Revelation of the Daleks

Written by:
Eric Saward
Directed by: Graeme Harper
Starring: Colin Baker
Year: 1984
Video Availability: Try

The loveless theme music and tacky titles of the Colin Baker era promise little, but inside each credit sequence is an absolutely superb story. For once, an Eric Saward script is first rate, giving us a gallery of grotesques, wonderfully played. (Clive Swift is a particular standout here). The incidental music - a bane of so many Colin Baker stories - is awesome, and, as has been said many, many times, Graeme Harper's direction is outstanding. Under his guiding hand even Colin gives a good performance, as does the normally ranting Terry Molloy. The set designs and costumes are first rate, too.

There's quite a lot of exposition in this one, but nothing too bad, though first time viewers might be distracted by the sheer number of characters and situations. I know I was initially unimpressed, and it's a story that I enjoy more each time I see it.

Graeme Harper really knows how to direct Daleks, and gives them a credibility they had in no other colour story. This is a really macabre tale, but in an adult way, rather than the juvenile tack of some other season 22 stories.

While this is by far the story most suited to the 45m format, the copy I'm watching is the 4 x 25m 1995 repeat, so it ends with Natasha whispering "Daleks" and hiding in a catacomb. It's not an ideal end, but this is one of those rarest of beasts: a genuinely good Colin Baker episode.

Unintentionally Funny Line: Colin to Nicola - "We go over the top."
Episode Duration: 22'24m
C/N Involvement: 8'34m
* * * * *

This is the episode that features one of my top ten scariest moments, with Natasha's dad in the Dalek. Horrifying. In fact, this may divide some, as the ghoulish undercurrents step up, giving us Lilt threatening to cut a man's face with a knife, and lines like "You forget I'm a Doctor. When they slice me open I'll know the name and function of each organ that plops out." "No drinking, swearing or smoking of herbal mixture." "Are you picking your nose?"

Interestingly in a JNT production, while Vogel is later alleged to be Kara's lover, he's also played (and dressed) as an openly gay character. And it's strange to see Davros has developed a perverse sense of humour. This is by far Terry Molloy's best take on the role.

Best Line: "America doesn't have a monopoly on bad taste."
Episode Duration: 20'21m
C/N Involvement: 3'58m
* * * *

You know, if Colin wasn't dressed like a clown he'd be spot-on in this. In fact, it's all so good - even Androzani has its magma beast, but Revelation has no production weaknesses.

Some people criticise Jenny Tomasin's acting but I think she's pretty good. When she does the introductory sales pitch to the Doctor and Peri she sounds awkward and like she's reading from a boredly rehearsed script - but isn't that the intention?

I think the scene where Orcini guns down the Dalek is also really cool, and probably would have been weakened by the intended inclusion of a flying Dalek. It has occurred to me that if you were a casual viewer you'd have no idea who Davros and the Daleks are, but that's a minor quibble. The incidental music is a bit distracting in this instalment, but it's still a first-rate production. You can see why the BBC were a bit queasy, though - a man talks about eloping with his own mother, and is thereafter stabbed to death with a syringe.

Look out for the scene where the two Daleks kill Vogel, the camera positioned discretely - almost European in style - behind their casings. Yet the best bit - an absolutely class moment - is where Davros subtly tries to convince Tasambeker to murder Jobel. All of a sudden a Dalek totally loses it, and spins from side to side in a right benny, shouting "he-should-be-ext-erm-in-at-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeddd!" All this and Jimi Hendrix too. What more could anyone ask for?

Unintentionally Funny Line: Colin - "I'll be subtle."
Best Line: "It would take a mountain to crush an ego like yours."
Episode Duration: 22'24m
C/N Involvement: 9'43m
* * * *

Come on, that glass Dalek is smashing, isn't it? And Davros's laboratory opens out into its full gothic majesty, a top way to get the most from a single set. This also gives us a hovering Davros, which doesn't look that great, but is still pretty good.

In fact, two things let down this final episode. Anticlimax (The bodysnatchers just get killed off... and that's it?/Davros just gets dragged away for trial... and that's it?) and the production veers slightly toward tacky excess (Davros's superpowers/the pixellating Dalek) but it still gets by, because this is a twisted, operatic character piece of no mean brilliance.

Colin still does his best-ever work in the show, though any meeting between the Doctor and Molloy-Davros becomes a camp almost-parody, as viewers of Remembrance found to their cost. And I could forgive the Doctor's warped attempted handshake of Davros without fingers, if only Davros didn't go to return the courtesy. Such silliness is countered by the dark revelation of Davros curing famine by using the dead as food.

The grey Daleks look a little cheap and could have done with a bit more voice modulation. The "happy" ending - a man who cuts peoples' faces with a knife is left to rebuild society - is an apt end to this moral vacuum. I can handle that - at least, unlike Genesis? it doesn't pretend to condemn its own subject matter.

Best Line: The one where Davros talks about consumer resistance (Okay, I'll look it up for the exact quote. I forgot to do it).
Episode Duration: 20'58m
C/N Involvement: 13'08m
* * * *

A morally decadent, brilliantly directed horror. Characterisation is at a premium, and, while the Doctor's involvement doesn't greatly affect the plot, he does appear for longer than myth would suggest. (He and/or Peri are in it for 34'43 minutes of the 85'27 runtime, which amounts to 40.14% of the total). Sadly, the conclusion is anti-climatic, which does effect the story somewhat, putting it on a shaky **** stars. However, no half stars are allowed for a final score, so - amazingly - a Colin Baker story gets:
* * * * *