2nd Opinion, Part 1: “Revolution of the Daleks” – Not That Special
Following “The Timeless Children”, I declared I was done with Doctor Who. So why am I back here writing a review of the following episode? I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. Or maybe, I’ve found after months of reflection, I actually can’t just give up on a show I’ve loved for so many years of my life. Also, with some major changes looking to be on the near-ish horizon, I’m hoping Doctor Who might have a chance to get back on track…
To be clear, I don’t think at this point the Chibnall era will ever see a big jump in quality before it ends. He’s had more than enough chances now to prove himself as a writer. He misses the mark more often than he doesn’t, and for my money his era still hasn’t produced a bona fide classic in the vein of “Midnight” or “Blink” after two series. Further, I still cannot forgive Chibnall for so brazenly changing the Doctor and Gallifrey’s origins. However, I’m going to attempt to put that aside for now.
So, what did I think of “Revolution of the Daleks”? Well, the plot was basically a rehash of “Victory of the Daleks” mixed in with a bit of “Doomsday” and “Remembrance of the Daleks”, whilst also taking bits from his own “Resolution”. I can’t give Chibnall any credits for originality! But this story allowed for a bit of a Dalek vs Dalek war to play out, which is always going to be fun (even if the Doctor willingly causing this battle is a bit stupid, putting humans at greater risk).
I was surprised by how quickly the whole prison subplot was abandoned. While it was nice to have some blatant fanservice (A Weeping Angel, Silent, Ood, Sycorax, and er… other Chibnall “classics” like the Pting), where on Earth were the actual Judoon in their own prison? Also, remember, when the Doctor used to come up with inventive ways to escape captivity? Like spending literally billions of years punching through a diamond wall. I guess Thirteen is content to wait around this time whilst someone saves her. It’s quite amusing when you think about how Whittaker was literally trumpeted as a glass-ceiling-breaking heroine, yet we’ve seen on more than a couple of occasions now that her Doctor takes the easy way out. One episode ago it was an elderly man sacrificing himself in her place, and in this case, it was Jack Harkness rescuing her.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing Jack back in action (properly this time, and not just awkwardly crowbarred into the story). John Barrowman still has more charisma, and is more entertaining to watch than the whole main cast combined. And if someone had to save the Doctor, it should be Jack. Finally, the pair are reunited after being denied it in Series 12. Hearing the two catch-up was all too brief, but pleasing nonetheless. I was wondering how Jack knew what the Doctor looked like now though. Sadly, Jack’s warning about the Lone Cybermen turned out to be completely pointless with no lasting consequences for it to be even worth being brought up in the first place (and how did he even know?). Also, Jack’s exit seemed a bit rushed, in a voice over, off-screen no less.
The other big marketing point of the episode was of course Graham and Ryan’s departures, but this was easily the most uneventful exit for a major companion in New Who history. I barely felt a twinge of emotion. There were rumours about how the pair would leave that were much more interesting than this. Graham was hardly even in the episode, and Bradley Walsh was given almost nothing to work with. It was a problem with Series 12 in general, but to have so little to do in his final episode is bizarre. And what of Graham’s cancer? This was an ideal chance for the Doctor to make up for her non-response last time around, and say something in her goodbye, but… nothing. Meanwhile, Ryan at least got a couple of more interesting scenes, but Tosin Cole’s performance was so lacklustre. He sounded bored and uninterested, like he couldn’t wait to be off to his new US TV show.
As for Yaz, well, she at least faired a bit better than her two exiting co-stars. I thought the episode might be a bit different and have the companions figuring out how to save the world without the Doctor. While it started this way with Yaz turning hermit (did she do any actual police work during those 10 months?), it didn’t last long before returning to business as usual. Yaz’s best scenes though were her ones with Jack, which gave her a hint of characterisation.
Chris Noth’s Robertson was little more than a one note Trump-caricature in the woeful “Arachnids in the UK”, so I found it questionable they were bringing him back. Not much has changed here, but he was somewhat more tolerable. He’s still a moustache-twirling villain, but he at least got a snigger or two out of me this time. Harriet Walter was decent as UK Prime Minister Jo Patterson, but was killed off far too quickly to have any lasting impact. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett played the stereotypical, underappreciated genius Leo Rugazzi in a passable way, but suffered from the same fate.
Ultimately, for an episode billed as a “festive special”, there was nothing really “festive” or “special” about it. Instead, it was another by-the-numbers Chibnall episode. It contains all the faults that a typical Chibnall episode has: recycled ideas from previous Doctor Who and other sci-fi (hello, Alien’s facehuggers), underserved characters (particularly those leaving), uneven pacing and clumsy, exposition-heavy dialogue. Was it the worst Chibnall episode though? No. So, I guess that counts for something! There’s some enjoyment to be had, especially with Jack’s proper return and a Dalek war, but it’s a shame it’s buried under so many flaws.