Doctor Who: REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad


Tony joins the revolution.

Timelines are odd things. And one thing we know to be forever true about the Doctor is that she’s not great at tidying up after herself.

These are important things to keep in mind going into Revolution Of The Daleks, because it’s a story which acts as a sequel to at least three timelines left unfinished in the wake of the 13th Doctor’s one-problem-at-a-time approach to the universe.

Firstly, the reconnaissance Dalek finished off by the Fam in the last New Year’s Day Special turns out not to have been quite as finished off as they thought.

Secondly, Jack Robertson, the powerful American sleazeball introduced in Arachnids In The UK, was left unpunished at the end of that adventure. He’s been busy since then, dabbling with advanced drone tech.

And thirdly, the Doctor’s in space-prison. Separated from the Fam, who were left on Earth, she was zapped into a penal asteroid at the end of Series 12 by the ever-zealous Judoon.

These three timelines converge to form the basis of Revolution of the Daleks.

The Doctor, alone, is having a crisis of confidence and identity. In the aftermath of the Timeless Children revelation that she wasn’t born on Gallifrey (alright, four timelines…), she wonders who she really is. Does being the Doctor mean anything, divorced from the history she’s always owned? And if not, what does it matter that she spends decades, or even lifetimes, in the Judoon’s cell?

Meanwhile on Earth, some forces are moving, and some are standing still. Ten months of relative time go by, and waiting for the Doctor to come back turns into accepting that she’s probably dead, and from there into trying to get on with their lives – at least for Ryan and Graham. Yaz, though, is standing still, in the spare Tardis that played a role in getting them home, trying to work out how to make it move, or how to track the Doctor down, and get back to their adventures.

It’s a divergence in the Fam that will prove to be prophetic as the episode unfolds. Yaz is not ready to give up on the Doctor and return to her Earthbound life. Ryan is reconnecting with the structures of his life, taking the positive change of his time with the Doctor forward into new relationships and challenges. And Graham is trying to live the way the Doctor would want them to, rather than focusing his energy on trying to recapture his time with her.

In some ways, this is a dilemma we’ve seen before. In School Reunion, Sarah-Jane Smith revealed that she’d never got involved with anyone after she returned home, always wondering if the Doctor would just suddenly come back for her one day. And knowing that if he had, she’d have gone – and that that would have been unfair to anyone she loved. In The Death of The Doctor, Jo Jones too speaks of that little pang in the heart, knowing that the Doctor’s probably out there somewhere, without her.

Splitting the Fam up in their reaction to ten long months of cold turkey without the Doctor can only mean we’re in an episode which is as much about people as it is about science fiction. Which in some respects is just as well, because if two series of the Thirteenth Doctor under Chris Chibnall have taught us anything, it’s that he’s far more comfortable writing intimately about people than he is writing giant, sprawling science-fiction opera.

Meanwhile, the Recon Dalek’s casing is being used as the prototype for a series of entirely robotic security drones by Robertson and his pet genius, Leo. As a timely upgrade to the stories from which it draws the bulk of its DNA, Power of the Daleks and Victory of the Daleks, we have former Technology Secretary and now Prime Minister Jo Patterson preparing to roll out Dalek drones as electronic police officers and border guards. Patterson is player by Harriet Walter, who can be guaranteed to add value to any production, even when called upon to do ‘the Chibnall thing’ and deliver chunks of unnecessary exposition about how her character was the one who gave Robertson the Dalek tech in the first place…

As a plot-strand, there’s precisely nothing wrong with this update of the Power of the Daleks scenario. It’s bright, it’s modern, it’s relevant to the concerns of our age, and it still centres on the stupidity of human beings, thinking they’re in control of a situation in which Daleks are a crucial part. Let’s even get briefly controversial – it’s a much better retelling of that basic story than Victory of the Daleks was, because the logic checks out all down the line, whereas in Victory, fun though the imagery was, the logic was utterly bat-crap crazy if subjected to even the slightest assessment.

Cue Captain Jack, all cheekbones and recycled Russell T Davies dialogue, to bust the Doctor out of space-jail. Really speaking, that’s by no means what he’s here for. He’s here to make fans cheer and go ‘Yay! Captain Jack!’ and he’s here to pass on the torch to Yaz, the patient one, the one who will always be there till she can’t be there any more. The one who may just possibly have at least a Platonic crush on the Doctor. Mayyyyybe more. We’ll see. As Yaz tells him, ‘You’re inferring a lot from a shove,’ but establishing that they are some sort of kindred spirit is literally the only thing in Revolution of the Daleks for which you need Jack. Beyond that, he’s just a forgotten Christmas present, discovered on New Year’s Day, a frisson of excitement from the Immortal of Christmas Past.

When the Doctor gets her Fam back, there’s room for more moping, more emoting, more genuine character development. A ‘keeping it real’ chat between Ryan and the Doctor gives both of them the best scene in their Doctor Who history to date, and for Tosin Cole, also possibly the most words he’s had to say in any episode yet. More of this, earlier on, might have warmed up more of the fandom to Ryan’s character. But pleasingly, their conversation advances both their characters, while the Power of the Daleks Redux storyline pootles on outside.

There’s some slightly dangerous territory as the Resolution plotline of an innocent turned into a puppet for the uncased Dalek is recycled beat for beat, but the pacing of this episode allows for it to seem much more natural than the cut-and-shunt style of Resolution. The Dalek production line, the separation of mutants from cases, the feeding of Daleks on liquidized human, is all very groovy and nostalgic – a lot of Power of the Daleks, a smidgen of Revelation just for extra-gruesome kicks. And the traditional Dalek power-flip is delivered well. Suddenly, the Dalek ‘drone’ cases, previously empty, are filled, plugged into a Dalek’s consciousness of hate and boom! Extermination-fest.

