Resurrection of the Daleks
Tegan: It’s stopped being fun, Doctor.
Story Code: C21.4.
Production Code: 6P.
Story Number: 133.
Countdown week: 9…
Is plot the main consideration when deciding if a DW story great or not? The three episodes of Season 21 before this story were good arguments that plot wasn’t the main thing for a Doctor Who story – Frontios showed that with a wooly plot, a DW story can be excellent with great imagery and performances. The Awakening – a lightly sketched plot with fascinating ideas and superb production design means a very good story. Warriors of the Deep had a plot that (mainly) made sense but the dreariness and silliness means the story was not a good one.
These stories suggest that plot is not the be-all and end-all for Doctor Who.
This serial, Resurrection of the Daleks has a fair few plus-points – the atmospheric and polished filming in London’s docklands, some classic Davros dialogue. However, the unintelligibility of the convoluted plot of this story means the story is, ultimately, an awful one.
After Stein mentions the Movellan virus, these lines form the core of the exposition from him that are supposed to explain the plot:
Tegan: “Is that what’s in those cylinders on Earth?”
Tegan: “Why Earth?”
Stein: “They were safe there, and they acted as a lure. With the b-bomb disposal squad duplicated the Daleks had people to guard the warehouse, so wouldn’t arouse suspicion.”
Tegan: “Very neat!” [Viewer reaction – “Eh?!”]
Stein: “Oh yes the Daleks haven’t lost any of their old guile.”
That really raises more questions: one of which is – a “lure” for whom?
The squad? (So they could then guard the cylinders “safe” on Earth?) A bizarre plan really – luring the squad, duplicating them to avoid “arousing suspicion” – it doesn’t make sense. An additional plan to infiltrate the Earth with “duplicates” is only really talked about in detail at the very end of the story by the Supreme Dalek.
A “lure” for the Doctor? Maybe, as one of the Dalek “plans” in the story is for the TARDIS and Doctor and companions to be “trapped” by the Time Corridor – they will then “duplicate” them for an elaborate plan to infiltrate Gallifrey.
So, in total, FOUR Dalek “plans” all happening at once in this story: (a) rescue Davros so he can cure the Daleks (fair enough, seems sensible), (b) store the virus cylinders “safe” on Earth as some sort of “lure” (doesn’t make sense), (c) infiltrate Earth society with “duplicates” (not really explained at all), (d) trap the Doctor with the Time Corridor so he can be mind-scanned then duplicated for a Gallifrey mission (seems extremely elaborate.)
Also, the whole “duplicates” thing doesn’t actually make any sense either – Tegan and Turlough have duplicates without having been captured, and it seems that the “duplicates” have to be “conditioned” anyway, so, why not just “condition” the original people? (Like Davros does!)
So, the whole plot is an incomprehensible hodgepodge.
The story is one in which the Doctor acts in quite an un-Doctorish way, not exactly displaying the attitude of the (more traditional) pacifist diplomat of a few stories ago (Warriors of the Deep). It is a signal to the audience that the story is a crisis when the Doctor almost acts in a similar way in The End of Time – here nothing in particular prompts the Doctor to act un-Doctorishly (maybe the viewer can make sense of this if they consider the context of the previous Davros stories – though that is joining the dots without much help from the actual story.) Possibly the line “It seems I must mend my ways” at the end is a nod to an idea that the Doctor is aware he is being un-Doctorish. This line from the Doctor in reaction to Tegan explaining she is growing tired of the TARDIS adventures, (and he notes that in a similar way he grew tired of Gallifrey.)
Although quite a good scene, the goodbye for Tegan is not quite as woven into the story as The Green Death or Fury from the Deep (Victoria is at least shown throughout that story reflecting that it is no fun any more).
This Doctor Who story is stylish, but because of the plot being a maelstrom of nonsense, one of the worst of the ’80s.