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Beyond the Sofa

Ice, Cape - to Danger!

By Peter Adamson and Alistair Hughes

Colin Baker fan Peter Adamson reviews Planet of the Daleks and Pertwee fan Alistair Hughes reviews Revelation of the Daleks. These two stories were simultaneously released to video, providing the Beyond the Sofa duo with an opportunity to compare and contrast their favourite Doctors in action against the series most famous foe!

It's war! Arch Colin defender Peter A enters the Land Where Pertles Can Do No Wrong. Al Hughes, staunch bearer of the Perigosto standard finds himself on Saward Central amidst ultraviolence and that coat. There can be only one. Who's it to be?


P: I think it's significant that we deal with the involvement of the individual writers. We have Nation, called up out of a sense of duty and obligation, asked to produce something new for this new Doctor. He rewrites something old. Then we have Saward, who is script editor, likes using the scary monsters, being Robert Holmes etc, and who despite not really enjoying his work, actually gets something good out of a break away. Because he has a vested interest in providing a back-story (did Nation feel as though there was nowhere else to go with his creations?) in the Davros story, he provides something that ties in with his previous Dalek story more.

A: It seems clear that Saward had the time of his life writing Revelation. I'm totally unfamiliar with Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One so can't comment on that influence, but Eric gets to mix Soylent Green with his usual paid killer fetish, ‘buff up’ more of the series greatest villains as he sees fit and write lots and lots of lovely double act characters. Possibly too many, in fact, because the story reads to me as if Eric was just putting the finishing touches on his beloved new characters' dialogue when someone on the production team belatedly reminded him that the script had to have the Doctor in it!

P: This having been said, I have to ask whether what Saward is doing is really ‘new’ at all, and whether it is befitting of the Daleks. Of course the answer is no on both counts - he's playing the same card he dealt in Attack of the Cybermen in dealing with body horror and transformation - a running theme in all of Season 22's stories, plus of course ‘Dalek-ising humans’ isn't supposed to be typical of the Daleks. The point is that Davros is bonkers enough to do it, and the (then) Imperial Daleks view these hybrids for the abominations that they are.

A: The depiction of Davros is certainly new. It interests me that he now seems to have become a widely known galactic criminal with a bounty on his head. Orcini is uncharacteristically excited by the prestige and challenge killing him will bring. Davros now apparently has the resources to shift his entire base of operations, make powerful contacts and even use a degree of charm when he wants to. Physically, he is positively virile - able to hover off the ground and shoot lightning bolts - he even outguns grand master Orcini twice! Not bad for a decrepit multiple amputee last left floating in a possibly damaged escape pod and suffering the beginnings of the Movellan virus. It seems odd to see him in a context other than an obsessed scientist confined to a laboratory fiddling with his precious Daleks. But it obviously facilitates the story Saward wanted to tell.

P: Well both stories are of course highly indicative of their respective eras. With Planet we're along for the ride - listening to the Doctor, discovering that it's okay to be afraid, that war isn't noble or glorious etc. With Revelation we're accustomed to pulp heroes and have found them a bit unrealistic, so we're given characters with edges knocked off and a fallible Doctor among them. There's very little sympathy involved (apart from the Natasha/Stengos scene), because the writer is telling us in no uncertain terms that we're dealing with some pretty loathsome individuals.

[Freezing Dalek]

A: Whom he doesn't miss an opportunity to kill off. "Life sucks and then you die", on Planet Saward. "The system seeks to dehumanise, but we can make a difference if we remember our own humanity", on Planet Nation. (Of course, Nation had his own flirtation with hardened and flawed mercenary types in Blake's 7)

P: The resolutions of both are slightly disappointing in their own ways too. Planet goes "phew! Lucky we had that ice volcano close by/phew, lucky the one thing the Daleks require is also deadly to them". Revelation goes "phew, lucky there's a suicidal mercenary with a hidden arsenal and a booby trapped device along for the ride to do our dirty work, and that Davros has painted himself into a corner again!"

A: He did think to clone himself though. (Or at least his head) Can this be a reflection of the mid-eighties, trend of having villains who seem impossible to kill, or at least fool you into thinking that you've succeeded, before they get back up to string out the final confrontation for another 10 minutes? Freddy Krueger and his teen slasher movie ilk spring to mind, and perhaps even Darth Vader, spinning away, but already signed on for the sequel.

