Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Serial 133: The Resurrection of the Daleks

Doctor: Peter Davison (5th Doctor)
Companion: Tegan Jovanka, Vislor Turlough

Written by: Eric Saward
Directed by: Matthew Robinson

Background & Significance: For Doctor Who's 20th Anniversary season, producer Jonathan Nathan-Turner sought to bring back old foes for The Doctor to face. We already talked about "Arc of Infinity", but what would a twentieth anniversary be without the return of The Doctor's oldest and most popular foe?

Unfortunately, while it didn't quite work out as planned, it did manage to make it in for Davison's third and final season, which I find fortunate, but I'll discuss the why I think that a bit later.

One of the most interesting things about this story, I find, is that it did have the blessing of Terry Nation while not being written by him. This is unusual, perhaps, because Terry Nation traditionally HATED Dalek stories that weren't written by him, which is sad, because "Power of the Daleks" is really stupid good.

(For the record, I recently listened to that one and god damn that one's fantastic awesome. Seriously really really fantastic awesome.)

What we have, then, is a a classic Daleks/Davros story with tons of the early 80's Star Wars sci-fi zeitgeist and such. We get the departure of Tegan (which is fortunate because I am a huge not-fan of Tegan) and a solid story starring Daleks and their interesting little plan that is interesting.

So let's get to it!


Part 1:

We open on a seedy looking London street. It’s very ominous, very foreboding. A cig-smoking chap watches as several men burst out of one of the warehouse buildings and get chased by police folk. They’re promptly and mercilessly gunned down by their pursuers.

I would also like to point out that one police officer is so good he takes down four runners with just two shots. No really, it happens.

Also to note, the police are ruthless and gun down the witnessing chap in cold blood. So they’re bad guys, I guess…

One of the police officers transmats himself and the bodies away, leaving the two remaining officers to patrol the street. He arrives on a spaceship where he makes a huge deal out of the fact that they had to unnecessarily kill the runners and how much of a waste of life it was. Or something.

Little do they know, two of the runners managed to get away. Frightened, they head off back into the abandoned building, in search of the entrance to a time corridor.

The taller one, Galloway, hears something, and pushes the short one, Stein, away and to safety, just seconds before a soldier (who doesn’t like like a Star Wars Imperial guard at all) appears and kills him.

In the TARDIS, The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough are caught in said time corridor and are fumbling around like dogs in the back of a van. The Doctor attempts to break them free, but the cloister bell starts to ring.

And why does the cloister bell ring? I honestly have no clue. It’s only supposed to ring in dire emergencies and it ringing here is kinda… random and unnecessary?

The ship still shaking, The Doctor activates a switch on the TARDIS at just the right moment and the TARDIS lands in 1980s London.

Elsewhens, on a prison space station (whose corridors totally don’t look like the Death Star at all), a young, recently transferred cadet named Mercer gets a briefing from the station’s Doctor, Styles, about all the interesting cool things about the station.

All you need to know right now is that it’s a crap job with crap time off and you’re stationed there for two years and there’s only one prisoner.

I love that, by the way. There’s only one prisoner on the prison and there’s a massive battalion stationed to protect him. It’s almost Moffatesque.

While on his first bridge shift, Mercer and Watch Officer Osborn banter-talk for a bit until they spot an incoming ship on the scopes. They raise a red alert as the ship appears hostile and on a collision course.

The TARDIS crew lands and heads into the area we saw at the opening, The Doctor taking a wonderful swipe at Tegan because she “has no imagination”.

Ha. Delightful.

On the space station, the cruiser closes in and docks. Mercer rallies the troops to the airlocks to prevent their troops from capturing the base, and what we get in a few minutes is totally not Star Wars at all.

He also gives Osborn the key to the prisoner’s cell and orders to destroy him should they be boarded. So that’s neat. Except for the part where he got this job THREE DAYS AGO. And he’s already dishing out orders? He’s a lieutenant! Not a captain! What the hell.

The TARDIS crew meet the escaped Stein, who warns them not to enter the building in question. The Doctor notes that his clothes indicate he came from the time corridor and that they should be cautious.

