Revolution of the Daleks

Posted in Episode by - January 02, 2021
Revolution of the Daleks

Aired 01 January 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Without yet knowing what the full fallout will be, ‘The Timeless Children’ effectively changed the Doctor’s entire understanding about herself and the entire mythology of Doctor Who in the process by revealing distinctly non-Gallifreyan origins for the Doctor and regenerative capabilities. Opening with the Doctor now serving time in jail for supposed crimes committed by one of her earlier selves, ‘Revolution of the Daleks’ by Chris Chibnall takes time to reflect on what has come before while boldly setting out a new trajectory for upcoming adventures.

Having witnessed the apparent destruction of Gallifrey once again, the Thirteenth Doctor finds herself in a similar position to that of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors as she believes herself to be alone in the universe. The confusion and grief surrounding recent events is palpable, and her physical confinement that keeps her apart from a menagerie of familiar foes she has crossed paths with before is an apt metaphor for her current mental and physical state. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time to truly explore what the Doctor is feeling or to have her truly confront what she is reported to have done because a willing escape accomplice in the form of a tech-laden Captain Jack quickly reveals himself. This is an effective means of escape to get the Doctor back to Earth and her friends, but it’s an obvious narrative shortcut that undermines some of the personal drama inherent to this setting and leaves too many questions surrounding Jack’s actions to get near the Doctor and primed for this escape that a trademark wink and smile don’t really fulfill.

Back on Earth, Ryan, Graham, and Yaz are understandably hurt and confused by the Doctor’s absence given how their previous adventure ended. To their credit, they have continued with the good fight as Yaz tries to discover any hidden message the Doctor may have left them while Ryan and Graham scour the news for reports of any mysterious happenings, and the three quickly and boldly confront Chris Noth’s returning Jack Robertson over his plan to deploy Daleks as security drones throughout the UK. That they are so easily shut down and dismissed is somewhat expected though still underwhelming, but that they seem to blame that on the lack of psychic paper and a sonic screwdriver is an unexpected statement that practically defines the Doctor by her equipment and so doesn’t ring wholly true. Still, the empty shell of the reconnaissance drone provides an apt follow-up to ‘Resolution’ and the detritus that the Doctor leaves behind after saving the day while also firmly reminding everyone that UNIT and Torchwood as purported protectors of the Earth are both no more, leaving alien technology more readily available for those in the public with certain connections and lack of scruples.

There’s little effort to conceal the parallels between those in power in the US and UK at the time of this episode’s writing, and although the allegory is rather blunt, it’s still an effective mirror of the times as matters of and desires for national security become increasingly prominent. However, although the created Daleks are genuinely frightening when used as riot control, the ultimate Dalek storyline is a fairly contrived one that has been seen in various iterations multiple times before. In fact, because the episode has so much ground to cover, the new security Daleks are disposed of all too quickly and easily after the Doctor furtively summons the true Daleks to exterminate these versions because of their known quest for racial purity. It’s a fairly verbatim revisit to ‘Victory of the Daleks,’ but the Doctor’s ultimate victory brought about by destroying the backup TARDIS effectively resets the traditional standards of the victorious Doctor and her one TARDIS continuing ever onward.

Of course, the Doctor’s time away from her friends had given them all plenty of time to think about where they were as people and where they saw themselves going. Every companion’s time with the Doctor must end, a fact that Jack bluntly tells Yaz who has formed such a deep connection with the Doctor and clearly does not plan on leaving, but the modern series has put itself in the position of having to create convoluted ways for companions to have to leave the TARDIS without choice given the immense potential and excitement that the Doctor offers. There are exceptions, of course, but Ryan’s very open decision to stay behind to attain stability with relationships as he continues to mature is poignant and an immense developmental step for this character even if the buildup work was done offscreen. Graham’s resulting decision to stay behind to watch his grandson take those steps despite so obviously wanting to continue on with the Doctor is equally touching, and that family dynamic that has been so important to the Thirteenth Doctor will be sorely missed. With these two now sporting their own psychic paper and with Jack casually mentioning that he would be visiting Gwen Cooper, there are certainly further stories to be told surrounding Earth’s protection, but even if that does not come to fruition this is a fitting ending for two beloved companions. And although the confidence and scope of ‘Revolution of the Daleks’ is hampered by its constant rush to fit more in, the final scene of Graham and Ryan is perfectly executed and a strong reminder of just how far these two have come.

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