Viva la Revolution? – WhoSoc’s thoughts on Revolution of the Daleks

Image Credit: Neil Owen (CC BY-SA 2.0Geograph)

Image Description: A Dalek tied up in chains

By Thomas Barker

“Always scoping, always ready.”

With another episode of Doctor Who comes another Society poll, only this time for a special rather than a whole series. Revolution of the Daleks was the coda to a series which ended with the explosive Timeless Child revelations and an imprisoned Doctor estranged from her friends. With the hyped return of Captain Jack and the Daleks, it’s fair to say expectations may have been high. But, in the tradition of previous Publicity Officers, I have crossed the void beyond the mind to delve deep into polling data to find out what our members actually thought of the episode. Those who responded to my call-to-action poll were asked to rate Revolution out of ten. Ten out of ten meant the episode was in the top ten percent of NuWho, while one out of ten resigned it to the bottom ten percent. There was also the option for people to leave short reviews, too, which I’ll unearth here to discover the (spoiler-filled) truth about the Revolution of the Daleks

Many members took the polling opportunity to relate the episode to Chibnall’s previous episodes, and the Whittaker-Chibnall era as a whole. One member, for example, noted that while Revolution was “still rackety in pace and characterization, [it was] probably the best Whittaker-Chibnall episode so far”, which is high praise indeed! Another, in the same vein, declared: “Chibnall’s writing is still wobbly, but nevertheless this was a fun NYD outing with some nice character moments for the TARDIS team”. Here, then, was some consensus that the episode showed off the best and the worst qualities of the era, though several were inclined to go further, stating Revolution was “overall quite mediocre”; another that it was “too much of a rehash of everything we’ve seen before”, while someone else focused on its perceived overuse of nostalgia. In the most colourful example, however, the episode was derided for “cheap callback references, choppy timing and no logical plot”, adding: “if I were a Dalek, I’d exterminate this episode”. This, so far, seems quite a gloomy outlook on Revolution, but further contributions show that all is not lost.

Revolution, like most episodes, was not bereft of political themes and wider iconographical flare. As to the latter, as one member simply put it, it was a “fun Christmas romp [with] Daleks shooting stuff, what more do you want?”. Regarding the themes, there was plenty of praise of what was described as “mild critique on the role of the private sector”, though others wanted more political satire). In relation to the wider world and significance of 2020, one member notes how it was “thought it would be a spookily-timed episode about isolation but it was actually a spookily-timed episode about adapting to a changed world after traumatic events/some time away”. “I really needed that right now!”, they added. The “heartwarming”, “elegant and touching” departure of Ryan and Graham, as well as the development of Yaz’s characterisation were also noted and welcomed.

As to the bones of the episode, however, one member summarises the thoughts of many in stating, quite simply, that the episode contained “great ingredients [but] poor execution”. In an elongated reflection which noted some wider concerns, another member said that “when the prospect of the companions being separated from the Doctor for a whole episode is destroyed after 15 minutes, only to have the same lack of chemistry, poor writing and little character development take hold for the next 60 minutes, it’s hard not to be disappointed”. The “by-the-numbers plot and long, boring conversations” came under fire, as did the critique of having “too many people” in the episode, despite the great attention paid to the core cast. Interestingly, not many mentioned the role of Captain Jack in the episode, despite the pre-episode publicity and his role in the defeat of the Dalek menace. As to that, one person lamented the Doctor’s sacrifice of “one of the last TARDISes in the universe” to defeat the Daleks. I can’t help but feel sorry and hope it somehow escaped the Void…

Comparisons to Series Twelve

Taking into account the 30 responses and their scores, Revolution of the Daleks rated at a 5.69 (with 10/10 being the top 10% of NuWho). To put it into context, its sibling, Resolution, rated at a 6.25, meaning this episode ranked slightly lower. At 5.69, it ranked higher than a number of the Society’s less favoured episodes of Series Eleven (with a low of 4.53 for The Tsuranga Conundrum) and Series Twelve (with a 5.11 for Orphan 55), but did not reach its highs (8.52 for Rosa and 7.94 for Fugitive of the Judoon respectively). If we, finally, include it in Series Twelve as a whole, it takes the average of the series down from 6.98 to 6.91. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, however! This was our first episode of Who for 2021 after a tough year and a lot was riding on it, for many different reasons. Many different end products could have emerged from its constituent themes if taken as individual episodes themselves, from Daleks and the private sector; the post-Timeless Child trauma for the Doctor; Yaz’s abandonment fears; Ryan’s development and desire to stay; Captain Jack himself and his role as companion-turned-mentor; and many more – so could it please everyone in trying to pack so much into one episode? We could’ve easily had a two- or three-parter, as with every episode (‘If only we’d had more than 45 minutes’ syndrome), but I for one (and many other Society members) are glad to have had an enjoyable and Doctor Who-y experience on New Year’s Day, made with the passion of the cast and crew. Now to wait for Series Thirteen…

Rank Episode Title Mean Rating

  1. Fugitive of the Judoon – 7.94
  2. The Haunting of Villa Diodati – 7.73
  3. Spyfall – Part One – 7.43
  4. Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror – 7.38
  5. The Timeless Children – 7.15
  6. Ascension of the Cybermen – 7.11
  7. Spyfall – Part Two – 7.00
  8. Can You Hear Me? – 6.62
  9. Praxeus – 6.29
  10. Revolution of the Daleks – 5.69
  11. Orphan 55 – 5.11

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