The Mark of the RaniBookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 December 2006 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

A bit of the "odd man out" in the notorious Season 22. 

A kinder, gentler story in this very morbid and "noir" season. The Doctor is a bit more approachable. The storyline, simpler. And the general tone of the whole tale is considerably less dark than the other stories surrounding it. This made quite a bit of fandom happy since a lot of folks aren't happy with the direction most of Season 22 went in. 

But now, here's where I differ from most of you. I loved what Season 22 did. I know I could be very alone in that sentiment, but I really enjoyed the whole anti-hero nature of the Doctor and all the strange, off-beat violence and the general sense experimentalism at work throughout the season. So, does this mean I despise "Mark of the Rani" for going against the grain? 

Meh. It's an okay story.

It's got a couple of really big flaws to it that have been attacked and lambasted several million times over by fandom. The tree saving Peri, the Master offering no real explanation for surviving "Planet Of Fire" and several other moments like that. There are even some flaws to it that bothered me that didn't seem to bother anyone else. For instance, the attack on the Doctor in the first part where the three recently-converted Luddites are trying to shove him "down pit" looks horrendously fake. Watch really careful, by the way, at the bad editing. One of the Luddites falls into the pit - only to re-appear a moment later! 

But none of these flaws are quite enough, in my book, to genuinely "kill" this story. They lessen its effectiveness a bit, but they don't turn it into a genuine "stinker". I do feel, however, that there is a genuine flaw to the overall "flow" of the plot that does cause it to lose some of its impact. I'll explain it in a moment. First, I'll heap on some praise where praise is due. 

Pip and Jane Baker, for all their overblown dialogue, do offer an excellent first script. Based on this tale alone, I can see why they were re-commissioned as writers. And, for my money, what they did in Trial of a Time Lord was pretty good too (but that's a whole other review!). 

The greatest strength to this story is how they set up the Doctor/Master/Rani dynamics. To me, the very high-handed vocabulary even suits them (they're Time Lords, they'd use big words with each other!). The banter between the three of them as they reach the cliffhanger is just a whole lot of fun to watch and is probably one of the most memorable moments of Season 22. I really like how these scenes are executed. 

The biggest problem, to me, that arises is that the Master/Rani/Doctor confrontation is the high point of the story. But we still have another forty minutes or so to get through in the next part. And though there are some nice moments in the second half of Mark of the Rani, it never quite "measures up" to what we got in the first half. Thus making the whole thing a tad on the anti-climactic side. This is the greatest flaw to this story. We get all the really good stuff far too early. I suppose it couldn't be avoided in some ways. A second, drawn-out three-way confrontation between the Rani, the Doctor and the Master would've seemed too forced. Perhaps, then, it would have been better to have kept the first encounter short and then given us a bigger one later. 

This doesn't mean, of course, that the second half of the story is totally bad. We still have some nice little moments. The excursion into the Rani's gorgeous TARDIS interior being highly memorable. And the Doctor almost "losing his cool" and being tempted to use the Tissue Compressor on his two rivals is also quite riveting. But, overall, most of the bang for my buck is done as the cliffhanger rolls up. 

Still, the story does score some extra points by having a very different "feel" to it. As much as I enjoyed the nature of Season 22, I'm even more impressed with the fact that they stuck something so radically different in the middle of it. I also find the Master to be at his all-time creepiest in this story. All those moody shots of him just skulking about were so well-achieved. Yes, he's psychologically imbalanced and, therefore, not half the man Delgado was. But that was the whole point of the Ainley Master. He was living on borrowed time and this was having a drastic effect on his sanity. And his nuttiness is played up quite effectively in this tale. Making him genuinely scary rather than just comical. Like "Ultimate Foe", having the Master take a bit of a backseat in this tale was actually a great move for his character. He could really focus on just being sinister and nasty rather than having to propel the plot a whole lot. 

So, in the final analysis, this is a fairly passable tale. Overshadowed quite a bit by some of the other offerings of Season 22, but still a nice little break from all the sombreness. Even if said sombreness is greatly enjoyed by this reviewer!





