12 February 2020: Can You Hear Me review added.
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RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS
"You're destroying my mind!"
Buy this Dr Who DVD: UK: no video available US
With the obvious exception of Genesis, anything with "...Of The Daleks" in the title is enough to bring on a distinctly queasy feeling. And alas, Resurrection Of The Daleks is no exception.
It's a shame, really, because Resurrection Of The Daleks has got one of the most slam-bang openings of any Doctor Who story. The deserted warehouses, the cold colour palette, the Autonesque policemen and the ruthless killing are style on a plate. It reminded us of the start of The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, and that's pretty high praise. Then it all fell over.
Much as we're itching to rip it to shreds, we're going to nobly refrain from running through the whole plot stupidity thing. After all, better people than us have thrashed that out over the last couple of decades, to the general consensus that nothing in there makes one damned bit of sense. And besides, if we tried to list all the illogical stuff, we'd be here all day.
Well, maybe just a couple of things....
We'll leave out the most obvious stuff. But why does the Supreme Dalek think Davros, his (yes, his! Daleks have gender! Who knew?) sworn enemy, is likely to help solve the Movellan virus problem for him? What's Davros doing as a prisoner in an Earth ship anyway? If the Movellans have won this titanic war, where the hell are they? If the Daleks are impervious to rifle fire, how come you can make one explode just by shoving it out a window? If Stien (sic) is a Dalek plant at the beginning, why's he all upset about the death of his bud? With guys with guns behind her, why does Tegan stand still and yell for help instead of running away? Metal Detector Man's not going to be able to stop a bullet, is he? Who the hell is the virus a "lure" for?
Stop. It's good to get that out of our systems, but as the story points out, "You only invite trouble with your questions!" Picking holes in the plot's the easy part: it's sorting out the underlying stuff that brings on the headache. We can't get out of it, though, so on we go.
Perhaps the most interesting question about Resurrection Of The Daleks is: what does it tell us about the Doctor? It's easy to see the Doctor's inability to kill Davros as a sign of weakness here: he has the gun all up in Davros's face and that, yet he still can't bring himself to pull the trigger, and despite being unarmed it's Davros who has control. Some, and we'd usually be the first amongst them, might say that the scene with the Doctor waving the gun yet clearly being unable to pull the trigger is proof of the Fifth Doctor's feebleness when compared to the other Doctors. After all, it's not as if he's taken a principled moral stand: he sets out fully intending to kill Davros, yet when it comes to the crucial moment he's a big girl's blouse.
However, much as it kills us to be defending the Fifth Doctor, that's not entirely a fair assessment. Of course it's true that he wimps out of killing Davros in cold blood, but in this he's no different from any of the other Doctors. Let's not forget that in Genesis Of The Daleks the Fourth Doctor does the noble backing-away thing from the wires, but sneakily arranges for someone else to effectively do the wire-twisting, and in Destiny Of The Daleks he tries to kill Davros from a nice clean distance with an explosive. None of the Doctors has any problem with killing, as long as they don't get blood all over their hands: it's only when it's up close and personal that they get squeamish, and the Fifth Doctor's no girlier in this respect than the others.
The Fifth Doctor's pretty speciesist here: he can't kill the human-ish Davros, yet is perfectly comfy both shooting at Daleks and arranging for them to be wiped out with the virus. But again, in this he's no worse than any of the other Doctors. It's no secret that we find the Fifth Doctor pretty feeble overall (one of us on picking up the video remarked: "The Fifth Doctor versus the Daleks? I'm backing the Daleks"), but much as we'd like to we can't conclude that the Davros business supports that. (On the other hand, he's incredibly cooperative with the cloning process for no apparent reason, and it's yet another Fifth Doctor story in which the Doctor makes barely any difference to the plot, so that makes us feel more cheerful.)
What about the famous Tegan Leaving Scene? Isn't that a searing indictment of the Doctor's descent into violence and depravity? We wish. First of all, why now? We would have thought the not having fun aspect of things would have dawned on her a bit earlier - after Earthshock, maybe, or the bloodbath that was Warriors Of The Deep. Second, it's true that people were dying right and left, but wasn't she asleep through most of that? We can't see, considering her earlier experiences, that she gets involved in anywhere near enough violence to propel her into a state of righteous indignation. Third, what's she blaming the Doctor for? It's not as if he brought the whole thing down on their heads through his insatiable bloodlust, is it? The Doctor mumbles something about mending his ways, but apart from the novel expedient of actually doing something instead of letting all the action swirl past him, we can't see that there's much he can change. We're clearly supposed to accept Tegan's evaluation of the Doctor's wicked ways, but we just ain't buying it.
Considering the renown of Tegan's leaving scene, we were expecting to be mopping up the tears. Instead, we found that it was flatter than a crepe under a steamroller. Compared to the sobfests that were Susan and Sarah Jane's departures, there was just no emotional heft to it at all. The only thing that came close to salvaging it was the abruptness, which was a nice change after the usual format of the measured goodbye. Surprisingly, after all the bitchy things we've said about Tegan, we were sad to see her go. Anyone who gives the Fifth Doctor as much stick as she does is okay by us.
What about the rest of it? Well, there are a few gems amongst the dross. Howard's Way's Maurice Colbourne is terrific as the weaselly mercenary (yes, another one) out to save his skin: it's just a shame the story wasn't supposed to be about him. Turlough's just a passenger, but it's good to see his cowardice reasserting itself. We quite like the dark and excessive violence, especially the bits where the characters you expect to heroically win through instead get blown away without mercy. (Makes a change, innit?) Stien's death, despite its improbability, is fantastically filmed. And whoah, those policemen are scary. Sadly, these aren't enough to save a story weighted down by a welter of incomprehensible plots.
Resurrection Of The Daleks certainly has potential, but it's utterly thrown away. What were they thinking?
MORAL: Confusion to your enemies. And probably to your friends.
There's an array of breathtakingly silly hats here, from the Burger King/Thunderbirds cross to the weird helmets to the pointy baseball caps. Whah?
ARE YOU THERE?
At one point, one of the soldiers dials the phone, then discovers the phone cord has been cut. Didn't he notice there wasn't a dial tone?
"I have a plan to force Davros to leave of his own free will." Force him of his own free will? Aren't Daleks supposed to be logical?
WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN
Isn't it great the way the Time Corridor is actually a corridor?
We really, really wish Davros wouldn't keep saying "Ex-cellent!" Who does he think he is, the Cyberleader?
HOW DO YOU KNOW?
Is there any better line in all of Doctor Who than: "When it is time to die you will in your agony beg to pay homage to the Daleks!"? Priceless!
YOU SAID WE WERE GOING TO TOPSHOP
When Tegan's being escorted back into the warehouse by the policemen, she's trotting along with them quite happily, but when we next see her with the soldiers inside, they're dragging her along.
The Doctor's seriously dodgy moaning when he's on the cloning slab reminds us of Peter Davison's appearance on Banzai when he was acting out one of the Seven Deadly Sins: "Lust? Or trapped wind?"
NO WONDER HE LEFT
Peter Davison does an excellent job of the "To kill Davros" speech, which is a rare glimpse of what a great actor he is when he's allowed to be.
TOO MUCH INFORMATION
"You are soft, like all Time Lords. You prefer to stand and watch."
HAVING YOUR CASK AND EATING IT
"Surely one [cask of virus]'s enough." "We need another." When did Tegan get her degree in microbiology?
Buy this Dr Who DVD: UK: no video available US