Sue couldn’t wait to see this story. The combination of Graeme Harper and the Daleks was just too much for her to resist and she was dying for it. Unfortunately, we had to postpone the experiment for a couple of days because I had a temporary threshold shift. If you’ve never been unfortunate/stupid enough to experience this yourself, it’s basically a muffled, ringing sound in your ears which can last for days. I had it in my left ear for 48 hours and I was practically deaf – and extremely worried – for a while, and if I’d watched an episode of Doctor Who with Sue, I wouldn’t have heard a single word she said. But I decided to wait anyway.
And the reason for my temporary loss of hearing? Standing next to a speaker at an Orbital gig so I could film this on my phone (you should probably turn your volume down before you play it):
Sue: Serves you bloody right.
But seriously, I have permanently damaged my hearing, so let this be a lesson to you, kids.
The story begins on the snowy wastes of Necros.
Sue: Peri is wearing sensible clothes again. I bet a million dads all switched off at once.
Peri clambers over the frozen wasteland so she can reach a nearby pond.
Sue: What the **** is she doing? Are the toilets backed up on the TARDIS and she has to relieve herself outside? What’s going on?
When the Doctor joins his companion, he is wearing a bright blue cloak.
Sue: What the hell is that?
Me: I thought you’d like it. It hides his coat.
Sue: Yes, it’s not as loud, but it’s still talking to me. He looks like he’s going to a fancy dress party as a jester.
Peri complains that her blue coat is too tight for her.
The Doctor: You eat too much.
Sue: Hark at chubby chops over there. What a cheek.
The Doctor and Peri have arrived on Necros to pay their respects to an old friend of the Doctor’s. Peri isn’t exactly thrilled.
Peri: I don’t even know this guy we’ve come to see.
The Doctor: Guy? Guy! You are talking about Professor Arthur Stengos.
Sue: Oh, I thought his name was Guy.
The action shifts to Tranquil Repose where a funeral is being arranged.
Sue: Nice set. Very Art Nouveau. Nice camera movement, too. And that guy in charge is very famous. I recognise his voice.
Me: That’s Clive Swift. He’s a lovely bloke and one of the show’s greatest ambassadors.
A young couple quietly make their way across the screen. They are Natasha and Grigory and they are seriously tooled up.
Sue: Their theme music is a bit weird. It’s a cross between The Professionals and The Teletubbies.
The Doctor and Peri are confronted by a snarling mutant on the surface of Necros.
Sue: The Doctor has taken his cloak off but he still hasn’t scared it off.
The Doctor tries to hypnotise the deformed mutant but he only succeeds in making it more angry.
Me: You won’t believe who they almost got to play this part.
Sue: Michael Caine?
Sue: Brian Blessed?
Me: Bigger as in more famous.
Sue: Laurence Olivier?
Sue: **** off! I was only joking!
The mutant has grabbed the Doctor by his throat, so Peri whacks him over the head with a branch.
Sue: I can’t imagine Laurence Olivier appearing in a zombie film. This is very intense for the time it went out. It’s Tea-Time of the Dead.
Sue: What the ****?
Yes, it’s Tranquil Repose’s resident DJ.
Me: Do you recognise him?
Sue: Yes, it’s Ozzy Osbourne.
A white Dalek glides through a corridor.
Sue: What a crap entrance. They wasted an opportunity, there. I like the new colour scheme, though. If Apple made Daleks, that’s what they’d look like.
Grigory and Natasha fight their way into the catacombs of Necros.
Sue: The camera movement is excellent. Shame about the crappy lasers, though. They should have stuck with the machine guns.
Peri tries to come to terms with the fact that she’s accidentally killed a man to death.
Sue: Don’t blame yourself, love. You only tapped him on the shoulder with a branch. He must have been suffering from a pre-existing condition to die from that.
Mutant: I think you’ve done me a favour. It’s not been much fun being like I am. You wouldn’t think I once looked like you.