Treatment of the Daleks

P: Isn't it interesting that both stories are purportedly about the Daleks, but both treat them in entirely different ways? The latter problem is Davros of course - ironically the future mouthpiece of the Daleks renders them mute gun turrets. The main observation I could make is that in Planet they're supposed to be individuals (although not in the sense that they are in The Chase!), and by God they are. Certainly more so than in the Saward era stories, where only the Supreme Dalek is given any individuality. This comes home to me at the end of Planet where the Dalek bio-weapon is released, killing Wester and, it is to be imagined, the two Dalek operators within the booth. The way their synthesised voices betray urgency, panic, and dare I say it, fear, is quite effective. They've no choice in the matter and must be sacrificed to save the army, but all the same don't want to go that way! It reminds you that there are living creatures in there. Planet is old Who "it's my oldest enemies - the Daleks!"

A: The Doctor is deliberately seeking them in Planet. In Revelation, the Doctor almost literally runs into them, but it's Davros who is the real threat. The Daleks are just his ‘grunts’. Actually a Dalek wanders right past the Doctor on Necros without him being aware of it, or it of him, whereas in the last episode of Frontier in Space the perturbed Doctor senses their presence just before they appear. The confrontation is more mythic.

P: Revelation - ‘It's the Daleks - and they're people/going up stairs/flying!’ etc. The mere presence of the Daleks isn't shock value any more, a new threat (i.e. body snatching) has to be associated with them. Could it be argued that Davros' Daleks are deliberately made by him to be ‘mobile tanks’?

A: Shame they aren't bulletproof tanks, though....

P: Loathe as I am to point out obvious Nation traits, I can't help feeling that Planet has overstretched itself a bit in locations and settings - a living jungle, ice caverns a Dalek base, a Thal ship (or is it a caravan?), a plain of stones, ice pools... there must be a better way of using up the luxury of six episodes!

A: I've written before that I wish Nation had deigned to use some of the elements from Frontier as his story was meant to be closely linked to it; the second part of the tenth anniversary Daleks' Master Plan. Ogron jungle patrols or Base construction workers would have fitted in well. With the passing of time some have tried to justify the dated-ness of this ‘Dalek runaround’ by claiming that it correctly evokes the nostalgia of the original sixties Dalek stories. Episode 3 only existing in black and white presumably carries this reminiscence even further! If old-fashioned adventures are your thing all fine and well, but talk about the series disappearing up its own ventilation shaft!

The Daleks' Enemies

P: Another thing I find interesting is that the Thals effectively died with Nation's scripting involvement in the show. By the time they are taken up by Saward, the Daleks have inherited a raft of new enemies. These are usually humans, but the relationships are more complex - prison guards, mercenaries, opportunistic bureaucrats. The Knights of Oberon was something I'd have liked to see again in the series, given that Saward was moulding them on real life Knights Templar. Potentially unpleasant characters, so the water's a bit murkier - albeit through ‘job specification’ rather than individual character flaws as in Planet.

Magic Moments

A few of our favourite scenes from the two stories...


A: As obvious as the effect may be, (and perhaps even because of this) I think that the Doctor's first glimpse of the slowly reviving Dalek army in Planet has to be included here - a nightmarish image for the Doctor, and the audience.

P: I'll do my bit to lower the tone in suggesting Katy's walk through the squirting jungle.

P: And the two Thals nearly having a ‘moment’ when the Doctor sitting between them gets up to leave and their heads nearly meet.


A: Check out Davros' impersonation of the Emperor from Return of the Jedi, in Revelation: "Watch - and see if your hate does not grow..."

A: One of Colin's very best scenes for me is when Davros threatens to turn him into a Dalek in the last episode. The look on the Doctor's face as his bravado finally dries up and he actually looks worried is brilliant.

P: The simple way the Doctor outwits his oldest enemies by claiming not to be who he is virtually frees himself and for the moment damns Davros to capture by his own creations. Classy!

P: The little moment the Doctor hears what he thinks is Peri killed by Dalek fire. In the middle of storming Davros' bolt-hole alone, he pauses to allow himself a small moment of grief, before continuing purposefully down the corridor. An unintentional foreshadowing of the similar scenario in The Trial of a Time Lord courtroom?

