Resurrection of the Daleks
Revelation of the Daleks

Episodes 2
45 minutes each
Necros, where Monty Python's 'Undertaker Sketch' comes to life.
Story No# 143
Production Code 6Z
Season 22
Dates Mar. 23, 1985 -
Mar. 30, 1985

With Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant.
Written and script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Graeme Harper. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.

Synopsis: The Doctor discovers a plot by Davros to feed the galaxy and subjugate it at the same time.

Back to page one (the first twenty reviews)


Flashy Tedium by Jason A. Miller 13/1/04

Even when I was 12 I knew there was something "off" about the Colin Baker years. In the beginning I just wanted to watch Doctor Who, so I never turned a critical eye to stories like The Twin Dilemma or Vengeance on Varos. I was only bothered by the nonsensical formatting of the episodes screened in the US: I didn't know that Doctor Who had been converted to 45-minute episodes, because they were still screened here in 25-minute blocks. Each story from Season 22 had arbitrary cliffhangers ("Can you show us to this hacienda?" "Of course, it is this way") mixed in with the "real" ones. And that made no sense.

Through the years my individual opinions on the Season 22 stories have fluctuated. I have Vengeance on Varos on my "ugh" list even though I loved it once, and Revelation of the Daleks was usually on the "good" list. You had Daleks, and Graeme Harper directing, and a layered script with lots of action going on... what wasn't to like?

But tonight, I'm just wondering what the fuss is about.

Well, the direction is still superb, obviously. Graeme Harper brings back welcome tricks from his previous story, The Caves of Androzani -- there's someone walking behind a hologram again -- but there's now expanded use of computer graphics, and a wonderful sight gag with the vertical hold in which the screen appears to start flipping. The opening frames of the story show the TARDIS crash-landing on Necros, and the exteriors (a snowbound landscape with steam escaping from the water) are gorgeous.

Only towards the end does it start to look silly: suddenly, Davros's chair can levitate, and he can blast forks of blue fire from his fingertips. The scene after that is totally incomprehensible, as a Dalek begins flying, exterminates two people, and then explodes into pixels for no good reason.

So this is, I think, a case of great direction crushing an empty script. To be exceedingly reductionist, the supporting cast of Revelation of the Daleks is just a bunch of people with annoying voices, shouting at one another. Every time Tasambeker the love-struck medical student raised her voice ("Meanwhile... find the intruders!"), I cringed. It's neat that Kara, the greedy industrialist, has such great chemistry with Vogel, her administrative assistant from the John Waters school of acting, but it's all spoiled when another character has to peer into the camera and tell us they're "like a double act".

Revelation is often compared to Androzani, probably because they were both directed by Graeme Harper. But consider this: one lacks the themes of the other. There is no high opera in Revelation, pitting Morgus against Sharaz Jek. There is no higher morality, of the Doctor trying to save Peri's life by finding the antidote. There is no grand political bantering between Morgus and the President. In Androzani, the Doctor's presence served as a catalyst to change the motivations of the guest characters (Morgus, Jek); here, the entire story happens without the Doctor's involvement. In Revelation, Kara would still have been killed by Orcini, and the Skaro Daleks would still have arrested Davros, and Orcini would still have destroyed Davros's laboratory, even if the Doctor never walked into Tranquil Repose.

Maybe comparison to Androzani is unfair, but I'm still not convinced of the merit of what's left standing alone. The tragic figure of Revelation, Orcini, a disgraced space knight, prattles on and on about honor and noble self-sacrifice until he blows up an empty room (with a thousand unseen Daleks allegedly off camera). So? And the other incidental characters have been overpraised: Vogel's death scene is ludricous -- if the Daleks were truly scary, their death-rays wouldn't have left him time to scowl comically before falling. Jobel's dialogue is some of the worst Doctor Who ever saw -- the TV series wasn't really about a man who'd comb his toupee, or talk about nose picking, or lips meant for kissing. Grigory (the definition of "cipher") is the most inebriated character in Doctor Who history -- he's even tortured with a whiskey hip flask, for goodness sakes! This may have worked on "Red Dwarf", but not for the man in the blue box.

The best part of Revelation of the Daleks -- again, I'm going against popular opinion -- is the DJ. Yes, he falls into the annoying-voice syndrome with everyone else in Part One. But once he's introduced to Peri in Part Two, we see this DJ really is a decent guy. Alexei Sayle even affects the best "American" accent we ever got in the show. When he destroys a few Daleks with a "highly directional, ultrasonic beam of rock and roll!", it's a stand up and cheer moment, finally -- we're getting the self-aware humor that Jobel and Orcini so conspicuously lacked. But when the DJ is exterminated, so is the story's moral centerpiece. The only guest characters who survive are ones we really don't care about.

The Doctor's final lesson, than you can build an economy on flowers rather than corpses, allows Revelation of the Daleks to breathe again, to stand proudly with the lessons of, say, The Savages and Enlightenment. But by then, it's too late.

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 3/8/04

Why Revelation Of The Daleks works is relatively simple. It's down to strong characterisation and storytelling. The basic premise is that Davros has taken over a mortuary, with which he intends to create a new race of Daleks. This is what works, the simplistic plot allows greater moments, Davros steps into the fore, his manipulation and machievellan scheming is a joy to behold and gives the viewer an insight into the creator of the Daleks.

The titular creatures themselves serve as little more than drones for the most part, their presence only really felt at the story`s conclusion. The Doctor and Peri are largely sidelined however Colin Baker gives a restrained performance and this story certainly shows the beginnings of his softening relationship with Peri.