So now we get to our first youtube, which is the assault on the prison ship. Watch how it’s totally not influenced by any science fiction movie ever. Especially not Star Wars.

Oh. And there’s a crazy bit with a guys’ face melting off that is not horrifying at all.

Hahaha. I love that. Those guns have the best effects ever. EVER.

The Doctor, Tegan, Turlough, and Stein enter the warehouse and find it mostly deserted. They all go their slightly separate ways to look for clues when Turlough goes missing.

The act of calling Turlough arouses the suspicions of a small military bomb disposal unit who just recently set up camp in the warehouse. Intrigued, they go to investigate.

With the prison station fallen into Dalek hands and Mercer, Styles, and their remaining squad on the run, it’s up to Osborn to break into the cell room and kill their lone prisoner. They attempt to make headway, but they keep hitting snags like doors that don't open and consoles that don't cooperate.

Which is a nice touch. The prison station was probably so neglected for a while that the people on board were ill equipped to handle this situation or make sure that all the buttons and levers were sufficiently up to the building standard and code. Or would that be space station code?

But I digress. Osborn detects a faint whiff of something and her assistant goes to check it out. And then they figure out what it is. It’s melt-face gas.

Osborn kills her infected assistant and then she turns her focus back to killing the prisoner. She’s just about to do it, when the Dalek invasion force catches up with her and exterminates her.

They bust in, able to sufficiently prevent the prisoner’s execution, revealing that the lone prisoner on the ship is Davros.

Please to note: NOT Storm Troopers.

And that’s really cool. That basically means that this story line for the first episode was a prison break story. It also sets up a really nice character dynamic of Davros and what kind of security his captors would place over him.

The military bomb disposal unit confront The Doctor and Stein (not Tegan, she’s hiding) and question them as to what’s going on with why they’re there. The Doctor explains the lot of it. Aliens, time corridors, the works.

Military man isn’t convinced, though. There’s something clearly going on here…

The Daleks discover that The Doctor is in the warehouse and dispatch a Dalek to time corridor down to Earth. Turlough, who was sucked through the time corridor and landed on the Dalek ship, manages to slip past the Dalek and watches it head down the time corridor.

Tegan, having never learned any lessons after three years in the TARDIS, knocks over a something and tips off everyone to her presence.

And really, this is why I hate Tegan. Now I haven’t seen much with her, but she’s so constantly third wheel on everything. She’s damn near useless and this is the most important thing she does in the episode, especially because it gets everyone to face away from what comes next, allowing her to point it out. It’s stupid and completely useless. We’ll talk about it some more, I’m sure (it’s nearly inescapable in this episode), but what’s the point of having her if all you’re going to do is have her knock things over? That’s a waste of a character.


She points just as the Dalek arrives via the time corridor and everyone scatters, leaving The Doctor to have some really great acting face on.

Part 2:

So let’s watch them get out of this one. It gives you a sense of Davison and you get to see him deal with the revelation that there’s Daleking afoot.

Also in this youtube, one of the best takings-out of a Dalek so far and Tegan getting the most pathetic injury I’ve seen in a long time.

On the space station, Mercer and Styles lead a small band of survivors through the prison’s corridors. Mercer is disheartened about losing so many men, but Styles has something else in mind.

She wants to use the station’s self-destruct system to blow the place up, taking Davros and the Daleks with them. They head off down the corridors, killing anyone who gets in their way and using Dalek guard uniforms to disguise themselves.

On the Dalek ship, Turlough runs from the Daleks, heading through gas-infected areas until he reaches the Dalek lab, unaware that he’s watched by the Supreme Dalek, who wants to keep an eye on him. The Doctor will come for him, he just knows it.

Elsewhere on the station, Davros awakens and gets a catch-up on what’s been going on. The Dalek war with the Movellans led the Movellans to create and design a biological agent that breaks through the Daleks’ casing and attacks the mutants inside. In short, the Daleks lost and are now a skeleton species floating around the galaxy.

Davros has been reawakened to devise a cure for the virus.

