The last time we saw the Doctor, she'd just been told that everything she knew about her history was a lie, and then she was promptly thrown into a maximum security prison, while her "fam" returned to Earth, not knowing if they'd ever see her again. All of that happened in March 2020, which now feels like 100 years ago. There's no better way to start a new year than with the return of our favorite Time Lord and company, including Captain Jack Harkness!
(Warning: Many spoilers ahead.)
American businessman Jack Robertson is back, and he's accidentally given the Daleks a path to attempt another takeover of Earth. Yaz, Graham, and Ryan (who are still readjusting to "normal life") do their best to investigate Robertson, but they really need the Doctor's help. Fortunately, Captain Jack Harkness busts #13 out of prison, and she reunites with her fam 10 months after they last saw each other. Yaz has a different take than the others about life without the Doctor, which leads to a heart-to-heart with Captain Jack. Meanwhile, the Doctor is still processing everything she learned about herself in "The Timeless Children." However, she puts that aside to come up with a plan to defeat the Daleks once again and prepare for new adventures. However, not everyone is staying with her.
- "Revolution of the Daleks" was written by showrunner Chris Chibnall, who has a mixed record, but we loved "Fugitive of the Judoon" in the last series, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt here.
- This story is a continuation from the last New Year's special, "Resolution of the Daleks," which seems a little risky. Either you need fans to remember what happened a year ago, or you have to spend a good portion of this episode explaining it to them.
- We know Jack Robertson was tipped off about the transport of the now-defunct Dalek, but how did he know exactly where the driver would stop to get tea? What was the backup plan if the guy decided to go elsewhere?
- The sun will rise, the sun will fall, and Doctor Who will still have the best TV theme music of all-time.
- Not sure who was clamoring for Jack Robertson's return. His 2018 episode, "Arachnids in the U.K." wasn't much to write home about, and Chris Noth's portrayal of the Donald Trump wannabe is pretty cartoonish.
- Robertson is working with future Prime Minister Jo Patterson to create an army of security drones that happen to look like Daleks. We will just mention this now and then try not to harp on it for the rest of this post: Doesn't everyone in London already know what a Dalek looks like? That bugged us for the entire story.
- The Doctor has been in that prison for a long time. Given a comment Jack makes later, it sounds like she was there for at least 19 years. We're a little surprised River Song never taught her how to escape. You'd think that would have come up at some point during their marriage.
- It's a quick little bit of fun to see other prisoners include a Weeping Angel, an Ood, and a Pting. We think a member of the Silence may have shown up later, but we forget.
- Yaz apparently lives in Ruth Doctor's TARDIS and is having a much harder time adjusting to post-Doctor life than Graham or Ryan (who both seem fine.) This is a much more interesting storyline from our perspective than dealing with Daleks. There's nothing that can compare to adventures with the Time Lord, but the ride does usually end abruptly, and it makes sense that companions would struggle adjusting both to that and/or a return to "normal" life. We've seen it with Sarah Jane Smith, as well as almost every "modern era" companion.
- That struggle is the central theme of At Childhood's End, by Sophie Aldred, which dives into Ace processing everything that she went through with the 7th Doctor. Great read. Highly recommended for Doctor Who fans.
- Captain Jack finally meets the 13th Doctor so he can break her out of jail. This was an entertaining. The role still fits John Barrowman like a glove. We wouldn't mind if Jack periodically stopped by now and again in the next series. Maybe he and the Doctor can find someone else to fight instead of a Dalek or a Cyberman.
- Not much about Doctor Who actually puts us behind the couch, but Daleks outside of their casings are disgusting.
- The TARDIS interior looks great in just blue. Any chance of leaving it that way? Nope, here comes the orange. Oh well.
- You have to love a good old-fashioned dramatic TARDIS entrance. The beautiful blue box really is the top star of the show. The Doctors come and go, but she keeps everything moving.
- Seriously, doesn't everyone in London know what a Dalek looks like? Sorry, that just slipped out.
- Hey, we get a Rose reference. Is that a throw-away, or will we come back to it?
- Enjoyed Jack's heart-to-heart with Yaz about needing to be able to enjoy the ride with the Doctor even though it probably won't end well. Is this foreshadowing her eventual departure from the show?