The Mark of the RaniBookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 December 2006 - Reviewed by Ed Martin

One of the most patronising things that anyone can say about a good sixth Doctor story is “wow, that’s really good for Colin Baker.” It’s as if it’s impossible for one of his stories to be genuinely good on its own terms, and people have to instead make the best of things by saying “oh well, it could be Timelash, so count your blessings.” Now when a bona fide classic comes along like Revelation Of The Daleks this is rendered nonsense, but I can sort of see why this view comes about in relation to The Mark Of The Rani; while it’s not quite good enough to be counted as able to survive its own era like Revelation or Vengeance On Varos, it’s still streets ahead of one or two other moments of Colin’s brief era. Therefore what reputation it has largely rests on the fact that it comes in the same season as Timelash and Attack Of The Cybermen – personally, while I understand this viewpoint I think it’s unfair to attack the entire story because the reasons it gets laughed at occasionally can be isolated into just a couple of scenes.

Immediately noticeable is the vast quantity of location shooting (a figure of 50% is one I’ve heard passed around), and thanks to some quite superb direction from Sarah Hellings – sadly her only story for Doctor Who – there’s a much classier feel to this story than I might have expected from an era not known for its taste. It’s helped by some pleasant incidental music, even though the dated sound of the synthesisers is highlighted by the period setting and their attempt at imitating actual instruments. The studio sets are also pleasantly subdued (particularly the Rani’s TARDIS, of which more later), possibly earning this the title of best looking sixth Doctor story.

Unfortunately, a sixth Doctor story will at some point involve the presence of the sixth Doctor. Dreadfully misconceived though his character is, Colin just about manages not to embarrass himself too much in this story, apart from his first scene with its notorious “malfunction!” shriek. It’s made all the worse by being his first scene and therefore devoid of context, and his theatricality disrupts the peace of the opening scenes like a sneeze in a library.

In case anyone doesn’t notice when they watch the story, this is what first introduces us to Pip ‘n’ Jane Baker, two decent plot-writers but whose tortured dialogue has earned them a reputation as two of Doctor Who’s worst writers. To be honest in comparison with some of their later work The Mark Of The Rani seems alright, even if they undo their good work in the second episode by providing the programme with one of its most infamously stupid lines. Nevertheless it’s quite sweet to see them pitching their episodes firmly at a family audience, as the miners’ newfound aggression manifests itself in them whipping each other with towels and kicking over stalls of potatoes. 

I don’t know why the Master’s dressed as a scarecrow, alright? It’s just spooky looking, I suppose, although I’ve never approved of elements in a story – technically good though they may be – that emphasise effect over sense. However, a serious mitigating factor is that Anthony Ainley tones down the ham in a story that in many ways doesn’t allow for that sort of thing. However, there are still one or two annoying scenes as the writers advance the plot by having him talk to himself. There’s a good scene where he meets the miners for the first time, and the deliberate irony of having the Doctor chide Peri for her smugness is amusing.

Terence Alexander gets most of the best lines in the episode, although he throws himself into the Victorian-gentleman trope a bit too enthusiastically to make him believable. He certainly has a dramatic entrance though in a decent action scene over the pit.

To be honest, neither Ainley nor Kate O’Mara is terrific in their roles, but O’Mara comes off the best here even if Ainley is still above average. The exchanges between the Rani and the Master are always fun to watch; what scores this story serious points in my book is the way it uses the Rani – a character with clear-cut needs and motivations – to send up the Master’s cliché of causing mischief for its own sake, without a proper reason.

Meanwhile, back on the other side of the plot, the Doctor’s logic in piecing together the peculiar events so far is interesting to listen to, but the villains have been given too much screen time too early on (with consequent plot revelations) to build up a decent sense of mystery. And, just in case you’d forgotten who wrote this story or felt their reputation was undeserved, we get the ridiculous line “fortuitous would be a more apposite epithet.” That said, there is much to enjoy in the Doctor’s confrontations with the Rani and it’s always nice to see his costume covered up. The only serious problem with the episode so far, as far as I can see, is that it’s shallow. Apart from the send-up of the Master there’s little here beyond the basic plot for me to really get my teeth into.

The cliffhanger to the first episode, at least this side of the episode break, is pretty good with some excellent film editing and good stunt work from whoever the poor sap was inside that casket (“so you want a job, do you?”). Unfortunately episode two has the famously lazy resolution where the reprise is re-edited and extra footage spliced in showing that the Doctor was never actually in any danger. They might have got away with this five or ten years before when episodes were being watched only on transmission, but by 1985 the era of the home video recorder was well underway and the production team short-changing the viewer like this isn’t so easy to overlook as it might have been in a black and white episode.

