Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Revelation of the Daleks

Revelation of the Daleks in an odd story. The Doctor is almost irrelevant to proceedings, even though his prescence is desired by The Great Healer. Would anything have happened differently if the Doctor had not been there? It almost does not feel like Doctor Who at all. Part One in particular might be refered to as a 'Doctor Light' story if it were a New Who.

However I love it. In my opinion this is the best story in Colin Baker's first season. The cast is exceptional and Eric Saward seems to have learnt from Robert Holmes about building great and amusing double acts: Kara (Eleanor Bron) and Vogel (Hugh Walters); Orcini (William Gaunt) and Bostock (John Ogwen); Takis (Trevor Cooper) and Lilt (Colin Spaull) and Grigory (Stephen Flynn) with Natasha (Bridget Lynch-Blosse). They bounce great and amusing dialogue off of each other. Good dialogue brings out good performances generally and that's want happens here. Add Clive Swift giving a fantastically sleazy performance as Jobel and Alexei Sayle as the DJ then you get a cast and a half.

The only bum note is Jenny Tomasin as Tasambeker who seems totally adrift. Some of her line readings are not so much wooden as just wrong. You wonder whether she actually had a clue what she was doing. It jars a bit mainly because everyone else is so good.

Terry Molloy plays Davros and it is a different Davros. He is less hysterical than usual until towards the end. Instead we see a smarter more cunning Davros relying on his wit and words to get what he wants. He even sounds like a businessman at some points using phrases like "consumer resistence". It makes an amusing change. Why he decides to involve the Doctor when things seem to be going well is almost Masteresque in its stupidity.

Colin Baker is magnificent in this. Anyone who still thinks Colin Baker is not a good Doctor should watch this, Part Two particularly. I think Big Finish has done a great job in 'rehabilitating' both Colin and Sylvester's Doctors for which we should be grateful. The fact that Colin found himself as The Doctor at the wrong time. The BBC had almost given up on the programme and its budgets were cut to the bone. There was also a growing inconsistency in script quality, in my opinion at least. For example Colin Baker's first season is wildly inconsistent, almost as if there was an attempt to make one bad, one good story. Even then though I do not feel Colin Baker is ever less than excellent. His Doctor might be pompous, bombastic and more violent than previous Doctors but he is Doctorish.

Nicola Bryant gets a little more action here to and there are a couple of nice scenes between her and Alexei Sayle's DJ and her reaction to being forced to kill the 'mutant' is lovely.

I have dwelt more on casting than plot because it is the cast and dialogue combined with the direction by Graeme Harper, which is up to his Caves of Androzani standards. The way he cuts to the DJ to soften some of the nastier scenes is cleverly done. There are some quite unpleasent scenes in this story: the Dalek-Stengos head, with throbbing brain looks nasty enough but his pleading with Nastasha (his daughter) to kill him before the conversion to Dalek is completed is memorably dark. As are the scenes when Nastasha and Grigory are tortured and the stabbing of Kara. For once though this all seems justifable. There is not much in the way of flippancy, which is nice. Even though a lot of people do that.

There are a couple of quibbles - the DJs death for example is pretty badly handled and some shots do not quite work - but overall I love this story to bits.


  1. "The only bum note is Jenny Tomasin as Tasambeker who seems totally adrift. Some of her line readings are not so much wooden as just wrong. You wonder whether she actually had a clue what she was doing."

    I've often heard this complaint, but I don't understand it. This is obviously a performance that strongly divides viewers: some love it, some (probably the majority) hate it, but I've never understood the hate. I'm in the pro-Tomasin camp. What did you find so bad about her line readings? I thought she understood the character well, probably a lot better than Saward himself who has serious failings as a scriptwriter.

    Her character all adds up. Contrast that to Trevor Cooper and Colin Spaull, who, despite being good actors, never make Takis and Lilt into believable people. One minute they're ruthless thugs, the next they're comic relief, the next they're heroic insurrectionists. There's no continuity in their characters from one scene to the next. Tomasin's Tasambeker, in contrast, is the same desperate person in her first scene as her last.

    If there's a flaw in this, it's Saward's script, which is way better than his usual standard, but not great. He resorts to an unconvincing deus ex machina to resolve all his various plot threads (Takis and Lilt call in the old Daleks), but how and when do they manage to do this? In the first ep. the truth is only gradually dawning on them at the same pace as the viewer is figuring things out, then they're busy chasing and finally capturing and torturing the body-snatchers, then the next thing you see is Takis awaiting the Dalek ship which is already en route to Necros.

