After a cheeky dig at Star Wars, Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks wastes absolutely no time getting right to the heart of the drama. Then just sort of meanders there for 45 minutes until things finally pick up.
Anyway, we begin at the GCHQ with a brief recap of the last special involving the Daleks. 367 minutes after defeating the Dalek, the hulking remnants are transported away in a HGV Truck. Only, the vendor by the side of the road drugs him and hijacks the vehicle, heading off for parts unknown.
We then catch a glimpse of our antagonist of the episode – the one who committed genocide against the spiders. Nope, it’s not the Doctor, it’s Jack Robertson. Alongside a Brainiac called Leo Rugazzi, he shows Jo Patterson a taste of the pressures our police force are under.
Determined to push through with their master-plan, the duo unveil a new breed of Dalek, complete with water cannons, CS gas and an AI interface. As we know though, Daleks are obviously not going to stay docile for long.
Well, Jo Patterson likes the sound of this increased security, especially when Jack butters her up and admits that this is the so-called iPhone of the security world. In fact, she’s so enthused she decides to fast-track the project and roll it straight out Nation-wide; like a videogame that hasn’t been thoroughly tested – this is bound to cause serious problems.
Meanwhile, 79 billion light years away the Doctor is trapped in an alien prison, forced to face all the old monsters of the past including a solitary weeping angel. (Side note: Now did the Angel move while everyone is looking at it?! Ah well, the Statue Of Liberty moved so I guess it’s best not to question these things!)
Among the inmates happens to be Captain Jack Harkness who manages to bust his way in and save her using a vortex manipulator and what Jack calls a “break-out ball”.
Back on Earth, Graham and Ryan show Yaz footage of the new model of Dalek currently doing the rounds. They inevitably confront Jack but he’s upped his security since the spider incident – and also his NDA agreements too.
What he hasn’t accounted for though is Leo’s curiosity, which sees him grow the remnants of the organic matter inside. Jack obviously wants it destroyed and leaves, but not before telling him, “This is why people don’t like experts.” Of course, in true “subtle” Chibnall fashion, this is a throwback to Michael Gove’s comments pre-Brexit.
This curiosity does land Leo in hot water as he winds up a puppet to an organic Dalek he’s been brewing. Sadly, this Dalek has been concocting his own organic army in the heart of Osaka, Japan.
With the Doctor safe, our time lord touches back down on Earth and learns it’s been 10 months since she was last there. That’s the least of their problems though, as “the fam” catch the Doctor up on what’s happening with the Dalek.
They immediately touch down in the heart of Robertson HQ, as the Doctor meets Jack again and sees this mass-produced army of Daleks first-hand. Only, these ones are empty shells. Annoyingly, no one on Earth seems to remember the Daleks either and are completely indifferent to their presence.
The real facility is in Osaka though, which Jack and Yaz head off to examine themselves. These two have a lovely heart to heart, a surprising one too that actually does a good job with both actors as they feed off each others’ regrets and talk about the sacrifices of traveling with the Doctor and what that means in the grand scheme of things. “The joy is worth the pain,” Jack finishes.
Only, their troubles most certainly are not finished. Nor is the pain either. Jack and Yaz do their best to sabotage the Dalek facility but it’s no good, the Daleks are too much. Well, thankfully the Doctor and her “fam” are on the way. A despairing Doctor gets some tips from Ryan who does his best to cheer up the downhearted Time Lord.
It seems to do the trick and eventually they all arrive at the facility. The Doctor sees Leo and promises he’ll get him out of this mess. The Leo-Dalek explains his plan in meticulous detail, right down to liquifying humans to feed the Daleks. Jack Robertson’s biggest problem? How much of a PR disaster this is. Brilliant. Pure, capitalistic brilliance!
Anyway, the organic matter quickly teleport into their Nation-wide shells and begin exterminating everyone in their sight.
With Leo dead, the Doctor decides on a nuclear option that could backfire. However, they’re left with little choice. Captain Jack is not enthused with this idea but agrees to go along with this all the same.
The Doctor sends a reconnaissance signal through time to the Death Squad Daleks; a specially designed squad intent on making sure the Dalek race remain pure. Of course, given the mutant DNA in the ones on Earth, these most certainly are not. The plan works; the Daleks touch down and square off against their own.
Only, there’s a wildcard here in the form of Jack Robertson. He’s determined to sell out the human race and even tells the Daleks about the Doctor.
Jack, Ryan and Graham head off to blow up the Dalek ship. There, they begin laying the explosives but eventually learn Robertson has sold them out, given he’s onboard this same ship. Anyway, the Daleks decide against killing Robertson and it proves to be their downfall, especially when Jack and the others leave and blow the explosives.
The Doctor uses the chameleon circuit to trick the Daleks into flying onboard her Tardis (it’s not really her Tardis) and that causes them all to fly off into the void where they disappear for good. Or at least until the next Doctor Who special.
Back on the Tardis, Ryan and Graham leave the Tardis. He’s ready to be at home with his family, and eventually starts teaching Ryan how to ride a bike again.
The Episode Review
After a long hiatus, Doctor Who returns for its scheduled New Year’s Day special. With a return of the infamous Daleks, Doctor Who continues to suffer from lackadaisical writing and contrived scenarios that play on nostalgia and ideas from the past.
The returning Captain Jack Harkness does help to add some energy into the episode but there’s another politically charged agenda on the table, this time surrounding the police force and ongoing protests. While it does work well with the story being told, the actual plot line borrows heavily from Dalek stories we’ve seen before, namely during David Tennant’s tenure with the Dalek/human abomination.
We’ve seen this mutant hybrid story before but to be fair the added inclusion of the deliciously evil Jack Robertson does give the episode a bit of added flair. Where the episode is less organic however, is in the crowbarred speeches that feel sloppy and contrived.
The Doctor and Ryan’s conversation in the Tardis is a great example, it just doesn’t feel natural. By comparison, the Dalek spewing exposition about the big, bad plan while the Doctor and the others stand and watch it pace back and forth is such a tired trope of yesteryear and another example of the lazy writing. There’s not even any self-realized, “You sly dog, you caught me monologuing!” moment to lean into this.
However, the cinematography looks great and compared to what we’ve seen before, Doctor Who actually delivers a pretty episode here. As a die-hard Doctor Who fan I do appreciate I’m pretty harsh with my critiques and most people will actually enjoy what’s here.
It’s not perfect, especially with the “emotional” goodbye from Ryan and Graham completely flatlining, but it’s an above average Chibnall episode and I guess that’s about as good as we’ll get from this generation of Doctor Who!