BOX OF JHANA
K9 and Company novel
Revelation of the Daleks
Doctor Who: Voyager (again)
Curse of Fenric novel
Revelation of the Daleks
by Kyla Ward
First Appeared in Burnt Toast#2, 1990
Revelation of the Daleks is the story when, faced with the impossibility of playing the usual game with the audience of 'the unseen monster', Doctor Who took the fact that Doctor and companion were the only ones who didn't know the place was crawling with daleks and made it funny.
The entertainment lay, particularly for Davros, in watching "his own curiosity deliver him into my hands" -- an actually quite dreadful idea that puts the viewer in the unnerving position of Davros's viewpoint. Or, it would be unnerving if the Doctor tripping into the trap wasn't acting like such a fool. There are other fools in the story: the pair bent on retrieving the body of Natasha's father for example. They are introduced in a classic comic sequence, sneaking with guns and all quietly across the hall behind Jobel and his friends. What is a fool? And what is their function? Another interesting character in the story is the DJ, who also acts, in spite of his omnipresent video screen and the knowledge it gives him of the situation, in an incredibly foolish way. His running commentary certainly irritates Davros -- "Bring the girl here. And while you're at it, kill that foolish DJ". Davros also considers the Doctor a fool. The thing is, the Doctor agrees. When Orcini, with the Doctor's help, manages to blow off Davros's hand, he turns on him: "That was a foolish waste of energy!". The Doctor answers "No 'arm in trying." And Davros again: "When you become a Dalek you will suffer for every indignity you have caused me!"
That is a crux. It is the answer to the viewer's acceptance of their positioning and a prime example of comedy showing dangerous things, like different points of view. The 'body-snatchers' are foolish, and would come into the category of 'innocent fools' whose naivety can be laughed at as they bumble round the catacombs, just as their 'rightness' is appreciated. All under the DJ's monitors. The DJ is also foolish but from a position of knowledge. He knows so much he can simply watch the body-snatchers with curiosity, while their presence causes such deadly seriousness among the rest of Tranquil Repose. The DJ sees the full ridiculousness of his position; reading dedications to corpses, "And you know that I get as much of a kick as you do hearing them'; and sets himself up to be laughed at, whereas the body-snatchers are laughed at for their innocent earnestness.
The Doctor is another knowledgeable fool, so knowledgeable he seems innocent. But he extends the role to fulfil his ideological role in the series. The purpose of his foolishness is to reveal not only what is foolish but what is indeed worth-while. This is also Orcini's role, the assassin who wishes 'to kill once more for honour'. Note, however, that he like all other Necros characters is a dealer in death. The difference that enables him to be a noble character is that he knows it and makes no apology, let alone trying to disguise it. That is, of course, the entire purpose of Tranquil Repose. This is where the comedy becomes black.
As indicated above, comedy can act to expose and show up the 'real' follies in a situation. A fool in this action is a character. These follies often surround painful or damaging truths. When the truth regards an individual, ie when a character like Davros is isolated sufficiently from the rest of the social order, their pretensions can be exposed and the character humiliated in all good fun. But when the truth is one of those that would, or that is presented in a way that would, damage the social order, it is a different case entirely and here 'good' and 'bad' taste, as well as black humour, are generated.
Revelation of the Daleks weaves the comic dilemmas of all characters from the body-snatchers to Jobel's crawling little admirer, around one of our society's most painful truths. It explores through these characters the attitudes and constructions -- some of which can be harmful, as in the case of the body-snatchers -- around it. Those attitudes and conventions I have previously referred to as 'follies'. It manages to get to the closeness required for analysis through comedy. By treating them as follies in the way described, it slips under the social and even mental guards of 'good taste' and 'respect'. It is a dangerous game and does not always work, witness, black comedy is not to everyones taste. But the heroes in black comedy must be these strange 'wise fools', who can laugh at themselves and thus save themselves from the pitfalls awaiting those who can only laugh at others (a Doctor Who villian's perogative, and frequent trademark).
The tone of darkness in Revelation is set when Peri and the Doctor are walking towards Tranquil Repose and Peri remarks the purple flowers they are passing. The Doctor gives their botanical name, the 'Staff of Life', and their common, the Weed Plant. The have, he says, a similar protein content to the Earth soya-bean, and he can't understand why it has not been cultivated. The reason is implied as the body of the President's wife is arranged, the purple flowers used a decoration. The Staff of Life subordinated -- largely ignored, in fact -- in favour of covering up death. At the close of the story, the Doctor presents it to Tarkis as the solution to the sudden shortage the loss of the protein concentrate extracted from bodies will cause. This is his action, that which he sustains throughout all stories, all seasons, one of the basis of Doctor Who the character. Doctor Who the series frequently exposes societies that have gone wrong. But it does this while positing an ideal society, that those he encounters have simply strayed from. This is not necessarily bad, given that the alternative to adopting some sort of ideology and organisational structure is anarchy. Revelation of the Daleks does exemplify the possibilities of black comedy as the breaker of ground.
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