shoot each other, shoot humans, explode with toothpaste... Tegan seems to be the only one to notice it was a complete bloodbath.
Stein is the only character who dies with a point - and even that's debatable. The Daleks shoot him and luckily his corpse hits the control. And it's ironic because he is the most badly-plotted character there. Why is he with the other prisoners? How come he hides when surely all he has to do is wander into the time corridor for a welcome and that food he's always asking for?
Come to think of it, who are the prisoners at the start of the story? Why are they imprisoned on Earth 1984 in the first place? Why was Lytton's lieutenant so stupid as to arrange for these "valuable specimens" to be shot dead? Does it matter, if the converter seems able to work on dead bodies? It seems the specimens are to be converted into evil Dalek clones to bring down society... but why try that in the future as well as 1984? Surely if human society collapses in the twentieth century, it won't exist in the twenty-third for other duplicates? What is the plan the Supreme Dalek has to control Davros and why the hell doesn't he use it? Where did Davros get that funky brainwashing gun and why didn't he use it earlier, like when he was arrested? I could complain at the bad continuity between other Dalek stories, but I'll simply ask why Eric Saward was so utterly useless at them after watching every existing Dalek story? Wasn't he paying attention? Was he actually interested in writing this story at all? Was there some subtext that the world needed to know?
Is Resurrection more of a message story? What is its message? Er...
Well, I think it is that the only way for life kind to go on is to blow up absolutely everything else.
After all, the day is won when Stein blows up the space station, the Daleks, and (apparently) Davros. It's Lytton that survives the story by killing anyone who can stop him. If the humans had blown up Davros, none of this would happen. It's blowing up Daleks that stops them. The Movellan canisters are rubbished by Tegan, Laird and Turlough when they discover they are not bombs and can't blow anything up. The Doctor snatches up bombs and blows up more Daleks.
So, the moral of the story is the only winners are those with superior firepower and no moral scruples.
Remind me, why the hell was this allowed to be shown in Doctor Who? Full frontal nudity has as much place in this program - and at least that's slightly more wholesome! This story was written by the SCRIPT EDITOR of Doctor Who and he couldn't even remember that the Doctor is supposed to show a better way to resolving situations than shooting your enemy in cold blood? Eric Saward recently admitted in DWM that his heart wasn't in Resurrection of the Daleks. Which, considering he had an extension of year to tinker with it, is a damning indictment of his skills.
Now, this isn't to say that Resurrection of the Daleks has no merit. All those involved (bar Saward) give their all to this mess, making such a sleek and polished production that the fans of 1984 were conned into thinking it better than The Caves of Androzani (a fact now treated by people with the same amusement that once people thought the Earth rested on the back of a tortoise). The actors give it their all, the special effects are massive. The moment when the TARDIS takes off carrying Tegan and Turlough to safety is treated with equal respect if not emotion when the Doctor pulls the same trick in The Parting of the Ways.
Resurrection of the Daleks continues the harshness of Season 21, and finally shows the characters cracking under the strain of this cruel universe. The Doctor snaps and picks up a gun, while Tegan gives up and walks away. The Time Lord avows to mend his ways and stop any further carnage from now on. The rest of the stories in the season would show how well this progressed.
A Review by Finn Clark 30/1/06
I've always liked Resurrection of the Daleks. I rewatched it alongside Dalek Invasion of Earth and in many ways it's a fitting companion piece (and companion departure piece: Susan vs. Tegan). They're among the grimmest Doctor Who stories, taking the Daleks to London and going apeshit with the body count. There aren't many laughs in either story, but there's certainly death. Lots and lots of death. Yes, this story isn't exactly fun... but for me, this is how Dalek stories should be. It's very Terry Nation, like a 1970s Dalek annual. EVERYONE DIES. (Okay, that's not quite true. One guest character survives, but against that some people get duplicated and die twice!)
In Hartnell's favour, Dalek Invasion of Earth has that whole "Nazi occupation" thing and more realism. Resurrection of the Daleks has a plastic SF future and even Matthew Robinson's rather good direction can't quite overcome that. (From Genesis onwards, Dalek stories were impressively directed.) However Resurrection also has enough brutality to out-gross Season 22. Those melting faces on the space station, the numbing body count, the way a Dalek trooper takes leisurely aim before murdering that cute girl in episode one...
It's interesting that this story was scheduled for Season 20 until a BBC strike derailed it. Season 21 is famously as bleak and gruesome as Season 22 but with Peter Davison instead of Colin Baker, but imagine how Season 20 nearly looked. Terminus, Resurrection and Turlough trying to murder the Doctor!
The plot's a mess, of course. The Daleks are trying to do a million things at once, random story elements get thrown in and dropped at whim... but I quite enjoyed that! They're Daleks. Of course it's a complex situation! There's Davros, the Movellan virus, Dalek duplicates and of course the infamous plot to assassinate the Gallifreyan High Council. Look at this Matthew Robinson quote from TV Zone #88: "You never knew which side anybody was on, and there were about a dozen different sides... I think I cleared the ticket of extra strands, chopping it down with the writer a little. If I don't understand it, the viewers aren't going to understand it."
However for once this really is part of a much bigger story. Resurrection isn't just a four-parter, but Act Three of a twenty-part epic spanning fourteen years from 1975 (Genesis) to 1988 (Remembrance) and arguably beyond to the Time War of Russell T. Davies. If Genesis was the Time Lords' first strike, then Resurrection is the Daleks' counter-strike! Okay, I'm using fannish perspectives to prop up a slightly silly revelation. Nevertheless one must wonder when Davros got so knowledgeable about Gallifrey ("You are soft - like all Time Lords you prefer to stand and watch."). Even the "goof" of Leela's omission from the Doctor's old faces parade fits beautifully... he's hiding the identity of the only companion he actually left on Gallifrey!
