Serial 6Z:
Revelation Of The Daleks
Working Title: The End Of The Road.
Starring: Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown).
The Doctor and Peri go to Necros to attend the funeral of an old friend of the Doctor's. There they discover that Davros is posing as the Great Healer of Tranquil Repose, a famed institution where the terminally ill can be placed in suspended animation until a cure for their ailment is found. Davros is experimenting on the comatose bodies to produce a new race of Daleks loyal to himself. To defeat his old foe, the Doctor may have no choice but to ally himself with the original Daleks on Skaro.
Season Twenty-Two had begun with a Cyberman story written -- for all intents and purposes -- by script editor Eric Saward. It was decided to cap off the year with another Saward-scripted serial, this time featuring the only monsters more popular than the Cybermen: the Daleks. For Attack Of The Cybermen, Saward had managed to dodge BBC rules on script editors commissioning themselves by having an ex-girlfriend, Paula Wolsey, pose as the adventure's author. In the case of the Dalek serial, however, Saward would enable himself to receive the credit by writing his scripts during a six-week gap before the renewal of his contract.
Saward's story was briefly called The End Of The Road before gaining its televised title of Revelation Of The Daleks; it was formally commissioned on November 20th, 1984, although Saward had largely written his first drafts during a six-week vacation in Rhodes in June and July of that year. Saward's major source of inspiration was Evelyn Waugh's play The Loved Ones, a black comedy whose characters included a piteous mortician named Joyboy and a woman who was secretly enamoured of him. Joyboy gave rise to the similarly pathetic Jobel and his admirer became Tasambeker, named after a Greek saint to whom barren women prayed in the hope of conceiving a child. One of the ideas Saward included in his storyline was the appearance of a glass Dalek -- something Terry Nation had wanted for his original The Daleks storyline back in 1963, but which had been omitted due to the prohibitive costs of such a prop.
The director assigned to Serial 6Z was Graeme Harper, who had last worked on the Peter Davison swansong The Caves Of Androzani the year before. Revelation Of The Daleks would be his last Doctor Who outing, although he was scheduled to helm the aborted Thirtieth Anniversary story The Dark Dimension in 1993. Location filming began on January 7th, 1985; amongst the sites used was an IBM building, for which the company waived their usual fees in favour of the BBC making a donation to a local school. This was the last time film was used on location; the crew would instead use OB (Outside Broadcast) videotape for future seasons.
Studio work on Revelation Of The Daleks got started with a two-day session from Thursday, January 17th. For the first time, the actor to play Davros was somebody who had previously appeared in the role: Terry Molloy had also donned the costume for Resurrection Of The Daleks the previous season. Work on the serial -- and Season Twenty-Two as a whole -- then wrapped up with three days beginning on Wednesday, January 30th; this first studio was also used to record some extra material for the underrunning second episode of the preceding serial, Timelash. Several clips from a variety of classic rock 'n roll tunes were used in Revelation Of The Daleks as part of the DJ's programme. These included Good Vibrations by Beach Boys sound-alikes The Surfers, Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procul Harum, covers of Elvis Presley's Hound Dog and Blue Suede Shoes, In The Mood by the Ted Heath Orchestra, and Fire by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Transmission of Season Twenty-Two had begun shortly before the start of production on Revelation, on January 5th. On February 21st came the first signs that something was very wrong. Saward and producer John Nathan-Turner each received a phone call -- from writer Robert Holmes and a Doctor Who fan, respectively -- indicating that they had heard rumours the programme was being cancelled. Four days later, after returning from a convention in the United States, Nathan-Turner was told the truth by Jonathan Powell, Head of Series and Serials: Doctor Who was not being cancelled, but Season Twenty-Three was being postponed for a year.
In the ensuing weeks, BBC1 Controller Michael Grade would offer a number of reasons for the Hiatus; in truth, it appears that the BBC's real motivation was a combination of all of them. Season Twenty-Two's ratings to that point were the lowest since Tom Baker's final year in 1980. The programme had been criticised in some quarters for being too violent and humourless (despite the inclusion of dark comedy in serials such as Vengeance On Varos, The Two Doctors and Revelation Of The Daleks); these in particular were the reasons given to Nathan-Turner when he met with Grade in late February. But also, the BBC was facing a financial shortfall in early 1985, with the premiere of its expensive new soap opera EastEnders and the early debut of its Daytime News Service in advance of a similar offering by rival ITV. On top of this, there was almost certainly a degree of animosity directed toward Doctor Who by some BBC administrators -- and had been the case throughout virtually its entire history -- with Powell often cited as particularly disliking the programme.
Fan campaigns to save Doctor Who were quickly underway, soon joined by various media outlets. On March 1st, BBC Television Managing Director Bill Cotton took the unusual step of telephoning David Saunders, Coordinator of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, to confirm that Doctor Who would return in Autumn 1986. The show would returned to its original twenty-five minute format instead of the forty-five minute episode length used throughout Season Twenty-Two -- a decision made in part, Cotton claimed, to ensure a longer broadcast season for the programme. Despite this act of goodwill, however, an appearance on the BBC talk show Wogan that same night by Ian Levine, a high-profile fan who had acted in an advisory capacity for Nathan-Turner for several years, was cancelled at the last minute.