Thankfully the guest cast are well chosen, Alexei Sayle deliberately makes the DJ annoying, Jenny Tomasin is great at portraying the manipulated Tasambeker and William Gaunt is suitably both dignified and sinister as Orcini. Furthermore all the supporting players are given their own details, such as Grigory`s alcoholism, Jobel`s vanity or Takis`s interest in flowers. Add to this a distinctly funereal atmosphere and you are left with a particularly strong, adult and entertaining story which works on several levels.

Finest Who ever? by Karl Roemer 21/1/05

In my personal opinion, Revelation of the Daleks is the best Dr Who story ever, and I'm not really sure why that is, except to say that it doesn't feel like any other Dr Who adventure told before and since, and is as refreshingly morbid and funny today as it was since it was broadcast.

This is more of an Davros story than perhaps even Genesis of the Daleks. He is charming, manipluative and more complex in this story than any other televised Who villian before or his since. His uneasy alliance with Kara is superb, as is the obvious distrust and betrayal of the pair of them. In a rarely seen character in the show, an bounty hunter is summoned, and William Gaunt truly peforms one of the most memorable and believeable supporting roles as Orcini. Perhaps it is thin on plot at times, but the strong direction and characterization of Revelation more than makes up for any shortcomings.

Yes the Doctor, superbly played by Colin Baker, and Peri do not have much to do in the proceedings (especially part one) but the story is no less the fascinating for it. I love the idea of Davros kidnapping Arthur Stengos and using him as bait for an trap for the Doctor.

I also like the sleazy character of Jobel, who is once again played superbly by an guest actor, Clive Swift, and the 'are you picking your nose?' rebuke is memorable. I also like the character of the DJ played by Alexi Sayle, and he fits the part like an glove. I suppose this story has garnered an love it or hate it reputation over the years, but in my humble opinion, it is the finest 90 minutes that Dr Who has ever produced. It is so bizarre, so downright cheeky and politically incorrect that I can't help but love it !!!

I mean it when I say this is the best of the whole series by Matthew Newland 2/2/05

My title really means something, considering that Doctor Who lasted 26 years and featured 160 different stories. But indeed, Revelation of the Daleks is in my opinion the very best of not only Colin Baker's all-too-brief reign as the Doctor, but of the entire series. It really has it all, starting with a great Doctor/Companion partnership... the Sixth Doctor and Peri interact marvellously, and have been together long enough for anyone to see that they have become good friends (even if the Doctor can still be snappy and childishly passive-aggressive... Peri's used to it by now, and doesn't take it personally). Each have a number of fantastic scenes, from scrambling over the wall after being unable to find a door ('watch it, Porky!'), to individual moments with the Doctor ('ah! There you are! They went that way.') But the heart of this story isn't the Doctor and Peri... it's Davros, and the colourful cast of characters that share the world on Necros with him.

But first let me comment on Necros... I love that planet! From the first shot of the frozen lake the TARDIS materializes beside, to the exterior shots of the Tranquil Repose Mortuary, where the story is for the most part set, it really feels REAL. Necros feels like a world that really extends beyond the little we see of it in the story, unlike the majority of the planets we see on Doctor Who, and I appreciate it. All the grim stuff that happens there aside, it's really a place I'd like to visit. Plus, the sets of the interiors to Tranquil Repose are vast and intricately detailed... a real treat after so much sterility in so many of the stories that came before this one. I mean really... is there one location in this story that can be described as boring? From the hallways to the catacombs to even the waiting room where the Doctor and Peri arrive to unravel the mystery of the place?

Now, the characters. There seems to be no end of them, and each one is bizarre and interesting. From Mr. Jobel to the DeeJay to Orcini... all are brilliantly thought out and performed. Though many don't like the DeeJay, as played by The Young Ones' Alexei Sayle, I actually find him to be the best guest character in the story. I mean, his obnoxious radio voice is after all, just a part of his character's performance... the man behind the voice is revealed to be a very kind and warm-hearted man, and his scenes with Peri are absolutely wonderful.

Davros is the centrepiece of the story, though. I sometimes feel that his name should have been in the story title rather than his creations'. I hate to give away too much of the plot, but his scheme, though a complicated one, is by far his most villainous (touches of the revelation of Soylent Green aside, it's his method of "healing" the sick people under his care that really send chills down my spine). Terry Molloy deserves more credit... true, he isn't Michael Wisher, but he still did a fabulous job with the character.

Let me just close by saying that Revelation of the Daleks is the one Doctor Who story to watch if you want to be entertained by something truly atmospheric and different. There's so much going for it that you'll never get tired of seeing it, and will probably appreciate it more with each repeated viewing. If you're one of those Doctor Who fans who can't stand the Colin Baker era, at least give this one a try. Even if it doesn't change your mind about him (though it should!), I have a feeling you'll still enjoy this story.

