Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks
January 2, 2021 2:59 PM - Season 13 (Specials) - Subscribe

"Revolution of the Daleks" is a special episode of Doctor Who, first broadcast on BBC One on 1 January 2021. It featured the return of Jack Harkness and marked the Thirteenth Doctor's reunion with her companions following the events of The Timeless Children. Continuing the Recon Dalek storyline begun in Resolution, a new line of Daleks were introduced, cloned from a remnant of the original recon scout. Their new design is a variant on the Recon Dalek's own casing. It also saw the return of bronze Daleks, last seen in 2017's Twice Upon a Time, leading to a battle between both factions, similar to Remembrance of the Daleks and Blood of the Daleks.

The episode also saw the departure of Bradley Walsh as Graham O'Brien and Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair.

Synopsis from As the Thirteenth Doctor marks her days in prison, elsewhere in the universe the Daleks are presented on national television. They are the new Defence Drones, designed to protect the British public. Left behind on Earth, Yaz, Graham and Ryan need their friend more than ever. Now with Daleks on the assembly line, and a familiar face behind their production... What would the Doctor do?
posted by jazon (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just finished watching this, so my thoughts on it are still settling. But, I really liked the ending where Ryan explains how his time with the Doctor has changed him for good. I don't recall hearing that with a previous companion and I thought it was a good departure for both Ryan and Graham.
posted by wittgenstein at 3:43 PM on January 2, 2021

After so many new-Who companions coming to tragic ends, I was just relieved that Graham and Ryan got to exit the Tardis voluntarily and go home.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:03 PM on January 2, 2021 [6 favorites]

Andrew Ellard's remarkably detailed Twitter commentary moved to Medium.

For those who don't know, Ellard is a TV script editor and has been doing Tweetnotes for years - I think he started regularly with notes on Doctor Who during Moffat's era. Ellard is a professional and knows what make a script work and what could be improved. And sometimes he admits things still work for him, even if he can see other ways to do it. I enjoyed this episode while watching, with some annoyances (the TARDIS takes four minutes to get to Japan, just so the Doc and Ryan can have a heart-to-heart conversation), but as a writer, I appreciate how Ellard deconstructs a scripts.

I did like the fact that Ryan and Graham chose to leave, but I do wish some of that fed into the drama of the episode. I know there's foreshadowing throughout, but the story isn't about them and they don't really get a great dramatic moment of their own. Yaz gets more "moments" and she's the one who is staying!
posted by crossoverman at 9:44 PM on January 2, 2021

I liked the new Dalek designs, and the villainy of Jack Robertson, you can just imagine Elon Musk doing the same...

The emotional stuff seemed a bit clunky and over-explained.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:01 PM on January 2, 2021

This was kind of bland, but I'll give it this...I think Chibnall must have been visited by three ghosts overnight or something, because despite its length, this didn't have the big flaw of the last couple of seasons: trying to jam about eight different plot threads into a space that can support maybe four, leaving no room for anything to properly develop or resolve.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:03 AM on January 3, 2021

I think Ellard makes plenty of fair points, and I'd add that it's kind of insane that humanity is apparently ok with Dalek drone-cops despite Daleks invading London every other year. Like, Daleks are hardly a secret thing. They are a known, ongoing, existential threat to humanity. Dressing cops in SS uniforms would probably be slightly less controversial.

Having had some time to think about the Doctor's retconned origins, I've grown to really dislike the whole business. It seems like something the next showrunner will have to explain away, or ignore like the "I'm actually half human" thing from the American TV movie. I think Chibnall was one of the weaker writers on this show and he never should have been made showrunner. I'm waiting for him to be gone and I hope he doesn't do too much lasting damage in the meantime.

The reveal of the new companion at the end was weird. Maybe it lands differently in the UK, where that actor is more famous, but for those of us who don't know him it's just a few random seconds from some guy's day. The way they shot him made me wonder if he might be the Doctor's first male love interest. The neckbeards should take that well.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:40 PM on January 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

I kiiiiiiiinda want to dig up the result of prior NuWho Dalek incursions - some of them were completely wiped from history (Bad Wolf) or Amy Pond's Spacetime Crack swallowed them hole, and a bunch more were small UNIT/Torchwood incursions that might not have legitimately gotten broad popularity, but I'm sure there were at least a _few_ that were big enough to be popularly known, right?

posted by Kyol at 4:14 PM on January 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

A previous episode makes fun of the general public’s ability to quickly forget major life-changing invasions. It is just a fact of life in the Dr Who universe that the Earth gets invaded every few months without affecting the person on the street very much at all, apart from a few exterminations here and there.

