Once again this year, Blogtor Who is looking at all the nods and references to Doctor Who adventures which have gone before. This time its the turn of Revolution of the Daleks. So even if you are not already a Mastermind expert on all things in the Whoniverse you can appreciate the little detail as well. Perhaps you are a very knowledgeable Whovian already but did you spot them all?
There’s one blast from the past in Revolution of the Daleks that’s truly larger than life. Captain Jack Harkness is back in the box! It’s hard to believe that it was back in 2005 that John Barrowman’s 51st century omnisexual Time Agent travelled with the Ninth Doctor as a companion. Now fifteen years, and four Doctors, later he’s back once more. Incredibly, that’s as long as the so-called ‘wilderness years’ when Doctor Who wasn’t on TV any more. Or. to put it another way, between William Hartnell first emerging from the fog in IM Foreman’s Junkyard and the introduction of K9. But in between Jack’s had four return appearances, four seasons of his own TV spin-off, and numerous adventures on audio. (Thanks to Russell T Davies and Big Finish, we’ve even learned his real name). So somehow it feels like he’s never really been away.
The British government’s new ‘Defence Drones’ in Revolution of the Daleks have a familiar silhouette. Even among Daleks, their slimmed down shell and irregular hemispheres are very unusual. In fact, we’ve seen them only once before – the recon Dalek’s makeshift travel machine in 2019’s Resolution. Of course, as Chris Chibnall hinted last year, there’s a plot reason for that. These new Daleks are human-bred, based on the recovered wreckage left behind in GCHQ at the end of Resolution.
They also call to mind Dalek stories of the past in another way too. This isn’t the first time, Daleks have been presented themselves as allies or servants before the exterminating starts. Power of the Daleks featured the famous protestation “I AM YOUR SER-VANT!” as they pretend to be useful tools in a civil war on the planet Vulcan. And more recently in Victory of the Daleks they posed as ‘Ironsides,’ Churchill’s new weapons against the Nazis. And even in their origin story, Genesis of the Daleks, they go along with their creator Davros’ orders only until they don’t need him anymore. And, as in those cases, they play the part of Patterson and Robertson’s defence drones only for as long as they need to…
But the recon style Daleks aren’t the only ones back this year. Oh no, the bronze Time War era Daleks are back too! Like Jack, they’re a product of Davies’ resurrection of the show in 2005. Though attempts have been made to reinvent the design since, most notably with the ‘New Dalek Paradigm’ of 2010, it’s these chunky, riveted, Daleks which return again and again. At this stage there’s as much a part of Doctor Who’s DNA as the original props which debuted in 1963.
Their appearance in Revolution of the Daleks also plays into that old standby – the Dalek Civil War. Just as the human-bred and original Daleks go to war on each other, so did the originals and their ‘replacements’ created by Davros in the 1980s stories. A conflict which continued to define many of their appearances in the novels of the following decade too.
Our good captain’s not the only Jack who’s back in the special. Jack Robertson makes a return following his debut in 2018’s Arachnids in the UK. Back then he was your standard morally compromised billionaire, incapable of listening to experts over the roar of his own narcissism. But he’s now evolved into a figure that could be termed ‘Stupid Davros.’ While Terry Nation’s 1975 tale of the Daleks’ genesis depicted their creator as intelligent and he was bereft of humanity or conscience, Robertson is a new progenitor that uses bluster and misplaced arrogance as a substitute for actual smarts. How very 2020.
The former home of a certain Mr. Chicken, and present day official residence of the British Prime Minister, has a Doctor Who history all its own. 10 Downing Street first appears in the 1973 story The Green Death, where catch a glimpse of the Cabinet Room as the Prime Minister himself takes the phone to give the Brigadier a verbal slap down. It’s another 32 years before years, though, before we get to see the iconic front door and street (actually ‘played’ by John Adam Street in London). Despite being blown up by the end of Aliens of London/World War Three, it’s rebuilt in time for the Master to murder the entire cabinet there in The Sound of Drums. In Revolution of the Daleks it swaps the Master for the Daleks as it plays host to Jo Patterson’s press conference to unveil them as Britain’s new line of defence.
Patterson herself, meanwhile, is just the latest in a series of PMs in the Whoniverse. We only see the back of the head of that Prime Minister in The Green Death. But we do know his name is “Jeremy” in reference to then Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe. That bit of speculation didn’t pay off, with the Liberals failing to become the kingmakers at the next election, and Thorpe winding up accused of attempted murder. (As detailed in RTD’s A Very English Scandal). But the next prediction, when 1975’s Terror of the Zygons featured a phone call with an unnamed female Prime Minister, came true with Margaret Thatcher’s victory in 1979.
Another anonymous PM – who infamously was supposed to look a bit like Tony Blair but didn’t at all – was found dead in a cupboard in Aliens of London. And in 2010 we went back in time to meet Winston Churchill in Victory of the Daleks. Meanwhile, dialogue over the years also names Blair and Thatcher as having been past PMs in the Who universe as well as ours.
Jo Patterson, however, is completely fictional, even if Blogtor Who can’t help but point out that Theresa May was still PM when Revolution was written. As such, she follows in the footsteps of Harriet Jones, who served during The Christmas Invasion (2005), the Master’s alter ego Harold Saxon who schemed with the Toclafane to conquer the Earth in The Sound of Drums (2007), and Brian Green from Torchwood:Children of Earth, who was more concerned with spinning events to keep his own job than protecting the planet’s children from the evil 456. With Patterson conspiring with Robertson to unleash the Daleks for her own ends, it’s safe to say British premieres don’t have the best track record in Doctor Who…
Jack promises to give the Doctor’s love to Gwen Cooper, the Torchwood agent the Doctor briefly encountered on TV. But with the Doctor set to guest star in the Big Finish Torchwood audios this year, maybe they’ll get to know her better? Speaking of which, while Big Finish have created new series of Torchwood set post-Miracle Day, Revolution of the Daleks is the first we’ve heard of Gwen’s son! She defeats a Dalek this New Year’s Day with little more than her son’s boxing glove. But last we heard she had one daughter, Arwen. So that’s a fun new continuity challenge for the Big Finish team to get their heads around!
Rose! Doomsday! Parting of the Ways!
Revolution of the Daleks is also chock full of references to Captain Jack’s original time in the TARDIS. And, admittedly, the way Jack tells the story – he was killed by Daleks, brought back to life and made immortal because of the Doctor and Rose, before Rose got trapped in an alternate universe – it does sound a little far-fetched. It certainly earns the ‘EH?’ it gets from Graham. And it’s certainly no wonder Jack has “Dalek issues;” after all “you never forget your first death.”
Doctor Who Series 13, starring Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, and John Bishop, is currently filming and will return!