Welcome to the next article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.
Since one of the very first posts on this blog was an opinion piece on how good Remembrance of the Daleks is, it seemed only fitting for me to attempt to write a similar piece on the previous Dalek episode from the 80s, the ‘prequel’ to Remembrance, the Sixth Doctor story Revelation of the Daleks. However, upon re-watching the episode after not having seen it since I was young, a few flaws become immediately apparent, particularly when comparing the story and execution of this episode with other 80s Dalek stories as well as Big Finish releases featuring Daleks. So, without further ado, let’s get right into how to fix Revelation of the Daleks.
Totally rework the focus of the story
Before getting too far into criticism of Revelation‘s focus, it has to be said that the final product would be perfectly fine – if the show it was an installment of wasn’t called ‘Doctor Who’. Because of all the various colourful characters in the episode, the Doctor himself receives possibly the least screen time. In fact, the Doctor doesn’t even get involved in the main plot of the story until the second part (technically the third part, had Revelation used the standard classic series format) and this creates a strange feeling of disassociation for the audience. Whilst the denizens of Necros and the goings-on of the strangely technicolour funeral parlour are mildly interesting, and the in-depth look at Galactic politics and the activities of scheming assassins even more so, Revelation seems to put what should be the primary focus of any episode of Doctor Who – the Doctor and the companion – on the back seat, behind even the most minor of secondary characters.
Ironically, this creates an even bigger problem for this episode – the fact that the writers seemed obliged to insert scenes of the Doctor and Peri trudging around the exterior of Tranquil Repose makes these scenes seem like distractions from the main story, as if Doomsday had frequently cut to scenes of Canary Wharf janitorial workers, or if Blink had frequent scenes involving the man who owned the video store watching his crime films. Whilst Doctor-lite episodes have worked in the past, Revelation is not wholly committed to the idea, and so the first part ends up as a bit of a jumbled mess. The Doctor and Peri should have far more screen time in order to link the various plot elements together. Talking of which…
Put more emphasis on the ‘Revelation’
Whilst Resurrection of the Daleks was named almost as a pun, reflecting the fact that the Daleks had not been used in the show for some time beforehand regardless of the fact that there was no ‘resurrection’ of any kind in the episode, Revelation of the Daleks does at least have some kind of ‘revelation’ involved – the idea that Davros has created a whole new faction of Daleks, an idea that would be critical in the setup for Remembrance. Unfortunately, this idea is somewhat buried in amongst the sheer mass of plot elements going on in this story. To briefly summarise, this episode devotes somewhat equal time to at least 3 different subplots – the activities in the funeral home surrounding Jobel and Tasambeker, the mission undertaken by Natasha and Grigory to find her father’s body (now metamorphosed into the Glass Dalek), and Davros’ plan to manipulate Kara and her company into distributing his cannibalised food in the guise of the ‘Great Healer’ with Kara’s subsequent plan to hire Orsini to assassinate Davros.
This is a lot of ongoing plot threads to be contained within one episode, and this isn’t even mentioning the smaller subplots of the Doctor and Peri wandering in the wilderness, the beginning of the Dalek Civil War, or the cringe-inducing broadcasts of the infamous DJ (more on him later). What makes this even worse is that most of these threads seemingly go nowhere – what exactly was the point of Jobel and Tasambeker’s significant screen time when they ultimately both end up dead, having contributed nothing to the main story? Why did Natasha and Grigory get so much focus after finding the Glass Dalek, when this is really all they were needed for in the narrative? Why wasn’t more focus placed on the Kara-Davros-Orsini dynamic, the only major plot thread that actually amounts to anything overall? The episode should have condensed the Jobel and Tasambeker story into the first episode, with the Doctor’s involvement being accelerated so that he meets Natasha by the end of the first act. Also, whilst they are excellent, Davros’ interactions with Kara should have fed into the cliffhangar of the first episode – perhaps have the ‘Great Healer’ persona be a more effective disguise for Davros instead of simply a rubber duplicate of his horribly deformed and instantly recognisable face – so that the reveal of Davros is more of a surprise. This would ultimately lead to the ‘revelation’ of the new faction of Daleks being a more critical plot development rather than simply being buried in the mix.
Hang the DJ
We all knew this was coming. What on Exxilon were the writers thinking? Well, the character of the DJ was apparently designed to parody 80s DJs at the time, making this entire character tailor-made to lose his effectiveness as time goes on, but the problem of his inclusion runs deeper than this. Ultimately, despite the relatively signifcant amount of precious screen time dedicated to him, the DJ character goes nowhere other than as a means to distract Peri from the main story. Even if one ignores the fact that his entire reason for being in the facility is totally useless (quite literally playing music for the dead) things take a turn for the worst when he uses a ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ gun to destroy Daleks. If you thought Captain Jack destroying Daleks with a laser designed to get people naked was ridiculous, this is on a whole other level.
Ultimately, it is difficult to reconcile this character without a complete rewrite from the ground up, so the only realistic recommendation is to axe this character completely, and spend the time wasted on him to focus on more important plot points. However, for the half-dozen or so people out there who actually like this character, at the very least he should have two to three scenes maximum, and cut out the idea that Daleks can be destroyed by a gun that fires concentrated Rock ‘n’ Roll. Where did he even get that thing, anyway?
Overall, Revelation of the Daleks is no masterpiece. Whilst the episode in its current state stands at a respectable 6 or 7 out of 10 according to the majority of fans, the concepts and ideas along with most of the characters and plot developments should have made this story a solid 8 or 9. Unfortunately, bad pacing, lack of clear focus and an abundance of irrelevant or poorly executed subplots drag this story down. Hopefully this installment of How to Fix can give an idea of what could have been…
So that concludes the latest How to Fix, I hope you enjoyed and if you did be sure to leave a like. Check out the links below for more Doctor Who related content and other installments in the How to Fix series. Thanks for reading!
How To Fix
- How to Fix – Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks
- How to Fix – Star Trek: First Contact
- How to Fix – The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End
- How to Fix – Attack of the Clones