Sue: It’s not exactly Hamlet, is it? Why didn’t Olivier do this again?
The Mutant says he acted in self-defence. If only the Doctor hadn’t attempted to hypnotise him!
Sue: WHAT? That was pathetic. Why didn’t you just say “Hello!” when you wandered into the scene? You can speak, can’t you?
Davros has definitely slimmed down since the last time Sue saw him.
Sue: I thought he was supposed to be dead? And what’s he going in that thing? Where’s the rest of him gone?
Sue is finding it hard to keep up with the revelations in Revelation of the Daleks.
Sue: I’m very confused. There’s a lot to take in. I’m a bit lost to be honest. How did Davros end up here?
Davros contacts a glamorous factory owner named Kara.
Sue: More new characters? Are they all on the same planet? Does this come together eventually?
Kara is assisted by her secretary, Vogel.
Vogel: I’m a past master at the double entry.
Sue: I bet you are.
Davros is only interested in one thing, and that thing is money.
Sue: So Davros wants cash? Is it because he’s running a funeral home now and he’s got bills to pay? I can’t imagine Davros hiring an accountant to make sure his payroll is up to date. It’s all a bit weird, this.
Davros isn’t very happy with his one-time employee of the month, Jobel.
Davros: I have offered you immortality, but you are content to play with the bodies of the dead, so you will MUAMAHIHUAHUBARWWROR.
Sue: What did he just say?
Me: Don’t ask me, I’m half-deaf.
The Doctor and Peri continue their journey to Tranquil Repose.
Sue: The Doctor is hardly in this story. I’m not sure how I feel about that. William Hartnell did more than this when he was on holiday.
The Doctor and Peri clamber over a wall, but Peri accidentally steps on something precious in the process.
Peri: I wouldn’t have had it happen for the world.
The Doctor: Forget it. I rarely use it.
Peri: But I know how fond of it you were.
The Doctor: Just don’t go on about it. I shall learn to live without it.
Sue: Cock innuendoes? Really? At this time of night? Am I going mad?
The Doctor jumps off the wall and Peri is left to fend for herself.
Sue: The Doctor doesn’t give a shit about her. I bet a day doesn’t go by when she doesn’t wish that he was still Peter Davison.
The catacombs of Necros are filled with swirling fog.
Sue: Graeme Harper loves his dry ice. I bet he was down on the studio floor, waving it around like a demented lunatic as usual.
Natasha and Grigory find a Dalek made from glass.
Sue: So Davros is sticking all the frozen bodies into Daleks? That makes sense, I suppose. He’s really blinging up the Daleks as well. You can see your face in that one.
Sue finally recognises the actor playing the DJ.
Sue: What the hell is Alexis Sayle doing in this? I don’t get it.
The DJ provides a running commentary on the action taking place on screen. Now, if only Sue could understand a word he was saying.
Sue: Warriors, come out to play!
Me: You know, I’ve never picked up on that reference before now. Well done.
Sue: This is what would have happened to Chris Moyles if he’d stayed in hospital radio.
The head in the glass Dalek is none other than Natasha’s dad, Arthur Stengos. He begs his daughter to kill him before the Dalek side of his nature can take control.
Sue: Fantastic scene. Really, really grim, but very, very good.
Kara has employed an assassin to take out Davros.
Sue: It’s Champions man!
It’s on her Christmas wish list. Oh joy.
Orcini is accompanied by his squire, Bostock.
Sue: Is that his Baldrick? Is he his sex slave? He’s wearing a dog collar.
The Doctor and Peri still haven’t reached Tranquil Repose yet.
Sue: He landed the TARDIS miles away. I know he wants to lose some weight but this is ridiculous. Get on with it!
Davros follows the Doctor’s progress on a monitor screen. He cackles uncontrollably at what he sees.
Sue: Is he laughing at the Doctor’s clothes?
Davros requests a meeting with Tasambeker, a put-upon employee of Tranquil Repose.
