Friday, April 30, 2010

6Z1 - Revelation of the Daleks 1

Revelation of the Daleks, especially Part One, is probably one of the least Doctor Who-like episodes of Doctor Who ever. It probably has more in common with Mission to the Unknown, if anything, although Mission had more Daleks in it, and about as many scenes where The Doctor's presence is relevant.

Instead of The Doctor and Daleks, we are treated to, admittedly, a vast array of interesting characters and situations, almost all of them set in Tranquil Repose, a poncy name for a funeral home. Whether or not it's conscious homage to his new hero, Robert Holmes, writer Eric Saward pairs up most of his characters in perfectly matched double acts - Jobel and Tasambeker, Takis and Lilt, Natasha and Grigory, Kara and Vogel, and Orcini and Bostock. Perhaps, with all these characters demanding (and receiving) a great deal of attention and screen time, it's almost inevitable that something would have to take a back seat. The fact that it's The Doctor and the Daleks, the two mainstays of, and reasons for, Doctor Who's longevity, that get the chop is ironic given this story was the last to be made in the era of Doctor Who when it was virtually assured to return the following year.

Given the misgivings that Saward had with writing for the Daleks (a trait not uncommon with other writers over the years), it's not surprising to see the Daleks' dialogue dramatically slashed. However, knowing now that Saward had a such a low opinion of Colin Baker's Doctor at the time, it's telling that he puts him so prominently on the sidelines. Just as Davros's monologues prove a convenient way of getting around having the Daleks speak too much in their grating monotone, Saward's characters all act as a surrogate Doctor - getting into trouble, uncovering mysteries, moving along the plot, etc - all while The Doctor and Peri wander through a winter wilderness doing what they've done best all season long: bicker.

Could Saward have been purposefully underusing The Doctor because he didn't like the character? Even the cliffhanger to Episode One struggles mightily to finally bring The Doctor into the action by dropping an unconvincing polystyrene statue on him. The cliffhanger, and the lack of involvement of The Doctor in the first 45 minutes of this story, is proof, too, that, even after having a whole season to work with, none of the writers ever grew comfortable with the 45-minute episode format. While the rest of the story seems to play out as normal, The Doctor's storyline merely seems to be a typical 25-minute story building up to that first cliffhanger, but just stretched out to almost double the length. As a result, the story almost stops completely whenever The Doctor and Peri are onscreen. By the end of the episode, barring a namedrop of The Great Healer, they have no more idea what they are getting themselves into than they did at the beginning.

A good episode, but one that feels more like a set-up for what's to come as opposed to having any tangible events of its own.


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