OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 619
STORY NUMBER: 135
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 08 February 1984
WRITER: Eric Saward
DIRECTOR: Matthew Robinson
SCRIPT EDITOR: Eric Saward
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 7.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who Revisitations Box Set - Volume 2 (Seeds of Death, Carnival of Monsters & Resurrection of the Daleks)
In a street of East London warehouses a group of people in futuristic clothing burst from a warehouse only to be mown down by two policemen using sub-machineguns. The bodies vanish as does the Inspector in charge, Lytton, who materialises on a space vessel which is about to assault a space station prison. The Tardis has become caught in a Time Corridor and follows it to 1984 where they encounter Stien, a survivor of the massacre. Investigating the warehouses Turlough vanishes. The prison is attacked by the ship which docks and the prison is boarded by Daleks who are repelled by mines. The airlock is flooded with gas killing most of the defenders and the ship is boarded by Lytton's troops. The crew attempt to kill their only prisoner but are stopped by the troopers who release the prisoner: Davros! The Daleks send a Dalek back to 1984 but the Doctor helps an army bomb disposal squad, investigating mysterious cylinders in the warehouse, destroy the Dalek. Tegan is injured in the assault. Turlough escapes from the Dalek ship into the prison and is captured by the surviving prison officers who intend to operate the prison's self destruct device. The Bomb Squad's Colonel Archer goes to summon help but is found by Lytton's policemen. A squad of Daleks is sent to 1984 to deal with the bomb squad. Davros takes control of the engineer sent to fix his life support system and insists on staying on the space station to start work on finding a cure to the Movellan virus which has attacked the Daleks. Tegan, and the Bomb Squad's expert Professor Laird find themselves apprehended by duplicates of the bomb squad. The Doctor & Stein travel in the Tardis along the time corridor to the Dalek's ship in the future where Stein pulls a gun on the Doctor and confesses that he is a Dalek agent.
Watching this episode is an odd experience: there's a coherent central thread to the story with the Daleks wanting to rescue Davros in order that he can combat a virus developed by the Movellans. But how do the people massacred in 1984 fit into the picture? What are the cylinders in the warehouse? And the Daleks in it are so weak: one gets pushed out of a door in a warehouse, two get blown up by mines and all are said to be at risk from a virus created by the Movellans. But just having humans do all their dirty work for them while they sit there in the background seems even worse. Yes the Daleks frequently have humans working for them, especially in situations where they've invaded earth and subdued the population but here it's the humans that storm the ship, the humans that rescue & reactivate Davros and that just removes the Daleks from the action making them seem even weaker. I can remember watching this at ten, nearly eleven, years old and thinking that the Daleks weren't really in it much.
Oh look a virus attacking the Daleks! A tip of the hat to the past works of Dalek Creator Terry Nation methinks. See also: Dalek Invasion of Earth, Planet of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, Android Invasion, Survivors and at least the Project Avalon episode of Blake's 7. This is the first Dalek story since 1972 that Terry Nation, by this time resident in the USA, didn't write.
Two direct criticisms of choices made in this episode: In Terror of the Autons the program took flak for showing Autons disguised as policemen. Here they have policemen machine gunning a group of people, including an innocent civilian, down. And that doesn't sit right with me. But what's worse is the effect of the gas. You could easily portray it as just killing them and they dropping dead but the hideous mutation the victims suffered looks horrible. It fits in with a trend the series has taken this series with lots of creatures spurting green goo when killed and a corpse mounted in a piece of machinery and I think attracted some criticism at the time.
Some questions: If nothing anachronistic is to be taken by Lytton's troops to Earth, hence his Policemen using machine guns, then what's that trooper in the warehouse doing wearing his futuristic body armour? Why, when Turlough makes his way through the Daleks ship, are their prison space station crew bodies lying in the corridors? And what use is his handkerchief going to be against the has used to kill them? I assume he must be using it to mask the smell of the bodies. Where's the Dalek control room noise? Ever present since the first Dalek story it's missing in the scenes on the bridge of the Dalek ship. What's the technician Kiston suddenly doing wearing armour at the end of the scene where he repairs Davros? Yes it makes sense to have it as there's members of the crew still out there that might be a threat but he's not wearing it anywhere else in his scenes and you don't see it. Did he take it off to work on Davros and then put it back on again? And Lytton's line "there are still members of the crew still alive" needed to go through script editing one more time to remove the double use of "still" from it.
Let me remind you how season 20 ended in strike chaos:
The Daleks had been absent from the show since 1979's Destiny of the Daleks and the closing story of the season, known either as Warhead or The Return, was designed to return them to the screen in a manner similar to the previous year's Earthshock. The same writer, script editor Eric Saward, and director Peter Grimwade were assigned to the story. Unfortunately during late 1982 production work at the BBC was halted by the electricians union. Enlightenment, the third & closing chapter of the story of Turlough & the Black Guardian, was due in the studio at that time and had to be rescheduled. The only slots that producer John Nathan-Turner could use were those allocated to Warhead/Return so that production was reluctantly cancelled. Peter Grimwade took the crew out for a commiseratory lunch but didn't invite John Nathan-Turner. Some versions of the story say Grimwade forgot to invite the producer, others that he planned to take him for supper later. Either way round, Nathan Turner felt snubbed by what happened and as a result Grimwade never directed for the series again (he would write one story for the following year) and is probably a contributing factor towards souring relations between producer and script editor.So Saward had a completed Dalek script in the bad and ready to go at the start of this season. A simple retitle, a new director in debutant Matthew Robinson, plus a few tweaks to the script and it was ready to go as a four part story and slotted into place as the fourth tale that season. Problems arose when it was realised that the planned transmission dates for Resurrection of the Daleks on the 9th, 10th, 16th & 17th February 1984 clashed with the end of the days coverage of the 1984 Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo in Yugoslavia (now in present day Bosnia-Herzegovina) on 8th–19th February that year. Faced with the possibility of taking a 2 week break between episode, as happened between The Mind Robber & The Invasion for the 1968 Olympics producer John Nathan-Turner had his four 25 minute episodes re-edited into two 45 minute episodes and broadcast them on the Wednesday night of these two weeks. For the record the break between the original parts 1 & 2 occurs when the Dalek materialises in the warehouse: we know this because the serial was sold abroad as a 4 part version and, as we'll see tomorrow, the vast majority of it's commercial releases have involved the four part version.
But recall if you will my Season 20 experience: Wednesday night is cub night. One was not pleased to find the Daleks' return going out on a Wednesday night and this week I refused to go. And got away with it!