Saturday 2 January 2021

Revolution of the Daleks - A Review

There was a lot of looking back in last night's New Year's Special. As we saw from the opening few minutes this story was a sequel to 2019's Resolution. When Chris Noth's Jack Robertson turned up, it also looked like a sequel to Arachnids in the UK. And then we had the Doctor spending time in prison, from the cliff-hanger to The Timeless Children. That story was also referenced later when the Doctor discussed the personal revelations from her encounter with the Master on Gallifrey with Ryan.
Then we had the return of Captain Jack, armed with his squareness gun first seen back in The Doctor Dances. Jack mentioned his first death at the hands of the Daleks, from Parting of the Ways - twice. He also mentioned Rose Tyler being trapped in an alternative universe (Doomsday and Journey's End).
The final sequence mirrored the opening sequence from Chibnall's very first episode (The Woman Who Fell to Earth), with Graham helping Ryan to ride a bike. This allowed for a small cameo by Sharon D Clarke as a ghostly image of Grace.
Not for the first time, we see a UK Prime Minister exterminated by a Dalek.
The story itself was fairly straightforward. The remains of the Recon Dalek casing gets stolen by Robertson so he can get tech-head Leo Rugazzi to reverse engineer it to create purely robotic "Defence Drones". However, Rugazzi has secretly cloned a Dalek mutant from some trace organic residue - and this takes him over and sets up a cloning farm in Osaka. These mutants are then teleported into each of the Drones - turning them into proper Daleks. To resolve this, the Doctor summons some old school bronze Daleks - knowing they will see the new breed of Dalek as impure, and deserving of extermination. They wipe out the new Daleks, then the Doctor tricks the bronze ones into invading the TARDIS which had brought her companions home, which is then destroyed in the Void.
Naturally, Robertson attempts to turn every twist in events to his advantage, even joining forces with the bronze Daleks. Once again he's left unscathed at the end, a potential POTUS, so room to bring him back again somewhere further down the line.
Also open to a potential return are Graham and Ryan. I have to say that I thought Bradley Walsh was rather wasted in this episode. Ryan got a big scene with the Doctor, just the pair of them in the TARDIS, setting up his decision to leave and remain on Earth, but Graham didn't get a similar scene. He isn't even proactive in his decision to leave - he's bounced into it by Ryan announcing his intentions.
This left us in the unenviable position of having just Yaz in the TARDIS from now on - until it was revealed that John Bishop would be joining as a regular in Series 13. We all knew he was going to be in the series, as he has been spotted on location, but this might have just been a guest appearance. We now know that he will be a full companion, named Dan. (He and his missus are currently getting over Covid-19 - so we wish them a speedy recovery).
Overall, I enjoyed the episode. A few little problems - such as the set up taking far too long, and the Doctor spending a bit too much time side-lined in prison until Jack turned up to rescue her. The whole sequence with the lorry driver at the start was a bit of  waste of running time - this could have been covered by a line of dialogue. When Graham and Ryan see the image of Grace, they claim to have had the sun in their eyes - despite the sun being blatantly behind the clouds behind them.
A dodgy plot point was that the Dalek mutant should have taken over Leo sooner, as it looked like the cloning farm was set up and fully operational within a few hours, on the other side of the world.
Chris Noth wasn't as annoying in this as he was in his first appearance, when the political satire was a little too heavy handed. The politics in this episode were handled better, as the the characters were more neutral and not obvious cyphers for real politicians. The episode was made before Covid-19, but it could have gone overboard with Brexit references.
Series 13 might debut around October / November 2021. Hopefully they will include a 2022 New Year Special, ideally on top of the 8 promised episodes, if production is able to speed up. I was sorry to see Bradley leave, but at least we have a shake-up in the TARDIS crew to look forward to.

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