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R... of the Daleks

July 18th, 2008 (01:17 am)

Doctor Who XXII.6: Revelation of the Daleks

I'd voted this as my favourite sixth Doctor story on nwhyte's poll, but it had been a long time since I'd seen it. It now comes across as surprisingly nasty, much as The Caves of Androzani did when I rewatched it after the 2005 season, but without Androzani's redeeming features. The dialogue is contrived - no, it's worse than that - and, like most of season 22, the structuring is bad, with the Doctor and Peri taking far too long to reach the main action. Nonetheless, I appreciated Kara and Vogel much more this time, the mature renaissance princess and her paramour-minister, a sort of commercialised Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, though that might be stretching things a bit far. Orcini of course recalls the Orsini family of mediaeval and early modern Rome; it's appropriate that someone with that name should be a gentleman, a man of honour, and an accomplished assassin. Still, Bostock's comment about Kara and Vogel as being "like a double act" is stupid in its self-consciousness.

I barely believed in Jobel this time, however; and one wonders how the casting of someone much younger than Jenny Tomasin as Tasambeker, without their being conventionally pretty, would have lent that character some credibility. I suspect that Grigory, with his fascination with brains, went to the same medical school as Mindwarp's Crozier, but probably finished bottom of the class.

The script seems to want us to side with Lilt and Takis, but they are too vicious. The character who best represents humanity in this story, and who ought to have survived to become the unlikely guide into a new life, is the DJ, whose successful destruction of the Daleks with concentrated blasts of rock and roll won deserved praise.

Doctor Who XXV.1: Remembrance of the Daleks

It was all too late, of course. The establishment of the seventh Doctor and Ace as underconceived but overwritten clown characters in season 24 had probably poisoned the public against them, and it didn't help that the loudest voices in the BBC seemed embarrassed that Doctor Who even existed, and were doing their best to marginalise it. Nevertheless, to my surprise, it was Remembrance of the Daleks that I enjoyed more this evening.

There's a lot wrong with it, of course. Much of the shooting shows the series' lack of budget, as 1980s buildings appear in shot for several seconds at a time, often it seems to me unnecessarily, and the cars and even a group of 1988 kids can be seen during the drive of the Doctor and Ace in the military van in part one through the streets of what is supposedly London in 1963. Yet it's a lot warmer than Revelation, though the cast are uneven and Dursley McLinden is not consistent enough to pull off his character's betrayal. Where, as a seventeen-year-old, I wished that it was Karen Gledhill's Allison leaving in the TARDIS with the Doctor, I now appreciate Sophie Aldred and Ace more, though this is partly because the whole story, being twenty years old, is from another era. One weakness both stories share is that the Doctor is presented as a self-conscious anachronism; Ace fails as a representation of a 1980s London teenager because the production doesn't understand the context; but I'm drifting off topic now, and will stop.


Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 08:41 am (UTC)

I wonder if I would have similar views about Revelation now - I liked it at the time, except for Alexei Sayle.

The Orcini character is great, and played with sufficient dignity by William Gaunt. "Do you know what a sword is, Bostock?" is a particularly good line.

We have a course on auditing IT general controls and automated controls at JOLF that I helped the manager previously referred to in my LJ as 'random' to write. We're both DW fans, and put this into the case study. Thus, the company in the case study is a chain of nursing homes called 'Tranquil Repose Ltd', with a financial controller called Dave Ross, an accountant called Joe Bell and a finance director called Terry Molloy. Oh how we laughed. I'm running the course next week in fact.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)
Argue mainly

This makes me wonder who does the business administration at Tranquil Repose, as the only people we see are the embalmers, Davros and the Daleks. Davros is the only person who mentions money. Perhaps there is an accounts Dalek somewhere; or Davros just doesn't ask questions and receives and spends in an irresponsible megalomaniac fashion. (Awaits comparison with politicians.)

William Gaunt is indeed very good - he and John Ogwen make a relationship that might have been flat on the page very complex.

