Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks Review (or “The One With Rodney Bewes In It”)

I used to have a Betamax video recorder, and unlike I assume most people, I kept and used it up until around November 1993.

Why?

Because I had a recording of Resurrection of the Daleks  that would only play on that machine.

That’s almost all we had left for it by about 1987 (other than a tape that had the last 90 seconds of Attack of the Cybermen on it) and yet we kept it hooked up to one of the TVs for all those years, just for that.

Resurrection of the Daleks then falls into the Five Doctors category; a story I’ve seen more times than I’d care to remember and one I associate massively with my childhood.

But is it any good?

Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks Review: What’s This One About?

It’s the one with Rodney fucking Bewes in it.

And Dirty Den.

And Rula Lenska

And the Daleks

And Davros

And Lytton.

And 74 people are killed making it the highest on-screen body-count of any Doctor Who story.

And Tegan leaves!!

Thoughts – The Strongest Dalek Story Since The 1960s?

You’re going to read that title and – assuming you subscribe to popular opinion amongst fandom – think that I’m mad because I’m saying that this is better than Genesis of the Daleks.

I'm surprised there weren't frantic rewrites to kill off that pedestrian crossing the bridge.

I’m surprised there weren’t frantic rewrites to kill off that pedestrian crossing the bridge.

Well I thought Genesis was slightly overrated anyway, but I also believe it wasn’t really a Dalek story. To me, they played such a minor part in it that it was more a Davros story.

Resurrection of the Daleks is obviously about Davros too, but his creations share equal billing.

So really, the competition includes the Pertwee stories – which were all decent enough – and Destiny of the Daleks, which was pish.

But it’s not even that it wins the vote by default. I really enjoy Resurrection of the Daleks, ridiculous death count and all.

To me it’s one of Davison’s strongest adventures, complete with a plot that you can mostly follow, a far more gritty theme, comparatively high quality sets, far better special effects than we’re used to and a guest cast brimming with quality.

The Guest Cast

So I praised the guest cast of Frontios. and deservedly so I felt, but Resurrection of the Daleks leaves it trailing in its wake.

You’ve got current (at the time) and future household names like Rodney “Immortal” Bewes, Rula Lenska, Lesley “Dirty Den” Grantham and Maurice Colbourne who all do  a top notch job.

They are ably assisted by the likes of Del Henney, Phil McGough and Jim Findlay.

Probably the best of the lot though is Terry Molloy as Davros.

I know it’s easy to disregard him because he’s so well known for his performance in this and subsequent stories, but you have to take into account that though he had been a radio stalwart, before he took on the part of Davros he’d only had a handful of TV roles.

Compared to David Gooderson’s bland performance, in Destiny of the Daleks, Molloy is different class. There’s an argument to be had on whether or not he’s better than Michael Wisher. Certainly I think he injects more into the role in terms of mannerisms and voice range (helped by his radio background), although you could say Wisher played him in an a preferably understated way.

No matter how you look at it though, Molloy puts in a powerful performance as the Daleks’ creator, and in particular, his scene at the end of Episode 3 (in the four part version) is excellent.

The Amount of Death

Resurrection of the Daleks stands out because of the sheer amount of death that happens over the course of the two (or four if you watched that version of the DVD) episodes.

This guy thought he was going to survive the ordeal. Sadly not

This guy thought he was going to survive the ordeal. Sadly not

Eric Saward seems to have an unquenchable bloodlust.

From the very start, he writes in characters who have no real meaning to the plot, just for the shits and giggles of seeing them killed. That poor old bloke and the boy with the metal detector really don’t need to be in the story at all, but he puts them in just so he had the thrill of seeing them bumped off. More effort is given to building up the character of the Captain of the ship than them and he’s never even seen.

Throughout the story, guards keep getting killed for the sake of it, characters would get so far into the process of doing something like setting up the self destruct switch, only for them to get killed and them someone else take over later on. And what about the bomb disposal squad who are killed, duplicated and killed again?

It’s all a bit bizarre but works within the gloomy nature of the story. Going slightly off at a tangent, the choice of filming location in the Docklands area of London also adds to it all.

Coming back to the amount of death, and I have to say though, the scene where Lytton says “They’re dying, and so are you” before shooting the guard he’s with takes it into laughable parody.

