Sunday, January 06, 2019

Truncation of the Daleks

After watching Resurrection of the Daleks last week, I thought I'd continue my tour of BritBox's newly added Dalek episodes to its streaming Doctor Who collection by watching Revelation of the Daleks, the Sixth Doctor's Dalek serial and the next Dalek serial after Resurrection. I started watching the first episode and it was really good quality and without the controversial updated special effects from the DVD release. But then I noticed something strange--after eleven minutes, I was already halfway through the first episode. This was odd because it was from the Sixth Doctor's first season which consisted entirely of 45 minute episodes, generally two parters. For certain rebroadcasts, the 45 episodes were cut in two to fit the normal twenty two to twenty four minute episode format of the classic series. So I assumed, for whatever reason, BritBox must have used one of these rebroadcasts for Revelation of the Daleks, despite using the original 45 minute versions for the other episodes of that season. However, after the conclusion of the first episode, the next one on the playlist was a 45 minute episode--the original second part of the two part episode. So basically the BritBox version of Revelation of the Daleks is missing just over twenty minutes of footage.

Maybe this is due to an oversight but what's really strange is the second episode begins with a "Part Three" title card--basically the title card from the reformated, four part version of the serial. So someone took the title card from the reformated version and put it on the 45 minute original version. This seems like more work than someone could do on accident. Is there something BritBox was uncomfortable broadcasting?

I'm joking but Revelation of the Daleks is certainly a prime example of the notoriously gratuitous sadism in Colin Baker's first full season as the Doctor. I ended up digging up my old copy so I could watch through the whole thing. I'm pretty sure it was only the second time I've actually watched the serial. Like Resurrection, it was written by Eric Saward, and the events of that previous serial are alluded to, Davros (Terry Molloy) now trying to strengthen his faction of Daleks in his conflict with the faction controlled by the Supreme Dalek.

To this end, Davros has secretly taken over an enormous funeral home on a planet called Necros. For some reason Davros is now just a head (something that turns out to be a ruse with some very tenuous logic behind it) and to distribute a Mystery Protein Food source he's been producing--somehow manufactured at the mortuary and sold to impoverished peoples (three guesses what the secret ingredient is)--he's forced to negotiate with an administrator played by Eleanor Bron, who seems to be having a delightful time.

After competing villains worked so well in Caves of Androzani it seemed to set a trend continued here. The alliance between her and Davros basically lasts as long as it takes one of them to figure out a way of profiting from the others' death. For this purpose, Bron's character hires the two most interesting characters introduced in the serial, two assassins belonging to a noble order of intergalactic contract killers; Orcini (William Gaunt) and his squire, Bostock (John Ogwen). Like the recent season, the guest stars in the Sixth Doctor era frequently outshone the Doctor and his companions and listening to Orcini and Bostock talk shop furnishes some of the best moments in the serial. Two savvy and worldly hunters just starting to sniff out they're being set up, they quickly establish a lovely dynamic and crusty fondness for each other.

This serial also features Clive Swift as a funeral director, Professor Jobel. Swift would later appear in the much better Tenth Doctor episode "Voyage of the Damned". In Revelation of the Daleks he's part of really a cruel subplot. He and his assistant, Tasambeker (Jenny Tomasin), have developed a close rapport over time but it's apparently only served to feed his egotism. She's in love with him but he, wearing a ridiculous cheap toupee throughout the episode, considers her beneath him, and obnoxiously flirts with Peri (Nicola Bryant) and other female employees, apparently not conscious of repulsing them. This plot has a really ugly end, made all the more so because Swift gives a very good performance.

It's not quite as cluttered as Resurrection but there are several story threads that go nowhere or seem to change course halfway through. The Doctor originally comes to the planet for the funeral of a friend but at some point he seems to forget all about this; there's an annoying DJ character (Alexei Sayle), who, from dialogue, is apparently supposed to sound American. He seems to be watching all events like some omniscient entity in the first episode but in the second is explained as being part of a special package for funeral clients; the episode wraps up with the Doctor explaining that the food source Davros had been producing from, let's say, a special meat, can be replaced with a certain flower that just happens to be growing a short distance away.

The Daleks themselves seem like they have a relatively small role in this episode but there is time for the Doctor to use a silver uzi on one.

It's not altogether a bad serial but certainly not the Daleks at their best.

Twitter Sonnet #1192

The needed tea will slowly take the place.
Ideas of running horses hit the glass.
A slowly sinking jelly quickens pace.
It's only molluscs dragging time to pass.
The brows were placed a space above the waist.
Relaxing clouds were sweet as syrup poured.
A moss was growing green to suit a taste.
It seemed the blouse's jagged pattern soared.
A team in coats assemble next to Sears.
The ocean not returned was pawned for ponds.
A soupy wax was melted, swapped for tears.
A tanning palm exhibits bronzer fronds.
The twins were lately sprung upon the line.
A tumble planet snagged on starry twine.

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