A Review by Finn Clark 17/2/06

I'm going to start by quoting Nicola Shindler's 2002 Huw Weldon lecture to the Royal Television Society. She's saying that one of the hardest things to get right is knowing when the story starts, illustrated by a clip from Clocking Off (series 1, episode 2):

"Just think of all the material that was written before that moment. But we start with the fire and the meeting of the future lovers because that's where the story starts. The rest of the back history can be done with a look! And it takes a mature, clever writer like Paul Abbott to throw away 50 pages of material because he can see that even though there's nothing wrong with what he's written, the story hasn't started."
Eric Saward's script for Resurrection of the Daleks gets routinely bashed as shapeless gibberish that sullies the good name of Doctor Who, yet the no less undisciplined Revelation gets a free pass. What? Someone explain this to me. The stories are very different in tone, Resurrection being aggressively macho while Revelation is dripping with black irony, but:
  1. They're both full of Sawardisms. Revelation continues Saward's interest in professional killers (Orcini and Bostock), but also shares story elements with other Season 22 stories. There's yet more cannibalism, the Timelash "You killed my clone" plot twist and the fact that everyone's watching everyone else on television (Davros, the DJ and arguably also the dead). This latter trait surfaced in Varos, the Rani and the Borad before reaching a pinnacle in Trial of a Time Lord. One has to wonder. After all, Eric Saward was en route to a breakdown after years with JNT at the television coalface.
  2. Both stories are very cynical, especially about the future.
  3. Both stories use the Daleks excellently, albeit only from time to time in Revelation's case. Arthur Stengos's head in the glass Dalek would be sufficient reason by itself to treasure the whole story. (It's nicked from David Whitaker's Doctor Who and the Daleks novelisation, but if you must steal, steal from the best.) Everyone knows that the Daleks are criminally underused in part one, but it's less acknowledged that in part two they rule. Exterminations galore, battles, the grey Daleks storming Tranquil Repose... this is great stuff.
  4. Both stories have acerbic characterisation, though Resurrection's is more one-note. Only Stein offered a break from the wall-to-wall machismo and even he was secretly as badass as anyone, but undercover.
  5. More prosaically, both stories have strong direction. Graeme Harper has the edge over Matthew Robinson, but for my money the acting is better in Resurrection. Jenny Tomasin is terrible as Tasambeker, while Resurrection has Davison, Bewes, Colbourne, Lenska, Henney...
To return to my Nicola Shindler quote, Revelation of the Daleks is a one-episode story with a superfluous extra episode nailed on at the beginning. I love episode one, but storywise it's dead air. If you start watching at the halfway point, all the traditional criticisms of Revelation melt away like summer snow. The Doctor and the Daleks get lots to do! They're great! You don't even miss any important explanations, since episode two instantly gets us up to speed on everything.

In my opinion Revelation of the Daleks episode 2 is the nearest the classic series ever got to an episode of Eccleston Who. It's complete and perfect unto itself. There's absolutely no need to watch episode one, though you'll enjoy it if you do. It has great jokes, bags of style, deliciously cynical ideas and one innuendo-laden sequence to make Russell T. Davies proud.

What's more, on a story level I prefer it to Eccleston's scripts. Its visuals, direction and production quality can't be faulted, while I find its script richer and snappier. It has layers. It's full of interwoven plot threads and characters... the word I'm looking for is "complexity". Who 2005 has a simplicity that's often a strength, especially with its stronger focus on the TARDIS crew, but I prefer a more complicated narrative.

Episode one for me is both delicious and frustrating. This is an episode notorious for sidelining Colin Baker in a season that also includes Vengeance on Varos and The Two Doctors, and incidentally reduces classic villains like the Daleks to maidservants. Hardly anything happens to anyone. Even the incidental characters get little to do. The bodysnatchers potter about and Kara recruits Orcini, but basically this episode's strength lies in its irony, style and horror concepts. The dark secrets behind Tranquil Repose, the Doctor finding his own gravestone (twelve years before Alien Bodies), David Whitaker's glass Dalek at last realised on-screen...

The dialogue sometimes sounds as if Eric Saward overheard the word "Shakespearian" in a pub and liked the sound of it. His actors struggle manfully, but sometimes the lines sound too much like lines. However I like Orcini's demise and it tickles me to see Colin's Doctor and Davros so chatty together. (See also Up Above the Gods with the same incarnation in DWM 227.) Maybe the Doctor's murder attempt in Resurrection broke the ice? I also laughed at the exchange when Peri thinks the Doctor's dead:

Jobel - "Was he a close friend?"
Peri - [pause] "...yes."
I love the snowscape. I adore the snowscape. It's perfect, it's beautiful and it's thematically fitting for a story about death. (And it's a complete fluke about which the production team weren't happy when they turned up to start filming.)

Had Revelation swapped directors with Timelash, the Saward-bashers probably wouldn't yet have stopped for breath. Personally I think he writes without real structure but with enough good points that I enjoy his stories anyway. His instinct for Dalek iconography and the horrible icky mutants inside is second only to David Whitaker's, for instance. It's certainly better than Terry Nation's! Revelation of the Daleks is confident, imaginative and surreptitiously as gross as anything else in Season 22. It's just so stylish that you don't realise until later.

A Review by Jonathan Norton 5/4/07

The best Colin Baker story and also one of the greatest DW stories, and also the most fantastically dark. Eric Saward finally learned from Robert Holmes and instead of the formless shootemups like Earthshock or Resurrection we get a concentrated, coherent plot with double-crossing twists and grotesque characters.

Nowhere else is Davros as evil as he is here, manipulating Tasambeker and using her against Jobel. And that's in a storyline that packs in grave-robbing, genetic experiments, torture and finally a revelation of unwitting mass cannibalism. The Hinchcliffe years never got within miles of this. The gruesomeness that pervaded season 22 reaches its maximum here, but actually makes sense in a concentrated dose.

As in the best DW stories, the set design is inspired as well: the random and incongruous religious icons in the gloom, the receding levels of corridors, and so on. There is nothing dated or embarrassing here.

This is a short review as I honestly can't find any shortcomings to spotlight. Not the best story ever, but definitely in the top 10. And at least 1000 times better than the totally overrated Remembrance.

A Review by Sam Farina 7/1/08

I've recently watched Revelation, which is apparently a classic story. Frankly, I don't see why. It isn't Colin's best story; I actually like both of the other stories from Season 22 (Mark of the Rani and The Two Doctors) better than this.

