A two-part episode of Doctor Who from 1985 (the 143rd story) and featuring Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, Revelation of the Daleks is no great addition to the Doctor Who/Dalek canon. It's got a lot of misplaced and not very funny black humor and uses both the Daleks and its creator, the nefarious Davros (now played by Terry Molloy), quite poorly while the Doctor himself has little to do until the climax. Still, other aspects of the story and a few of the characterizations are nicely realized, and the generally high caliber of the performances compensates for some of the weaknesses. If Revelation of the Daleks is a lesser Doctor Who adventure, produced when the long running (1963-1989) series was in rapid decline, BBC's DVD still treats the show like gold, supplementing it with some impressive extra features.
The Doctor, this time accompanied by all-American girl Peri (Brit Nicola Bryant, affecting a notably inconsistent American accent and first seen wearing a costume that recalls Monica Lewinsky), travels to the planet Necros to visit an old friend, Professor Stengos (Alec Linstead). Unbeknownst to the Doctor, the evil Davros, now but an ill-tempered disembodied head (or is he?) barking orders like Der Fuhrer in They Saved Hitler's Brain, has set up shop on Necros.
Overseeing the Tranquil Repose, a combination intergalactic funeral parlor and cryogenic freeze-and-holding station, Davros is regarded by his staff as the intimidating but essentially benevolent "Great Healer." In fact Davros is secretly rebuilding his Dalek army (now a splinter faction at odds with the "true" Dalek race) using human remains to genetically transform them into the pepper-shaker-shaped androids. Rejected remains, meanwhile, are sold to scheming Kara (the talented and exceptionally beautiful Eleanor Bron) who repackages the remains as food for a hungry galaxy.
Revelation of the Daleks is a mishmash of derivative ideas lifted from myriad sources, from The Loved One (particularly one character, Mr. Jobel, directly lifted from the novel's Mr. Joyboy) and Soylent Green (corpses secretly used to feed a starving population) to Plan 9 from Outer Space (grave robbers from outer space). Eric Saward's teleplay is uncomfortably grim and apocalyptic yet bizarrely humorous at the same time. The disembodied Davros is comically petulant, his menace completely neutered. The character does spring to life during the lively climax, however, and the slam-bang finish almost make one forgive the show's weak and uneventful first-half. (In all of Part One the Doctor and Perri do little more than hike across snowy fields.)
Revelation of the Daleks is this reviewer's first encounter with Colin Baker's interpretation of the Doctor which, based on this episode, is pretty undistinguished, and Bryant's shaky American accent and badly-written dialogue - which plays exactly like it is: a 40-year-old British man's idea of how a 20-year-old American woman converses - doesn't help. (Apparently this character was ill-conceived from the start, more annoying than likeable, a contrast to past companions.) This episode likewise features an American-influenced Necrosian DJ (Alexei Sayle), a character that might have worked in a different context but which seems totally out of place here.
Video & Audio
Revelation of the Daleks is presented on a single-sided disc with the two 42-minute episodes full-frame in good transfers. As usual for British television of the time, a mix of videotape (for studio interiors) and film (for location exteriors) has been used. The mono sound on all four shows is fine (a 5.1 remix is included, along with an Isolated Music Track), and optional English subtitles are available.
An extra feature worth mentioning here is an option to play the program with new CGI Effects replacing some of the more shaky and low-budget original visuals. This reviewer played both shows with this option but the additions must have been minor and subtly integrated as nothing particularly stood out.
Supplements include Revelation Exhumed, a 45-minute featurette in 4:3 standard format. Though not as critical as it might be, the program goes into considerable detail covering all phases of production. Most of the cast and key crew are interviewed, including writer Eric Saward, director Graeme Harper, and actors Clive Swift, Terry Molloy, William Gaunt, and Hugh Walters. Conspicuously absent, however, are Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, and Eleanor Bron, though Bryant joins Saward, Harper, and Molloy for the Audio Commentary Track, which covers both episodes and Behind the Scene footage, approximately 15 minutes of raw rushes. The commentary can be listened to simultaneous with Information Text that take the form of subtitles and provide additional background on the show.
Also included are several minutes worth of what's called Continuity Announcements, a set of BBC network bumpers and promos, including repeats when the show was re-edited into a four-part program. As always, an extensive Photo Gallery is filled with a nice collection of still images.
Doctor Who - Revelation of the Daleks redeems itself somewhat near the end, and the extras go a long way to boost this title's appeal. It's not Grade-A Doctor Who, but series fans will find its offbeat approach to the show's seminal villains intriguing.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and Taschen's forthcoming Cinema Nippon. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.