A: I'd really like to know why Orcini was a ‘disgraced’ Knight. I love his character - when he solemnly intones that this is his ‘ final mission’ he reminds me of Foggy Dewhurst in Space!

P: What a shame it is that Kara or Orcini weren't obviously alien...

A: What, you mean with novelty Star Trek nosepieces? Why is this such a big thing for you?

P: Because despite the Daleks garnering these new enemies, they're just ‘people’. I'm not so naive as to say that a green face or bumpy foreheads necessarily make a character any more exotic or interesting, but the fact that we know so little about Kara or Orcini, Vogel, Stengos and so forth just means that all we have is human characters with little context. We don't even know if the people at Tranquil Repose are native to Necros.

A: So what you could be saying is that for all we can see, the Dalek threat seems to be confined to human races?

P: Well at that stage, maybe. I don't think it was the right time for Martians and Alpha Centaurans and so forth to be bobbing about in front of the camera as mere filler or decoration, but wasn't the end of Frontier so much more interesting with that intriguing Human/Draconian/Time Lord trio hunting down the Master's Dalek base?

A: I agree that it lends the narrative more of an epic scope, whereas Necros simply seems to be another human colony in the Earth Empire.

P: Still, up against that we have Planet's Thals drawn virtually from type - reluctant leader, headstrong upstart, noble doctor etc.

A: And don't forget the helpful and huskily-voiced alien who befriends the companion and ultimately sacrifices himself (see also Genesis of the Daleks).

P: As I said before, Revelation's human mercenaries are drawn more from 1980s types - grizzled, cynical ex-mercenaries, vengeful family members, opportunists... we have an alcoholic doctor, a battle-scarred knight and his stinky squire. It's a common observation, but I'd argue that they're no longer ‘types’, but grotesques. And how fitting that term seems when its prime villain spends the entire story in his own decaying grotto.

A: Peri and the DJ seem to be the only relatively wholesome characters - a little pocket of relative innocence in the story.


P: Tasambeker is a regional patron saint of unmarried women Saward discovered while on holiday in the Mediterranean. Specifically made out to be a pathetic figure, she's as much stock Saward (meek character drawn to extreme violence - see The Twin Dilemma novelisation's treatment of Azmael) as Tarrant is a stock Nation name. We're meant to feel pity for her. Sometimes it doesn't quite work.

A: The concept of the character is a good one, but the realisation falls short. The scene where she attracts Davros' attention is quite awful - perhaps a rare casting oversight for the usually spot-on Graeme Harper.

P: Ooh, isn't Rebec a fantastic character? No, she's not.

A: Well, She's got a Lara Croft pony tail, which is much better than Natasha, the equally ‘good’ Revelation character who only has ‘Sheena Easton’ frizz!! No really, Rebec's really only there to present a further dilemma for Taron, the unwelcome introduction of the personal emotional factor into his decision-making. Speaking of Taron, Bernard Horsfall's always worth watching. Possibly not in this, though. If Revelation is a feast of good characters, Planet is certainly a famine. Or are all Thals just wooden? On a better note, Katy Manning gets the opportunity to flex her underused acting muscles. She makes a fair go of carrying most of an episode solo, tackling the difficult requirement of performing dialogue with a tape recorder, floating bowls and sticks.

P: Peri obviously doesn't get her own solo scenes, but how do you perceive her moments with the DJ? Was Mr Sayle too OTT?

A: This brings me to my main dislike in Revelation. The DJ is a good idea on paper, but I really didn't like the character, and thought it jarred with the rest of the story. At times he's just a step away from the awful Ken Dodd-style star-turns which JNT became so keen on in later years. Peri spends time with him to give her something to do (and escape from Jobel) but she does have a major influence on the DJ, making him die killing Daleks.

P: He's a descendant of Robert Holmes' showman Vorg. I have to say I do like Clive Swift's portrayal of Jobel, because apart from being an oily letch, you get the impression that beneath that atrocious hairpiece there's a keen mind - perhaps of a genuine craftsman who wants to enjoy his work and his reputation, but who sees everything about him turning to custard. His scenes with Terence Cooper's character are refreshing because we get to see him as something more than the chauvinist he's played to be around Tasambeker and Peri.

A: Yes, it seems significant to me that he is the only character on Tranquil Repose who actively defies The Great Healer.

P: A character with potential. If he hadn't died in such a stupid way, one could imagine him leading the colony's recovery.

