Originally posted Brontoforumus, 2009-01-06.
You know, I thought Revelation of the Daleks was pretty good -- good enough that it makes me want to check out more Sixth Doctor episodes, which I hear is an emotion most people rarely feel.
Probably the most interesting thing about it is that at this point the show had abandoned all pretense of being a kids' show -- while it doesn't have as high a bodycount as the previous Dalek arc, it's probably more violent, dark, and disturbing all around, with the most memorable scene being a woman searching for her father in a Ubik-like cryo-preservation center and finding his mutated head inside a Dalek armor. (Yeah, we've got Davros mutating humans into Daleks here -- a precursor to The Parting of the Ways.) That and every shot of Nicola Bryant's stockings or cleavage tend to prove the show was trying desperately to keep a now-teenage audience rather than acquire new viewers -- there's some parallel to be drawn between this and my frequent "How the comic industry is fucking itself" musings.
It veers off-course in places, with the first ep's cliffhanger resembling a game of Xanatos Roulette (even with cameras all over the place tracking the Doctor's every move, it's hard to figure how Davros knew Peri would see the Dalek and follow it to the Doctor's fake memorial), and the Doctor's broken pocketwatch feels a lot like an unfired Chekhov's Gun -- maybe it's covered in Trial of a Time Lord (I have very little interest in finding out; if Douglas Adams and Tom Baker couldn't get me to watch a season-long arc, I really don't see doing it for one that everybody seems to hate), or maybe it's just a way of destroying a deus ex machina like they did with the Sonic Screwdriver during the Davison era.
The biggest problem with the serial was the same as in the only other Sixth Doctor serial I've seen to date, Vengeance on Varos: the Doctor and Peri don't really do anything, and the story would transpire pretty much the same without them. Peri's got a good emotional moment in the first ep that is largely ruined by her "Where the fuck is she supposed to be from?" accent; she sounds more like a real person in the second half but overacts to the point of obnoxiousness. #6 has a few good lines and makes me want to see more of him, but again, he doesn't really do anything.
Far and away my favorite part is the utterly nonsensical and downright surreal appearance of comedian Alexei Sayle as the DJ (everyone, including the supposedly-American Peri, pronounces his name that way, with the accent on the "J"). He has fuck-all to do with the story, and shows up a few times in the first ep to speckle the fourth wall and impersonate Elvis; in the second ep, he kills several Daleks with a beam of pure rock'n'roll. It's a very clear example of a celebrity guest star awkwardly shoehorned into a script, yet as far as I'm concerned, the result is completely awesome.
Other thoughts: the Daleks do not actually seem like a race that would have courts and trials. (This plays into the opening of the 1996 TV movie, which piles on the additional questions of what the Master was doing there, why the Time Lords apparently sanctioned the Daleks' brand of justice, and why the Daleks let the Doctor show up on Skaro to collect the remains.)
Anyway! Best Dalek story I've seen in a long time, better than Resurrection, Destiny, or either of their very bad appearances in the past two years. I'd say it's worth a rental, but it's not that damn much more to buy it -- nobody loves the Sixth Doctor.