If you think that's bad, try another theory... when he's rigged up to the Dalek's mind-spike torture device, the Doctor starts sending information the wrong way to hack another piece of Dalek technology, viz. Stein's mind. That helps to trigger Stein's conscience, but it also explains where he learned about Lytton. (The 6th Doctor speaks of him with great familiarity in Attack of the Cybermen, but they'd barely met.)
Let's discuss Eric Saward. Earthshock and Resurrection infamously borrow from the past (though Terry Nation recycled too), but I think this story doesn't get enough credit for its original elements. For starters, Saward writes the best Daleks since David Whitaker. They're impulsive, murderous, double-crossing sons of bitches, not just Davros's sidekicks (Genesis, Revelation) or robots (Destiny). We see blobby things in destroyed casings. Their organic nature is even vital for the plot (the Movellan virus) while the killer mutant in Episode Two is one of my favourite things from any Dalek story. Blow up its casing and it'll still try to kill you!
The continuity is heavy, yes, but look at how the Dalek stories from Genesis to Remembrance dovetail in a manner possibly unique in television, let alone just Doctor Who. What's more, the stories are good! (Compare in any respect with, for instance, the Cyber-stories over the same period.)
Resurrection is sinister, especially on Earth. The severed cable in the phone box, the killer policemen, that Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe... even Davros occasionally gave me the creeps. It's too macho and fast-paced to be scary, but it's not without atmosphere. The ending in particular is like nothing else in Doctor Who. It's not tragic like Earthshock or Attack of the Cybermen, but it's deeply uncomfortable. You've got Tegan's traumatic departure, the Doctor's shellshocked reaction, Dalek duplicates in strategic positions in Earth society, more corpses than a small war and of course Lytton walking away at the end.
The production is solid. Compare with Warriors of the Deep... it's not floodlit, but instead has lots of atmospheric shadows and a distinctive futuristic look. Admittedly there were several "downbeat SF future" stories around this time (see also Warriors' Gate, Terminus, The Mysterious Planet, Vengeance on Varos, Frontios, etc.) but I rather like that sub-genre. They're more interesting than overlit antiseptic utopias and they work better on-screen when realised under 1980s BBC production values! This story even characterises its bleak future with details like ethnic minorities and cigarettes. (I'd even go so far as to defend the gun designs, though I might be on my own there.)
The acting's impressive. The space station crew can be hit-or-miss, but I relished Maurice Colbourne, Rodney Bewes, Rula Lenska and Del Henney. Even Chloe Ashcroft (better known for presenting children's TV) is far from being the weak link. On the DVD commentary track, Matthew Robinson notes that JNT had been pushing for a strong cast for the return of the Daleks. I can believe it.
And of course there's Peter Davison. I could watch Davison all day. It's a masterclass. Watch his murder attempt on Davros. I couldn't call it another "Do I have the right?" from Genesis, but I prefer it to the sugar scene in Remembrance simply for the subtleties of Davison's performance. Admittedly the Doctor doesn't come out of that scene looking good. However in the greater scheme of things I think it's vital, especially if you're watching the five Davros stories back to back. It's the "why doesn't Batman kill the Joker?" question. The Doctor doesn't kill the Master because they used to be friends (except that in the very next story he did!), but not so with Davros. Their history wouldn't make sense without that scene... it's not that the Doctor never considered killing his enemy, but he couldn't do it. Call him a coward if you like; Eccleston's Doctor explicitly embraced that label after a similar decision in The Parting of the Ways!
Of the companions, ironically Turlough has the better role. He's lots of fun in episode three as a slippery bastard stuck with idiots dead set on blowing themselves up. He's ruthless too. ("What about the troopers?" "We kill them.") Mark Strickson is great to watch; I particularly loved his expression when everyone else is excited about entering the self-destruct chamber.
In contrast Tegan gets short-changed, though in fairness this wasn't going to be her departure story until the last minute. She's unmemorable, frankly. There's her goodbye scene, of course, but I'm even ambivalent about that. It's shocking and in-character, but it's been shoehorned into an already overstuffed last episode and it's barely sixty seconds long. (If you include the Doctor's monologue afterwards and Tegan's brief return after he's gone, you can add another forty seconds to that total.) It's an awfully one-note scene for poor Janet Fielding, who might have appreciated a few more colours to play in her farewell... but sadly by Doctor Who standards, even this is pretty good.
I wonder... was the third cliffhanger moved to make room for Tegan's departure? Part one does brilliantly with the hoary old cliche of a "look, a Dalek!" first cliffhanger, but part three's ending is bollocks.
Overall, this is very much a bits-and-pieces story. It works best if you're squinting to ignore its ramshackle structure and putting it in the context of larger things, but it has some superb elements. It has a great doom-laden atmosphere, great Daleks and a strong all-round production. I won't say that it deserved to win the "best story of Season 21" poll in DWM that year, but I can see why it did.
Beginning, Ending by Ben Kirkham 22/5/07
It all started off so well, didn't it?
We open on a grey and gritty shot of London, and some people in strange uniforms are getting violently gunned down by silent and impeccable policemen. Some die quite badly, and the policemen continue on their beat. It's an excellent opening, setting the scene for what promises to be an exciting adventure.
Broken promises. After this wonderfully enigmatic opening, Resurrection of the Daleks goes badly downhill, and degenerates into one of the worst Doctor Who stories ever made. The main problem is the complex plot. That's not usually a problem in Doctor Who (see the excellent Ghost Light), but here the plot is so ridiculously and boringly played out that when the end came it took me another 25 minutes to recover. When the Daleks mention the Time Lords, I wonder how we got from point A to point B. Many talk about the Fifth Doctor's xenophobic tendencies in this story. I would enter this debate if the story weren't so full of itself that I really didn't care less.