I liked this episode, although I was looking forward to a clever jailbreak subplot and Captain Jack turning up just felt rushed. The Doctor should have been able to get herself out but once that was out of the way the rest of the show was enjoyable enough.
posted by AndrewStephens at 4:28 PM on January 3, 2021

It seems that Jodie Whittaker is officially leaving at the end of the next season, so cue people angrily shouting actors' names at each other. Hopefully the show runner will be leaving at the same time, though that's not been confirmed.

It would be nice if he were replaced by someone who was better at writing episodes, or at least had some kind of singular sensibility, able to make something that when it wasn't good it was at least remarkable, and that they employed an actor they were excited to be writing for. That combination seems to have inspired the most gratifying episodes of the last fifteen years. The current show runner has served the current Doctor very badly indeed.

I linked to the Andrew Ellard thread because he's someone who knows what he's talking about who can express the problems I've had with the series recently much better and with greater authority than myself.
posted by Grangousier at 4:55 PM on January 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

At this point Whittaker's departure seems more like a rumor than a done deal, but if she leaves it'd be a shame that she never got to play the role with another showrunner. I've never felt like she was the weak link here. She seems more than capable of playing the role, but they keep giving her weak scripts.

I think my biggest issue with Chibnall, even aside from the wonky plotting and pacing issues, is that his emotional scenes rarely land with me. Half the time I'm left wondering why the characters are feeling what they're feeling (WHY is Yaz so angry at the Doctor for being in jail? WHY is the Doctor acting like she let Yaz down, by being in jail?) and the other half the time I understand it but I just don't... feel it. RTD and Moffat had their problems, but when they wanted you to feel sad you were sad. RTD's early episodes were really weird that way, because they could be almost as clumsy as Chibnall but then he'd hit you with some genuinely devastating scene. Chibnall just doesn't have the chops for that. Some of the unpopular stuff returning here, like the Lilo and Stitch alien and the pseudo-Trump guy, almost make it seem like Chibnall is trolling us. I've heard that Broadchurch was supposed to be really good, but that's kind of hard to imagine based on what we've seen here.

That Ellard thread mentioned the weirdness of the Doctor casually imploding a TARDIS when they've suddenly become quite rare, but I'd add that it's even more weird when the show has semi-recently established (after hinting at it for many years) that TARDISes are sentient, with personalities and strong opinions. I can see the Doctor sending a TARDIS on a suicide mission to take out a bunch of Daleks, with the consent of the TARDIS, but it seems like it would be a much more grave affair than we saw here.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:25 PM on January 3, 2021 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I was thinking the same sort of problem. I mean, OK, Star Trek: Discovery has had 41 episodes with the crew together and Thirteen has only had 22 episodes with her companions, but I'm still more emotionally invested in the activities of Michael Burnham and Saru in a way that Thirteen really hasn't managed. I don't think it's a problem with Whittaker, but the last 2 seasons have been both kind of lifeless _and_ unemotional, which is no way to go through television. They've been watchable, and maybe they're hitting the metrics that they're aiming for, and maybe it's just that subscription TV has just caught up with and surpassed the quality that broadcast TV can offer? But I can't even think of any specific critiques, either.
posted by Kyol at 8:09 PM on January 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I hated every bit of this so much that I barely registered Captain Jack (always awesome). Fuck the Gwen shout-out. That character was worse than than Owen.

The strangest, most insidious decision was retconning the summer's protests into mindless riots. People were mostly peacefully marching to bring attention to long-standing injustices. There was pushback, in the show, against using the Daleks but no pushback against the portrayl of the protests. Which says a lot about how the writers see the world. Fuck the constant killing off of black, male actors. I guess that was the only way Ryan could be allowed to leave intact. Fuck all that shit.

And the relationship between the Doctor and the companions is fucking weird. She was gone 29 years from her POV and they're all acting like she was somebody's wife who had gone out for cigarettes one day and never came back. It was just ten months for them! The Eccleston incarnation took 20 yrs, I think, to give Sarah Jane a proper goodbye.

Plus, the Doctor shouldn't need rescuing. Does anyone remember that the Capaldi incarnation spent centuries wearing down prison walls? That was earned emotion. That was The Doctor. If she spent 29 yrs in that stupid prison it should have been because she was keeping someone company or taking a vacation or plotting someone else's rescue. She's capable of so much more than this utterly stupid storyline.

Give the show a break for a few decades. Or send it to a farm upstate.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 10:37 PM on January 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

This show needs a Bryan Fuller at the helm.
posted by Marticus at 11:34 PM on January 3, 2021

The strangest, most insidious decision was retconning the summer's protests into mindless riots.