There are some nice ideas here, to be sure. Peri's reaction to the mutant forgiving her, Stengos in the glass Dalek and the Doctor being crushed by his own tombstone are all very good scenes. The scene where Davros explains everything to the Doctor is good and the idea of humans being made into food is good. Orcini is pretty cool, and played very well. The stuff connecting all this, however, is pretty pointless. More than a few specific things that bug me are:

A Review by Thomas Cookson 27/4/08

The mid-80's era of the show when the Doctor was played by Colin Baker was a short and very poor era of the show, exhibiting some of the worst episodes of the series, side by side with episodes that seem to be running on autopilot without any sense of engagement. Admittedly, there were some very entertaining moments in the stories Attack of the Cybermen and The Two Doctors, but little that made the episodes solid. However, Colin Baker did fortunately have one very good and strong story, and this was the one: Revelation of the Daleks.

The funerary pyre of Tranquil Repose is a concept done very well, as the story discusses whether the idea of cryogenic preservation would work pragmatically in a society that struggles through overpopulation and diminishing food supplies to support the people alive as it is and bases itself on capitalist competition that cannot afford to have sleeping moguls. Furthermore, the story is aided by the kind of visuals that convey its atmosphere of chilly catacombs, with its snow-covered exterior landscapes and very icy, ultraviolet lighting within. A lot of the Colin Baker stories featured an obligatory abundance of fluorescent colours and lighting, simply for the sake of superficial eye-candy, but this is one of the few such stories where the lighting effects really do give strong atmosphere that cuts deep, that grips you by the shoulders and commands your attention.

The thing I lap up about this episode is that it really does say a lot about the era it was written in. Doctor Who has often walked the line between sheer escapism and a show with relevant social commentary.

This episode covers a lot of contemporary ground, it must be said. It refers to a galactic famine that can only be an allegory to what was going on in Ethiopia and other third-world countries at the time. We see an allegory of the rampant police brutality of the time (which was heavily alleged during the miner's strike) in one of the show's most graphic interrogation scenes. It refers to the growth of big businesses with a tendency to exploit its menial workers. It uses the landscape of the future as its pallet to explore this mixture of hope and cynicism about where we're all headed. The future is portrayed as an art decor paradise with plenty of wonderful anachronisms such as brass, marble pillars, statues and oil paintings in this futuristic world of higher technology. However, as technology has advanced, humanity is plagued by the same kind of problems it has always struggled with, such as poverty, tyranny, corruption and violence, as well as war and disease. Indeed, under suggestion, I have come to wonder if there is more than a little nod to the AIDS scare in the focus on incurable diseases.

The episode takes place in a superficially mannered and sophisticated society, and through the eyes of two of its renegades, Natasha and Grigory, the two bodysnatchers who are debased characters in the eyes of everyone in this polite society. They break us into the funerary place, take us into the bowels of the complex and reveal the true horrors buried within the catacombs, before we are eventually confronted with the pus-stained head of Stengos. The moment is superb, juxtaposing the ethereal atmosphere which conveys the hope of everlasting life, with the very tortured performance of Alec Linstead as Stengos. What he does is to juxtapose the human element of his psyche with the conditioning for the Dalek mentality, his love for his daughter and his sense of human despair being bulldozed through by the manic rantings of the Dalek propaganda of conquest and extermination and racial purity and the 'new order'. It is a superb sequence that portrays hope of immortality and the undying love and memories of the father - only to snatch it all away remorselessly in uncontrollable spurting rage and pleas for death as a mercy, and it really puts a human face to the Dalek's unseen emotions of hatred, rage and almost evangelical passion.

The scene is wonderfully married to an earlier enigmatic moment where the Doctor and Peri come to blows with a savage mutant who does not respond at all to the Doctor's attempts to pacify him with hypnosis using a swinging medallion. The two scenes together - one making suggestion and the other unravelling the same mystery - both fulfil the puzzle piece of this paradoxical blend of juxtaposed humane and savage virtues. In a way, the episode gains a lot of its power from this compulsive burrowing at the hidden true ugliness beneath the superficial. I find this refreshing for a mid-80's era of Doctor Who, and TV and Cinema in general, where negativity was often portrayed as a very naked and surface element of people. The fact that the episode plays largely as a comedy of manners before descending into bloodshed, then, is sandwiched by the reactions of the well-mannered and desensitised who remark on the shattering moments with some of the most callous and darkest humour. This makes its violence, death and grotesques all the more striking. Major characters like Lilt and Takis, who head the work at Tranquil Repose, start out as a cheerful double act - in fact, they share a similar physique to old Laurel and Hardy - but when the story gives them an opportunity to interrogate captured fugitives behind closed doors, it really channels their most brutal and sadistic characteristics and puts them into shocking relief, violently shattering our safe conceptions of the jolly two.

Similarly, the character of the woman Tasambeker, who is hopelessly in love with Jobel, her uptight and blindly self-centred boss at Tranquil Repose, begins as a rather pathetic and modest character who is much belittled, but when Davros takes something of a romantic interest in her and begins to manipulate her, she channels her sensitive passions and turns into a very vicious and murderous woman. I love Davros' little romanticised moment where he tells Tasambeker how he has observed her humiliating moments at the mercy of Jobel's bullying and suggests "If someone had treated me the way he has treated you, I think I would have killed them!". Whilst Jenny Tomasin's performance as Tasambeker was rather ill-judged and melodramatic, there is something about the music of that scene that really carries the pathos of her character as she surrenders to an undignified eruption of her violent passions.