A: Lets talk about Kara, another thoroughly reprehensible character who is never the less easy to like...

P: Kara is a cold fish. She's there to further this Saward idea that everyone's in it for their own ends, and that in fact there are no purely noble characters in the whole story. I won't hear a bad word said about Eleanor Bron. She's great in this - her partnership with Vogel is superb (the way they link arms when they toast one another's success is just icky). There's a definite grace to their movements - these two could give each other mouth to mouth without even making physical contact.

A: They are both very theatrical characters, their over-elaborate dialogue is perhaps another attempt at emulating the much-admired Robert Holmes style of double-act character writing. Bostock even remarks to Orcini, "They're like a double act..." in case this isn't obvious enough for us. Actually, I would argue that Bostock is another character who isn't just in it for himself, he is a faithful Squire after all, and so perhaps this relative selflessness comes with the character.

P: Well he's like a dog, isn't he? Faithful, obedient, stinky and licky. Perhaps that's how Orcini got the bionic leg? It's a shame he has very little interaction with other characters, apart from Kara, which is a bit of a foregone conclusion, playing opposites against one another. But yes, you're right - his professional capacity requires him to be self-sacrificing and devoted.

[Spiridon Exhibitionist]

A: So does Vogel perform the same function? He's more clearly a conniving opportunist.

P: He'd not have betrayed Kara either I suppose. But he wouldn't stare down the barrel of a gun willingly for her either I feel.

A: Lets talk more about Planet. Did you like Wester at all?

P: I thought he was jolly clever when he was invisible, and his ‘appearance’ at the end was intriguing... it would appear Spiridons are cloven hoofed. But I despair for the rest of the aliens, who are mute and have only one effective scene - when Codal is attacked by one suddenly. Now that was scary!


P: Revelation made a brave move having so many peacock feathers in the interior of Tranquil Repose. Actors are supposed to be very superstitious of them you know. I bet you liked Colin's blue coat...

A: Would play havoc with the CSO, I thought. I didn't know that about peacock feathers, perhaps Tranquil Repose was trying to distract people from its incredibly duff logo.

P: The makeup is a tad hit and miss too.

A: The Thal ‘caravan’ is a design low, with its door handles and hinged doors, and the Dalek base isn't that much better. The Dalek base does sport interesting ‘carved’ columns on either side of the entrance, which makes us wonder if their HQ is an appropriated native structure, or a Dalek attempt at a welcoming vestibule.

P: I must confess to being a bit confused when I saw the retro rockets of the Thal ship the first time - they looked like they had woofers and tweeters! I mistakenly drew a parallel with the carvings at the Dalek HQ. Of course, this may have been a subconscious thing, but if that's so, what Dalek designer in their right mind would look at the rear of a Thal craft and think ‘hey - nice lines!’

A: You might have hit the nail on the head there - we only see Dalek architecture in Planet, and it's not renowned for its innovation or beauty.

P: Ah yes, but was it actually Dalek in origin? If it were Spiridon (do they have a culture beyond bowls and sticks?), it would have been nice to see some of those carvings in the Plain of Stones scene. One thing in defence of Planet I guess is that it's studio bound for the most part. Revelation and of course Frontier both took advantage of ultra- modern existing architecture for establishing shots and OB filming. The glass shots/matte work on the IBM centre for Revelation isn't jarring either. Nor all that wonderful snow...

A: I've just realised that they added pyramids to that shot to depict Tranquil Repose, which of course ties in with the embalming function of the complex.

Treatment of the Doctor

A: I often wondered what made me enjoy Revelation so much, when my reaction to the rest of the Sixth Doctor's tenure is usually quite the opposite. I think now it's because the Doctor himself is kept out of proceedings so much. Tightly constructed events happen around and even despite him. He is kept out of the main arena for the first two episodes and does very little too directly affect circumstances even when he is in the thick of them. One of his few decisive actions, helping Natasha and Grigory to find the incubation room, gets them killed very quickly and his sudden revelation about the weed flower at the very end is an excruciatingly contrived last-ditch attempt to have him contribute something significant. Actually, Saward seems to go further and actually belittle the Doctor. The Time Lord is bested verbally by Jobel and physically by Orcini, despite having the advantage of surprise in both instances. It takes Peri to save the Doctor from the mutant, after his attempt at hypnosis fails, and even Davros greets him with "...you have been stupid, Doctor". The Doctor's rare humility when he acknowledges his rashness in attacking Orcini has a positive side effect for me, as it makes the Sixth Doctor rather likeable.