It was actually shot in 2019, months before the protests. That also explains the very 2019 shout-out to J.K. Rowling. I was kind of surprised they didn't cut that, actually. (In fairness to the Doctor, if she's been in space prison for years I suppose she may have missed hearing about Rowling's transphobic meltdown.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:18 AM on January 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

That also explains the very 2019 shout-out to J.K. Rowling. I was kind of surprised they didn't cut that, actually. (In fairness to the Doctor, if she's been in space prison for years I suppose she may have missed hearing about Rowling's transphobic meltdown.)

Possibly. It certainly gave me whiplash to see a character who had recently changed gender presentation quoting a transphobe.
posted by Mogur at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh wow, someone found Dalek tech and accidentally recreated the Daleks. Again. Maybe next time have more security on the HGV than one guy who likes to stop for tea.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:09 AM on January 5, 2021 [4 favorites]

And for god's sake it would be so much easier to learn to ride a bike in an empty carpark with smooth tarmac than on a bumpy, grassy hill.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:09 AM on January 5, 2021 [7 favorites]

I tried to give this a go. I actually didn't finish the last season, after finding the show so utterly off putting. Dr Who was my show in a way that it's hard to describe. It's not that it was my favourite piece of television by any stretch of imagination, but I had spent a childhood watching scraps of random Dr Who episodes on whatever godforsaken channel they turned up on, or even on VHS.

So the show coming back, and being so dynamic and full of life was so great. Then just as it was getting tired, and Davies was reaching the edge of his abilities, Moffat came in with new exciting sensibilities and took the show in a new direction. He stumbled on his journey a few times, but produced some genuinely great pieces of television.

But now we have Chibnall, and I just.. what are his sensibilities? It's certainly not a funny show anymore, and it's usually not very exciting. It's not emotionally engaging, and it's definitely not well plotted. I find Chibnall has ideas, but just doesn't know what to do with them. The Doctor being in prison is potentially fun, but he does nothing with it, and the Doctor just sits there and waits for rescue. And, appallingly, the rescue is really dull too! Jack pull a magic bauble out and then they just leave. Why even put her in prison if you're going to resolve it with absolutely no drama?

It's just dumb, plodding stuff, and I'm tired of it. I feel mean doing it, but I'm just willing Chibnall to leave so I can actually enjoy Dr Who again.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:47 AM on January 5, 2021 [10 favorites]



thank you.
posted by nonasuch at 10:28 AM on January 5, 2021

As much as I love Paul Cornell's episodes of Who, he really hasn't done much TV in the last decade and has no showrunner experience. I'm actually not sure who (hehe) it might go to next, as Moffat and Chibnall felt inevitable. I'm not sure any of the recent series writers really jump out as worthy showrunners. Besides, as hit and miss as Chibnall's first two seasons were, I'm happy to see where he goes in the next series. I think he's said The Timeless Child arc is five seasons, so we've probably got another two series with him... and the 60th Anniversary special in 2023.
posted by crossoverman at 3:10 AM on January 7, 2021

Urgh, I'm groaning at the prospect of another two series of "Timeless Child" stuff. It's like the "Rise of Skywalker" or Midichlorians again. I want the hero to be an ordinary person who made something special of herself by her actions and choices. I don't want the hero to be the result of a superior bloodline or magic genes. Why do they think that makes the story better?

There was a Guardian interview with various SF writers on world-building lately and I liked this comment from Alastair Reynolds:
As a consumer of science fiction, I love those moments when a character will make some offhand reference and nothing more will be said of it. As in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, when the Doctor refers to the battle of Reykjavík in the 51st century. The idea that he knows this nugget of future history stimulates my imagination far more than if I’d been shown what it was...

It’s miraculous to me that the stories I wrote 20 years ago still get people thinking, that they go off and do fan art about spaceships or the characters. I love it, but I’m also very wary of the perfectly natural fan thing of wanting to know more. Trust me on this – the less I give you, the more you’re going to enjoy it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:56 AM on January 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

That also explains the very 2019 shout-out to J.K. Rowling. I was kind of surprised they didn't cut that, actually.

Possibly. It certainly gave me whiplash to see a character who had recently changed gender presentation quoting a transphobe.

Me too-- but maybe it's just setting up the episode where they find out that JKR is really a malevolent alien using her powers over the imagination for evil. Maybe a Slitheen or something.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:39 AM on January 7, 2021

It's really ironic that a show that has all of space time to play with and loves to remind us of that actually never leaves its own backyard and has no idea how it would even try.
posted by bleep at 11:02 AM on January 30, 2021

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