There is something about this mask of niceties that makes the horrors underneath so monumental. This is rather fitting in this story where the Daleks are painted a cream white with gold trimmings to give them a false air of purity and prestige too. In one chilling example, there is a moment where Davros realises that assassins have come to Tranquil Repose to kill him. Davros deduces that his greedy socialite of a business partner, Kara, has employed those assassins, since she would have the most to gain from his death, but when Davros contacts Kara by videophone, he keeps his poker face and pretends not to suspect her, and feigns concern that assassins might be after her head as well, and politely insists on sending two Daleks to her as her bodyguards (on the pretext that, unlike her own security officers, Daleks are incapable of being bribed off) and it's just so perfectly sinister and noose-tightening to see the hidden malice beneath the insisted generosity.

Whilst this ordinary workplace may seem a strange environment for a story upon which the whole fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance, it works nonetheless. The desperation and passion of the scene where Stengos is being mentally tortured as he is transformed into a Dalek is a moment that stands alone but somehow is so out of place - sandwiched between two contrasting scenes of humour and etiquette - that it lasts as an omen of the horrific fate that awaits all humans if Davros succeeds. Some fans have bemoaned the tendency for the Dalek voices in this story to be on the squeaky side, but personally I find it a most effective touch at giving the Daleks a distinctly panicky and emotional quality that rather tragically reminds me of the benign human beings that these poor creatures once were before Davros transformed them.

Furthermore, there is something about seeing the Daleks as being servile and under Davros' thumb once more that is so unnerving. The only times that they exterminate anybody is when they are ordered to do so by Davros. The Daleks may look like stoic automatons, but within them is a savage and psychotically homicidal mutant creature. The Daleks have always been a very evil, belligerent and savage force, with a tendency to boast of their supremacy. When, instead, they are being silent and obedient - in a word, 'domesticated' - it just feels unnatural and suspicious. They somehow seem more volatile in this state because you're just sensing something scheming and evil within them, and waiting for them to break out of this rut of servitude and start killing everyone in sight.

For me, what the Daleks always represent is a sense of disgust with all that is vile and horrific about humanity; all the chaos and violence and sadism. To me, the Daleks can either represent that evil of humanity, or they can represent this sense of disillusionment that simply desires the most ruthless eliminating solutions to the problems of the world; they are the soldiers of a war to end all wars. It is fitting, then, that this corrupt environment should be the playing field. As mentioned above, the rich and powerful have come to Tranquil Repose to be preserved, but really they are to be discarded as dead weight once they are frozen, because they would be too much of a burden on the struggling economy otherwise. And so, when the Doctor and Davros finally meet and have their obligatory little conversation of their mutually opposed ethics, Davros justifies himself well when he argues that he has helped the many people that the government has abandoned. Not only is he playing a part in alleviating the galactic famine, but he has resurrected many of the sleeping upper classes just as they were promised, albeit by turning them into Daleks, which Davros describes as a fitting destiny for people of status and ambition. But so convinced is Davros that his goals are truly noble that we can momentarily forget that he has committed some very evil deeds during the course of this episode that are horrific even by his standards.

This debate between Davros and the Doctor is really one of the few moments of the story that the Doctor is actually a part of. Throughout most of the episode, the Doctor is still on the journey towards Tranquil Repose and is, in fact, completely oblivious to the presence of Davros or the Daleks. The fact that the Doctor is oblivious to being observed by Big Brother, to the amusement of a gloating Davros, is one of the major comedy highlights of this episode. The large absence of the Doctor's involvement in the plot is partly what makes this a unique and atypical Doctor Who story, with its plethora of characters with their own important part to play. Natasha and Grigory take over the Doctor's usual role as investigators breaking into secret locations and discovering the plot to conquer the galaxy, and the skilled assassins Orcini and Bostock take over the Doctor's role as the heroic crusaders, fighting against evil. It seems here actually that the peace-loving Doctor is made superfluous by a bunch of vigilantes. Orcini and Bostock are not merely mercenaries (although the script never lets us forget that they are killers), but they are noblemen from a long-gone chivalrous age who consider it a noble honour to kill Davros and end his evil reign. In that, they can do the things the Doctor isn't capable of doing, because, as we all know, the Doctor could never morally go through with pulling the trigger; witness the last time he tried to kill Davros. In that way, Orcini and Bostock, as vigilantes, represent the counterbalance for how - as mentioned above - the savagery of the universe can only be settled by the most ruthless of solutions.

Orcini, by the way, is an excellent character. Very well spoken, with piercing eyes and a chivalrous manner. His leather fashion fits him well as a crusader character and a tough nut (and in a way predates the fashion of the Ninth Doctor), and the story and direction gives him plenty of opportunities to display his martial arts, his strategist skills and his larger-than-life presence. The brilliance of this is that it builds up the hope that this man can kill Davros easily, only to deliver a sumptuous small-scale battle (for its small budget; the BBC explosives are quite impressive) between the assassins and the Daleks. This concludes when Davros brilliantly overpowers both Orcini and Bostock in a short space of time in a way that momentarily makes us believe that Davros really is as invincible as a god and an everlasting evil, and that literally no mortal man can ever destroy him. But I'll stop there before I give away too much spoiler.