Episode two sees a definite drop in quality over episode one, and the interplay between the Rani and the Master is still a highlight of the story. However, having the Master repeat “the mark…of the RANI!” as if it’s an incantation a second time is a very unsophisticated piece of writing. There is a genuinely touching moment as the Doctor waxes lyrical about the Rani’s morals, and the mustard gas moment is a nice idea that worked better when I was a kid, I think.

The Rani’s TARDIS is seen for the first time at this point, one of the classiest sets ever seen in the series. I could easily believe that the entire budget of the season was used up on this one set, and it seems like an affront to designer Paul Trerise to allow Colin Baker on it while wearing his full costume. It’s all complimented by more superb location shooting (like the spider’s web shot – Hellings is possibly in the top twenty Doctor Who directors, maybe top ten for location filming). However, now we come to the most contentious issue in the entire story, and the easiest target for its detractors: the Rani’s landmines.

Is it plausible to have a device that can turn a human into a tree in a small explosion? Since it’s Time Lord technology, I don’t see why not. Is it a good special effect? I think so, yes. Was it a good idea to have the character formerly known as Luke reach down a branch and grab Peri? No. It’s compounded by that stupid line I alluded to earlier, the hilarious “don’t worry Peri, the tree won’t hurt you!” What elevates the line from just another clunker and into a piece of loopy genius though is that it makes perfect sense in context, which rather detracts from the whole concept of the scene, really. The story’s wound up with some more dodgy lines, like calling the Master a “crack-brained freak”, and a non-resolution where the Rani’s TARDIS is sent flying away faster than it should, and all’s done. I still like it, but I can’t help but feel a sense of waste.

I do like this story, but it’s got just a few too many flaws to really qualify as above-average. Whereas stories like Day Of The Daleks settle quite comfortably into average ratings, I feel more disappointed by The Mark Of The Rani because, despite all that works against it – the writers being the chief example – it comes very close to being something more.





Vengeance on VarosBookmark and Share

Friday, 24 March 2006 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

Colin Baker says this was his favourite story out of anything he did on the series. One can easily see why. 

Although there is a school of thought in fandom that claims that this one "isn't all that it's cracked up to be" - I'm not one of those fans. This, in my mind at least, is a classic. In my top ten faves. Possibly even my top five! 

Where does one start with the praise? I'll take my usual route: the script. Phillip Martin makes possibly the most stunning first submission the series has ever seen. It's a great story on multiple levels. First, it's makes a great social comment, of course. Like "The Sunmakers" before it, or "Happiness Patrol" in years to follow, the script focusses greatly on creating an entire society for us to look at as well as a storyline to follow. And like the other stories I just compared it to - there's some allegory at play in this presentation. So, not only do we get a very creative script that puts together an entire self-contained society - but we also get some somewhat scathing underlying symbolism. Nicely enough, Martin's symbolism doesn't totally have to bite you on the ass, though. 

The other great aspect to his script is the actual action of the story. The best example of this is the later half of the first part. From the landing of the TARDIS on Varos to the cliffhanger - we are treated to one of the best roller-coaster rides the series has ever offered. The assailing of trap-after-trap in the Punishment Dome is not just good fun to watch, it's highly imaginitive. It almost seems as though Martin is aware that the story will probably have only so much budget to realise his vision so instead of having the crew build elaborate sets and props to execute his traps - he comes up with more novel ideas like the purple zone. A trap that is not only creative in the fact that it is more a "trick of the eyes" than a legitimate physical trap - but also creative because it required little more than a post-production effect and a bit of purple lighting. Brilliant stuff, really. Even more brilliant that Martin knew when to settle down with the chase through the dome and focus on the political intrigue of the story. Which is as entralling to watch as the action sequences. 

But, that still wasn't quite enough for this script. No, Martin also has to give us one of the most unique plot devices "Who" has ever seen. We get our very own "Greek Chorus" thrown into the mix with the characters of Arak and Etta watching the whole adventure on their T.V. screen. This is a magnificent touch. And their inclusion in the story is one of the vital elements, in my opinion, that propels this story from "fun little runaround" to "classic". Their introduction into the story is delightfully stylistic as the image of the tortured Jondar cuts to the screen on their livingroom T.V. They also have one of my favourite lines in the whole story: "I like that one! The one in the funny clothes". The two actors portraying them do a magnificent job - giving us a real Holmesian double-act even though the great Robert didn't write this one! 

