Typically, REVELATION has never been a favourite with most fans. About the nicest thing they're likely to say about it is "it's the best Colin Baker story", which is damning with faint praise as Colin Baker is never going to win the acclaim of say, Pertwee or the other Mr Baker. Nor is the short list of TV Colin Baker stories (broadcast originally between 1984 and 1986) usually held up as a bright beacon of TV excellence. So basically this DVD release is going to be met with a large amount of indifference or even scorn, and I want to say right here how much of a shame this is! REVELATION should not be filed away as an example of 1980's tat, but instead should be held up as one of DR WHO's masterpieces...yes that's right: MASTERPIECES!
Not only is the serial the best Colin Baker story, it's the best in the whole of the 1980's. Only 1984's THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI (also directed by REVELATION's superb Graeme Harper) can boast a production, a script, a cast and an emotional impact this impressive. But where ANDROZANI had a dodgy "Magma Beast" monster, REVELATION has no such shortcomings. There is not one prop, one set design, one special effect that really embarrasses, and when one considers the tiny budget that Harper and his team had to work with, this should make our fanboy (and girl) jaws drop. But of course we're not going to because received wisdom tells us that it's not as good as TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN, or PYRAMIDS OF MARS, or anyone of a dozen other stories that time after time gets cited in polls as "classic". I despair sometimes, I really do...
The cast is one of the best ever assembled for a DR WHO, and includes magnificently subtle/grotesque/tragic/hilarious turns from the likes of William Gaunt, Clive Swift, Eleanor Bron, Trevor Cooper, Alexei Sayle, John Ogwen and Hugh Walters. Here we have a gallery of almost surreal characters, based on figures from literature (THE LOVED ONE, DON QUIXOTE) or cinema (the Wicked Queen from SNOW WHITE, LAUREL & HARDY) interacting in the most fascinating ways possible; as if this were some kind of bloodsoaked carnival or dance of death. The streak of black humour and focus on mortality is surprisingly mature for something that is generally regarded as a children's programme, but it's never exploitative or sickening. It's surprisingly literate, even theatrical, and the actors bring such a sense of gravitas and intensity to it all. I cannot commend these performances too highly to you, nor can I refrain from singing the praises of Terry Molloy's Davros. Here at last we see a Davros not only equalling but surpassing Michael Wisher's original 1975 version in GENESIS OF THE DALEKS. Davros is once again a real person, not just a ranting mad scientist with a prune for a face. He speaks to Tasambeker with what sounds like a horribly peverse kind of love, he has a black sense of ironic humour and we even feel sorry for him at moments.
Colin Baker is excellent as the Doctor and proves here(if it ever needed proving) that with the right script he was an excellent choice for the role. He's ably supported by Nicola Bryant's feisty companion and in this story he's more likeable, more caring, more...well, Doctor-ish than he's often given credit for. The only controversial casting decision appears to have been Jenny Tomasin's Tasambeker. Writer Eric Saward states in the DVD commentary that he thinks she was miscast, and that she hadn't "found" her character. I personally disagree, and I rather like what she does, but even if you take Saward's line, surely she's not so bad as to totally spoil this wonderful piece of television?
The extras too are great. A fantastic documentary on the making of REVLATION, behind the scenes footage, a marvellous CGI special effects option, music only option(Roger Limb's score adds a brillant layer of atmosphere) and a commentary with Bryant, Saward, Molloy and Harper all make this a must have package. In short I cannot recommend this disc too highly. Sadly not everyone is going to agree with this, but next time there's a poll of favourite WHO stories, let's have REVELATION where it belongs...in the top 10! (No sniggering at the back please).