This is certainly an episode, much like others of its era, that really aims to please. It features a star-studded lineup of actors, from the likes of Clive Swift, William Gaunt, Eleanor Bron and even Alexei Sayle. It is one of the most visually sumptuous episodes of Doctor Who, and it boasts one of the most rich and highly literate scripts since the Tom Baker era. It is tuned to be entertaining and keep the audience on its toes in every scene (in a manner similar to the show Network 7 and early episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but also maintains a strict maturity and knows which scenes to allow to take centre stage and to form into the peak of the hills so that the abundance doesn't dwarf the main thrust (which I think was neglected elsewhere in the era, to the detriment of the stories). There's not much else I can really say, to be honest. It is probably Eric Saward's finest script, as well as another top notch on the belt of Caves of Androzani director Graeme Harper - who is now onboard as a regular director for the new series, starting in its second season.

On the subject of the new series, here's a little trivial point: when Peri meets the local DJ of Tranquil Repose (played by Alexei Sayle, with his usual exciteability and talent for relating anecdotes about his upbringing), there is a Glenn Miller song playing in the background. The same song is played in the New episode The Empty Child when Captain Jack is romancing Rose.

This story has now been released on DVD, and has been even more improved for it. There were several moments of poor sound quality in the original version that have been nicely tuned up here for far better viewing - with only one little niggle left that the subtitles function can amend nicely. There is also the option to watch an amended version of the story with improved visual effects to replace the rather dated and misfired little lazer displays of the original; I enjoyed that option, actually. There is some unedited footage of the filming of the explosive battle scenes that are very informative as to how these scenes got made. There is a retrospective documentary of interviews, interspersed with clips that give high praise to this as a timeless story, as well as mentioning its origins being inspired by the Evelyn Waugh novel "The Loved One"; the 80's saw some renewed interest in Evelyn Waugh after the 1981 superb televisation of Brideshead Revisited (which presented the book's feelgood and life-affirming quality with the BBC's penchant for lavish production and acting; whilst patient viewing was demanded for the series, it proved to be a major ratings hit). There is also a commentary and, finally, there are three short deleted scenes, including one moment where Lilt and Takis lament the death of some of Davros' security guards who have been exterminated by Daleks on the rampage. This scene was presumably cut out because it interrupted the momentum of a big action build-up, but I wish it had been left in, as it elevates Davros' guards above being simply disposable cannon-fodder for the bodysnatchers and assassins to casually gun down now and again (in a rather cold-blooded manner). It also could have provided a necessary bridge between the brutality of Takis and Lilt in their interrogation scene, and their turning into good guys towards the end, which, as it was, seemed a bit too paradoxical.

But, in any case, this is a superb addition to any self-respecting Doctor Who fan's collection, and may even turn a few heads.

A Review by Russell Harding 26/9/08

This story makes its debut on screen by casting a fine cinematography view of the planet of which the story is set, Necros, to engage the viewer's attention. From here, we move on to find the Doctor's and Peri's purpose of Necros, which is a visitation to a deceased scientist. For the first sequence of this serial, both the Sixth Doctor and Peri wear blue over their regular consumes as "Blue was officially the mourning colour on Necros"; however, in the early stages of the story much of the dialogue is completely irrelevant to the progress of the story. One such example is the reference to the tight outfit Peri is wearing, and the Doctor retorting "You eat too much." However, as soon as the story progresses after the early sequence, we get our first hint at what is happening in the story, as the Doctor is attacked by a mutated creature. After a rather convincing encounter between the mutant, Peri and the Doctor, we come to a rather touching and well-directed scene, which is telling us what is happening, although vividly, at Tranquil Repose. The only critical point I would personally make between the encounter is Peri's feebleness, and her somewhat sullen performance in the aftermath.

In Tranquil Repose, Alexei Sayle's character, "the DJ" has a slightly confusing presence in this early stage in the story, although it is evident that he has some relation to the story, his significance at this early stage is of no vitality to put a scene in. However, the performance of Alexi Sayle is very convincing. Personally, I would find an "alternative" scene would be more appropriate at this stage in the story.

From there, the story advances to the journey of a couple, Natasha and Grigory, who have infiltrated their way into the Tranquil Repose compound. This part of the story I would also put into question; except that the deceased scientist who the Doctor is in search of is a relation of theirs, their role is trivial. Despite that, their representation is the only "window" of what the viewer has into the operation of Tranquil Repose. It also proves how important Tranquil Repose is in the plans of Davros, who has moved the scientist from his suspended-animation cell to the production line of Daleks.

Kara, who is a factory owner on Necros, also has an important role. It is in this scene it which the audience is informed of the "New" Davros, who is a disembodied head in a life support tank, which logistically is the result of the Movellen virus, in the previous Dalek serial (Resurrection of the Daleks). Here, the synopsis of the serial develops, which is the assassin: Orcini's mission to destroy Davros. The explanation which the writer has founded as a relationship between Necros's factories and his new Dalek Empire, is very convincing and "down to earth style" as a Dalek empire does not appear from nowhere. Davros's extraction of money from the factories brings major character Orcini's role in the story. Orcini, portrayed by William Gaunt, enjoys pleasant scriptwriting in this particular episode, as well as commendable acting.

However, despite putting Natasha and Grigory's presence in this episode into question at an earlier point, nearing to the close of Part 1 of this serial, their function in the plot becomes apparent, as they are discovering information about the manufacture of the Daleks. They are to give the only confirmation on-screen about Davros's construction of new Daleks. The cliffhanger segment in this particular episode is unfortunately substandard; the dialogue written is far from perfect. For example, that of the Doctor's complaints and whining about his statue being erected at "The Garden of Fond Memories" and the overall quality and performance of the cliffhanger sequence leaves a significant improvement to be desired.