When the story fails, at least a decent director can pull it out of the flames. Well, Matthew Robinson does a great job with the location scenes, but the studio scenes don't cut the mustard. Dramatic shots come across as flat and bland. To be fair to him, the cast don't do him any favours. This story contains some totally awful guest actors (mostly aboard the spaceship) with a few good performances (Lytton, Davros, Styles, Stien). "The morale on this ship is appalling." Yep, and so is the acting.
The Daleks deserved much better, too. They come across as stupid soldiers that just shoot at people. Davros has also passed his prime, though Terry Molloy gives a good performance.
But really, I'm just skirting the issue. The real problem with this story (notwithstanding the horrible "plot", terrible guest acting, uneven direction, pointless and ridiculous violence, continuity obsession, and rubbish Daleks) is the way the TARDIS crew are treated. Let's see, upon discovering Stien inside the warehouse, the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough investigate. Turlough vanishes, Tegan gets injured and the Doctor joins up with some army men and Chloe Ashcroft to walk around inside the warehouse doing nothing but poke sticks at cats and wait for some answers to some obscure questions no one seems to be asking. Turlough, meanwhile, walks around the Dalek ship, looking shifty and not really doing anything significant (at least Eric Saward's being consistent here). This is all intercut with boring scenes of Rula Lenska's Styles trying to figure out how to stop the Daleks, and boring guest stars moaning about the morale on their vessel. Slightly more interestingly, a mysterious man called Lytton resurrects Davros to tell him that the Daleks lost the war with the Movellans (but everyone's forgotten about Destiny of the Daleks, JNT, so no one really cares). This is all played over with excruciatingly awful music from Malcolm Clarke.
That's about as dramatic as it gets. The Doctor gets the occasional tense close-up, with poor Peter Davison doing his absolute best to inject some interest. Eventually, doubles of everyone pop up everywhere, so the Doctor gets aboard the Dalek ship, we get pointless flashbacks of past companions and Doctors, and the Doctor considers killing Davros. A big bomb goes off and kills lots of Daleks, but by this point everyone is dead anyway so what's the point?
In the midst of all this dreck is Lytton, a genuinely interesting character skilfully played by Maurice Colbourne. Lytton has his own motives for reviving Davros, but always keeps his cards close to his chest. He can't be trusted for the slightest second, and his return appearance was indeed warranted.
Fortunately, the story hugely picks up five minutes before the end credits. Tegan's emotional departure is both well written and convincingly portrayed by Janet Fielding and Peter Davison. This was quite a big deal at the time, as Tegan had been with the Fifth Doctor since before Day One, and her ultimate decision to leave is understandable. A brilliant scene, and wonderfully downbeat.
So, a great beginning and a great ending, shame about the middle. Says a lot about 80's Doctor Who as a whole, really...
A Review by Brian May 23/10/07
Resurrection of the Daleks is a story I have a long-running love-hate relationship with; a story which showcases the very best and worst Doctor Who could offer.
It's exceptionally well made. Matthew Robinson's direction is nothing short of superb. The use of the then-derelict Shad Thames features some of the programme's best ever location photography. The opening slow tracking shot is gorgeous, while every other exterior scene is similarly evocative. Robinson and cameraman Ian Punter definitely have an eye for capturing a desolate moodiness. They can't take all the credit, of course; the weather was on their side, and the shots wouldn't be half as atmospheric had they been in full sunshine (but, then again, it is England...)
Robinson's good work continues inside, and he's helped by excellent design. The sets are great, with the corridors and rooms of the space station and Dalek ship looking high budget indeed, and the warehouse mock-up is very convincing. I know that true Who fans shouldn't criticise the classic series for dodgy special effects, but it's always cause to cheer when they were actually pretty good, as is the case here. The weakest effect is probably the ray of the Dalek craft as it fires upon the station, but if that's the worst then there's no real cause for complaint.
There are some excellent performances, but to emphasise the aforementioned balance, there are some less than excellent ones. Peter Davison and Mark Strickson are brilliant, the latter making the most of a thanklessly diminished role. Janet Fielding is similarly sidelined, but she pulls out all the stops for a wonderful, emotionally charged departure scene for Tegan. However, the star of this story is Maurice Coulbourne, who is absolutely stunning as Lytton. His amoral mercenary is such a hateable character, but you can't help but feel relieved - or at the very least bestow a grudging admiration - when he walks away at the end. Del Henney (Archer) and Philip McGough (Calder) are similarly excellent - except at the very end, with their awful death scenes (but more on this later), while Rodney Bewes does well capturing all of Stien's idiosyncrasies. Terry Molloy as Davros had a difficult task ahead of him. He's much better than David Gooderson but still pales in comparison to Michael Wisher's definitive portrayal of the Kaled scientist (a performance no one could emulate). Molloy does well in quieter moments, but his endless rants are too over the top, often unintelligible and another pale imitation of the far more frightening mood swings Wisher gave us.
Most of the bad performances come from the space-station crew, who are thankfully disposed of quickly - except for Jim Findlay as Mercer, who continues his combination of inexperience and awful dialogue through to the final episode. While Rula Lenska is good as Styles, she's wasted in the role, just walking through corridors, dithering in the self-destruct room and matching Mercer almost word for word in spouting macho, would-be cynical drivel. And Chloe Ashcroft is very poor as Laird - one of John Nathan-Turner's less successful celebrity castings.
A couple of pieces of good dialogue aside - the Doctor's speech about killing Davros and the exchange between the two - the script is rubbish. It's a garbling of series continuity, in an era of Doctor Who infamous for it, with occasional inaccuracies (Davros was aware of the Dalek-Movellan stalemate) and another obligatory flashbacks sequence. This time it's gratuitous, lacking the nostalgic charm of Mawdryn Undead's or the mournful recollections of those in Logopolis. The story is an overall mess, with all the plotting and counter-plotting merging into a maelstrom of confusion, changing at the author's whim; the plan to assassinate the High Council seems to have been written just to fulfil a fanboy thrill of hearing the Daleks say "Gallifrey". When Stien yells out "I can't stand the confusion in my mind!" he's not the only one!