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 11:56 am (UTC)

Perhaps there is an accounts Dalek somewhere

There's a fanfic-cum-satire of office life in there somewhere!

Posted by: wellinghall (wellinghall)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)

Can we add in Dilbert, please?

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 12:16 pm (UTC)

A good idea - though I don't know enough about the inner workings of accountancy to write it!

Posted by: wellinghall (wellinghall)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC)

As an actuary, I am, of course, the antithesis of accountants, but I've sat among them for much of my working life ...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)

Perhaps incredibly, I've never really followed Dilbert, but can sort of imagine him as Davros or reporting to Davros...

Posted by: wellinghall (wellinghall)
Posted at: July 20th, 2008 10:42 am (UTC)

Hmm, point-haired boss as Davros ...

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who

Perhaps there is an accounts Dalek somewhere

"E-nu-mer-ate! E-nu-mer-ate!"

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: July 19th, 2008 10:02 am (UTC)

A better accountancy exclamation might be...

"Con-sol-i-date! CON-SOL-I-DATE!"

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 09:13 am (UTC)

I adored Remembrance at the time - it contains two of my favourite Moments in all of Who.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 10:30 am (UTC)

Presumably both involving Ace?

I found it difficult to get past the music and that everything was still rather overstated, especially Ace. It looks less disturbing now, and its pace is much faster than Revelation, pointing towards the post-2005 series.

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC)

I've yet to see 'Revelation' (which I keep confusing with 'Resurrection', which is also pointlessly brutal and appears to be missing half the dialogue necessary for the plot to have half a chance of making sense, yet is still really, really slow), but I really like 'Remembrance' despite its flaws and its determination to make the political subtext text. It strikes me as the last decent Dalek story post-Genesis (with the exception of 'Dalek'*)

* Mind you, I can't judge the S XXX Daleks, not yet having got that far!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 11:11 am (UTC)

There was something about the early 1980s Doctor Who which seemed to slow down the pace; certainly everything from The Leisure Hive onwards seems a lot more languid than before. There are odd moments when things pick up, but it's not until the McCoy era that there is a return to a hectic style; and for a while it just comes over as very silly.

Resurrection was once the subject of a fanzine article called something like 'Eric Saward and the Art of Narrative Levitation', arguing that Saward's plots bore no relation to the events of the story. I suppose an example in Revelation would be Grigory and Natasha, who are set up to be more significant than they turn out to be, and whose thread is brutally and untidily cut off.

Saward's first Doctor Who story was praised by fans when it went out, but he never really fulfilled the promise people saw in The Visitation. Orcini, though, is the best of his mercenaries, figures with whom he was held to have an unhealthy obsession.

Remembrance's politics wrongfooted me at the time - with the military base being at a Territorial Army centre, I'd assumed Ratcliffe was TA, and it wasn't until well into the second episode that I realised who Ratcliffe's 'men' were. (It's a pity that there is a swift cut away from Gilmore's handshake - Simon Williams seems to be playing it with distaste, but it's not clear, and Ben Aaronovitch may well have wanted to make some sort of point about the collusion of the British establishment with the far right in the early 1960s, though I'm not sure if he'd be on firm ground.) I also felt that much of the politics of the 1988 and 1989 series was a few seasons behind the times, and would have had more punch in the early 80. Still, it was good to have Doctor Who written from a younger perspective - I think that script editor Andrew Cartmel was in his late twenties or early thirties at this point, and Ben Aaronovitch, born in 1964, was I think the youngest writer to work on the original series (though Andrew Smith of Full Circle was younger when his script was broadcast).

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 11:54 am (UTC)

arguing that Saward's plots bore no relation to the events of the story

I think there's something in that!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 01:27 pm (UTC)

As an aside, have you ever read the 1986 Starburst interview which Saward gave following his resignation? There's a transcript on a forum here. He didn't like Resurrection very much either!

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)

No, but I'll have a look later! Thanks.

Posted by: wellinghall (wellinghall)
Posted at: July 18th, 2008 12:14 pm (UTC)

I don't think I saw either of those first time round.