Part 2's opening with the resolution of the previous episode's cliffhanger is in some aspects rather irritating. Secondly, following the cliffhanger in Part 2, I personally believe the script lets the Doctor down, by too many references and too much emphasis on the statue. When the Doctor is greeted by Tasambeker there is also some annoyance (also the character's lines mainly consist of "sorry, Mr Jobel" or "Thank you, Great Healer"), for as a character she is two-faced, and completely erroneously and feebly portrayed. However, the writing is pleasing in a way that Colin Baker's performance in this segment is typical of his character.

In the scene when Peri meets the DJ, the writer has unquestionably created a refined relationship between the two characters, which in some ways is a pleasure to watch, and the two actors put the script into practice in a successful way. However, when the Doctor is captured by the Daleks I personally feel vexed by how well the staff cooperate with the Daleks (unlike the Renaissance of the Daleks audio play, where the nano-Daleks have the ability to make a human's mind welcome their command), and think an alternative capture scene could have been placed in the script.

Meanwhile, the segments with Kara and her secretary are rather unrealistic and fill me with exasperation as such a statistic like having "control over the galaxy's food supply" seems to be rather a big ordeal in this particular serial. The scene where Kara is arrested and her secretary is shot dead really showcases how pleasing the effects were, as, compared to some other Dalek serials, they are realistic. In the control room, the scene between Tasambeker and Davros is completely needless and is performed in a very poor manner, as the point of Davros "befriending" a human and putting so much emphasis on exterminating Jobel is one of the negative qualities of this serial.

From that scene the story progresses to a confrontation between Tasambeker and Jobel. This scene is extremely badly performed and lacks realism completely.

Coming back to the scene with Peri and the Disc Jockey, there is humour when the DJ broadcasts the message from Peri to the Doctor, and once more the performance between the two characters is admirable and first-rate. When the Daleks are ordered by Davros to exterminate the DJ, the scene with the blaster is highly amusing, but also very touching when the DJ is killed. Meanwhile, in the Control Room, the confrontation between the Doctor and Davros is first rate and intriging; the idea of the Skaro Daleks arriving and capturing Davros and his Imperial Daleks is a phenominal idea and sets the scene for the next, and final dalek serial of the classic series: Remembrance of the Daleks. My only critical point at the final scenes of this serial are the poetic and romantic language Orcini uses, as it is a science fiction show and not a romance play.

Overall, I think that Revelation of the Daleks is an impressive piece of Doctor Who drama. It has its flaws, like the character Tasembeker and her needless relationships between herself Davros and Jobel. The script in various places is rather poor and there is a need for improvement, but, on the other hand, the majority of the acting is good, the script in (limited) places forms a pleasant relationship between characters, the final climatic confrontation between Davros and the Doctor is conducted significantly well, and, as a bonus, the story introduces two fractions of Daleks, and sets the scene for Remembrance of the Daleks.


"We are all to become Daleks!" by Neil Clarke 27/3/09

During DWM's Time Team viewing of this story, Clayton Hickman described it as "funky". Now, while I'd dispute the choice of word, I know what he means. This is a rare example of a Doctor Who story that is cool. Not as a catch-all positive, but in the sense of a timeless attitude and style. Like, I don't know, Tarantino movies, or the Velvet Underground, or Toshiro Mifune.

It's hard to pin down why, but let's put it down to a combination of Eric Saward's unrestrained writing (compare and contrast with the relatively controlled - and less interesting - Visitation), coupled with Graeme Harper's stylistic verve.

Things are often cool for unexpected reasons: for example, Orcini, the gun-toting, black-leather-clad mercenary, should be really lame. What redeems him (aside from the weary nobility of William Gaunt's performance) is his unexpected age, dignity and faulty leg! There are lots of similar little twists in this story: the mutant's gentility, Davros' smoothness and persuasion, or the disquieting acceptance of the Daleks gliding around Tranquil Repose (recalling their "We are your ser-vants!" routine from Power of the Daleks).

Then there's the DJ, who - whether you like him or not - forms an intriguingly arch and self-aware Greek chorus figure. The focus on any music beyond the incidental is also interestingly atypical for Doctor Who - and could have been taken a lot further; its incongruity in the stock futuristic setting is unexpectedly effective.

Revelation belongs to Davros, boasting his best portrayal - as a real character, rather than stock nutter. His scenes with Tasambeker are electric; it's chilling hearing him talk about love and obsession rather than race hate and world domination! "If someone had treated me the way he has treated you... I think I would have killed them." And that Dalek eyestalk pushing into view. Genius. (Tasambeker's great too, precisely for being so rubbish - but you still feel for her cos Jobel's such a bastard! "This one thinks with her knuckles.")

Davros gets all the best lines too:

(Eleanor Bron does give him a run for his money though, with Kara's, "It's a bomb! A GREAT BIG BOMB!")

Incidentally, I love, love, love Davros' Daleks. They don't look as spiffy as in Remembrance, but I appreciate the iconoclastic ditching of gunmetal grey for white and gold. Like much of Revelation, its appeal is that it seems kind of wrong.

It's these little inspired touches that make Revelation a bit... awesome, really. Above-par touches in the set design, like the bodhisattvas and religious iconography in Davros' lair, are wonderful too because there's no particular reason for them. Even the snow outside lends the story an additional interesting visual element.

Some stylish violence also helps this story enormously: Kara's on-screen stabbing with a flick-knife; the hypodermic incident (!); Lilt beating up Natasha and threatening to mark her face; Stengos' mutated head in the glass Dalek... Body horror is all to the good.

In fact, the energy, violence and unpredictability of season twenty-two (despite its flaws) is such a relief after the Davison era. As part of my current era by era viewing, I just watched The Visitation, Black Orchid and Enlightenment back to back; all stories I like, but still, what a slog! Beige is the word. By comparison, every time I watch this, I get so involved, curling up on the sofa, and grinning all the way through!