Sue: The giant W on her head isn’t a good look for her. Actually, I don’t know what a good look for her would be.
Me: A paper bag?
Davros decides to employ Tasambeker as his personal assistant.
Sue: He must be able to find a prettier PA than that.
Me: Good PAs are so hard to find.
The Doctor and Peri have finally reached the entrance to Tranquil Repose. Yay!
Sue: About bloody time. The episode will be over by the time they get involved.
A Dalek glides past them and Peri freaks out. If only she knew what it was.
Peri: I don’t know. Some sort of machinery.
Sue: I thought she knew what a Dalek was? She was a bloody expert on them last week.
Natasha and Grigory have been captured by two men named Lilt and Takis. But before they interrogate them, they decide to soften Grigory up by pouring the contents of his flask into his mouth.
Natasha: Stop! You’ll kill him!
Sue: Really? If I were him, I’d be saying, “Cheers, mate, I really needed that.”
The Doctor is horrified when he discovers a statue of himself in the Garden of Fond Memories.
The Doctor: This is dreadful.
Sue: Yeah, of all the Doctors to erect a statue to, they picked that one. Amazing.
The Doctor is convinced he’ll die in his current regeneration.
Sue: It might be a monument to how bloody wonderful you are. Don’t be so pessimistic.
The Doctor believes the gravestone is genuine.
The Doctor: Do you realise how much a thing like that would cost?
Sue: It can’t have cost that much. It’s rubbish. It’s got a bloody great crack in it for a start. Hang on, is it supposed to be moving like that?
The episode concludes with the Doctor flattened by his own face.
Sue: It’s polystyrene! What a bloody awful cliffhanger.
The credits roll.
Sue: I’m not sure how I feel about this. The direction is very good and some of the acting is excellent, but the Doctor hasn’t done anything yet and I don’t have a bloody clue what’s going on. The music is too loud as well. I’m not enjoying this one as much as I thought I would.
The Doctor has been crushed to death, but Jobel is on hand to comfort Peri.
Sue: She’s so used to this by now. She’d be more freaked out if the first person she met didn’t come on to her.
The Doctor emerges from the , unharmed but still covered in blood.
The Doctor: It’s not mine. Like the statue and this grotesque, it’s all part of an elaborate theatrical effect.
Sue: If by elaborate you mean completely stupid, yes, I agree.
Jobel and the Doctor don’t hit it off.
Jobel: It would take a mountain to crush an ego like yours.
Sue: He’s known him for less than 10 seconds and he’s hurling insults at him. The PR in this place is atrocious.
The Doctor and Peri have finally arrived in Tranquil Repose’s reception area. It only took them 48 minutes.
Sue: So the last episode was a complete waste of time. Hang on a minute… They’re not wearing the colour blue any more. Where’s their so-called respect now?
Takis confers with a computer that has a ridiculously sexy voice.
Computer: And what is your pleasure?
Sue: You’d never get any work done if you had a computer like that, Neil.
Tasambeker gives the Doctor the hard sell.
Tasambeker: For a small extra cost, you may purchase our personalised communication service.
The DJ spouts out more incomprehensible nonsense.
Sue: I’d pay extra not to listen to that, thanks.
Orcini is heading for Davros’ lair.
Sue: I love his performance. He has such a lovely voice. He’d have been a good Doctor, I think.
Me: To me, William Gaunt will always be a grumpy sitcom dad.
Sue: He’ll always be a champion to me.
Orcini obliterates a Dalek with his bastic bullets.
Sue: And he doesn’t **** about, either.
Peri gets to meet the DJ.
Sue: Why have they smeared the lens with vaseline? What’s that all about?
Peri: I’m Peri.
DJ: Is that your real accent?
Peri: Well, I hope so.
Sue: That was a bit awkward.
Down below, Davros seduces Tasambeker. No, not like that.
