Tag Archives: Nicola Bryant

Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos”

This Sixth Doctor serial from 1985 has quite the reputation among Whovians; people seem to either love it or hate it with no middle ground. I have heard it denounced as the worst of the Colin Baker era if not of all of classic Who‘s twenty-six years, and I have heard it praised as an underrated and under-appreciated gem. As I’ve learned with so many of the Sixth Doctor’s other stories, the only way to form an honest opinion about this episode was to watch it for myself.

The Doctor and Peri land on the planet Varos to procure a fresh supply of the mineral zeiton-7, which is vital for the TARDIS’s operations. When they arrive, they are shocked to learn that Varos is a 1984-like planet with an oppressed population, spying guards, and entertainment that consists solely of watching prisoners being tortured. And because it’s Doctor Who, it’s not long at all before they get involved in a resistance that aims to free the people from their oppression

Yes, it’s a plot that’s been recycled a lot in Doctor Who‘s history. That being said, this was probably my favorite interpretation of that plot. I lose patience with a lot of these grungy, heavy, Big Brother stories, whether they’re in Doctor Who or not, because they are so blatantly trying to emulate George Orwell’s 1984. 1984 is a classic all its own and can never truly be copied, but Doctor Who took a cliched story line and made it unique. Part of what made the setting work so well were the characters, especially Sil and the Governor. I was already familiar with Sil because I had previously seen “The Trial of a Time Lord”, so it was really interesting to see Sil’s first Who appearance. What surprised me the most was that he seemed like such an important personage in this episode while in “Trial” he came across a little fish trying to be important.

As fascinated as I was by Sil, it was the Governor who really captured my attention. Here was a man who had lost all hope and was thoroughly disgusted with his culture but saw no way out. I was convinced he was going to die for his principles in some noble manner, so I was pleased to see that he didn’t die, that he listened to the Doctor’s advice and was able to lead his planet into a prosperous new era.

Long story short? “Vengeance on Varos” does not deserve all of the hate it receives. Yes, it is dark in tone, but a lot of the 80’s episodes were dark, so it seems unfair to single this one out specifically. It starts out a bit slowly, but when the plot picks up, it really grabs your attention. I wholeheartedly recommend this installment of classic Doctor Who; you’ll be missing out on something special if you pass it by.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks”

Last week I had the opportunity to watch the 1985 Doctor Who serial “Revelation of the Daleks”, starring Colin Baker as the Doctor and Nicola Bryant as Peri Brown.

I can envision the eye-rolling from here (“The Sixth Doctor? Really? He was one of the worst!”), but just listen to me for a minute. It’s true that the Sixth and Seventh Doctors often get a bad rap (Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy both played the Doctor during a time when the BBC was actively trying to kill the show), but a lot of their episodes are better than most people would have you believe. “Revelation of the Daleks”, while not one of the best episodes of classic Who, certainly wasn’t the worst, either.

The Doctor and Peri arrive on the planet Necros for the funeral of Professor Stengos, a good friend of the Doctor’s, but the Doctor has some suspicions about Tranquil Repose, the funerary parlor that is arranging the professor’s funeral. Turns out his suspicions are well-founded–Tranquil Repose is run by Davros, the mad creator of the Daleks, and he is using the bodies of the dead to try to create a new Dalek army…and also to solve that solar systems famine issue…which is dark even for Davros. Throw in some political intrigue, attempted assassinations, and a body count higher than many modern episodes of Doctor Who (you think Moffat kills all the characters now? You should see what these writers did!), and you have what is, at the very least, a memorable serial from the classic era.

I was surprised with how dark this episode went–seriously, how did this even get aired the first time around? But there were some pretty neat little moments, too, such as Davros’s initial interactions with Kara, a woman who provides funds for his research. Seeing Davros actually being polite and not shouting, actually attempting to be charming, was something of a shock. Then I remembered that when he was on Skaro, he must have had to persuade similar people to fund his research there, too, and it made me kind of want to learn more about a younger Davros. There’d be a lot to explore there, I’m sure.

One of the characters I really liked in this episode was Orcini, a disgraced member of the Knights of Oberon that Kara hired to kill Davros. Once a member of one of the most distinguished military branches in the galaxy, Orcini is now an assassin-for-hire, yet he is still something of a noble knight. In fact, in the middle of all the political intrigue and backstabbing, he was the only character who conducted himself with any honor–and he was a criminal! There was something about him that vaguely reminded me of Don Quixote–I’m not sure why, but there you have it.

Would I recommend “Revelation of the Daleks”? I’m not sure. I mean, it wasn’t as terrible as I’d heard, but it’s still not the best that Doctor Who has to offer. I think maybe I would; it does have some good parts that I think people would enjoy.

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