The next day, plans were announced to record a single to protest the Hiatus. Called Doctor In Distress, this was written and produced by Levine and Fiachra Trench, and featured the voices of Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Anthony Ainley, Nicholas Courtney, and a host of second-tier British entertainers, under the collective name "Who Cares?". Despite early rumours, such stars as Elton John and the Village People were not involved. Doctor In Distress was recorded on March 7th and 8th, and all proceeds went to the National Society for Cancer Relief.
Meanwhile, the decision to abort all of Nathan-Turner and Saward's current plans for Season Twenty-Three had an effect on Revelation Of The Daleks as well. The planned first story for the next year had been The Nightmare Fair, written by former producer Graham Williams. This had been originally submitted to the production office under the title Arcade, and stemmed from Nathan-Turner's desire to set an adventure in Blackpool after he and Colin Baker had made a promotional appearance there in 1984. Commissioned on November 17th, 1984, The Nightmare Fair would have featured the return of Michael Gough as the Celestial Toymaker, from the Season Three serial of the same title, and was to have been directed by Matthew Robinson, who had most recently helmed Attack Of The Cybermen. The closing line of Revelation Of The Daleks segued into this story, with the Doctor telling Peri that he will take her to Blackpool. In the wake of the cancellation of The Nightmare Fair, the season instead ended, on March 30th, with a freeze frame just before that final word.
The second serial of the original Season Twenty-Three would have been The Ultimate Evil by Wally K Daly, in which the evil Dwarf Mordant tries to provoke a war between two planets using a device which inspires fits of violence in the inhabitants. The director assigned to The Ultimate Evil was Fiona Cumming, who had last worked on Planet Of Fire for Season Twenty-One.
Beyond that, plans for the season had not been set in stone. Two other serials would almost certainly have been included. The first was Mission To Magnus by Philip Martin (originally called Planet Of Storms), featuring the return of Sil from his Vengeance On Varos alongside the Ice Warriors, making their first appearance since Season Eleven's The Monster Of Peladon. A new Time Lord character, Anzor, who had bullied the Doctor in his youth, would also have been featured.
The other story virtually guaranteed to be a part of the original Season Twenty-Three came from Robert Holmes. Called Yellow Fever And How To Cure It (or sometimes simply Yellow Fever), this was commissioned on February 6th, 1985. This would have been the year's three-part story (the assumption at the time being that Season Twenty-Three would follow the forty-five minute style) and would have featured location filming in Singapore. Holmes was to resurrect his monstrous creations the Autons (not seen since Terror Of The Autons at the start of Season Eight) alongside the Rani and possibly also the Master.
Although it was not certain, one of the final two slots likely would have gone to In The Hollows Of Time by former script editor Christopher H Bidmead, which had been commissioned on November 21st, 1984. The most prominent contenders for the last spot were The Children Of January by Michael Feeney Callan (commissioned on February 6th, 1985) and another story by Bill Pritchard. Other serials mooted for Season Twenty-Three -- including League Of The Tancreds by Peter Grimwade and adventures from Gary Hopkins and Jonathan Wolfman -- had already been discarded prior to the Hiatus.
In the wake of Season Twenty-Three's postponement, The Nightmare Fair, The Ultimate Evil, Mission To Magnus, and Pritchard's storyline were immediately abandoned. Pip and Jane Baker were commissioned on March 11th to pen a new serial called Gallifrey (reportedly misspelt Gallifray and featuring the destruction of the Doctor's home planet), and Holmes, Bidmead and Callan were asked to revise their scripts to suit the twenty-five minute structure. In late May, however, Holmes requested that Yellow Fever And How To Cure It be dropped, and all other adventures then being considered were abandoned around the same time. Nathan-Turner and Saward had decided that an entirely new approach was required.
The fan campaign continued to wage throughout the Hiatus, prompting Michael Grade to accuse some viewers of hysteria. To make matters worse, despite the BBC's initial assurances that the new Season Twenty-Three would last longer than recent years, at a convention in early April Levine announced that he had learned the BBC were contemplating cutting the season from twenty-six episode to just twenty, although Nathan-Turner immediately denied that this was so.
One bright spot for fans was the decision by BBC Radio 4 to air a six-part Doctor Who serial, the first time the programme had ever been broadcast on radio. Entitled Slipback, the audio adventure was written by Saward and featured Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant in their familiar roles, battling both a crazed spaceship captain who threatens to unleash a deadly virus on his crew and a schizophrenic computer that wants to restructure the Universe. Slipback was broadcast beginning on July 25th, with two episodes being transmitted per week.
In early June, Nathan-Turner and Saward were informed that the new Season Twenty-Three would in fact be only fourteen episodes long -- meaning that the season would actually air for only a week longer than Season Twenty-Two. This was leaked to the public on June 8th, but not confirmed by the BBC until December 18th. Despite the fact that new episodes would not begin airing until September 1986, instead of January as originally scheduled, the loss of so much lead-up time meant that Nathan-Turner and Saward really had precious little time in which to decide how to handle the new season length and the ominous edicts from their superiors to improve Doctor Who. Their eventual decisions would be no less contentious and controversial...