“Revolution of the Daleks” is an episode that has a lot it needs to accomplish and overall I think it succeeds in doing so. Chibnall is once again working with a large cast and he mostly succeeds in giving them all development and moments. The threat is also great in this one too and this is a special that develops most of the characters really well. Suffice to say, without going into SPOILERS, this is one worth checking out.
The episode was directed by Lee Haven Jones and written by Chris Chibnall.
The story begins with the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) trapped in prison as Daleks are presented as a National Defense force for the British government leaving the Doctor’s companions to face this threat.
The Prison and Breakout – The Doctor’s prison is really fascinating. All the prisoners are separated from each other in an asteroid and can only see each other for brief moments of time. The prison showing the history of the show since the Eccleston was on display too as we see a Weeping Angel named Angela as a prisoner, Bonny and Clyde who are an insane Ood couple and a Silent to name a few. Knowing these are all still out there and that the Judoon see them as a threat was a nice touch that establishes some level of order in the Galaxy outside of Gallifrey and it makes sense that they’d target the Doctor. I’m honestly curious if the ones behind the prison are The Shadow Proclamation. I hope that gets explored next season. In the end Jack Harkness (loved him being back) breaks her out after getting put in the prison and it taking 19 years for him to get to outside her cell. The breakout is intense but works and seeing the Doctor and Jack play off each other again is so much fun.
Confronting the Doctor – The Doctor was gone for 10 months (Though in prison for a lot longer, a decade is referenced at one point) and the companions are hurting. Yaz pushes the Doctor and Ryan keeps the Doctor at arms length through the episode. In all of this we see the Doctor facing her
The Dalek Drones / Dalek Reconnaissance Clones – The main threat this episode are clones of the Recon Dalek that were created by the man behind the Drones created for Robertson and the Prime Minister. In the end they take control of him and clone an army that is taking over the world and needs to be stopped. The plan the Doctor comes up to stop them with is by bringing S.A.S. / Death Squad Daleks who kill on mutations of the Dalek species. The plan is brilliant but I hope some of the clones survive as their black armor and deeper voice gave them a distinct flavor among the Dalek threat. As far as we know though, the Death Squad Daleks did kill them.
The S.A.S. Daleks / Death Squad Daleks – The whole idea of a the Death Squad Daleks killing all mutations to keep the Dalek Race “pure” is so very fascistic Dalek. These guys are a great threat too as we see how easily they outmatch the Drones and quickly end that conflict. In the end it is their hatred of the Doctor that gets them as they get trapped in the other TARDIS from earlier in the series that is sent into the void, ending them.
Jack Harkness and Yaz – Jack is there to help Yaz deal with the pain of feeling abandoned by the Doctor, as he was. They have a great dynamic as she calls out his need for compliments and he helps her accept that however much time she has to travel with the Doctor is what matters as not many people get that opportunity. Barrowman is bringing his A game here and I loved him throughout the episode.
The Doctor – One of the running themes in the show is the Doctor resestablishing herself in the identity of the Doctor. 10 and 11 did in their regeneration episodes, Capaldi did at the end of his first season and now we get that here with Whittaker, basically taking that what she learned on Gallifrey doesn’t matter that who she is and always has been matters more. I really liked this and it was cool seeing her balance between extreme attachment to her companions and her distance she keeps with folks (still with Jack Harkness to some degree). This is probably the best 13th Doctor episode yet.
Graham and Ryan’s Good-Bye – Graham and Ryan’s good-bye is one of the gut punch moments of the episode. I knew it was coming as it had been all over the press but the way it was done mostly worked. Ryan reestablishes connections with friends (That we met prior season) and talks about wanting to fix things at home. This leads to Graham deciding to leave too as he doesn’t want to miss Ryan growing up. Losing two companions leaves the Doctor speechless and Yaz telling her that, “It’s okay to be sad.” This was great writing on Chibnall’s part.
The Human Villains – We have a corrupt Prime Minister Jo Patterson who uses the Dalek Drones that Jack Robertson (A Trump analogue American Businessman from an earlier episode who stole the Dalek casing from “Resolution”). She’s seemed to be based off Teresa May as the Dalek Drones are made to be tanks to put down protests. The analogue of Daleks as the tool of the State for oppression is really well done and we see a cloned Dalek manipulate that to take control. Basically the human villains work and Robertson isn’t as annoying as he was in the Spider episode. In this there was a level of humanity given to each of the human characters, though they never reached the level of compelling.
Death of a TARDIS – This is a small detail but we learn TARDIS’s are living things much earlier in the series and one of them is just used as a weapon to die and bring the Daleks down with it. I wish the Doctor had got a moment with the TARDIS, even if she can’t remember it as it’s life and sacrifice deserved some recognition. We get her “home” moment when she returns to her TARDIS, so I wish this one had got even a little thing like that too before it died.
Graham’s Lack of Development – Graham is just along for the ride this episode and it is a shame. He is trying to be a part of the adventure but is most of the time ignored and critiqued by Ryan and it is only in his leaving with Ryan that we see him come up with the idea of them solving problems on Earth as a duo. This ending worked but I just felt bad for Graham for the majority of the episode. He deserved more to his story to make his leaving matter more.
This was a great episode. It certainly had it’s problems but even the villains weren’t completely annoying even though they were playing to a “Doctor Who” type (Corrupt politician and greedy businessman). In these cases it was the performances and little details that made them work. Really my biggest issues were a TARDIS’s life not being recognized (though it taking down a Dalek threat was really amazing) and Graham being forgotten for most of the script. This is a great example of what can be done with a special and how they can be used to recognize past shows and companions and making it relevant to the present. Because of this, I can’t wait to see what next series brings.
Final Score: 9 / 10