I am known as the Great Healer. A somewhat flippant title, perhaps, but not without foundation. I have conquered the diseases that brought their victims here. In every way, I have complied with the wishes of those who came.
The Doctor and Peri are summoned to the planet of Necros to pay their respects to the Doctor’s friend Arthur Stengos. What they find is a facility called Tranquil Repose where the rich of the galaxy have their bodies cryogenically frozen until a time when they can be cured of their ailments and the ‘Great Healer’ turns out to Davros, who is creating a new army of Daleks loyal to his cause.
To put it simply, Revelation of the Daleks is one of the high points of Colin Baker’s all too short era and ranks among Eric Saward’s best contributions to the show. Perhaps what makes it so good is that the story feels quite unusual from the usual Doctor Who fare, but this experimental storyline works quite well. Typically for a Saward script, there is a high body count, with only two members of the guest cast cast surviving at the end of this story, but with the involvement of Davros and his infamous creations, a high death count feels more appropriate than in other stories he penned.
If I had to pick a flaw with this story, it would be that the Doctor and Peri are largely sidelined. This is quite a prevalent issue in Colin Baker’s era when Eric Saward was script editor and Saward himself has made no secret that he did not think that Baker was suitable for the part. The Doctor and Peri do not even arrive at the Tranquil Repose facility until the end of the first part, when a rather cheap looking statue of the Doctor is toppled over in an attempt to kill him. That said, when Colin Baker does get a chance to take the spotlight, he is pretty good – he has settled into the role and it is a shame that we would never see what the original plans were for his character had the show not been put on hiatus. The scenes with him and Davros are probably his best work to date and he and Terry Molloy really raise their games in this scene. When Davros gets taken away by the renegade Daleks, Baker extends his hand to his adversary, which is petty but rather lovely. Nicola Bryant is good here too, especially in the scenes with the DJ and her scene where she kills the mutant, and Baker and Bryant are particularly good in the scene where they climb the wall. I’m prepared to accept a reduced role for the Daleks here when it is substituted for nice character moments like these.
Terry Molloy gives us a very different Davros here. Where previously Davros has been seen to rant and rave, he has quieter moments and this is a chance for us to see how truly resourceful and ruthless he is. While the best of the dead are being used to experiment on to create a Dalek army for Davros, the weaker are turned into food to sell to a famine riddled universe. On top of that, he sets a trap for anybody looking to stop him, which Orcini and Bostock walk straight into. We spend most of our time believing Davros to be a swivelling head in a glass bowl, however, after the assassin and his squire blow this setting up, it is revealed that this was just a front and the real Davros has been running things from behind the scenes. The scene where he instructs Tasambeker to kill Jobel, and as a reward, she will be turned into a Dalek is fantastic because Molloy plays it with almost honeyed tones, if it is possible for Davros to this. This also benefits from good direction from Graeme Harper, which I will come onto later. The Daleks could be seen to be window dressing, however, they give the puppet Davros a sense of security and unassailability. I particularly like the introduction of the white and gold daleks, along with their grey and black originals and the idea of a Dalek Civil War breaking out, with the Renegade faction being led by the Supreme Dalek.
With the Doctor and companion sidelined for the majority of the running time, the focus is largely pulled onto the guest cast. Saward gives us several pairs of characters: the ruler of Necros, Kara, and her secretary Vogel, Chief Embalmer Jobel and his student Tasambeker, security guards Takis and Lilt, bodysnatchers Grigory and Natasha and assassin Orcini and his squire Bostock. The majority of these are flawed individuals – take, for example Orcini, portrayed wonderfully by William Gaunt, who is an assassin hired by Kara to kill Davros. Other stories would paint him with a black brush and write him off as totally evil, however, the story throws us a curve ball. For the honour of killing the creator of the Daleks, he will give his fee to charity. Orcini is probably the stand-out of all of these characters, which feature the vain Jobel who is suitably unpleasant, especially towards Tasambeker, but he gives us a parallel to the Sixth Doctor – his arrogance is somehow familiar to the viewer. The one character who is separated from this is the DJ, who is a character who I feel would not work in any other Doctor Who story, but somehow works here. Even he is guilty of deception, being revealed not to be an American after all but someone who is guilty of nothing more than enthusiasm towards American DJs and there are nice moments between him and Peri reminscing about Americana.
Given Saward’s propensity towards violence, black humour and high body counts, and Graeme Harper’s enthusiasm for putting machine guns into his stories as much as possible, this would seem to be a match made in heaven. Saward’s script drips with black humour, especially in Kara’s reaction when the Daleks exterminate Vogel. Harper does some interesting things in his direction of the Daleks, shooting them from low down and from the middle, which makes them feel more intimidating. In the scene with Davros and Tasambeker, when he offers to turn her into a Dalek, an eye stalk slowly comes into shot which is a lovely bit of detail. One of the famous moments from this story is the murder of Jobel by Tasambeker, however, this scene is undercut by the performance of Jenny Tomasin which makes it feel rather stagey. Harper wanted the scene of the syringe being plunged into Jobel’s chest to be even more graphic, with the viewer seeing Tasambeker depressing the plunger, however, I feel that this would have been far too grim. Instead, the way that everything falls away from Jobel, including his toupee is really rather well done.
How inconvenient. Do you know how difficult it is to find good secretaries?
Verdict: Revelation of the Daleks really shouldn’t work, but manages to pull it off. It is quite bleak in places and has a high body count, but there are some nice directorial moments from Graeme Harper. 8/10
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Terry Molloy (Davros), Eleanor Bron (Kara), Hugh Walters (Vogel), Clive Swift (Jobel), Jenny Tomasin (Tasambeker), Trevor Cooper (Takis), Colin Spaull (Lilt), Alexei Sayle (DJ), William Gaunt (Orcini), John Ogwen (Bostock), Stephen Flynn (Grigory), Bridget Lynch-Blosse (Natasha), Alec Linstead (Head of Arthur Stengos), Penelope Lee (Computer Voice), John Scott Martin, Cy Town, Tony Starr and Toby Byrne (Daleks), Roy Skelton and Royce Mills (Dalek Voices & Ken Barker (Mutant)
Writer: Eric Saward
Director: Graeme Harper
Behind the Scenes
- The first story confirm that Davros and the Daleks can levitate, despite it being seen in The Chase.
- The last full length two-part story until Aliens of London/World War Three.
- Eric Saward based this story on The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh and several characters are named after characters in the novel. Despite the parallels to Soylent Green, Saward stated that at the time he wrote the story he had not seen the film.
- The story was supposed to end with the Doctor announcing that he was taking Peri to Blackpool. However, before this story was broadcast, it had been announced that the show was going on hiatus for eighteen months. The original story set to start the next season would have been The Nightmare Fair, set in Blackpool and written by John Nathan-Turner’s predecessor as producer Graham Williams. The story was later adapted in 2009 by Big Finish.
- Eleanor Bron had previously made a cameo in City of Deathand would go on to appear in Loups Garoux.
- Colin Spaull went on to appear in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel.
- Clive Swift later appearaed in Voyage of the Damned.
The scene between Tasambeker and Davros.
But did you bother to tell anyone that they may be eating their own relatives?
Certainly not. That would have created what I believe is termed consumer resistance.
The Doctor and Davros