All good fun though.

The Dalek Voices

One thing to notice about Resurrection of the Daleks is that the voices of the Daleks are about the best they’ve been since the 60s.

None of them sound like Zippy, all of them have depth to them, and for me – as someone who watched this story so often as a child – they do feel a bit like the definitive voices.

Obviously Peter Hawkins was better, but these are also good.

My only complaint is that I felt they got the Dalek voices the wrong way round. The Black Dalek ends up with the softer of the two voices, when he really should have had the other one.

Stein and the Dalek Trap

Ok, I might be missing something here, but the stuff with Stein doesn’t really make all that much sense.

I could accept him being a Dalek agent if it was hinted at before the cliffhanger, but to me it seemed more like something Saward decided to do to make for an interesting cliffhanger.

I mean, why would he escape to Earth with that other bloke? And was the other bloke a Dalek agent as well? If so, why was he killed? And if he wasn’t, and Stein knowingly was, why would Stein be surprised and upset to see him killed when he’s

"What the hell did you tell him Davros was on board for!! Idiot!!!"

“What the hell did you tell him Davros was on board for!! Idiot!!!”

on his own.

Indeed, much of the stuff on Earth makes little sense to the overall story. The Doctor escapes from the Time Corridor, so presumably if he hadn’t the TARDIS would have landed on the Dalek ship. Are we to assume that they anticipated this and set up a situation where they’d know exactly where and when he’d escape from it to? And that’s why Stein was there; to get him from Earth back to the Dalek ship?

Ok, but then what’s the point of the cylinders of gas (which are there only to kill the Daleks at the end), alerting the bomb squad and duplicating them long in advance?

And while it’s a perfectly reasonable plan for the Daleks to duplicate the Doctor and his companions, why duplicate people like Stein if they are so volatile that their programming fails? Why not just program the original Stein? And was it not a little bit out of left field to have the Black Dalek start talking about duplicates of key Earth figures at the eleventh hour and then just disregard it straight afterwards?

I suppose though that if the focus is on killing as many people as possible, sometimes logical plot development falls by the wayside.

The Fifth Doctor Timeline

It’s another single day adventure, so when Tegan said “It’s stopped being fun” to the Doctor, maybe she should have phrased it as “I’ve travelled with you for about four weeks and every single day we are put in life or death situations. I can’t take it any more, and I don’t understand how you can either. And change your clothes!!”

Random Observations

  • Has anyone noticed that they never bother to name Professor Laird on-screen? There have probably been loads of characters like that over the years, but this one sticks out. Having said that, it’s better she’s not named at all rather than they name her in every sentence like what happened in Warriors of the Deep.
  • Another Professor Laird one; when the duplicate of Colonel Archer first appears, she decides that it’s not the real Archer because he’s wearing a gun belt and he’d given his to the Doctor. Is that not a bit of  a reach? Is it not more
    Go on yerself, Rodney Bewes

    Go on yerself, Rodney Bewes

    reasonable to assume he found a new one before concluding that it’s an Dalek-created replica?

