There is action and nostalgia aplenty, plus a few emotional goodbyes, in Doctor Who‘s New Year’s Day special ‘Revolution of the Daleks‘
This review contains spoilers! If you haven’t seen Revolution of the Daleks, read ahead with caution!
After perhaps the longest nine months of most people’s lives, Doctor Who made a brief but welcome return to our screens tonight. It’s rather a relief to have been able to sit down and do something as normal as watching a new Doctor Who festive special in the wake of a very strange year.
It’s difficult to believe that Series 12 came to a close as recently as March of this year, its conclusion bringing with it some shocking and potentially game-changing revelations concerning the Doctor’s forgotten past as the Timeless Child.
Revolution of the Daleks picks up in the aftermath of The Timeless Children, with Yaz, Graham, and Ryan having been sent on a one-way trip home in a spare TARDIS, and the Doctor having been captured and locked up in an outer-space high-security facility by the Judoon.
Now, the ‘fam’are having to adjust to everyday life on Earth after ten months apart from the Doctor, whilst she languishes in prison several lightyears away (79 to be precise). However, life on Earth hasn’t stayed normal for long, as new Prime Minister Jo Patterson (Harriet Walter) unveils her new so-called ‘defence drones’, developed with the help of disgraced American businessman Jack Robertson (Chris Noth), and young technology CEO Leo Rugazzi (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett).
With the Doctor locked away, can Yaz, Graham, and Ryan (with the help of a certain Captain Jack Harkness) save the planet from another Dalek invasion?
A Doctor Who Story Fit For 2020
One of Revolution of the Daleks‘ most impactful features is how (perhaps unintentionally) topical it felt. As this story was written and film way back in the distant past of 2019, Chibnall and co. couldn’t have imagined how unnervingly relevant so many elements of this story would come to be to audiences watching at the beginning of 2021.
Patterson and Robertson’s plans to tackle civil unrest, and her speech outside 10 Downing Street promising safety and security felt like they were only just outside the realms of possibility. These elements of the story only made it more terrifying to watch as the so-called ‘defence drones’ turned on ordinary civilians and threatened to wipe out the human race. Even after all this time, it goes to show that the Daleks can still be genuinely scary.
On the subject of Revolution of the Daleks‘ supporting cast, Dame Harriet Walter was utterly convincing as Prime Minister Patterson, whilst Nathan Stewart-Jarrett’s talents felt somewhat underused as Leo Rugazzi, although it was hard not to be unnerved by the moment he first became possessed by the Dalek creature.
Chris Noth’s return as Jack Robertson, meanwhile, was far more enjoyable than I had expected it to be. I didn’t think much of his character when he first appeared back in Arachnids in the UK, but he fits right into this story and made for an excellent villain as he tried to make deals with the Daleks.
An Adventure Brimming With Nostalgia
Despite its, at times uncanny familiarity, Revolution of the Daleks provided what a lot of us probably need right about now – a hefty dose of nostalgia.
One of Revolution of the Daleks‘ biggest ‘selling points’ as it were has been the long-awaited return of John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness. From the moment he appeared on-screen, it felt as though he’d never been away. Barrowman’s chemistry with Whittaker and the rest of the cast felt completely natural, and he effortlessly became part of their group.
Although he still provided those great moments of comic relief we all love him for, Jack’s heart-to-heart with Yaz about her relationship with the Doctor was undoubtedly one of the stand-out moments of the episode.
Elsewhere, so much of Revolution of the Daleks felt like a trip down memory lane, particularly for this reviewer, who grew up with the revived series. The little references to Rose Tyler and Gwen Cooper, plus the brief cameos from monsters from across the years – Weeping Angels, Silence, Sycorax – brought a smile to my face. Even the bronze Daleks were a sight for sore eyes!
A Bittersweet Ending for the ‘Fam’
Another moment that viewers will have been bracing themselves for was, of course, the departure of Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole as Graham and Ryan respectively, which was confirmed a few weeks ago.
There was a fear that they’d never get to see the Doctor again, or that they’d be caught in the Dalek crossfire. Thankfully, neither of these was the case. Both of them got the emotional send-off they deserved, and one that brought their shared story wonderfully full-circle. Ryan and Graham’s exit felt natural for their characters, and it was very satisfying to see their stories wrapped up so well (not least because of that brief glimpse of Grace!) with that extra potential for their eventual return.
I was so glad to see the Doctor finally sit down and talk openly with Ryan, but the conversation was made bittersweet by the knowledge that he’d soon be leaving. These are the kinds of moments this Doctor hasn’t gotten to have with her companions over the past two series, as she’s tried to keep her distance from them, both emotionally and physically. As such, it was all the more impactful to see the Doctor finally embrace all of her companions as she bid them farewell.
Let’s hope that Series 13 brings with it more of these kinds of intimate moments and that we see Ryan and Graham again someday!
Looking Ahead to the Future
The conclusion of the Revolution of the Daleks brings with it the unfortunate realisation that Doctor Who won’t be back on our screens again for a while yet. In the meantime, however, we can begin to speculate how this new TARDIS team will look, particularly follow the surprise announcement that John Bishop will be joining the cast as Dan. It’ll be interesting to see how he fits into the Doctor and Yaz’s established dynamic, particularly considering the strength of Yaz’s bond with her. We’ll just have to wait until Series 13 to find out!
Doctor Who will return to BBC One and BBC America for Series 13, starring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, with Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan and John Bishop as Dan.