Which leads us into another strong point: the acting. Aside from our two slightly wooden rebels, (who weren't really even all that wooden) - the actors in this piece do a thoroughly magnificent job. Of special note: Nabil Shaban as Sil. No one has ever played an alien with such relish and gusto as he has. In both his appearances on the show, really. But he makes the most remarkable first impression in Varos. I'm not sure what Phillip Martin's plans were for the character after this story - but Shaban can be given just as much credit as the writer for "earning" Sil's second appearance. I'm not sure if the Shaban is still around, but if there's any multiple appearance character from the old series that I would love to see come back for the new series - it would be Sil. He's great fun to watch. 

Also of noteworthy mention was Martin Jarvis' excellent portrayal of The Governor. A troubled man, torn between trying to make some positive changes in his society and remaining popular enough with the people to stay alive. His speech to Maldak as he's submitted to the green light of the cellular disentegrator is an excellent moment that really gets us to see the underlying passion of this character. Yes, he's horribly cold and callous too. But, in the end, his true colours shine through. And, again, this is displayed by a gorgeous marriage between the words of the script and they way they are spoken by the actor. 

While we're at it, though, let's also heap some praise on the great Colin Baker himself. The performance he turns in for this tale is one of his best. One can see his love for the script in how well-crafted his acting skills are in it. And though there is still the slighest insinuation at the beginning of the show that he's still a bit shaky from the regeneration, all of the sixth Doctor's traits are in strong evidence here. He's great oratical skills are displayed from the gallows as he rails against the Gallatron mining corporation. His first meeting with Quillam shows off his very poignant "cosmic jester" personae. And just the general delivery of his very rich, almost didactive style of dialogue is displayed in great abundance. He's arrogant and righteous one moment, compassionate the next, clever and deceitful the moment after that. And Colin gets all these very "topsy turvy" emotions to blend together seamlessly in one coherent characterisation. He does this in every story he was in, of course, but he's at his absolute best here. Even a simple line like: "Peri this is no time for casual conversation" is executed with a great delivery. Watch that bit - you'll see what I mean! 

The third pivotal element that makes the story a classic is its design. One of the greatest challenges I think the show always faces is getting each planet to look different from the last. This must be done by some sometimes outlandish-looking set design. Vengeance On Varos comes just to the edge of outlandish in the way the sets look, but it never quite totally crosses the line into absurdity. So that we really get a cool-looking architecture going on. Even those two little moving spotlights they set up in the background all over the place add just the neatest little effect to the whole proceedings. Not to mention the weird, slated doors and the mottled brown colour scheme. It's the perfect distinctive touch to a very distinctive story. 

Do I have any complaints? They're minimal, at best, so I can't even be bothered to mention them. I will bother to mention however, that some of the complaints levelled at this story by some segments of fandom seem generally unfounded to me. 

Although other people have found this tale to be too violent and almost a contradiction to its message because of said violence, it doesn't come across that way to me. Martin understood that he still had to tell an adventure story whilst making the comments he made and he struck a beautiful fine line between adventure and gratuitous violence. 

This story also has several elements to it that make it very reminiscent of other stories in this season. It's dark and somewhat macabre - like Revelation of the Daleks and The Two Doctors. The Doctor also goes a little anti-hero in places. And, it's a good long time before he actually gets involved with the story proper. But these elements, and others, were all things that I actually enjoyed greatly about Season Twenty-Two. I know I'm pretty alone in those sentiments and that many of you feel this season strayed too far from the Doctor Who formulae. But that's exactly what I like about this season. It tried something bold and different. 

And at the very epicenter of all that boldness lies Vengeance On Varos. A great story that embraces a very unique approach to a T.V. show that could've very easily rested on its 22-year-old laurels rather than explore new ground. But not only does it do some bold experimentation, it also does a wonderful job of telling us the most exciting of tales about a troubled penal colony in the Earth's future. 

As far as I'm concerned, you can hold this baby up to any of Tom Baker's best stories and I think it shines with them quite nicely. In some cases, even better. For instance, I'll take this story over "Genesis of the Daleks" any day. 

How's that for "fighting words"?





Revelation of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Friday, 24 March 2006 - Reviewed by Jason Wilson

Ahhh,1985, the year when it all went pear shaped. Suddenly Dr Who's supporters were gone from on high and in came Michael Grade and the infamous hiatus. By the time this story was shown we knew the series was on trial, and I don't remember TIMELASH being particularly reassuring. 