The violence doesn't bother me as much as it used to. Death has always been a part of Doctor Who, and despite the high body count most of the killings are clean, laser gun dispatches (although, in my opinion, the close-ups of the burnt faces went too far for what was still a kids' show). There are some well realised, haunting images of death: the massacre of escaped prisoners and the tramp at the beginning, and the policeman shooting the man with the metal detector - a grim piece of sadism designed to break Tegan's spirit. The off-screen deaths of Galloway and Calder are other examples, but the best is the demise of Archer at the hands of the two policemen; the vision cuts away at exactly the right moment to leave the rest to our imaginations. But these are in the minority; the rest are just so over the top. Ironically, the worst is the duplicate Archer's death, a real shame given Henney's otherwise superb performance. It's just one of many embarrassing, overacted incidents of squealing and thrashing about that cheapens the intended effect. It's the overall attitude to death that's more disturbing than any obvious violence - and no, the attempted moralism at the end (Tegan is upset by it all, so that makes it okay) doesn't work.
Oh, and all those hats and helmets are very silly too!
From the feature on the DVD release, it's interesting to see that Eric Saward has acknowledged the shortcomings of this story while John Nathan-Turner defended it to the end (and he died not long after this interview). I've never liked the use of Davros beyond Genesis, but Saward also mentions that his inclusion was imposed by Terry Nation, so the blame can't fall on the hands of this production team.
Resurrection of the Daleks is another Doctor Who blockbuster, following on from Saward's own Earthshock, but with none of that story's impact or surprise. It's the programme at its most Hollywood: great to look at, but ultimately hollow. 4/10
Cut and paste by Thomas Cookson 9/3/13
What if Resurrection of the Daleks actually had closed Season 20? Resurrection of the Daleks dances between a plotless incoherent mess of nauseating violent excesses, and an interesting experiment in punk art visual storytelling (which Revelation of the Daleks later perfects). The opening massacre, whilst making no plot sense, is an admirably audacious surrealist parody of police brutality. The Daleks' entrance is expertly handled, and Davros' reveal is a genuine surprise.
But a lack of focus makes the Daleks feel surplus to requirements in their own story until their eventual mass destruction is overindulged, completely eroding their robust formidable presence. For instance, Lytton's men slaughter Styles and her crew in the self-destruct chamber, simply so the Daleks can reprimand Lytton for his failure afterwards, leading to him making his escape plan. It begs the question why not just send a single Dalek to exterminate them all, rather than waiting on Lytton's elaborate, cumbersome break in. That would make more sense and show the Daleks as more formidable.
Alas, Saward's only interested in telling Lytton's story. Ultimately, it's all rendered off-balance by its nightmarish excesses and vulgar unpleasantness. But what if Peter Grimwade had directed it as originally intended? Weaving his Earthshock magic again, turning a potentially depressing, sadistic, leery production into something satisfyingly slick and dynamic. Doing for the Daleks what Earthshock did for the Cybermen, given the same sharp eye behind the camera? Would the story have felt focused and momentous rather than incoherent? Punctuated by its violence rather than drowned in it? Would he have captured the energetic, euphoric spirit of survival horror instead of tired, mindless suicidal self-destruction?
As transmitted, there just seems no need for all its violence. But ideally it should have felt wholly appropriate for a Dalek story with a brutal honesty about the horrors of war that goes completely against 80s 'army chic'. Perhaps it would have worked if done with the same class that Earthshock was.
Furthermore, would it have improved Season 20, making the season more than the sum of its parts? Arguably, Season 19, which was all about getting Tegan home, was the last time the show had a sense of direction, before aimless navel-gazing and apathy of the main characters took hold. Earthshock was perhaps the culmination of Season 19's 'we're all in the same tribe' ethos. So would Resurrection of the Daleks have given Season 20 a sense of culmination, or direction, or at least some pay-off?
Maybe it would have been felt that, after a season about the tedium of existence, we had finally gotten a proper balls-out action story. That pantomime villains like the Master and Black Guardian were merely warming us up for the Doctor's true greatest enemy, now deadlier than ever. Giving the season a finality that The King's Demons lacked, and even possibly redeeming the Doctor for his failure in letting the Master escape again by showing him annihilating a far greater threat to the cosmos.
Resurrection of the Daleks could have justified The King's Demons after all if, as is rumoured, it was Kamelion who was meant to fall under Dalek influence and then overcome their control and self-destruct the station at the end, rather than Stien (which would have made far more sense). Maybe The King's Demons would have ended with Frontios' cliffhanger rather than the Doctor playing that lame, characteristically passive aggressive trick on Tegan.
Perhaps the moment where the Doctor can't bring himself to kill Davros would nicely bookend the Doctor's shooting of Omega in Arc of Infinity (as would the Dalek plot to assassinate the High Council). It also could have nicely echoed Turlough's choice and the theme of understanding life's worth in Enlightenment.
Indeed, the idea in Terminus of a plague sweeping the cosmos, and an isolated, decaying, lonely outpost in space, might have felt like just setting the scenery for Resurrection of the Daleks. The horrific fate of the soldiers in the warehouse might have also complemented Mawdryn Undead's hint that the cosy, innocent days of UNIT were over and that the world was far less forgiving now.
But, more importantly, there is the issue of the Fifth Doctor's character. The problem with Davison's Doctor is that he was entirely defined by his contrast to Tom Baker. He was defined more by who he wasn't. He was specifically cast because of his professional behaviour and because, unlike Tom, he would play the part as told to. The trouble is, few writers seemed to know what he should be. JNT and Eric Saward had clashing ideas of who the Fifth Doctor was. To JNT, he was a dashing young hero with a tragic vulnerability. To Eric Saward, he was a moral nuisance who for too long had been validated by the pact trappings of a morally trite kid's show. Other writers had other ideas, such as Bidmead's 'old man trapped in a young man's body', but there was no solid writing team and thus no consensus on the character. In fact, by most accounts, the writers were utterly neglected and treated as disposable props by JNT and Eric Saward.
