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 Ill 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 Ill 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, Bakers acting abilities are thrown into the spotlight and he rises to the occasion in a most enjoyable fashion. Whats 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, its almost too much to bear. Thats not the moment which scared me though, and I mean really shook me up but Ill 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. Molloys 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 Skeltons real voice is not as big a detriment as it could be, since he delivers the Dalek dialogue so well.
Graeme Harpers 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 DJs 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 Bakers 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 Limbs 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 wasnt 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.