At the time I was only 14, and couldn't really understand the fuss about season 22, but revisiting it paints a slightly different picture. After the Davison era- a good doctor who still had a lot more to offer when he bowed out, and generally very strong stories, particularly in his final season, we suddenly got Colin Baker's radically different portrayal and more violent stories. Old monsters galore appeared in place of new ones. Out of six stories, four harping back to the past was too many. Particularly when only REVELATION really did its returning characters justice. ATTACK is very watchable but fatally derivative and the gore content lost the public fairly quickly. MARK OF THE RANI was entertaining for the Master/Doctor/Rani banter but didn't have much of a plot to it, and was ultimately just another blast from the past wasting the Master yet again. THE TWO DOCTORS had some good ideas but was too long and ultimately dull. And REVELATION?

Thankfully this turbulent season was to end on a high note. REVELATION is excellent. 

>From its very opening it drops you right in the thick of things. The Doctor and Peri encounter the mutant, Natasha and Grigory break into the base, Kara gets harrassed by Davros and hires Orcini to bump him off. The story sets itself up beautifully, on contrast to VENGEANCE ON VAROS say, where the opening Varos scenes are excellent but the stranded-in-the tardis-cue-whining-marathon bits are dreadful. It's not a good start to an adventure when the Doctor's first scenes make you cringe, and fortunately REVELATION is much better. The Sixth Doctor's regeneration troubles have eased out, Colin Baker is in confident command of the role, and Peri has ceased to be a brainless bimbo. 

And so the story progresses- more of the Daleks in part one would have been nice, but Oh, well...the excellence of Davros in this tale more than makes up for it. Part One contains much that is great- the glass dalek scene is powerful, Terry Molloy's davros rises to the great characterization that the script offers him, and the direction is polished throughout. 

Part Two is even better. The Doctor is captured, rival Dalek factions get their best battle, and the showdown with Davros is excellently done. This really was a great final story for Davros- bringing him back again in REMEMBRANCE was unnecessary, and it's great that in the new series the Daleks got the chance to function without him again. The DJ gives a nice surreal touch to the proceedings, and the regulars shine. 

Ironically, considering the shadow hanging over the series,

things looked healthy by the end of REVELATION. The Doctor and Peri's relationship was starting to settle down, Colin Baker gives his best performance in the part, and the viewing figures were climbing steadily back up. A great pity that things weren't allowed to continue on their natural course at this point.... 

There were several tragedies resulting from the cancellation, but I am not sure that season 23 itself was one of them. The bits we've seen in book form and in articles largely reveal more old monsters in more half baked

plots. MISSION TO MAGNUS is crap, the auton/rani/master story sounds too overcrowded again, ULTIMATE EVIL could have been Ok but feels desperately underwritten ( I realise things were only in draft form att he time maybe, but even so it is shallow) and NIGHTMARE FAIR, while OK, doesn't fell like a Toymaker scheme- more the Master's league really.Autons and Ice warriors would have been good, but they needed better stories- like DYING DAYS for example......but it might have been better than TRIAL, which tries very hard but wasn't what the series needed right then. It needed radical new stories with dynamism and drive and originality... and we got MYSTERIOUS PLANET. 

The real tragedy was that when the series returned it felt like no one noticed. The habit of DR WHO was broken and the series never recovered. There should also have been a new producer- JNT delivered excellently in season 18 and the Davison era but thereafter things faltered badly. 

And of course there was Colin Baker. I find him a patchy doctor at best- fine with a good script and good direction but unable to transcend weaker material as all the previous doctors could, including Davison. By the end of season 22 he WAS the Doctor- however in MYSTERIOUS PLANET he was dreadful and the TRIAL format gave him little room to progress in characterising his doctor. And when he was boooted out we got McCoy, the all time worst doctor. I am not as much of a Colin convert after Big Finish as many seem to be as I still find his performance in audio these stories irritating at times,and I still wonder whether he was ever a suitable choice for the part, but I do think he was denied a chance to do better. Not just by Grade, but by JNT and Saward as well. Oh well..

At least REVELATION gives him a chance for greatness. Definitely one of the eighties' best.





Revelation of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Saturday, 29 October 2005 - Reviewed by Nick Mellish

When I was a relatively young and impressionable young chap, growing up long after my favourite television programme had been taken off the air, I was thrilled to bits when the BBC decided to repeat old ‘Doctor Who’ stories on BBC Two. Scouring through my already dog-eared copy of the 1991 ‘Doctor Who Yearbook’, I found out that the story to be transmitted next was ‘Revelation Of The Daleks’ and the Doctor in it was played by… ah, Colin Baker.