The result is that his character was rarely written strongly. He was sidelined and overshadowed by his companions. Hardly any writers, and certainly not Eric Saward, seemed capable of being on the same page as the Fifth Doctor, and ergo neither was the audience. This was pretty much unprecedented for the show. So even when Earthshock or Snakedance seemed a defining story for his Doctor, afterwards a character reset-button got pressed. At the same time as the Doctor was having his alien enigma and unpredictability eroded away, there was paradoxically a consistent failure to get to the heart of the character. He became buried in an impenetrable layer of earnest bluster, self-righteousness and delusional, morally confused dogma, and, despite his apparent nice guy image, he could sometimes be so high and mighty, condescending and judgemental that he was more like the Sixth Doctor than even the Sixth Doctor was.
Only Christopher Bailey seemed to truly understand his character, being the only writer who liked the Williams era and was concerned that, under JNT, the show's protagonist had regressed. The Fifth Doctor was not the Doctor we knew. The Doctor we knew was somehow withdrawn and buried within him. His essence was trapped in a more broken, timid, juvenile and uncertain personality that had to serve as a vessel for him. It was the Fifth Doctor who was the regeneration gone wrong. Not the Sixth Doctor (in fact, the transition from the Fourth Doctor to the Sixth and Seventh makes far more sense with the Fifth Doctor taken out of the equation entirely).
Now, on the one hand, this is an aberration. It means we endured an entire era of Doctor Who where any semblance of the Doctor we'd all come to admire was utterly absent. In which we're waiting for the current Doctor to actually leave and be regenerated into the competent hero he's supposed to be. But potentially this idea, if done right, could really up the stakes and have emotional resonance. The idea of the Doctor's essence being trapped within a weaker body and having never been in a more vulnerable and fragile state, carried with meek delicacy by a humble courier who is simply trying to survive in a savage universe, is potentially thrilling. It might even be affirming and poignant for anyone in the audience who could relate to feeling that sense of uncertainty, foolish passiveness or failure to measure up. But the focus and heart often wasn't there, and was instead on clueless attempts to homage old foes and old stories note for note, which only further limited his character growth, rendered him even more incapable of learning anything from his mistakes, and made unfavourable comparisons with his more competent predecessors impossible to ignore.
Warriors of the Deep's problem is that it has a pathetic protagonist trying desperately to preach about our folly. And so had to be written with belligerent, self-righteous insistence that the Doctor is right, that suicidal dogmatic pacifist lunacy is what the Doctor always has and always should stand for, and so should we (this would make even less sense if the story was transmitted after we'd seen him wiping out the Daleks here). But the overriding concern was to make stories neurotically faithful to a warped fan notion of the show's misremembered past. In fact, this became the only circumstance in which it was deemed essential for Eric Saward to do extensive script edits.
Whilst many fans insist that they saw and responded to the sensitive heart in Davison's Doctor, I doubt that the public did. The public quite liked Tom Baker, and weren't as eager as fandom to have him replaced with someone so self-consciously, desperately different. But then, the public weren't told what to think by DWM, or told how to see Davison's Doctor in a 'sensitive' light like we fans were.
Season 20 is arguably where the Doctor as a character really begins to suffer. He'd been fallible and doubtful in Season 19, but usually for legitimate, overwhelming reasons. In Season 20 he had become simply a bystander. Now Terminus and Mawdryn Undead had demonstrated that this need not be a flaw if all the Doctor needs to do is let the hand of chance resolve all problems instead (the 'right kind' of nothing); thus he didn't really come off as anywhere near the liability he becomes in Season 21. Snakedance is one of the few stories to acknowledge this idea of Davison's Doctor as the self-doubting, withdrawn vessel. A story very much concerned with the Doctor needing to find his buried centre in order to succeed. Again, though, anyone expecting this to provide a lasting breakthrough for the character in stories after, would be sorely disappointed.
But whilst Eric Saward never seemed to regard the Doctor much, Resurrection of the Daleks did utilise a similar idea to Snakedance. The idea of the Doctor's true essence being buried is echoed by the scene where the Dalek conditioning is ripping through his memories (again, this is visual, emotional storytelling). After this, the Doctor's Hartnellian ruthless streak becomes reawoken, he promises to correct the mistake he made in Genesis of the Daleks and almost executes Davros, but ultimately chickens out.
On the one hand, that moment proves Davros correct about the Doctor's weakness. It even retroactively ruins the Doctor's ambiguity and hinted darker streak in Genesis of the Daleks when he threatens to shut down Davros' life support and sounds like he's not bluffing. Here there's no doubt he was bluffing. However, the audience actually is on the same page as him in that moment, and it is perhaps one of the strongest examples of Eric Saward's writing showing a post-modern understanding that morality is simply a state of mind and merely based on an individual's point of view. Like the philosophical musings in Snakedance.
If both Snakedance and Resurrection of the Daleks, in the same season had portrayed the Fifth Doctor this way, would we have had a more definitive portrayal of him in future rather than the morally confused, utterly alienating portrayal we got in Season 21?
Could we forgive its moral torpor if it were simply a one-off in an otherwise lightweight season that briefly flirted with morbidity in Mawdryn Undead and Terminus, but otherwise featured happy endings that didn't stain the Doctor's hands? Here, the Doctor's principles failed him and his only choice was to break out the Movellan plague and wipe out the enemy. But would that be forgivable if it were emphasised by stories prior that this was a rare exception, rather than how Season 21 made it the rule? Maybe the Doctor's "do you think I wanted it this way?" would ring far truer.
But for all that to happen, Resurrection of the Daleks would have to be not only Season 20's closer story, but followed by a complete production team changeover.