- When do we think was the last time this Jack saw the Doctor?
- Not sure why the first cloned Dalek takes Leo the scientist to the clone farm, and then a few minutes later, Jack walks in and says, "It's a clone farm!" We know, we just saw that. Also, when did "Possessed Leo" have time to build this thing?
- The Doctor tells Jack Robertson that the Daleks = hate, and it's dangerous when hate can spread so easily, which feels like our lesson for the evening.
- This version of the Time Vortex is gorgeous. More of this next series, please.
- The Doctor and Ryan have a heart-to-heart. Despite everything Jack just said about not having control over when you leave the Doctor, Ryan seems about ready to do just that. This is the most confident he's sounded all series. He's connected with his dad, is helping his friends, and he seems prepared to take on a new challenge on Earth.
- The Doctor talks about all life on Gallifrey being destroyed again (somehow we doubt that), and that she's still dealing with her feelings about her "true" history. She says she's angry, and that's a terrific sign. We're all for #13 being a generally happy character, but the Doctor always has an edge that needs to be kept in check. It's one of the best dynamics on the show, and we wouldn't mind seeing her lose her temper again next series, as she tries to work out her actual life story.
- She and Ryan discuss how change can be scary, but it's a good thing, and we all need to understand that it's a fact of life. That sounds like a comment to all of the old-school fanboys who haven't stopped complaining since Jodie Whittaker took over the role.
- We actually get an explanation of how "possessed Leo" built the Dalek clone farm, but it still seems like he put the whole thing together in about 24 hours.
- The Daleks want to convert Earth into a base. Wouldn't they remember that they've been here before and it never goes well?
- The scene where the Dalek kills Leo feels a little disturbing. They make the point that they don't have to kill him but then do it anyway.
- The Doctor mentions Daleks being unusually obsessed with purity, considering they're mutants. We know Daleks are based on Nazis, but that feels like a shot at the white nationalist groups that have risen up in the United States over the last four years.
- The Doctor figures out a way to save the day, despite Jack Robertson trying to sell her out. There's a touch of arrogance to her explanation to the Daleks, and we are here for it.
- Robertson just gets to act like his betrayal never happened? Not only that, but it sounds like his political ambitions have been reignited. That seems like a cynical-but-accurate reflection of the age of Donald Trump.
- Hey, we've also got a Gwen Cooper mention. Is Torchwood returning?
- That's a wrap, and it's time for the next ride, but Ryan has had enough. This may be the most low-key companion departure of the modern era. It seems like Ryan basically shrugs and says, "I'm good staying here and fighting for the Earth," and the Doctor frowns and then accepts it. Actually, Graham (who was a pretty low-key presence in this story) tops that by pretty much saying, "I'll just hang out with Ryan. Thanks, Doc."
- Will Ryan and Graham eventually join Mickey Smith and Martha Jones? Where is that going?
- Of course this Doctor is a hugger. Not hugging fit Peter Capaldi's Doctor, but the modern era Time Lord generally enjoys the occasional embrace.
- She gives both men their own psychic paper, and again we ask, is this a set-up for a Torchwood revival? At the very least, it tees up a new Big Adventures audio series for these guys.
- We're good with the two men leaving. They finished their story arc a while back, and three companions is too many. However, we wish their departures hadn't been announced ahead of time. This scene might have had more of an impact if we hadn't know it was coming for weeks.
- The final clip is a preview of actor/comedian John Bishop as the new companion. Much like the departures, why did this have to be announced ahead of time? Why couldn't we just meet the character in the next series and then be surprised when he joins the team? Too much to ask in the Internet Age?
"Revolution of the Daleks" was a fine start to the new year. We could use a break from Daleks for a while, but that adventure was sufficient. The inner conflict of a Doctor's companion can go in all sorts of directions in the future, and there's also still much more ground to cover regarding the Doctor's true background. Reducing the number of companions, even by one, could go a long way to streamlining stories in the next series. Overall, we'd give it a B/B+.
Thanks for joining us, everyone. We hope you have a terrific 2021, and we'll see you back here again when the Doctor and Yaz return for Series 13!
A new fight against an old enemy. (pic via radiotimes.com)