The Doctor’s plan for dealing with these new, human-built Daleks is of course stark raving bonkers. In fact, it’s jusssst stark raving bonkers enough to make a sort of Doctor Who sense. The ‘SAS’ Daleks are purity-bouncers. Full on Nazi nutters in tanks – ‘You’re DNA’s not pure, you’re not coming in.’ Sure, let’s invite them to the party…

But it does allow for the resurgence (Ooh, Resurgence of the Daleks, you heard it here first…) of another Classic era Dalek truth. In the words of Seventh Doctor companion, Ace, the Daleks are set to ‘hate each other’s chromosomes.’ One lot of blobs versus another lot of blobs-with-bits-on. Dalek wars go back as far as Evil of the Daleks, but the difference of allegiances, of DNA, of ‘blobbiness’ was especially an 80s phenomenon, which reached its peak in Remembrance of the Daleks. As such, the amount of Classic Who DNA crammed into Revolution of the Daleks is actually fairly impressive.

For the first time in a while, there are two opposing factions of Daleks on our screens. What’s gonna be wrong with that?

Well, ironically, what’s wrong with it is the essential premise of the episode.

There are certainly some almost shot-for-shot Russell T Davies moments here. The ‘true’ Daleks sailing out of their ship in vast ranks. The ‘new’ Daleks flying through the streets of Earth on an extermination rampage, etc. But the moment of negotiation between the sets of Daleks on Clifton suspension bridge feels truncated. And in its briefness and inevitable outcome, it reveals both the cleverness of at least Phase 1 of the Doctor’s plan, and central visual shortcoming of the story. The new Daleks, as she more or less explicitly says, are not going to be that much use as a universal baddie. Sure, compared to hapless humans, they’re bloodthirsty killing machines with an upgraded range of offensive weaponry. But bottom line, they’re built by humans, using Earth metals, earth technology. Throw them up against real Daleks, and they’re going to be a greasy smear on the floor in a matter of minutes.

So, we’re robbed of some of the dramatic space opera of full-scale Dalek wars in the skies above the Earth because bless ’em, the new Daleks are a bit naff, almost inevitably. Again, this makes sense within the script, but it also seeks to disguise the preferences of the writer – more touching human moments, fewer epic alien battles, thanks very much.

As such, there’s a level on which Revolution of the Daleks feels like a good-ish story that could have actually been epic with just a touch more money, a little more bravery, and, without meaning to whinge, a little more festive epic. It’s New Year’s Day, dammit, give us some epic!

The ultimate resolution of Revolution is another nod to Russell T Davies and his Genesis Ark sequence – shedloads of kickass Daleks all racing into the Tardis, because the Doctor’s stopped playing and moping about. She’s remembered who she is – she’s the one who stops the Daleks. Nicely ‘to hell with the lot of you’ in terms of talking through the screen to the critics, it seems to mark a turning point for a Doctor no longer prepared to take any nonsense.

The crunchy Tardis hologram fake-out should have been obvious, but agreeably, everything before it is pretty loud, so the sudden what-the-hell moment actually delivers the cleverness a determined Doctor should have. If anything, it’s the mark of a Doctor using her anger as fuel, rather than, as she seemed to be doing at the start of this episode, using it as a stick to beat herself with. Again, subtle statements to the nay-sayers? Maybe. Probably not, but easy to read that way.

And the ending. Oh, the ending. People have complained that Jack’s farewell here is rushed and peremptory. Maybe. Or maybe they did all the talking back when the Doctor looked like David Tennant. Now they’re in a different place. Jack tells her his plans, so she knows where he is if she needs him. But right now, he has connections to rebuild with his Torchwood pal.

And the break-up of the Fam…

Did we mention that Chibnall does humans better than space opera?

The break-up of the Fam is a beautiful, honest, well-delivered heartbreak, more Jo Grant than Sarah-Jane – and of course, joining a long line of others, Ryan and Graham will now go off to make a difference in the world (Big Finish – Ryan, Graham, Jo Jones. Just a thought…Call me…).

Joyfully, thankfully, Ryan’s still dyspraxic at the end, he hasn’t been magically ‘cured’ by his time with the Doctor (You clenched, thinking he might have been, didn’t you?). And sure, the Grace moment is unapologetically sentimental. But for both of them, it’s she, as much as the Doctor, who’s always been their moral compass. When they go off to save the world, it’ll still be her who guides them as much as the Doctor. So sure, a little memory-glimpse of her to finish – why not?

Just as importantly, back on the Tardis, there’s Yaz. The Doctor, faced with feeling sad, mulls the idea of changing the timelines to erase the reason for the sadness. Yaz, grounding her, stops her from going down a path of the Time Lord Victorious again, lets her know that it’s fine. It’s OK to just be sad. And to move forward.

All told, Revolution of the Daleks will probably always live slightly in the shadow of the epic thing it could have been with just a little more dosh and polish, a little less telling, and a slightly bigger commitment to delivering something epic.

As it stands though, it’s certainly in the top five Thirteenth Doctor episodes so far, delivering possibly the best re-invention of Power of the Daleks since the original, and a Doctor more certain of herself by the end. Not quite the epic it could have been, then – but still, epic enough to reward unlimited rewatching.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad