RELEASED: January 1st 2021
DISTRIBUTED BY: BBC
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Chris Chibnall & Matt Strevens
WRITTEN BY: Chris Chibnall
DIRECTED BY: Lee Haven Jones
MUSIC BY: Segun Akinola
STARRING: Jodie Whitaker, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, Chris Noth, Harriet Walter, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Nicholas Briggs & John Barrowman
REVIEW: As a new year dawns, Revolution of the Daleks sees the British Government roll out a new series of defence drones that look suspiciously like Daleks. With the Doctor locked away in an alien prison on the other side of space and time, her old companions Yas, Ryan and Graham prepare to step up to save the Earth. But they’re not the only old companions on the scene, as Captain Jack Harkness makes his dramatic return.
In many ways, this episode perfectly encapsulates the vibe of the Chibnall era as a whole. It’s got some interesting new designs, a diverse array of characters, but stumbles when it comes to the execution of the story, the doling out of exposition and character development.
That last factor is especially disappointing considering this is where Bradley Walsh and Toisin Cole bow out of the show. What should be an episode packed with emotion, laughs and fun, is instead occassionally interesting, but also somewhat dull.
The dialogue often feels stilted, and characters make consistently bizarre or unflattering choices that do nothing to ingratiate themselves with the audience.
For instance, the relationship between the Doctor and her companions, in some cases, still feels like something of a blank slate. We’ve seen them travel together for two seasons now, but for all the time they spend telling us and each other that they’re friends, the show rarely does anything to show us that that is the case. In many ways, they often feel like mere acquaintances awkwardly trying to make conversation.
For instance, after reuniting, Yas lashes out at the Doctor for her perceived abandonment of them, but it falls flat because we know the Doctor has had it far worse (she’s been locked away for decades). Her claim that she’s been in ‘space jail’ isn’t met with empathy or queries by these people who are supposed to be her best friends, and even her own self-reflection on the matter doesn’t tread any new or interesting ground. In fact, the Doctor’s main arc of the episode just sees her coming to same conclusion about herself and her past that she already came to last episode!
It’s all especially bizarre because shows like Broadchurch and even Davies/Moffat era Doctor Who show that showrunner/writer Chris Chibnall can write effective, powerful interactions and solidly plotted stories. But for whatever reason, here, he just… doesn’t.
Even Jack, an established character, at times feels a bit off in his interactions with people, which suggests more than just a questionable script, but a lack of concise direction.
Still, the story does play with some fun ideas, even if it doesn’t allow them to reach their full potential. And it does its best to look impressive if nothing else. There are some fun callbacks to older NuWho, and you can see attempts at trying to give the characters the personality that they’ve lacked up until now.
There’s a distinct lack of the passion that the show had in years gone by. But it is at least watchable and inoffensive. It tells a simple story, and throws in some fun references for the more devoted fans.
There have certainly been worse episodes of Doctor Who during Chibnall’s tenure, but hopefully the upcoming season 13 leans more season 12 than this episode and season 11.
All-in-all, I give it a:
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