"They're dying. And so are you." by Hugh Sturgess 15/10/14
Resurrection of the Daleks is most commonly compared to Earthshock, being the return of a classic monster after many years absence in a Sawardian bloodbath that re-establishes said monsters as arse-kicking killing-machines. However, I think the comparisons with Attack of the Cybermen are more revealing, beyond Lytton's appearance in both. Both are pathologically violent in a way Earthshock is not. Both end with the Doctor defeating the bad guys, but his victory feels worse than his defeat in Earthshock. Both push the Sawardian obsessions (mercenaries; "real world" violence; unlikeable, unthinkingly aggressive characters) to the point of being existential. Both are famously light on plot.
There is also death. Lots of it. According to About Time, there are seventy-four onscreen deaths in this story (including Daleks), and I can believe it. This story has a cast of thousands, and they are hacked down mercilessly. Death is so omnipresent that it's as though some metaphysical point is being made about the meaninglessness of existence. Sometimes it's stomach-churning, such as the station officer wailing "What's happening to me?!" as his face and fingers corrode and melt. Sometimes it's sadistic, such as Professor Laird screaming as she is shot in the back. Mostly, it's casual and clinical, from the opening massacre to the fake policeman gunning down a riverbank scavenger on the off-chance he might hear Tegan calling for help, right through to Lytton's casual killing of the remaining Dalek trooper. ("They're dying. And so are you.")
There are some truly gruesome things in this story. The disfigured station officer is an exemplar, but let's not forget the long zoom on the dead crewman whose face has been reduced to a shapeless mass of raw meat a few scenes earlier. Turlough stumbles on a Dalek morgue filled with rotting corpses. Those are the overtly graphic elements. There are things that stay in the mind just as long that don't involve gore. What about the Dalek trooper who takes a leisurely aim at Osborn before gunning her down?
Saying that Resurrection is too violent misses the point. It is incredibly violent, nihilistically so, but it's not meant to be nice and jolly. It's what happens when you have the misfortune to cross paths with the Daleks. Think of all the lame Dalek stories that make them look like idiots (The Chase, Planet of the Daleks, Destiny, etc.). Everyone went hog-wild over Resurrection on first broadcast, didn't they? That was probably because this was the Dalek story we always had in our heads. The Daleks turn up and kill EVERYONE. They even kill themselves! Like the stories in our heads, it may not have the world's most coherent plot, but its messiness is a selling point. The Doctor hasn't found his way to the enormous plot at the heart of the Dalek Empire, but merely stumbled upon its outer edge. He glimpses just a few of the plans they have in motion and escapes amid a deluge of corpses. Think about what happened to the Master in the story that was meant to precede this (The King's Demons). He dresses up as a comedy Frenchman to derail the Magna Carta. Seriously? While he was doing that, the Daleks were planning to break Davros out of prison, cure the virus that was destroying them, take over Earth with duplicates and duplicate the Doctor to create a Manchurian Candidate avenger to assassinate the High Council of the Time Lords. They make the Master look like a guy who can't even hold up a convenience store. (Frankly, it's stories like The King's Demons that make the "it's all a laugh" theory about the Master's motivations essential.)
Saward does go off the rails trying to keep all the plates he's juggling in the air. The Supreme Dalek tells Lytton that he has "a plan that will force Davros to leave of his own free will". What is it? We never find out, and within no time he's decided that Davros can't be trusted and should be killed, even though he has previously asserted that "without Davros we have no future". Is the innate Dalek bloodthirstiness getting the better of him? And this has been asked a thousand times, but what are the casings of the Movellan virus doing on Earth? When Stein so much as mentions the virus, Tegan immediately concludes that that is what is in the canisters, but why? Stein says that the Daleks thought the cylinders were "safer" on Earth (fair enough, the Daleks would be afraid of contamination, but they expect Davros to work on the virus onboard their ship, so they can't be that frightened), and they "acted as a lure" for the bomb disposal squad, who could then be duplicated and guard the warehouse end of the time corridor. Saward compliments himself by having Tegan remark that the scheme is "very neat". But surely the Daleks know that the human authorities will get suspicious when the bomb disposal squad fails to report in? Why not just shut down the corridor, which the Supreme Dalek orders done after the Dalek sent to Earth is destroyed? Motivation has been put through a fruit mixer.
The Daleks themselves look a little ratty, and I was surprised just how silly they sound. (And it's weird hearing a Dalek say: "He must be ex-ter-min-at-ed as soon as it is con-ven-i-ent!".) Lytton declares that Daleks "kill anyone, even if they need them". Like the depiction of the titular monsters in Attack of the Cybermen, this characterisation is not flattering, but it is distinctive. These Daleks are rage-addled psychopaths who decide to kill everyone and ruin their own plans on a whim. When they attack the prison, they don't capture the crew, no, they wipe them out and stack up their bodies like matchwood. They don't capture and brainwash the bomb disposal squad, they slaughter them and clone them. They're not emotionless tools, either. They can be poetic ("Nothing must interfere with the true destiny of the Daleks!") and clever ("You forget: Daleks do not need to invade.") Also like Attack, this story is fascinated by the squishy, gross organic bits inside the metal shells. The plot hinges on the Dalek creatures as organic beings vulnerable to a virus, and the Dalek in the warehouse is still dangerous even after its casing is destroyed.
This is a Doctor Who story that feels dangerous. It begins with the casual killing of an innocent bystander (and a harmless old man at that) by men dressed as policemen. Twice, characters approach them with a relieved smile on their faces. The first is Colonel Archer, who promptly gets shot in the face. When Tegan does the same, knowing that she gets out of it alive didn't stop me feeling a little twinge of worry. This depiction of evil hiding behind a familiar face continues with Archer's duplicate telling Tegan and Laird that the warehouse is under martial law and that he will shoot them if they attempt to leave. Even though the TARDIS crew are in fact the only protagonists the Daleks don't kill on sight (the Daleks need the Doctor's memories, use Tegan as leverage and "allow the boy to roam freely", for some reason; "This will be the Dalek Plan!", the Supreme decides), it feels like they only escape by the skin of their teeth. I wouldn't want to be Turlough, wandering the corpse-strewn corridors of the prison, or Tegan, in the ghost-town Docklands stalked by the killer policemen.