  • I’m a fan of Rodney Bewes, but isn’t everyone? Last night I was finishing watching this story and someone came into the room and said “Ha, it’s Rodney Bewes! Brilliant”. That sums it up. Apart from being in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, BBC comedy show QI proved that Bewes is actually a time travelling immortal. Check it out on YouTube
  • I’m sure everyone will agree that Bewes’s death scene is a corker. And the incidental music adds to it rather than detracts from it.
  • Seeing as Bewes is in it, I started thinking about who James Bolam could have played. This led me to the following alternative casting choices for the show. Lytton should have been played by Donald Gee or even by Dirty Den who would than have to be recast. Best of the lot though, and if you’ve ever seen Parks & Recreation you won’t be able to unsee this, but Lt. Mercer would have worked far better if he was played by Aziz Ansari.
  • Speaking of Dirty Den, does it not trouble some of you that – on the basis of those uncensored tabloid photos that did the rounds a decade ago – you could watch any scene with him in it and say “Well, I’ve seen that guy having a wank”. I couldn’t say that about any other character in Doctor Who history, thankfully.
  • Dalek ‘acting’ is a difficult skill because they are so limited and emotionless, being that they are metal cases with flashing lights on top. But there’s a scene where the Doctor tricks Rodney Bewes into admitting that Davros is on board, and the Dalek turns round without saying anything and gives him a look as if to say “Oh well bloody done. What did you have to tell him that for?!!” It’s hilarious.
  • The idea that the Doctor might kill Davros is alien to many fans of the show, but I don’t see the problem. There’s a double standard that suggests it’s perfectly all right for the Doctor to kill as many Daleks, Cybermen, Autons or Myrka as he wants, but if he tries to kill Davros then that’s completely unacceptable. Weird.
  • How exactly did the Black Dalek get a direct link to the TARDIS scanner?
  • Yay, Tegan’s gone. Probably my least favourite companion in the show up to this point. She was a miserable cow from beginning to end (with the exception of the Five Doctors where she seemed to be in a decent mood) and she won’t be missed. People might disagree, but I just don’t see the point in a companion who didn’t want to travel with the Doctor.
  • Turlough’s an interesting one. Here’s a character who has had very little character development beyond the basic brief that he “wanted to kill the Doctor”. He’s still wearing a school uniform, yet nobody comments on it. What I did notice about him here though, was that rather than being the generic companion that he has been for most of the stories out-with Mawdryn Undead and Enlightenment, he has a bit more to do and say. In particular, it’s a bit shocking for a companion to suggest murdering two guards.
  • So we have to assume that Davros was killed. Right?
  • Where’s Kamelion?
  • Why did that bloke who went to try to kill of Davros not wear a mask when the woman he was with did? And what a terrible actor he was.
  • That death scene, along with all the other ones caused by the deadly gas, was pretty horrific for a show like Who.
  • How come Turlough manages to avoid being killed by the gas just by putting a handkerchief loosely over his mouth?
  • That Dalek mutant really had it in for that solider, didn’t it?
  • And what’s with the bulletproof tarpaulin?
  • When the bomb disposal squad are killed off for the second time, they appear to be having a competition to see who can die in the most over the top way.
  • Fair play to the Dalek who managed to shoot back after he’d been exterminated himself.
  • As I mentioned above, the Incidental Music worked…thankfully. Once again, it was by Malcolm Clarke, who did a good job on both Earthshock and Enlightenment. Paddy Kingsland and Roger Limb should have taken notes.
  • Where was Leela when the Doctor was having his mind scanned? I know the answer, but I’m just making the observation.
  • Also, if I’m going to be really difficult, I would question why the character of the Doctor would be thinking of the likes of Katarina in his mind scan. Not only did he travel with her for about 5 hours before she was killed and barely said a
    Sadly, thanks to the UK Tabloid Press, I've seen the cock of one of these four men. Can you guess who it is? Dirty...

    Sadly, thanks to the UK Tabloid Press, I’ve seen the cock of one of these four men. Can you guess who it is? Dirty…

    word to her, but he travelled with or mixed with other characters, like Benton & Yates or even Marco Polo for far longer. Hmmph!

  • Poor old Peter Purves get barely half a second on screen, and he’s all blurry.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #93. I’d have it a lot higher I think. I can’t understand the sort of thinking that states this isn’t as good Doctor Who as The Unicorn & The Wasp, Kinda, Enlightenment or The Keeper of Traken.

Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts

Maybe it’s my childhood memories coming into play, but I very much enjoy Resurrection of the Daleks.

It looks good, has a very strong cast, a story that – despite some nonsensical faults – is easy to follow, the Daleks sound better than they have in a long time, the new Davros is better than the last and it just feels like a more polished piece of work than many of the other stories in this period.

I’m not sure how high I’ll rank it when I do my own ones at the end of this process, but I doubt it’ll be anywhere near as low as #93.

So it comes with my recommendation.

Enjoy it.

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4 Responses to Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks Review (or “The One With Rodney Bewes In It”)

  1. Eugene says:

    Nice to see a positive review of this story. I’ve always loved it and don’t understand the almost universal slating it gets.

  2. NickR says:

    Yup, I’d go with that.

  3. Bill says:

    Watching this right now. Am I the only one who thinks the helmets of the Daleks’ human soldiers look like the ones worn by the black-uniformed Imperial guards in the Star Wars movies?

  4. Easy to follow? I thought the general opinion was that its rather a mixed bag of too much going on for no reason? Having said that, personally I enjoy it.

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