I was a bit apprehensive, and I was only seven years of age. The only other story with Colin Baker in which I had seen thus far was ‘The Twin Dilemma’ and it had left me feeling a tad cold- at the time, we were without Sky and (if I recall correctly) no other Colin Baker story was available to buy on VHS. And so it was on a cold evening that I sat down with my Parents and my Brother to watch ‘Doctor Who’. And it was great- really great. But what, even now, is the best thing about it for me is that, for the first time ever, ‘Doctor Who’ managed to scare me… but I’ll leave that until later on.

‘Revelation Of The Daleks’ is like a repeat of the success that was ‘The Caves Of Androzani’. They both have Graeme Harper as a Director; they both have Nicola Bryant reminding us all how good an actress she is, making Peri every bit as good as the character could be; they both have a great musical score by Roger Limb; and they are both a result of great directing meeting a great script.

Eric Saward is- not without reason- an author often criticised. Certainly with his previous Dalek story (‘Resurrection Of The Daleks’), there was simply too much going on that was irrelevant and the characters which were present varied between the forgettable and the wasted.

Here however, it all works. The supporting characters are all brilliant, and the several story strands are both necessary to the overall plot and damn enjoyable in their own right. Of all the writers to write for Season Twenty-Two and its forty-five minute episode-length format, it is Saward who writes best of all. What little padding there is remains undiscovered due to the humorous dialogue or inventive twists and turns in the plot. ‘Revelation Of The Daleks’ is engaging; it is witty and it is clever and it is scary… but I’ll return to that later.

Colin Baker excels as the Doctor here, showing all the naysayers exactly why it was that he was cast in the leading role. From the throwaway comedy moments such as trying to shake Davros’ hand after it has been blown off with a gun to the moments of genuine emotion like when he discovers quite what Davros has done with all the dead bodies, Baker’s acting abilities are thrown into the spotlight and he rises to the occasion in a most enjoyable fashion. What’s arguably most impressive of all about this is the fact that the Doctor and Peri are very much sidelined throughout the story, but this works very well as the supporting cast are all superb.

‘Revelation Of The Daleks’ is a story littered with double acts, from the lofty Kara and Vogel to the pseudo-historical pairing of Orcini and Bostock, the latter of which is given a great line where he observes that the aforementioned Kara and Vogel are “like a double act”! All such characters are both well written and well-acted, though specific mention must go to Clive Swift as the egotistical, pompous oaf Jobel who manages to make the character particularly memorable, despite the large host of memorable characters; his death scene too is simply wonderful.

As Tasambeker, Jenny Tomasin delivers what is arguably the weakest performance of the whole cast, though even that is gold-dust compare to other supporting actors who have appeared in ‘Doctor Who’ over the years.

Another knowing nod should go towards Alec Linstead as the remains of Arthur Stengos who manages to make a potentially sinister sequence very, very hard to watch due to the sheer power of his acting. When he begs- please note, that he BEGS- his own Daughter to kill him, it’s almost too much to bear. That’s not the moment which scared me though, and I mean really shook me up… but I’ll return to that later.

The Daleks themselves play second fiddle to Davros, but again this really works well for the script. Davros is for once given a lot more to do than simply rant and rave, and Terry Molloy is able to shed the long-term viewer of the opinion that Michael Wisher is the definitive Davros. Molloy’s vocal skills as an actor for the Radio really shine out here, and nearly every line he delivers is a gem in its own right.

The Dalek voices in ‘Revelation Of The Daleks’ are a bone of content for many viewers, sounding- as they do- very human. Certainly, this effect works very nicely with the Ivory coloured Daleks as they are meant to be made from human remains; however, this inferred opinion is somewhat marred by the fact that the Grey Daleks use the same type of voices, and so the Daleks in this story simply appear to be poorly modulated rather than different from each other, which is a shame. Still, hearing traces of Roy Skelton’s real voice is not as big a detriment as it could be, since he delivers the Dalek dialogue so well.

Graeme Harper’s Directing is simply brilliant; the camera moves around with ease in the cramped studio, giving everything a sense of grand scale despite the budget restraint and the cramped studio space. Little touches such as using Soft Focus in the DJ’s room to enhance the spaced-out atmosphere just add to the stunning visuals, which Harper is at pains to put on screen.

