Julien Neaves, Editor
After a tumultuous year it was a good feeling to kick off 2021 with some good old Doctor Who. And this was a New Year’s special with fan favourite character Captain Jack Harkness, The Doctor’s greatest nemesis The Daleks as the villains, and was the farewell episode of two companions. I mean, not even the notoriously unreliable Chris Chibnall could mess this up? Right? Right?
Sadly, like an unskilled cook Chinballs (sorry, I keep making that error) used the best of ingredients and produced a less than appetising meal. With an Allons-y, Geronimo and a Gallifrey-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s breakdown Revolution of the Daleks.
Previously on Doctor Who. So The Doctor is locked up in intergalactic jail and her fam is on Earth. Sure it doesn’t make a lick of sense that the Judoon would suddenly arrest her now after ignoring her completely on multiple occasions, but whatever. And as I like to give Jack his jacket and Jane her blouse I will say I enjoyed the prison sequence.
Jodie had a chance to flex her acting muscles, the production design was great, and it was fun seeing the Weeping Angel and the other alien inmates. Heck, I was even happy to see the ridiculous Pting again. Jack’s rescue of The Doctor was also entertaining and exciting, and they had a sweet reunion. But after this sequence it was pretty much downhill from here.
As I have said before I was excited to see Jack back. He is a larger-than-life character and always brings wit, charm and energy to the proceedings. But not even the enormously talented John Barrowman could do anything with this inept writing. Firstly Jack and The Doctor spend little to no time together. The Doctor is now a beautiful woman and Jack doesn’t even flirt? But then that would require Chibnall and company addressing The Doctor’s sexuality and that appears to be something they are appear unwilling to do. At least we got a glimpse of that side of Jack with him sexy winking at Graham.
And Jack’s mission with Yaz was decent enough and it was funny how unimpressed with him she was. The second mission aboard the Dalek ship, though, felt like an afterthought. And you take the time to have him explain his immortality and then do absolutely nothing with it? And, by the way, is the Thirteenth Doctor a pacifist? Because both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors disapproved of Jack’s violent methods. When Cap tells The Doctor he is going to blow the Dalek ship up she has zero issues with it. What made the Doctor-Jack dynamic so interesting was the contrast between the conservative and the hyper sexual, between the diplomat and the soldier. There is none of that here. But if Chibnall can’t even write The Doctor consistently we really shouldn’t have expected him to do Jack justice. Not even name dropping Rose and Gwen can make up for that.
I am a big fan of continuity so I appreciated that they brought back the Jack Robertson character — aka thinly veiled Donald Trump — from Arachnids in the UK. And kudos to Chris Noth for making him sleazy and unlikable. But The Doctor ferrying him around made zero sense other than for some comic relief. And his inevitable betrayal made The Doctor and her fam look even more stupid.
And speaking of stupid, that scientist guy has to be the dumbest genius ever. You are just going to clone an unknown species? What a complete idiot. And The Dalek taking-over-the-body thing was great in the last special Resolution but here it was just a whole lot of meh. On the positive side I liked the black Dalek design and The Doctor’s plan to use the “pure” Daleks to destroy them was an intelligent one.
But that brings me back to the whole pacifist thing. I mean, yeah, The Daleks are evil incarnate but they still are living, sentient beings. The Fourth Doctor famously struggled with destroying them in the Genesis of the Daleks. Sure War and Ninth had no problems killing them but they were Time War and post-Time War. When the Metacrisis Doctor wiped out the Daleks in Journey’s End the Tenth Doctor was horrified. In Revolution, Thirteen has no compunction about destroying thousands of living beings. Mind you this is the same Doctor that was concerned about killing giant spiders. And as someone pointed out on Facebook she killed a sentient TARDIS to destroy them. Now if Chibnall wants a dark, bloody Doctor that’s fine. But this is just more evidence of the highly inconsistent writing.
And as we are on The Doctor I have to say her characterisation here was one of the worst I have seen so far, and that is saying something. The Doctor is supposed to be a leader and the smartest person in the room, even to the point of arrogance. Here she moped around so much that Ryan has to shake her out of her funk. And she needs a hint from Yaz to figure out the Dalek light issue? The companions are supposed to be the viewer surrogate. For the Thirteenth Doctor it’s like she is useless without her “fam”. And instead of a more than 2,000-year-old time traveller we got more of a new Time Lord going through a midlife crisis. I love strong female characters, especially in Sci Fi, but I don’t think Chibnall knows how to write them.
And now for the big emotional companion farewell. Yeah, I’m still waiting for it. We’ve had modern companions get trapped in parallel universes, have their memories erased, leave after their families were traumatised, or even killed. But Ryan leaves because he wants to help his mates? And Graham, aka the only good companion, leaves because he wants to stay with Ryan. And queen of bland Yaz sticks around because she is obsessed with The Doctor and that apparently is the only character development she needs. And then at the end they remembered Ryan has dyspraxia and they call back to the bicycle training scene from his first appearance.
Yeah I felt like shedding a tear but it for how far this mighty show has fallen. Sure the episode wasn’t awful but it was terribly mediocre. And Doctor Who used to be epic. It used to be mind-blowing. But not any more. There are rumours that the next series will be Jodie’s last. I hope the rumours are true and she takes Chibnall with her. Because we have no hope of the show returning to greatness outside of regeneration.
Julien’s Score: 5 out of 10
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.