The depiction of the Doctor in Planet, on the other hand, has me convinced that Nation thinks he's still writing for Hartnell. The usually active Third Doctor is seen in a very weakened condition for almost all of episode one, and when he finally recovers, spends the rest of the story in very much a senior overseer and guide role. Within the confines of this ‘early Doctor’, Pertwee becomes humourless, self-righteous, and even dictatorial (or more so than usual you might suggest!). Safely back in the TARDIS at the conclusion, the Doctor's encouraging of Jo to reconsider joining Latep brings Susan's farewell to mind. Interestingly, none of the emotional complexity of the Doctor/Jo/Cliff Jones triangle from the following story is apparent here, another example of Planet being written for a generic Doctor with Hartnell overtones rather than the third incarnation.

P: Here's an interesting thing: with the Hartnell overtones being evident in Planet's script - could it have made a more suitable treatment for Colin Baker's Doctor?

A: Yes, didn't Colin name Hartnell as a desired influence in his own portrayal?

P: Well, it's acknowledged that Colin wanted to incorporate Hartnell's ‘prickliness’ and occasional amorality into his character. Ironically, fans have said that it's in Revelation that the Sixth Doctor/Peri relationship warms somewhat... sixteen months on, and in The Trial of a Time Lord Parts 1-4 they're the best of chums, thank God.

A: Very unusually for the Pertwee era, there are no fight scenes involving the Doctor in Planet (unless you count a couple of scuffles with hijacked Daleks) but the resourcefulness aspect common to all the Doctors is satisfied when he devises the famous parachute escape from the Dalek base.

P: ...the parachute buoyed by the constant flow of hot air escaping from his mouth...

A: Yes, quite - and if it were Colin, he could have carried a cast of thousands up that shaft using the same technique. But, seriously... the amount of moralising in this story is justifiably notorious, and unfortunately most of it comes from the endlessly preaching Doctor himself!


[Pete and Al]

A: Before we had started this discussion I had put Planet's failings firmly down to its mediocre, recycled script. But I now feel that it's main weakness is Revelation's main strength - characterisation. I'm almost convinced that the linear, Saturday matinee serial-style escapades of Planet could have been quite involving if we only had more distinct, and well-rounded characters to follow and care about. The success of ‘daring exploits films’ like Raiders of the Lost Ark seems to bear this out. The fact that the crudely drawn and cliched Thals are all blonde and wear identical uniforms certainly doesn't help to define them as interesting individuals!

Revelation has its faults, but for me at least one of them works in the story's favour - the minimal involvement of the Doctor himself. It has an undeniably wonderful set of characters and the plot gives them all plenty to entertain us with. I first saw Revelation when TVNZ screened it in 1988. Curious about the Doctor who had received so much flack, I tuned in cautiously, but was immediately hooked. If only Colin's tenure could have contained more stories like this one!

P: A mistake if so - I think what you might see as a refreshing change could have been disastrous for a fledgling Doctor still trying to win a following. In comparison, Planet falls within Pertwee's third year - he was well-established and enjoyed good audience figures. That aside, let me say this... I myself prefer Revelation because of the way it distinguishes itself from its writer's previous output. As I said before, this has the hallmarks of a holiday away and coming back refreshed, while Nation's, with its popularly observed recycling, comes up with something less. Still, if anything, the sentiment is missing by Season 22. There's no lecture at the end, no scolding of the villains nor comforting of the bereaved. It's as though the Doctor in his latter incarnations was in such a rush saving the universe that there was less time for the little things. So it's nice to see in comparison Pertwee's Doctor taking others such as Taron aside gently and fondly reminding him of his ‘humanity’ - or whatever that is to a Thal.

As an action packed, noisy shouty story, Revelation is much more exciting, lurid and earthy, with better characters. On the other hand, Planet, with its assumed types and rehearsed motifs is an echo of the series' past; made more obvious being placed in the tenure of the Third Doctor. You'll never get a more differently matched, yet similarly themed pair of releases.

Until that forthcoming Cyberman one that is.

This item appeared in TSV 60 (June 2000).

Index nodes: Beyond the Sofa, Planet of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks