Warning: This post contains spoilers for Revolution of the Daleks. If you have not seen it yet, come back after watching it.
The Doctor is imprisoned halfway across the universe. On Earth, the sighting of a Dalek alerts Graham, Ryan and Yaz. Can the return of Captain Jack Harkness help them stop a deadly Dalek takeover?
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 10 months since we last saw the Doctor and her three companions. At times, I struggled to remember having a series of Doctor Who in 2020. It feels good to have her and the “fam” back, even if it is only for a special.
Why were you in prison in the first place?
Evading the Judoon. Twice at once. Then once I was in, they took 7,000 other offences into consideration.
They stopped at seven?Captain Jack Harkness and the Thirteenth Doctor
The story pays homage to some other Dalek stories but ultimately feels as though it puts some flesh on the bones of some of the ideas that came up in Resolution, their last appearance on New Year’s Day 2019. It starts off fairly slowly, getting players into the places they need to be, but builds up to a frenetic confrontation and a nice call back at the end. Whilst inspiration seems to have come from earlier stories, most specifically Victory of the Daleks, there were differences which made this story more enjoyable for me. I liked the fact that it was human interference and curiosity that led to the rise of the Daleks here, rather than it being a wider Dalek plot. As soon as it was mentioned that the new ‘defence drones’ were going to be unveiled by the new Prime Minister, Jo Patterson, before beta testing was completed, alarm bells started ringing that something was going to go wrong. One thing that was slightly mishandled was the escape, as it felt all too easy for Jack and the Doctor to escape, making it feel as though the Doctor hasn’t been really working to escape. I was sceptical about the return of Chris Noth as Jack Robertson here, but I think he works well here as someone who cannot be trusted, although, again he comes away with his reputation seemingly repaired, with talks of a potential knighthood and second stab at the US Presidency, whilst his fellow human conspirators fall by the wayside.
Resolution showed that the Dalek mutant was almost as much of a threat as the travel machine, and this is an idea that this story picks up and runs with here. The scenes in the Robertson owned facility in Osaka, where the Dalek mutants are being grown, are some of the creepiest in the episode, and when Leo is being controlled by the Dalek mutant he is suitably creepy. Like he did in Resolution, Nick Briggs is possibly at his scariest when he is voicing the mutant possessing Leo. I quite liked the new design of the Daleks and the simple transition between blue and red to signify their transition from the AI to being Daleks. The story returns to that old thorny issue of Dalek purity, and whilst I was perhaps disappointed at how quickly the potential civil war was dealt with, it did perhaps reinforce what poor imitations Robertson’s Daleks were. The shot of the ‘pure’ Daleks encircling the TARDIS in the sky above the Earth is beautiful too, and whilst the eventual defeat is a bit underwhelming, the visuals of the TARDIS being destroyed by the forces of the void are equally stunning.
Thanks? Is that it?
Are you feeling insecure? Cos you seem to need a lot of praise.Captain Jack Harkness and Yasmin Khan
It’s great to see John Barrowman back again, coming face to face with the Doctor for the first time in over a decade. As mentioned in my review of Fugitive of the Judoon, Barrowman brings a lot of charisma and screen presence and the role seems to come back to him really easily – not surprising, considering that he has been playing the role for Big Finish for the last couple of years. Jack here serves a similar role to Sarah Jane in School Reunion, gently reminding the audience that companions don’t stick around forever. It’s worth remembering that these three companions still don’t know the Doctor terribly well – they only learnt where the Doctor came from and that she can regenerate relatively recently – and so Jack does have an important role to play, especially for Yaz. Jack understands how it feels to be abandoned by the Doctor, for considerably more than ten months. Whilst his departure from this story feels overlooked, I think it is open for him to come back at some point – and it is nice to have a name drop for Gwen, Rose and appearances for various foes in the prison.
The relationship between the Doctor and her companions has changed, largely due to the fact that the Doctor was unable to get her TARDIS back to them in a timely fashion. It has enabled Ryan to think about what he wants to do with his future, and the discussion between the Doctor and Ryan is one of the high points of the episode, in part because again, he is the only one that she completely opens up to about events on Gallifrey. Whilst I haven’t been the biggest fan of Ryan during the show, his and Graham’s departure did make me quite emotional. Their arc felt as though it reached it’s logical conclusion at the end of their first season, and despite their departures being left quite open, I don’t think we’ll be seeing them again. Yaz seems to have taken the ten month gap hardest of the three, and keen to jump into danger when given the option once she was back. It’s no surprise that she wants to stick around, and personally, I’m interested to see what happens with her and the Doctor as we go into Series 13.
As for the Doctor herself, the events of Series 12 and her time in prison. Whittaker gives some hints of what might be to come and I liked the eventual defeat of the Daleks, which ties up the loose thread of the other TARDIS left on Earth. Her scheme to get rid of the Robertson Daleks by getting the bronze Daleks involved and her ultimate scheme to get rid of the death squad Daleks feels like a scheme out of Troughton or McCoy’s playbook. Her reaction to the departure of Graham and Ryan is fantastic, especially when she thinks about crossing her own timeline to visit her companions sooner. We know that there’s a new companion coming in the Doctor’s future, as well as a shortened series coming later this year, so there are certainly interesting times ahead.
Verdict: The return of the Daleks is a bit of a barnstormer, wrapping up some loose ends. It has a good departure for two of the Doctor’s companions, but has some issues with pacing towards the beginning and the Doctor’s escape from prison. 8/10
Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Chris Noth (Jack Robertson), Harriet Walter (Jo Patterson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea (Armen), Helen Anderson (Rachel), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator 1), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek Operator 2), Emily Maitlis (Herself), Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks).
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Lee Haven Jones
Behind the Scenes
- The story was mostly filmed with the rest of Series 12 in 2019, however, Chris Chibnall confirmed that one additional scene was filmed in 2020.
The moment that the Doctor and Jack land back in the TARDIS after escaping the prison.
No weapons. No time to think. All that time in that cell, wondering who I am. I’m the Doctor. I’m the one who stops the Daleks.The Thirteenth Doctor
Previous Thirteenth Doctor story: The Timeless Children
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