In almost any other story, Tegan's last minute decision to leave would be hollow. Here, when she says that she's "sick of it", you believe her. I was sick of the killing by the end. You can pinpoint the moment her enthusiasm for travelling with the Doctor vanishes completely: her horrified reaction to the casual murder of the riverside scavenger, a death she caused by calling to him for help. Mere minutes later, Laird, Tegan's only friend after the Doctor goes to the Dalek ship, is brutally gunned down, screaming. Finally, upon arriving on the Dalek ship, she is nearly killed by Mercer (who tells Turlough that she was about to scream, but raises his gun after it's clear she won't). This isn't fun, this isn't exhilarating. It's a nightmare. If this happened to me, I'd want to get out of there first chance I got and keep running.
This is how Dalek stories should be. If the Daleks are such a big deal, write them stories which slaughter their casts and from which the Doctor is lucky to escape.
An under-appreciated strength of this story is its links to Destiny of the Daleks. This is a genuine sequel, following on from the events in that story and showing how they affect the broader Doctor Who universe. The other JNT Dalek stories (Revelation and Remembrance) do the same to this story, developing the Davros/Daleks schism with the Imperial Daleks and the Dalek Civil War and advancing the Daleks' cold war with the Time Lords. Resurrection isn't just another story, it's part of an epic that stretches from Genesis of the Daleks to Remembrance thirteen years later. There's nothing else like it in Doctor Who, and this is the story that whips it into shape and makes it a narrative. I saw this story long before I saw Destiny of the Daleks. Could anyone know what to expect from that story after seeing this one? Those Movellans, for instance. They were already the Daleks' equals, and then outsmarted them and drove them to the edge of extinction. They must be terrifying, right? Can't wait to see them. Oops. Like The Deadly Assassin with the later Gallifrey stories, Resurrection of the Daleks provides the anchor for the other stories, the tentpole that turns them from disconnected stories into a coherent whole.
(Speaking of which, what becomes of the Movellans after this story? Does Davros come up with a cure to their virus? He has to, to survive his infection at the end. Does he synthesise it for the "renegade" Daleks who capture him in Revelation? Is the child in Remembrance of the Daleks, and the creativity she gives the renegades, a response to their dependence on battle computers in Destiny? So are the Movellans all wiped out once they lose their tactical advantages? It's amazing that a bunch of disco-droids who can be beaten by unclipping their batteries ever inconvenienced the Daleks for a second, and the explanation in War of the Daleks (that the Movellans were actually created by the Daleks themselves as part of an elaborate ruse) is superficially plausible. However, why would the Daleks actually create a virus that kills them? Besides, I'm not having four stories retconned by the likes of War of the Daleks.)
The production is good too, appropriate for the heralded return of the Doctor's greatest enemies. The battle sequence as the Daleks storm the prison station is a shameless rip-off of the famous opening to Star Wars, but has a fantastic mix of direction and music. The shot of Daleks and troopers advancing slowly through the smoke, to an ominous martial score, is one of the most distinctive and evocative shots in the programme's history. Unfortunately, future battle scenes get confused as the post-production team forgot which guns make which sounds. As to the frequent criticisms of the gun props used in this story, yes it looks like kids playing war. But it heightens the story's theme of death coming quickly and unexpectedly. There's an almost pitch-black comedy to the swiftness with which characters are dispatched with nothing more than a light bulb and a special-effect sound.
Actingwise, despite what seems to be a cast of thousands, only Stein and Lytton could be called "major characters" beyond the regulars and Davros. (I had to look up Wikipedia to find Osborn's name, for instance.) Maurice Colbourne's is a mighty, mighty performance, being, as he is in Attack of the Cybermen, virtually the main character, eclipsing even the Doctor. Rula Lenska is good, but she's been given an odd verbal tic of repeating other characters' dialogue: "The cruiser's docked!" and "Uniforms!". How did Saward intend her to deliver those lines? On a similar note, Jim Findley as Mercer flubs several lines, particularly "So we're letting him go", which only after Styles replies "no" do we realise is actually meant to be a (rhetorical) question. They, and the humans on Earth, are perfectly serviceable, since they don't have much to do beyond die. Again, it's almost existential watching these characters we never really know or like being slaughtered. The thematic point, if one was intended, is strikingly grim.
Resurrection of the Daleks is the perfect companion piece to Attack of the Cybermen. It's a disturbingly bleak vision of the series, and about as far from being an adventure as possible. Largely unlikeable characters abound, being gunned down without compunction or regard to their role in the story. Its plot is a massacre in a script-factory, a blizzard of severed plot threads and gouts of ruptured motivations, but its thematic strength - producing the bleakest, least optimistic Doctor Who imaginable - overcomes those drawbacks. Come Season Twenty-Two, Saward devotes the entire series to this vision, and the result is grotesque. Nevertheless, the experiment was a worthwhile one, and the show would be poorer if it didn't have a few stories like this one.
Better Than All That by Jason A. Miller 23/4/23
It's derided for its plot illogic, its single-scene subplots, its over-the-top gore and violence, and its unlikely use of Rodney Bewes, but Resurrection of the Daleks is a highly subversive, ground-breaking bit of Doctor Who. I love it to bits.
The prison space station crew is just about an all-minority crew. Mercer is black, as is the unnamed trooper whose face and hands horrifically melt off in a poison gas attack, Osborn is South Asian, and Dr. Styles is a red-headed Eastern European female. Doctor Who wasn't really "doing" international diversity for most of the Classic Series. In the Gerry Davis era, a "multinational" cast meant an actor playing a Brit, an actor playing a Frenchman, an actor playing a Swede, and an actor (badly) playing an American, but the space station crew here wouldn't look out of place in Jodie Whittaker's first season. None of them survive, to be fair, but neither did the all-minority crew of Rogue One.
