Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks – Written by Eric Saward & Read by Terry Molloy with Dalek voices by Nicholas Briggs – 4xCD (BBC Worldwide)
From the moment he first arrived on our TV screens, he’s been central to any story in which he features. Genesis of the Daleks was mostly him, and only a handful of heart-stopping Dalek performances. Destiny of the Daleks was all about the quest for him and the stalemate-breaking organic irrationality he could bring. Resurrection of the Daleks was focused on his ability to re-engineer the Daleks to survive the Movellan virus – and more specifically, about his refusal to move his Kaled butt until he was good and ready, thank you.
Revelation of the Daleks though is probably the first story since Genesis to revolve entirely around Davros as a character. His subterranean existence seems to poison everything and everyone in Tranquil repose, his research has created the product which has kept people perversely alive by getting round the ‘consumer resistance’ attendant on eating one’s own relatives, his mega-profit brings assassins to his lure. He watches absolutely everything, seemingly just a head in a bubbling vat of sustenance, and pulls the strings to pull the people of Tranquil Repose to their destruction. We even, in the episode 1 climax, enjoy the reveal that what Davros thinks is top bants is having the world’s most obviously polystyrene statue fall on someone. Davros is absolutely key to Revelation of the Daleks.
Step forward Eighties Davros (and ongoing audio Davros at Big Finish), Terry Molloy, to add the third Eighties Dalek audio-novelisation to his repertoire, having previously read Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch and earlier in 2019, delivered the dark and mostly-baffling Resurrection of the Daleks.
Molloy was always going to be perfect reading this – and so he is, with a mellifluous narration dipping seemingly with little effort into the assortment of gits who power the plot of Revelation of the Daleks along.
In case you’ve never encountered the story before, there are a lot of gits powering it along, and relatively few pleasant people. Davros has landed on a planet famous for funerals, set himself up as the gloriously pretentious ‘Great Healer’ to cure local diseases of note, and also, on the side, create a synthetic protein to help cure the galaxy of the famine intendant on overpopulation.
Yyyyyeah, you know it’s not that simple. He’s bodysnatching, making human-headed Daleks out of clever, notable stiffs, and feeding concentrated protein made of pleb-level bodies to the people who revere him. It’s about as dark a comedy as you can imagine, which considering it comes from the mind of Eric Saward, well known for his ability to imagine some pretty dark drama, is really saying something. There are oleaginous business leaders, noble assassins, thuggish flower arrangers, alcoholic bodysnatchers, handsy embalmers and the women who love him in here too, along with the world’s most annoying DJ. It’s almost as though Saward thought up the worst dinner party in the universe, then invited Davros and set the whole thing in motion. Needless to say, whatever you think of his other work, Revelation of the Daleks is a bit of dark shining jewel in Saward’s crown.
As an audio-novelisation, there are a couple of things to note. The novelisation actually allows the story to make more sense than it did on screen, by giving some additional background and character notes on many of the characters, and most importantly of all, by introducing a whole new plot loop, taking us into Davros’ warehouse of new Daleks, and having the Doctor and his friends Do Something Devious to them, so the claims at the end that a single bomb deep in the catacombs of Tranquil Repose can somehow miraculously have killed them all genuinely make sense in the novelisation, which is more than can really be said of the TV version. There’s the addition of a never-seen-on-TV character to help that loop along too, meaning what you get in the audio-novelisation is probably the fullest, most rounded version of Revelation of the Daleks you’re ever likely to get, certainly from the original author.
Molloy’s touch on the reading is light, rather than invasive, but for instance, while Alexei Sayle’s DJ was full-on punch-in-the-face irritating, Molloy gives him a slightly calmer tone, much helped by Saward’s smoothing out of some of the more outre dialogue – the ultrasonic, multi-directional beam of rock and roll, for instance, while it gets referred to in those terms in the narrative, is not defined as such in dialogue here, again reducing the audience’s glee when the DJ gets mercilessly exterminated.
There are occasional moments of oddness in the audio editing, such as a cut seemingly mid-sentence and a couple of long periods of silence, but overall, Saward has delivered a version of Revelation of the Daleks that feels as rich and full as could be wished, while filling plot-holes you might not have noticed were in the on-screen version. Molloy moulds the book into an immersive audio experience, keeping his narrator neutral unless needed to pull out the existential horror of the work (Death of Natasha Stengos, we’re looking at you), but adding life and colour and diversity to the git-parade, aiming somewhere near a believable Sixth Doctor while never overpowering that character with mimicry, and snaking up the pace from initial languor to eventual urgency as the stakes of the story get higher.
Bottom line, Revelation of the Daleks on TV was a mostly-perfect piece of grand guignol Doctor Who (yes, yes, the shonky statue, I know), and that version will always exist in your head once you’ve seen it, but this novelisation – and in particular, this audio-novel – fixes some of the niggles you might justifiably have with that TV version and gives you a story that allows you the extra breath you need to fully appreciate the dark, sharp wonder of the plot, the advancement of the Davros-Daleks conflict, and the political satire at the heart of a story which might otherwise be thought of as ‘Let them eat corpses!’ It’s a cracking addition to your audio-library and at five hours and some, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. Come down into the catacombs, and immerse yourself in the audio-novel of Revelation of the Daleks today. Tony Fyler