Sue: She is a terrible actress. Absolutely appalling. Why didn’t they get Pauline Quirke instead?
The Daleks have come for the duplicitous Kara and Vogel, and they won’t take no for an answer as Vogel sadly discovers.
Sue: He made a right mountain out of that death scene. One minute this is gritty and realistic, the next minute it’s summer season at Great Yarmouth.
Davros offers to turn Tasambeker into a Dalek and she readily agrees.
Sue: Good. Her acting might improve.
Tasambeker tries to warn Jobel about Davros’ plans for him, but he spurns her advances once again.
Sue: It’s a good part ruined. Seriously, this could have been wonderful with a decent actress in the role. What a shame.
Tasambeker stabs Jobel in his heart. He keels over.
Sue: Was his wig supposed to fall off like that? Or did they keep that in because it looked good?
Me: No, they did it on purpose.
Sue: It’s a nice touch. He was a vain tosser. There are moments of brilliance in this.
Orcini and Bostock make it to Davros’ lair. They pepper it with bastic bullets.
Sue: Davros is definitely dead. There’s no way back from that. His head is all scrunched up.
But no! The head was just a decoy!
Orcini and Bostock fight on but Orcini loses his leg in the process.
Sue: Davros can fly. My, my, he has been busy, hasn’t he. Do you think he started to make a dummy of himself in this chair but he got bored when he finished the head?
Meanwhile, Peri and the DJ prepare to make a stand against the Daleks.
Sue: This is the sort of shit you listen to, Neil. Is he going to bore them to death?
While that’s going on, Kara admits to Orcini that the beacon she gave him was actually a bomb. Orcini repays her with a BBQ skewer to the heart.
Sue: Good Lord. This is vicious stuff.
The DJ uses concentrated sound waves to defeat the Daleks.
Sue: That’s what happened to your ear drums the other night, Neil.
But the DJ celebrates his victory too soon and he is exterminated before he can take any further requests.
The Doctor is led to Davros’ lair.
Sue: I like the strategically placed ferns in the dungeon. They really liven the place up.
The Doctor and Davros meet again.
Sue: Davros is great. It’s a very good performance. But there’s one thing I don’t get.
Me: What’s that?
Sue: Why has Davros lured the Doctor here? Was he bored? Did he want someone to stop him? What?
As luck would have it, Orcini’s squire isn’t as dead as we thought.
Sue: Come on, Baldrick, blow his head off.
Bostock blows Davros’ hand off instead.
Sue: Why didn’t he aim for the head? It’s bigger! That is frustrating. Oh my! Are those Davros’ fingers on the floor? It’s a bit full-on, this.
Takis tells Davros that he’s called for backup.
Sue: Even this bloke with the beard has done more to sort things out than the Doctor has. Why is the Doctor even in this story?
Davros is arrested by some old-skool Daleks.
Sue: It’s a great performance from the actor playing Davros. I really believe that he’s pissed off, here.
Davros is escorted away to stand trial for war crimes on Skaro. The Doctor grabs a machine gun and he blasts the eyestalk of a Dalek that has been left on guard.
Sue: Finally! The Doctor actually did something!
The Dalek’s vision is impaired and it cannot see.
Sue: And the Weeping Angel in the corner looks on in embarrassment.
Orcini decides to sacrifice himself. It’s the honourable thing to do.
Sue: Awwww. He’s going to die cuddling his best friend. Bless him. He’s going to die a real hero’s death.
But Davros gets away in the nick of time.
Sue: Oh, for ****’s sake! That was pointless!
Tranquil Repose is rocked by the resultant explosion.
Sue: That looked pretty good. The script is a mess but this could have been a lot worse if Graeme Harper wasn’t involved.
When things have calmed down, Peri asks the Doctor do take her somewhere fun.