The Daleks are truly frightening, for the first time in, honestly, at least 16 years. Check out the crewmembers' horrified reaction shots when Daleks invade the space station. The Daleks bring death to multiple crewmembers at a time, and their poison gas is twice shown to do stomach-churning things to human flesh. Doctor Who hadn't really shown this kind of graphic violence before; the Daleks usually represented dark comedy (Destiny of the Daleks), light comedy (The Chase), or light tragedy (Death to the Daleks) in the past, but this is dark tragedy, the Daleks at their most destructive since Evil of the Daleks way back in 1967.
You can't see it in the broadcast two-part edit, but in the original four-part cut -- the one sold to the US in 1984, and the one available on the second disc of the DVD special edition -- the warehouse Dalek's cry of "Exterminate!" bleeds into the end credits. That's remarkable editing.
It's odd not hearing Roy Skelton (or Skelton's New Series sound-alike, Nicholas Briggs) as the lead Dalek voice, but Brian Miller, AKA Mr. Sarah Jane Smith, is pretty terrific as the Supreme Dalek. Terry Molloy would play Davros for decades after this story, on TV and then in Big Finish, and later became a worthy heir to the great Michael Wisher -- his work in Davros, the brilliant Lance Parkin-penned Big Finish audio (with Colin Baker's Doctor) is nuanced and heartbreaking and wickedly funny -- but Resurrection is more of a rocky first outing for him. His two comical double-takes in Part Two (the US Part Two) are ill-advised, not in keeping with the rest of the script. But his Part Three (US) rant delivered directly to the cliffhanger, is a perfect Wisher homage (see Genesis of the Daleks, Part Four, cliffhanger to).
JNT's stunt casting gets called into question, with musical comedy actress Rula Lenska playing a hard-bitten space doctor and with Rodney Bewes of The Likely Lads playing Stien, a confusing character who serves multiple plot purposes. But it works, it works. The New Series has certainly adapted the JNT playbook, with each new Chris Chibnall season trumpeting its celebrity guest stars in special promos. The stunt casting here is nearly perfect. Nearly. Lenska's character never gets to meet the Doctor and exits the script a bit too early, but she's mesmerizing when she's on screen (but enough about her hair). As an American kid who'd never heard of The Likely Lads (and who, at age 49, has still never seen it), I had no preconceived notions about Bewes when I watched Resurrection for the first time. The script has his character all over the place, but he does well in his three separate roles: the stuttering coward, the hard-bitten deputy to Lytton, and the conflicted hero proudly committing self-sacrifice. Stunt casting in this case helped the story.
Speaking of stunt casting, the non-speaking extra who plays the Dalek chemist looks eerily like US late-night TV legend David Letterman, doesn't he?
The script is a disaster, but that's surprisingly not a problem. Things happen for no explanation, and most of the characters are never named on screen (which is problematic when Maurice Colbourne's Lytton comes back in such a prominent role the following season -- if you caught that his name is Lytton in this story, boy, you got good ears). Paul Scoones on the DVD commentary spends about 60% of his time pointing out plot holes and production errors -- many of which he tried to fix in his TSV novelization, which, by the way, is far better than Eric Saward's own uneven adaptation (which was marred by bad prose, a talking cat, and a bizarre coda involving Tegan). The Doctor never exchanges words with Lytton, never even gets to meet Dr. Styles. But the energy or novelty in each scene, for me, is more interesting than a list of plot holes. I don't get tired of watching the story minute by minute.
Part Two (UK edit) is about as grim and downbeat as a Doctor Who story has been since the Hartnell era, rivaling the final episodes of The Massacre and The Gunfighters and The Daleks' Masterplan for sheer body count and mood. Only Lytton survives from the guest cast, and most of the deaths are intentionally cruel or callous -- the metal-detector man and Professor Laird being among the saddest. Saward writes wicked final lines for two dying men: "They're dying -- and so are you", and "Gentlemen, you've saved my life!" Body after body dies, particularly in the final ten minutes. The Doctor's failing to execute Davros is, frankly, wonderful. Peter Davison is called upon to hold a lot of guns in this story, but offsets the violent imagery with great non-verbal acting against the props: holding them gingerly, or viewing them with scowls and frowns and winces. You can see why Saward wanted a Colin Baker type to replace Davison in the role, and something would be lost when Baker's Season 22 character became a physical avenging-angel of death. On the other hand, Davison almost gleefully activating the Movellan virus in the warehouse in the final minutes ("Lunch for our friends upstairs"), while violent and cynical, is earned by the script up through that point in time.
While there lots of sardonic death lines, and other dialogue that The Discontinuity Guide memorably passes off as "clunking macho nonsense", Saward reserves some of his best-ever lines for Davros. When the Doctor challenges Davros on the lack of compassion in the Daleks' programming, Davros gives a beautifully worded lawyer's response, and Terry Molloy delivers the line intelligently: "They will learn to recognize the ... value that can be drawn from such an emotion." How can you ever downgrade a script that includes that line? Another intelligent line is the Doctor observing that, for the Daleks, "any response is seen as an act of provocation".
Tegan's departure scene is pretty raw and emotional (and would be completely undercut by Saward in his novelization). It's hard to watch this even now, 38 years later, without feeling a twinge of anguish at her hasty departure, and her running back into the warehouse to watch the TARDIS depart without her. The story up through her moment of departure is violent, cynical, dark, and upsetting. But it's got a very human Doctor throughout, it mostly earns its Part Four bloodbath, and the violence is brought home by Tegan's exit from the series. Not every Doctor Who story should be like this -- as we learned in Season 22 -- and plots should generally be tighter than this one, but I still find it a riveting experience to watch Resurrection of the Daleks.