Speaking of the virus, The Doctor checks up on an unconscious Tegan (useless) and then finds the military group checking out some canisters of something or another. The lead bomb disposal squad guy shows The Doctor the casings of what construction workers feared were bombs.

The Doctor hypothesizes that the “bombs” are of Dalek interest, but he doesn’t know for what.

Upstairs (it’s a technical goof as they threw the Dalek off the second story), the shattered Dalek casing begins to move ominously. An army guy goes to check it out, only to see—

An exposed Dalek mutant lying amidst the rubble.

And I’m going to talk about this now. First of all, I’m okay if you assume that the humans managed to carry all of the smashed Dalek casing to the second floor, but come on. There was a mutant in that rubble. How in the world did you possibly miss that?

But I’ll let it slide because it’s kinda cool.

The Doctor decides to set off to get to the Dalek ship to get to Turlough, but is interrupted by screams from the unnamed bomb squad guy. But what happened to him?

He got jumped by a f*cking Dalek.

Which is hilarious and awesome.

It manages to leap off and scuttle away before The Doctor and the company can arrive. The Doctor tells them they have to find it and the search is on.

Davros demands to set up a lab not on the Dalek ship but on the prison station. The Daleks offer resistance, but Davros insists he must stay near his cryogenic cell. Just in case.

Although we all know that’s a bit too easy, isn’t it?

Especially because he vows (by yelling) to make the Daleks stronger than ever with him at their head, leading them onward to victory. It’s really quite tired and strained and something that we’ve all heard a hundred thousand times, and at that point, it starts to lose its effectiveness.

As one of the Dalek servant man guys attempts to rig his chair for longer distance transport, Davros takes the opportunity to inject him with a mind controlling drug. Right in the neck.

Seriously. That’s so unsanitary. My god. Can you imagine? That’s how horrid, horrid blood diseases are spread.

In London, the bomb disposal major head dude finds the pay phone land lines cut. He finds the police officers and asks to use their radio. And then he’s held at gun point.

Well that can’t be good.

Still hunting for the escaped Dalek mutant, The Doctor and the squad find themselves certain of its appearance. Silly fools! That’s when it makes its move!

The Doctor uses a blanket to yank it off the soldier and he shoots it, right along with another soldier.

And this is… disconcerting. I mean, I understand the nature of this, I do. But at the same time I don’t find it okay for The Doctor to use guns. I know he’s made exceptions, but those are rare and such. Here seems a bit excessive if you ask me.

That task finished, he drags Stein along with him to the TARDIS so they can finally head to the Dalek ship and rescue Turlough. Stein is reluctant, but The Doctor is firm (and Peter Davison is really good).

Speaking of Turlough, he comes across the band of resistence soldiers led by Mercer etc. They question him, but come to the conclusion that he is not a Dalek agent or spy and decide to bring him along with them.

In the warehouse, there’s the sound of gunfire as the Daleks start to invade and the medic rouses Tegan from her bed where she’s been doing nothing. They barely manage to make it out of the base when the Colonel Major guy arrives. And with troops. And something is wrong. They’re acting and looking funny.

Spoilers: they are now under Dalek control.

The Doctor and Stein arrive at the Dalek ship. The Doctor calls for Turlough as Stein walks to get a gun. A sentry arrives and The Doctor (like a pro) disarms him. He tells Stein they need to get out of there.

And then Stein pulls his gun on The Doctor and reveals he’s a Dalek agent.

Which… ummmm… Okay. Sure. It makes literally zero sense with anything we saw in episode one. But sure.

Part 3:

Daleks enter and prepare to exterminate The Doctor, but one of the soldiers enters and stops them, telling them they need to duplicate The Doctor before they can kill him. Such are the orders of the Supreme Dalek (and they are).

Turlough and the resistance fighters arrive at the self-destruct chamber, break in, and prepare to self-destruct the station. They are noticed by the Supreme Dalek, who orders one of the sentries to take out everyone inside.

In the warehouse, Tegan and the medic are suspicious of the Colonel and his action. With no other alternatives, they plot their means of escape even though the bomb disposal squad (all duplicates) know that their two prisoners know they are not what they appear to be.