The Doctor: Alright, I’ll take you to B-
Sue: That was a game of two halves. There were moments of excellence and moments of stupidity, but the thing that really annoyed me the most is the Doctor did bugger all. He was just a bystander. If he hadn’t turned up, that would have turned out exactly the same way. So what was the point? Champions man saved it for me. He was the real hero. And Davros was good, too. The direction was alright but the sound mix was so bad I couldn’t understand half of what was being said (and my hearing is fine, thanks) and the script was all over the place. I am very disappointed. I don’t know what that was, but it wasn’t Doctor Who.
Later that night, I subjected Sue to a compilation of news stories which covered the 1985 hiatus announcement.
Sue Lawley: The Doctor Who Appreciation Society is up in arms. They’ve called the decision “horrifying and staggering”.
Sue: Horrifying? That’s a bit extreme. No one died. I can’t believe this was on the main BBC news. It must have been a very slow news day.
Me: Do you think the BBC were right to rest the show?
Sue: Not really. If they weren’t happy, they should have got another producer in.
And then I tested our marriage – and the experiment – to the max. If there’s ever a good time to suffer a temporary threshold shift, this is it:
Sue: I listened to the radio a lot in 1985 – I spent half my time driving up and down the A1 – but I don’t remember ever hearing that.
Me: What did you think?
Sue: I’ll have to watch it again. There was too much naffness for me to take in. I thought it was a spoof at first.
Me: You actually want to watch it again?
Sue: Yes, let’s see who I can recognise this time.
Here are some time-coded comments from Sue:
Sue: (0:24) That’s Bobby G from Buck’s Fizz, after the accident, I think. He doesn’t look very well, bless him. Is Cheryl there? People used to say I looked like Cheryl.
Sue: (0:32) I have no idea who she is. Is it one of the Human League?
Me: It’s Hazell Dean.
Sue: Wasn’t she a has-been already by this point?
Sue: (0:39) That’s Justin Haywood. We’re going to see him tomorrow night.
Me: He’s not doing the War of the Worlds live tour any more.
Sue: Oh yeah, it’s Gary Barlow now, isn’t it?
Me: He’s not doing it, either.
Sue: Who is doing it, then?
Me: Marti Pellow.
Sue: ****. You didn’t tell me that when you bought the ****ing tickets. Okay, press play again.
Sue: (0:48) No, sorry, I haven’t a clue.
Sue: (1:11) Pepsi from Pepsi and Shirley? I don’t ****ing know.
Sue: (1:16) That’s Colin Baker. Oh dear.
Sue: (1:25) I don’t know who that is but they can’t sing.
Sue: (1:35) Nik Kershaw?
Sue: (1:41) Is that Faith Brown?
Me: Yes. They couldn’t afford the real Tina Turner.
Sue: (1:49) The bloke from ABC?
Sue: (1:49) Sorry, I don’t know who that is.
Me: That’s Hazell Dean! I told you that less than two minutes ago!
Sue: Hazell Dean again? Have they run out of celebrities already?
Sue: (1:56) A woman from Man About the House! Er… why?
Sue: (2:01) Is it the lead singer from Imagination?
Me: I think he’s a member of Tight Fit. Or Hot Gossip. I forget which.
Sue: And you call yourself a fan?
Sue: (2:33) That’s David Van Day from Dollar. He’s really going for it. Didn’t he try to take over Buck’s Fizz after this?
Sue: (2:41) I have no idea but I think somebody is holding a gun to her head.
Sue: (2:50) Is it the Master? Oh my God. What is he doing?
Sue: (3:02) The woman from Ace of Base? How am I supposed to know?
Sue: (3:17) The Brig isn’t singing, I notice. He’s no fool. Bobby G looks depressed. Is the man in the dark glasses a Bunnyman?
Sue: (3:29) I think Colin’s trying to hide his face. He’s probably ashamed. And who can blame him?
It’s over. Finally.
Sue: So did that thing actually help?
Me: Not really. It still came back 18 months later.
Sue: So does this mean I’ll get some time off as well?
Me: Yes. About 18 hours, if you’re lucky.