Back in 1984, there was somewhat of a buzz about this one. Apart from a cameo in The Five Doctors we hadn’t seen the Daleks in a new story for five years and their previous appearance, in Destiny of the Daleks, had been a disappointment to many.
Thirty years on, Destiny is probably better regarded today than it was back then whilst Resurrection has lost a little of its lustre. But although Eric Saward’s script has its faults, there are some things it does do right and it’s a clear pointer to the style the series would take in S22.
It’s fair to say that Resurrection is a bleak tale. This nihilistic view of the universe reflects the direction in which Eric Saward wanted to take Doctor Who and he wasn’t the only writer to favour this style. Robert Holmes penned very much the same type of story with The Caves of Androzani, but it has to be said somewhat better. Therefore it’s not difficult to see that Holmes would from now on strongly influence Saward’s writing (Revelation of the Daleks with its Holmesian double-acts is surely the sincerest form of flattery).
But back with Resurrection, Saward wanted to tie up the loose ends from Destiny and resolve the Dalek/Movellan war. He probably would have been better off ignoring this and starting afresh, as it does constrict the story (as do some of the other plot threads which go nowhere – such as the Daleks’ plan to duplicate the Doctor so he can go back to Gallifrey and assassinate the High Council).
The main part of the story revolves around the Daleks’ desire to find their creator, Davros, and use his skills to solve their current problems. This is a re-tread from Destiny, but Saward does one important thing right here that didn’t happen in Destiny. One of the clearest character traits of the Daleks is how single-minded they are, so it defied belief that they wouldn’t attempt to use Davros in Destiny for their own ends before discarding him. But this never seemed to occur to Terry Nation.
In Resurrection, the Daleks are quick to realise that Davros is more trouble than he’s worth and they attempt to exterminate him. But by then he’s already re-conditioned several Daleks, which establishes the general plot-thread of Dalek civil war which we see in Revelation and Remembrance.
As for the Daleks themselves, they do look a little worse for wear, it has to be said. They’ve been given a fresh coat of paint, but since they’re a mixture of casings from the 1960’s and 1970’s they naturally do look like they’ve been around the block a few times. For anybody who wants to delve further into the history of the Dalek casings, then Dalek 6388 is a fascinating website.
Michael Wisher was unable to reprise his role as Davros, so Terry Molloy stepped into the breach. Molloy ended up playing the role three times and would go on to make it his own, managing to emerge from Wisher’s substantial shadow. There’s less character for him to latch on here than he would enjoy in Revelation (which was much more of a Davros story than a Dalek one) but he still has some nice, ranting moments.
As for the humans, there’s an interesting ethnic mix on the space-station which is unusual for the series at the time. There’s also signs of the increased gore that would appear during S22 (the Daleks’ disfiguring gas is pretty unpleasant and it’s debatable whether the close-ups should have been transmitted).
One problem with Saward’s scripts up to this point was that characters could often seem like cardboard cut-outs, existing just as long as they formed some plot function. Once that ended, they would be quickly killed off (in order not to clutter up the screen). Styles (Rula Lenska) and Mercer (Jim Findley) are good examples of this. Rodney Bewes as Stein fares somewhat better and has the chance to play the hero at the end.
The Army bomb disposal squad, headed by Del Henney as Colonel Archer are also characters that don’t really go anywhere and it’s unfortunate that Tegan spends most of the story with them. As a final story for Janet Fielding, Resurrection is a poor effort, as Tegan does little of consequence – but as is probably well known, the story was originally planned to close S20 (a BBC strike put paid to that) so her leaving scene had to be tagged onto the already-written story.
Turlough and the Doctor fare little better. Turlough teams up with Styles and Mercer, although he does nothing to advance the plot. The Doctor has one key scene (confronting Davros and proving that he’s unable to kill in cold blood) but apart from that there’s very few of the character traits that Davison so clearly enjoyed in Frontios.
Also skulking about is Lytton (Maurice Colbourne) who will return next season, although it’s worth pondering exactly how the Doctor in Attack of the Cybermen knows all about him, as here they only share one scene and never speak to each other.
After the mass slaughter, it’s difficult not to agree with Tegan that it’s all been a bit too much. But it’s probably aged better than Earthshock and for better or worse, points clearly to the direction the series would take during S22.