In his lab, The Daleks attempt to help Davros with what he needs. He requests a series of easy-to-obtain items. And then he requests two Daleks for experimentation. The Daleks refuse, but eventually give in to their creator’s whims.

Stein brings The Doctor and the Daleks to the lab, where The Doctor deduces that the Daleks won’t kill him because they need his brain waves to create a duplicate version of himself. The Daleks order The Doctor to lie down on the bubble wrap bed and prepare for duplication.

Plotting their escape, Tegan and the medic attempt to rig the bed to look like Tegan’s asleep, but clearly the two of them never did this sorta thing in their youth because it looks totally pathetic. Unfortunately it’s “the best we can do”.

Sure guys.

The colonel comes in and reveals that he knows they know and that they’ll soon be extradited to the Dalek ship. He leaves and the two panic, Tegan telling the medic that they’re both dead no matter what they do.

Turlough manages to convince Mercer that they can escape from the space station by using the Daleks’ time corridor. The two of them race off, leaving the rest of the resistance fighters to fight off the approaching wave of Dalek soldiers.

(Not actual Daleks. The footsoldier guy people who are duplicates or something whatever).

Once to the airlock, Mercer gets spooked by the number of soldiers between them and the time corridor and orders the Turlough to follow him back to the self-destruct chamber.

The Dalek soldiers prepare to blow a hole in the wall of the self-destruct chamber, readying an attack on two sides, while those inside are unaware of their plans.

Tegan finally (FINALLY) manages to run away from the soldiers, leaving the medic behind. And we get some lovely time wastes of her running around and away from the Dalek duplicates. It’s really a total waste of time, if you ask me. But whatever.

The Doctor begins to question Stein about the nature of the duplicates and why the Daleks might need them. Stein reveals duplicates of Tegan and Turlough, all ready to go.

Turns out the Daleks want The Doctor’s duplicate to return to Gallifrey with his Companion duplicates so they can assassinate the Time Lord High Council. For what purpose? I don’t know. Because the Daleks are xenophobes?

And if part of your plan was to make a dupe of Turlough, why didn’t you just make one of him in the first place? The Doctor was coming to you anyways. That’s just stupid.

Slowly, all through this goings on, Davros continues to amass men and Daleks under his control with his magic syringe (which is probably so unsanitary right now. Just imagine. Daleks are getting syringed).

He orders a canister of Movellan virus transmatted from Earth (WHY ARE THE CANISTERS ON EARTH? JUST DITCH THE CANISTERS) and the Daleks bring it to him so he can begin running his experiments.

The Daleks and their duplicate escorts (which they don’t really need because they’re f*cking Daleks) leave the room to attend to other duties while The Doctor begins questioning Stein what is going on with the world and such, what it means to be a duplicate, and the nature of choice.

The Dalek footsoldiers make their move and manage to exterminate everyone in the room before they’re able to activate the self-destruct console.

After a rousing chase through the streets with the dupe police officers (i.e.: it’s boring and a waste of my time), Tegan is brought back to the duplicate bomb squad and they prepare to take her and the medic (who was discovered out or whatever) through the time corridor.

The medic gets the bright idea to run for it (EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE FIVE DUDES STANDING NEAR HER WITH SUB MACHINE GUNS) and gets gunned down because she’s an idiot.

While all this is going on, The Daleks start to copy information out of The Doctor's head, information that they plan to use to incorporate into his duplicate, which is really neat because it gives them an opportunity to show all The Doctor’s prior incarnations as well as all his previous companions.

Except for Leela. Which apparently only happened because of a technical snafu.

And then we get a cliffhanger that involves Davros screaming again. This time he’s saying that The Daleks will be the supreme being in the universe and he, Davros, will be their leader.

And this… uhhh… this is a horrible cliffhanger. How many times have you seen The Daleks and Davros vowing that they will emerge victorious and as the leader people and whatever? Point is, it’s boring. It’s undramatic and just empty words and it doesn’t mean anything.

At least make your cliffhanger someone or something in danger. This is just no stakes at all, which is exactly where you don’t wanna be with three episodes of buildup and one more to go.