    Worse, we clearly see that Davros has discovered their dangerous counterplot, but instead of sending Daleks to exterminate them, he sends them off to exterminate trivial non-threats like the D.J. and Tasambeker. We're expected to believe he's forgotten all about the peril to his life posed by Takis, even though he clearly overheard everything and knew the truth long in advance. This betrayal somehow slips his mind and he does nothing about it.

  2. Well I'm not the world's biggest Saward fn. I don't think Takis & Lilt calling in old Daleks is a deus ex machina, it makes sense IF everyone knows that there are Dalek factions & if they are contactable.

    If you pick up the thread from Resurrection the Daleks are clearly in trouble having been given a kicking by the Movellans. The remenants have become the Supreme Daleks mob & they initially tried to co-opt Davros to help them but realised - after Resurrection - that he wasn't to be trusted. Hence Davros is pretending to be the 'Great Healer' whilst he builds up his numbers & the other Dalek faction are skulking about the Universe trying to get themselves together again.

    You put up a good defence for Jenny Tomasin but - and it is purely personal - I just find her performance poor. It looks like bad acting to me. I may be being unfair but in the end it is a personal judgement

    You right about the Takis - Lilt character line but I've commented before on how characters seem to get a nod of approval when you wonder why based on what they done previously in the story. But I think their performances look like good acting.

    It maybe that I'm a bad judge of actors.

  3. "I don't think Takis & Lilt calling in old Daleks is a deus ex machina, it makes sense IF everyone knows that there are Dalek factions & if they are contactable."

    I don't mean that. I mean we see Takis & Lilt, in the scene, early on, where they show the patrolling Dalek their passes, then Takis puts his hand on Lilt's shoulder and says something like, "So it's worse than I thought." The dialogue in this scene, as well as the actors' facial expressions, make quite clear that the ugly truth about Tranquil Repose is only gradually dawning on them. I can't remember how the scene goes but it's clearly meant to show they're still in the early stages of comprehending just what Davros is up to.

    A few minutes later, we see Grigory and Natasha open the casket and it's a dummy, then Takis and Lilt burst in and try to nab them. They spend the next 10 or 15 minutes in pursuit of the elusive bodysnatchers, the next time we see them they're waiting outside the catacombs and arrest the pair.

    There's another gap of time, then the next time we see them, they've got G. and N. chained up, they interrogate and torture them. Takis goes for a walk while Lilt "softens up" Grigory with booze.

    Next, we cut to Takis consulting the computer. The computer informs him an unscheduled, unidentified freighter is heading towards Tranquil Repose. Takis smiles knowingly, thanks the computer, and walks off.

    So when did he contact the gray Daleks?? It couldn't be after the interrogation scene, because the Dalek ship is already en route. It couldn't be before the story even began, because the unfolding events make clear that Takis & Lilt are discovering the nasty truth of things at the same speed as everyone else - bit by bit, step by step, piece by piece - like the Doctor, Peri, Natasha, Grigory, the D.J., and the viewer at home. And it couldn't be any time in between, because only 5 min or less separates the "Dalek hall pass" scene from the first scene of them trying to arrest the bodysnatchers. There's no indication that a long interval of time has passed between those two scenes.

    The logical thing to do would have been to rearrange the scene order so that after Grigory and Natasha evade capture, they spend the next while hiding out and laying low. Push back the discovery of Stengos' mutating head and push everything else forward. Make the cliffhanger the moment Tasambeker opens the double doors and the Doctor comes face to face with Daleks.

    Then have another shoot-out where Takis & Lilt bungle it yet again and Grigory and Natasha save the Doctor and flee yet again. Have the Doctor already know who Natasha is (he should already know her since he's such good friends with her father), no intros necessary, they flee into the catacombs (have the Doctor do some electronic tinkering that enables them to break into the lower levels), then all three discover Stengos together. Natasha kills her father, Takis & Lilt capture all three. The Doc manages to persuade Takis at this moment to call in the old Daleks, and gives him the coordinates and instructions how to contact them. That way, at the end, it's the Dr. himself who causes Davros to be captured and taken away to stand trial. That solves the problem that everyone complains about, that the Dr. did nothing to help resolve the plot.

    That scene reordering kills two birds with one stone: the Dr. is no longer a passive spectator irrelevant to the denouement, and the botched, screwed-up timeline I outlined above is no longer a problem.