Overall, ‘Revelation Of The Daleks’ is not only the highlight of Season Twenty-Two, but also that of Colin Baker’s tenure as the Doctor. The characters all gel together, and the Directing is above and beyond the call of brilliance. The story is well-lit throughout too, adding a real moody ambience to the proceedings, which- coupled with Roger Limb’s music- help make this story as good as it is: not even a poorly realised flying Dalek and a bizarrely humorous Polystyrene statue of Colin Baker can ruin it for me. I shall wrap this review up now, but before that…

The moment that scared me: it happens when the DJ, played with suitable eccentricity by Alexei Sayle, is exterminated. Now, the Daleks are evil and nasty, I know that and knew that, but this was the first time that I actually took it on board properly. The DJ wasn’t a bad man, nor was he self-centred or nasty to Peri. He wanted to help her, and it costs him his life. Oh, and when he dies he screams. Loudly. Painfully. It hurts when you die; it was horrible to watch too. I was seven years old, and I was petrified.





Revelation of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Saturday, 29 October 2005 - Reviewed by Ed Martin

It’s a thought-provoking little story, is this. Far richer than the average Dalek story, (and certainly far richer than the average 1980s Dalek story) Revelation Of The Daleks presents disturbing subtext after disturbing subtext in a gleefully unafraid way, as well as making the Daleks cool again (not as easy as it sounds) and even managing to coax a decent performance out of Terry Molloy. By far the most surprising element though is that it was written by Eric Saward, who just the previous season gave us the dismal Resurrection Of The Daleks, which served as nothing more than an exercise in pointlessly killing of extras. I suppose you have to commend someone for being able to learn from his mistakes.

Possibly the most remarked on aspect of the story is that the Doctor’s role is de-emphasised to an extraordinary degree, essentially relegating him to the role of a moral commentator. By contrast, Image Of The Fendahl for example also did this but this was a means of presenting some interesting guest characters and still allowed room for the Doctor to save the day in the end; here, although there are some excellent characters it feels like the Doctor has been forgotten about which, while innovative, is fundamentally unsatisfying.

The story begins with the Doctor though and presents some brilliant location footage, all the more notable for being the last broadcast story to have its exterior scenes shot on 16mm film – John Nathan-Turner’s obsession with being hip and modern removed this excellently atmospheric format from the programme from the following season. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Our first glimpse of the guest cast begins as it means to continue, presenting Jobel and Tasambeker at the height of their grotesquery (from which they never descend) as they crack graphic jokes about decomposition. These people don’t have redeeming features beneath their callous exteriors; they are not being cruel as a way of distancing themselves from reality such as was presented in programmes like M*A*S*H; they’re just a bunch of sickos. Jenny Tomasin puts in a very annoying performance, but seeing as her character is supposed to be annoying she gets away with it in a way she wouldn’t were she playing another part.

The design of the story is excellent, with subdued visuals for once (one curious thing about the Nathan-Turner era is how the money was spent on the stories with the best scripts; corned ham with cheese like Timelash had to get by on a shoestring. Not that I’m complaining about the results here, but I feel if they’d spread the money a bit more generally the season as a whole would have been better). However the incidental music, while by no means bad, has a very synthetic feel to it which contrasts starkly to the earthy look of the story.

Outside, the Doctor meets the mutant – an horrendously scary scene, made all the more harrowing by the sudden and jolting cut to the ruined face of the creature, one of the few moments of the show to genuinely make me jump and a reason I’m so glad that director Graeme Harper is working on the new series. Suddenly, the mutant scene changes from being scary to being poignant, which only goes to show the breadth of this story, even though it is slightly odd that the monster is so articulate. Then again, this is Doctor Who where aliens, mutants, savages and Viking warriors all went to grammar school.

Another oft-mentioned aspect of the story is how good the Daleks are. First of all, Harper’s direction is brilliant; he shoots the Daleks from low angles, increasing the illusion of size and power, and also only shows us them briefly: he utilises quick cuts, extreme close ups and long shots, and also the occasional nice moment where a Dalek suddenly moves across camera shot just for a second. These half-glimpses increase their menace while also hiding the essential prop-look that they so often had. Also, Saward’s writes them David Whitaker-style, keeping them in the background and using them as part of the story rather than the focal point of it. Keeping them on the periphery allows us to forgive their dialogue, which unfortunately never really elevates above catchphrase level; unfortunately their voices are terrible, even worse than in Day Of The Daleks: squawky, nasal, and lacking any real modulation. This has been fixed to a small extent for the new sound mix on the DVD release, but they are still poor. It is weird to see the Daleks just as a normal part of life on Necros – it just shows the unconventional world the story presents.