Part Four:

Tegan arrives on the Dalek ship via time corridor. She comes across Turlough and Mercer and they resolve to find The Doctor before they can leave.

Which is a good plan. Good job Tegan for coming up with the really good plans.

I’m confused, though, as to why Tegan was sent to the Dalek ship and why the Daleks didn’t provide an armed escort. Does that make sense to you?

The Doctor writhes in agony as the images on the screen flash further and further back along the line of his companions. When he reaches an image of his first incarnation, he screams aloud.

And Stein, for no good reason, joins him in that. Screaming that he can’t stand the confusion in his mind, he shuts down the machine and lets The Doctor go.

At this point, everyone is randomly able to meet up. They tie down sentries (who were auctioned out of commission off screen) and head back to the TARDIS and Stein provides some exposition that we already know (Movellan virus in the canisters, etc).

With all that said, The Doctor turns and heads out of the TARDIS. Tegan asks him what he’s doing, to which he responds that he’s going to kill Davros.

I would also like to point out that the only important thing Tegan did in this scene was ask The Doctor where he was going, WHICH ANYONE COULD HAVE DONE.

Mercer and Stein volunteer to join the Doctor as backups and guide through the now enemy territory. The Doctor reluctantly accepts, telling Tegan and Turlough that if he’s not back soon they should leave without him as it’s probably already too late.

The Dalek foot soldier commander receives communication from the Dalek Surpeme, saying that he has orders to kill Davros and the two Daleks under his control as Davros is now considered unreliable.

Which is hilarious. I could have told you that. The Daleks could have told you that. Why bother waking him up in the first place if you knew this would happen?

The Doctor confronts Davros, and the two square off, with The Doctor asking him if he’s changed. When it’s clear that Davros hasn’t, The Doctor raises his gun, pointing it at the Daleks’ creator.

Davros begins to beg for his life, telling The Doctor that he had planned to make his next batch of Daleks more intuitive and instinctive. The Doctor asks if these Daleks will be given the power of compassion, but Davros insinuates that they would only be given the power of compassion inasmuch as they could understand it and harness it for more and greater power.

The Doctor is furious at Davros’s one track diabolical schemes and prepares to execute him.

Outside, Stein and Mercer come under attack from a pair of sentries. The Doctor darts outside to check on everyone only to find Mercer and the sentries dead and Stein badly wounded. Stein runs away, saying he’s not to be trusted, and Davros locks The Doctor out of his laboratory.

Meaning The Doctor’s plan is foiled.

Stein stumbles off down the corridors, realizing that his next and final stop should be the self-destruct chamber so he can do something good with his life.

The TARDIS travels back to London and Tegan and Turlough disembark, looking for the canisters so they can use them as a weapon against the Daleks.

There’s a shootout in the warehouse as Davros’s Daleks and men come looking for the TARDIS. The duped bomb disposal squad, acting under the Dalek Supreme open fire on Davros’s controlled men.

Davros’s troops take out the Dalek Supreme’s men, but come across another minor battalion and another firefight is on. The Dalek Supreme orders more Daleks into the Time Corridor with orders to exterminate everyone they see, including duplicates.

Little do they know The Doctor’s sneaking in right after them.

Cutout alert!

The Daleks successfully defeat the duplicate’s battalion and confront their enemy Daleks.

Which leads us to our last youtube, which is the big epic endgame involving some Intra-Dalek fighting, some explosions, and some Dalek soap eruptions and it’s awesome.

Seriously, Davros. How do you think you’re immune? The Daleks are based on tissue with your species’ genetic makeup. You musta taken stupid pills today.

Amidst all this, Stein has broken into the self-destruct room and is ready to press the button.

On the TARDIS’s scanner, The Dalek Supreme taunts The Doctor with the knowledge that they have duplicates scattered throughout the cosmos and he’s about to pull the trigger on that whole thing.

Know who pulls the trigger first, though? Stein. Daleks enter and attempt to exterminate him, and they do, but not before he can make it to the self-destruct handle and pull it, thereby destroying the Daleks’ spacecraft, the prison station, Davros, and the Supreme Dalek.


