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Reviewed: Doctor Who – Revolution of the Daleks

Earlier today, I watched a programme that was quite like Doctor Who. It looked quite like Doctor Who: there was the hardware, the TARDIS, the Daleks, Captain Jack Harkness, some companions – but there was something lacking. Characterisation, pace, intelligent ideas, heart, drama, excitement, peril, laughs – little things like that. Oh yes. And it lacked a convincing performance by the actor playing the Doctor.  

Sorry. I didn’t like Revolution of the Daleks. I didn’t like it at all. I had hoped that we might get a decent episode for New Year’s Day, but we got the tail end of the last lamentable season instead.

The Doctor is in prison and looks bored. Perhaps she is watching this episode (ha ha). Showrunner, Chris Chibnall has pressed the reset button on continuity and, on Earth, no one knows who the Daleks are, although they’ve invaded Earth about 15 times since 2005. We can look to the Crack in Time to explain away some of that, probably. That’s okay, Chibnall can do whatever he likes with the show because, after all, it’s his property and he can smash it to bits. Oh look, it’s the bad guy from Arachnids in the UK – you know, thingie; no, I can’t remember his name either because he wasn’t very interesting in that story. Oh and look! He’s not very interesting in this episode either. 

Come on, Frank – be positive. There must be things you liked in this episode! Um. Yes, I liked the William Hartnell control room and I liked the Dalek squirting CS gas because it reminded me of the Peter Cushing movies. Um. I liked the Weeping Angel, locked in its cell, because the Weeping Angels are good. Harriet Walter! She’s a fine actress but she hadn’t got anything much to do here as the Prime Minister, has she? Hardly Harriet Jones, was she? And, er… no, that’s it. Didn’t like anything else.

Please look away if you liked the episode, but I thought it was a disaster. I’m so accustomed to Chibnall-penned episodes being a disaster that I shouldn’t expect anything else, but Doctor Who now seems to me a series on its last legs. Why hasn’t it been cancelled? Presumably because it makes money. I am irresistibly reminded of the last couple of years of Sylvester McCoy episodes, where everyone went through the motions and the show had a big “Condemned” sign hanging over it (although equally you might disagree with that assessment; nonetheless, it was indeed condemned).

Jodie is miscast. She has no depth or heart as the Doctor. The Doctor should dominate every scene. The eye should be drawn to him or her. My eye starts to wander over the furniture when she is on screen… “Find me my fam!” says the Doctor. That skirting board needs a good dust. “Three very special people!” And here they are. Oh lordy. Has Mandip Gill’s Yorkshire accent got thicker since the last episode? I had to strain to hear her, but fortunately she wasn’t saying anything very interesting anyway. Jodie tries to get all emotional about her backstory being rewritten. She can’t quite manage this and certainly isn’t as upset about it as many of the posters on the Doctor Who Companion. I am supposed to care about the Doctor’s crisis of identity but Jodie’s acting is so shallow – which, to be fair, matches the writing – that I don’t engage.

There is no characterisation to speak of and the characters all speak alike. There is more differentiation among the Daleks in this episode. Robert Holmes wrote like Dickens, and gave each character a different and delightful idiom. Not so Chibnall.

It took some 15 minutes to get the Doctor out of prison and I was reminded of Revelation of the Daleks, where the Doctor and Peri spend the whole of episode one wandering up to Tranquil Repose before they actually engage in the plot. Jack gets the Doctor out of prison but John Barrowman, like all the actors, seemed underpowered and de-energised, saying his lines slowly and lacking the zest of the character we used to love. The climactic battle between Dalek factions took about three minutes to play out on screen, with little Daleks on the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol shooting at each other like Space Invaders. Ho hum. Extras stand around waiting for the Daleks to exterminate them. It’s the slumbering slaves from Destiny of the Daleks all over again. 

As for the plot… Well, I could usually guess what was going to happen next. What will quell the rioters? Oh, it’s a Dalek. The Doctor is going to send a signal into the time vortex. Will it be to get the other, pure brand of Daleks to come and spank the impure Daleks? Yep, you guessed right again because that happened in Victory of the Daleks and Chibnall just picks elements of old episodes and stitches them together with soul-numbing dialogue. What will happen to Lee? Will he get taken over by the flesh and blood part of the Dalek? Oh wait, of course he will, because that happened in the last New Year’s Day episode, Resolution. Oh look, the drones are actually Daleks; that’s a bit like the Ironsides actually being Daleks. Well, what do you know. 

And the new Dalek designs look like the paraffin heater I used to have in my digs at university.  

To sum up. Revolution of the Daleks is like a very bad stab at doing The Sarah Jane Adventures. Even that comparison is unfair, because SJA was always a much more imaginative, much better acted, much more engaging show than Chibnall Who. I felt that I was watching a first draft. I found the episode lacklustre, underpowered, predictable, infantile, derivative, and dull. No pace. No depth. Plod plod plod. Ryan leaves and we return to him riding his bike again. WHO CARES? “My planet needs me,” says Ryan. It really doesn’t, old son. 

Are Mandip and Jodie really going to carry the whole of next season on their own? But wait! The continuity announcer says that Doctor Who fans should stand by for a special announcement! John Bishop is joining the show. Who he? He looks about Bradley Walsh’s age and may be a replacement character. 

Doctor Who just makes me miserable now. I can’t even summon up the energy to make jokes about it. 

Frank Danes

Reviewed: Doctor Who – Revolution of the Daleks

by Frank Danes time to read: 4 min
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