The grave robbers are also good, Grigory’s drinking another reason why this is the most adult Doctor Who story ever. The interplay between him and Natasha is excellent, for here we get two allies who don’t like each other. Also, his line of “I’m a doctor, not a magician” is a nice riff off Star Trek. On the subject of double acts the obsequious but treacherous double act of Kara and Vogel is also good, although I have to keep reminding myself that they sell human flesh as food. Is this really what I’m watching?

The interplay between the Doctor and Peri is good, being far less whiny. There is a sense that their relationship has suddenly developed, as if there have been a lot of unseen adventures between Timelash and this story. The watch scene is good – irrelevant, but a nice little moment of characterisation.

Now…the glass Dalek scene. If this isn’t one of the most shocking and stomach-churning scenes the show ever produced, then I’m Lord Lucan. It is done on a total whim, and is unnecessary to the story (any other episode would have just told us about severed heads being converted into Daleks, rather than actually showing us), but this more or less sums up this adventure: it has several elements that could be excised, but they are unbelievably good all the same and it is by leaving them in that this story is elevated to what it is. The hair-raising performance by Alec Linstead as the head of Stengos further amplifies the power of the scene, and on a final note I should say that this scene happens to come exactly twenty-five minutes in; in any other season it would rank as one of the best cliffhangers ever.

Moving on, Lilt wants to slice up a woman’s face with a knife. ‘Nuff said.

Orcini and Bostock are wonderful, the only truly noble guest characters (and that includes the rest of the goodies, if there are any). William Gaunt gets the best lines in the episode, which he does justice admirably. The exposition is laid on here, but in general it is very good as it is presented at an even pace – the advantage of having a forty-five minute format is that there is less of a need to make the plot so obvious as the audience doesn’t have to remember it for so long.

The way Jobel talks to his subordinates shows the difference between his public and supposedly private personas, and his reference to drug use is also notable (anyone would think I’m keeping a score of all the adult references in this story). After all this, the cliffhanger is somewhat mundane, being presented for no very good reason like a lot of other elements of this story such as the statue of the skeleton in Davros’s laboratory, but without their originality.

The second episode carries on in fine style, with Orcini’s ‘sword’ monologue being a high point of the story. The DJ shows his serious side, becoming a likeable character for the first time. His weapon is rather odd though: sonic cannons aren’t new to this show but in this case the credibility of a gun that fires a beam of rock music is questionable.

Looking at Tasambeker and Jobel, the sexual undercurrents become quite uncomfortably obvious, with lechery, submission / aggression and lust all playing over the minds of the characters, even being used by Davros for the purposes of manipulation – the only time this aspect of psychology has ever been used in the series. Jobel’s death is very violent (get used to it, there’s more coming), and his wig falling off is a nice touch. Tasambeker’s death, which follows on immediately, is also well done, particularly because the extermination special effect is at it’s very best in this story. There are a lot of deaths here, but they are dramatically justified, unlike for example Resurrection Of The Daleks which merely presents a load of extras with no other purpose than to get mown down.

The flying Dalek is a nice idea, but pointless and in execution is confusing as the extreme close ups required to make it convincing only serve to make it less clear what’s actually happening. Like the voices this has been corrected to an extent on the DVD release (the CGI effects are excellent) but the scene is essentially inadequate, which is a real shame.

The story begins to wind up now (translation: my review starts to wind up now because it’s getting late). Kara’s stabbing is unbelievably graphic, as is the shot of Davros’s hand being blown off (his fingers are seen scattered on the floor). The Dalek factions battle it out, mysteriously losing the ability to shoot straight. On that note, the Doctor is a remarkably good shot for someone who claims never to use firearms.

And with that, it’s all over. Therein lies the story’s major failing, that the Doctor may as well never have been there in the first place. However, not even this can cause the story to fail: in a period where the show was treading water, here comes a story that takes risks and dares to be dangerous. The safe method of relying on previous stories had failed to win in the crowd, and this one succeeds by dicing with controversy in a way that leaves Vengeance On Varos, which received much more criticism, far behind. This is a story that cries to us, “I’m going to appall and horrify you, and you’re going to love me for it”. And we do.