It's interesting, directly comparing the Sixth Doctor to the Fifth: here we have a Doctor who, unlike his predecessor, takes the brutal "Sawardian" universe on at its own game, rather than submitting to it. And, despite all the grumbling about the sidetracking of the Doctor (and Daleks), the Sixth Doctor is great here. Though it's annoying we can't just accept something without there being a convenient label to slap on it, in light of the new series' official Doctor-lite stories, his limited involvement doesn't really matter, does it? Plus, Colin looks fab in his cloak. There aren't enough cloaks on our screens these days!

Admittedly, there are slightly too many crappy 80s elements for the story to be perfect: Natasha and Grigory are a bit wet and mannered; the funerary pyjamas are too flimsy to convince, and while unconvincing visual effects normally don't bother me, the weedy lasers are a letdown because everything else is so assured. But criticising these things feels churlish when such an odd melange of darkness, humour, and intrigue works without feeling disjointed (or rather, its disjointedness is part of the appeal!).

Watching the eras in order, I can't help feel how bizarre it is that all this sprung from An Unearthly Child; in fact, it does make me wonder, can we really pretend this is even the same series? On the one hand, of course it is an ongoing story, albeit with natural tonal and visual changes. But at the same time - apart from the regenerations running together and the occasional back-references - only the presence of the Daleks and the TARDIS links this story to the original season! However, ultimately, I enjoy that disparity: no one could have predicted such an unorthodox mishmash as this - but that's why it's so effective.

I always gripe about the new series in relation to old classics, but I can't help wish this risk-taking, irreverent approach was more evident in the current series. No new series story is this cool; not that they haven't tried (Daleks versus Cybermen! The Master becomes prime minister!), but that's the problem: trying too hard. With its by-rote Daleks in Manhattans and Sontaran Stratagems and Doctor's Daughters, the new series has nothing on this; it's too safe to achieve anything with such idiosyncratic flair.

Tarantinoesque before Tarantino by Gareth McG 30/6/21

I watched Revelation of the Daleks back on its original transmission in 1985, again during the glorious BBC2 repeat season in 1993 and once more when it came out on DVD in 2005. It was enough in those days to come away from it feeling highly entertained without needing to dissect it to death. This time around, however, I was keen to develop a more informed view, and a spell of lockdown provided the perfect opportunity. It also prompted me to revisit this wonderful website for the first time in many a year, and I was quickly reminded of why I used to love it as well. Skimming through the various reviews made me realise it was probably best to just enjoy Revelation without overthinking it. However, it also provided some interesting new perspectives. Call me unimaginative but I'd never twigged the similarities with The Caves of Androzani until I read them here, despite re-watching both stories back-to-back during the aforementioned run of BBC2 repeats. It now seems completely obvious that Eric Saward was an admirer of Caves and was attempting to do his own version here (even ensuring two key elements to the success of the former - Graeme Harper & Roger Limb - were both signed up as well). That certainly doesn't make me like it any less, though, and Neil Clarke's link to Quentin Tarantino in his review is relevant on so many different levels to explaining why.

Tarantino has spent his whole career paying homage to cinema that he loves and admires, whilst also preserving enough distinct touches to ensure it retains his own stamp. Some will argue that his movies aren't as good as those that inspired him, but many other will argue that they often surpass them. Similarly, there are points where Revelation outshines Caves' best bits. The opening scenes of both are superb, for instance, but it's the snowscapes of Necros that just about edge the sandy wastelands of Androzani Minor for me. Okay, so I prefer Sharez Jek to Jobel, and I prefer the Stotz/Krelper combination to Orcini/Bostock, but I also prefer Vogel to Timmin, and Kara gives Morgus a very good run for his money as well. And the threat posed by the Daleks and the scheming, unhinged Davros compared with the awful Magma Creature isn't even worth arguing about. Yes, there are more irritating characters in Revelation but so what? Do we really expect to be drawn to everyone in such a f****d up society? At least Alexei Sayle's DJ and Jenny Tomasin's Tasambeker leave indelible marks, and perhaps it's my lack of imagination letting me down again, but I'm finding it easier to think of how their portrayals could have been a whole lot worse rather than a whole lot better.

There are a few other criticisms of Revelation that don't quite stack up either. Like Tarantino, Revelation is often dismissed for its gratuitous violence when it was actually part of a laudable attempt to push the envelope in terms of appealing to an adult audience as well as a children's one. The expert use of black humour, which again wouldn't be out of place in a Tarantino movie, adds to this appeal. As Neil mentions, the alternative is the bland, risk-averse series we have today, and I certainly know which one I prefer. One other frequently levelled criticism is that Revelation doesn't hang together well. This is something that's always been important to me, and if we're to draw on Tarantino again, then I always prefer more believable films like Pulp Fiction to the likes of Kill Bill where I have to disengage my brain and suspend my disbelief. Caves shares the qualities of the former and whilst Revelation is not quite so tight, it doesn't stray too far away from that formula either, and I crucially never lose faith in it.

Nobody could say that Revelation is completely flawless, and that's ultimately why Caves wins out as the better story overall. But its flaws are easily forgivable, and continuing to compare it with Caves begins to feel a little futile in the end anyway. It's like comparing the great with the great after all. Why not instead just enjoy both as two of the best examples of Doctor Who ever made. Especially when Revelation is so symbolic of a Tarantinoesque two-fingered salute to Michael Grade for axing it at a time when it was surely the most ground-breaking thing on TV.