After a dismal 2020, the 2021 new year kicked off with the now “New Year” tradition of Doctor Who, instead of the Christmas Day special we all love AND MISS (hint, hint, Chibnall!) and it was not a home run. I really think they are trying too hard after their early experiments with new ideas “hit and miss” during the first two seasons. They bring back Captain Jack Harkness, the Master, and the Cybermen after the first season with new Doctor Jodie Whitaker proved underwhelming after many “social justice” themed episodes. They even decided to rewrite the history of the Doctor with this whole “Timeless Child” shenanigans, the reveal of another Doctor, but even that was left at the wayside for this special.
I don’t want to jump around too much. I’ve voiced my displeasure at the writing under Chris Chibnall since he took over. He views Doctor Who as a platform for change, not entertainment. The Doctor has always been a character who makes statements about society and humanity as a whole, but it was done better under Moffat, even the original writers and caretakers of the mythos, but not Chibnall. His “in your face” way of storytelling does not have the subtleties that the Doctor requires. Such was the case in “Revolution of the Daleks” on New Year’s Day.
This was, without a doubt, a slam on 2020 and those in power. Chris Noth’s portrayal of Jack Robertson, who closely resembles the media’s ideal of President Donald Trump, was more of a villain than the actual Daleks. The same with the new Secretary/up-and-coming Prime Minister who is a stark reflection of former PM Theresa May. These two come together, after stealing the destroyed pseudo-Dalek from last year’s special, to make Dalek drones for combating rioting and social unrest, like say, people protesting lockdown during a pandemic. Like I said, without the science fiction, this special was 2020 in a nutshell.
Now, beyond that, the rest of the special had plenty of good things we love about Doctor Who. Imprisoned, the Doctor shared cells with a Weeping Angel, the Silence, and other creatures from past episodes. It was interesting to see her day-to-day life, and then Jack shows up. He does what he does best… Breaks her out of jail. Then the fun begins.
I was hoping for more sexual banter and tension between Jack and the Doctor, seeing that she’s a woman now, but they never went there. It was more dismissive than provocative, as in Jack’s encounters with 9 and 10. There was more chemistry between Jack and the companions than with the Doctor herself. So, for all the hype, there was not a lot to Jack being in this episode save for the little tidbit at the end when he mentioned the old Torchwood gang.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the episode itself, as it plays out as planned… Daleks built as security drones, Daleks reborn and take over the drones, Daleks begin rampaging across Great Britain. It gets fun when the Doctor brings in a Dalek death squad to deal with the “mutated” Daleks, as they are not pure, and then things come full circle and end. However, there are so many wholes in the plot I doubt a ton of Earth would fill it. I mean, why do the people of Great Britain keep forgetting about the Daleks. They have invaded time and time again, and when the Prime Minister unveils them as “security drones” you would think someone would say, “Hey, that’s an alien! It tried to kill us before!” I know Wilfred would!
I also have a couple of issues with the characters. I have complained about Jodie Whitaker’s portrayal of the Doctor. She still seems timid and not confident in her actions. Even when it comes to her “fam” — as she calls them — she seems unsure. I don’t know if it has something to do with this new regeneration or just a quirk in her portrayal, but it does bother me. Sorry, but I like a little swagger in my Doctor. Then, there’s the companions. Ryan was out of sync this episode, as he left at the end with Graham and leaving Yaz with the Doctor and introducing John Bishop as the new companion next season. Changing companions is nothing new, but this one seemed botched.
As I said, the special had its good and bad moments. The Dalek Death Squad vs. Dalek Drones on London Bridge was great. The Doctor sending said Daleks to the Void, also great. Robertson’s getting away with it in the end, no so great. And again, they seem to set aside the while Timeless Child/Master destroying Gallifrey plot from the end of last season. So, overall, this Doctor Who special was not one of my favorites. I will wait and see how the new season pans out.
# # #
Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.