The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough emerge into the warehouse and examine the carnage. Turlough recommends that they ring the police to report all the carcasses, so they head back to the TARDIS.

And that’s when Tegan steps aside and says she’s not coming with them.

The Doctor, ever patient but ever upset, asks for an explanation, and Tegan tearfully confesses that it’s just not fun anymore. Too many people died and now it’s not fun so she has to leave.

She bids them away and runs off. The Doctor chases after her, but she tells him not to follow. Disheartened, he breaks off pursuit and heads back to the TARDIS, Turough right behind him.

The TARDIS dematerializes and a crying Tegan watches it leave, as she reflects on how she has to be brave despite the fact that she’s leaving The Doctor because she will miss him so.

Final Thoughts: I'm not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed by this story. It's fun, but I find it oddly constructed and rather unfitting for a big epic Dalek story. It's got a bunch of neat ideas slammed and jumbled in where they don't need to be and is, in places, shockingly violent and grotesque for Doctor Who. But I can get over the crazy mess of a plot, because, at the end of the day, it was fun and I had a good time and it wasn't the best of Dalek stories, but it was certainly enjoyable.

While we're on the mostly gush train, I just also want to say Peter Davison nails it. Like, he completely does and he's stellar totally and completely. There's never a moment that he's not selling his Doctor and you're never not on his emotional journey with him. I also love going through and watching how each Doctor in turn handles their defeat by The Daleks, because it's so specific and one of the few constants each Doctor has to go through. And in that, it's good that Davison's Dalek story wasn't horrid, because then I would have been disappointed.

The problem I have with this story is Tegan.

See, a companion leaving should be a big deal. It should be a big moment, a milestone. Something that preferably kicks you in the gut and you resonate with emotionally powerful reactions and whatever. It should be a story of a companion going through some crazy stuff. For Susan, it was falling in love and the prospects of re-building a world from the ground up. For Jo, it was moving on to newer younger Doctor, one she could marry and be with forever, leaving her surrogate father behind as they both had to move on.

For Tegan, this story is completely useless and unimportant. What does she do in this story? She walks around a bit, points out a Dalek, gets a concussion, lies down for like... an episode and a half, and then tries to get away but fails, and then she meets up with The Doctor, and then, when it's all said and done, she leaves because she's "seen too much".

Which is poppycock, man. Total poppycock. She didn't do anything. Really, she didn't. She just sat around for the whole episode and decided to leave on a whim, and while I've heard that her departure scene was quite good, I have to wholeheartedly disagree. The only good thing about that scene is The Doctor's reaction, because he's so heartbroken and he buries it. It's just exquisite.

If you're going to have a companion leave, it needs to matter that they do. I gotta feel something, and for Tegan, I felt nothing except relief that this useless character (who has done a tremendous amount of nothing every time I've seen her so far) got finally booted off the TARDIS once and for all.

It's not that I don't want to like Tegan, either. I wanted her last scene to make me care about her. If there's one thing "The Green Death" did for me, it's its subtle, wonderful explanation for Jo and why she matters, as I'm sure we'll talk about next week. And I so wish that Tegan did matter because I'm a huge fan of Davison and I really don't want the companion who's in EVERY SINGLE ADVENTURE OF HIS EXCEPT TWO to bring down my enjoyment of his tenure.

But alas, that just makes this completely disappointing.

Next Time!: 3rd Doctor! Ice Warriors! Politics! Booty shorts and knee high boots! Pertwee signing in a foreign language! Political intrigue! And a cage match! "The Curse of Peladon" coming next Tuesday!

1 comment:

  1. I was initially disappointed with this story when it first aired but I found it strangely addictive and it's ended up becoming my most watched Dr.Who story of all time (no mean feat for me, as a major Who fan since 75) and I find it endlessly fascinating. I think the biggest thing is the murky morality, the idea that the Doctor is treading a fine line and could tip over the edge and become a bad man himself at any moment, while Davros is almost convincing in his arguments that human nature is nasty and that being humane is a justification for being cruel and callous. It's a story I lose myself in, I think...not perfect, but as a murky Dalek nightmare it is utterly peerless in Dr.Who's long history, a visit to the depths of Hell!