This serial really confused me when I first saw it. The BBC did repeats of one serial for each Doctor – and I started watching from Genesis of the Daleks. I accepted the change to Peter Davison with confusion but reasonably equally, but was confused when Colin Baker appeared in Revelation of the Daleks, with no explanation to his change. Of course, I very soon figured out that the BBC had not shown the serials in order!
I’m sad to say though that I didn’t enjoy it then, didn’t enjoy the VHS, and only warmed up slightly when I bought the DVD. It’s not really due to the fault of the story as there are a number of intriguing threads – Davros creating Daleks from humans (a theme revisited in The Parting of the Ways); the revelation that the ‘real’ Daleks were hunting after Daleks; and of course the machinations of the inhabitants of the planet of Necros who are attempting to depose Davros – who is masquerading under the alias “The Great Healer.” His duplicitous scheme – he tells griecing relations that their departed loved ones are in cryogenic freezing pending eventual awakening and cure of their ailment. In practice? The rich ones are frozen, the rest are turned into food to meet the galaxy’s major food crisis.
All very macabre and in theory set up for a good story. But there are some distinct problems – top of the list being that it takes the Doctor and Peri all of the first 45 minute episode just to reach the site of the main action. In the meantime, we have a veritable overdose of story lines and characters, and a cringeworthiness of over-acting. One senses that story teller Eric Saward was simply trying to cram too much into a usual length story – in actual fact, it may have been a better candidate for the three-parter than The Two Doctors. And then there is the DJ – the utterly pointless DJ who kills Daleks with ‘rock’n’roll’ and then does the stupidest of stupid things and doesn’t stay with his gun. I suspect many viewers cheered when the Daleks exterminated him.
The DVD was much better than I was expecting it to be, which I think is once more an indication that enjoyment correlates with expectations. But it is with justification that this is the worst Dalek story – it really didn’t need the Daleks! They were not hugely integral to the story, didn’t add any additional menace or gravitas to the story, and both they and Davros would not have been missed if there had instead been a generic villain. While I can see what John Nathan Turner was trying to do, sadly he didn’t manage it. The only thing that will save this from being the worst Dalek adventure is if one of the three lost serials transpires to be worst than fans recall it to be.
On a different note – this is a very noteworthy review as until this point, each serial reviewed has come from the 1980s. The story ranked at 116 features one of the first four doctors, and is my first step to acknowledging that you couldn’t just blame the 1980s for any particularly bad stories!