Featured Image: Revolution of the Daleks promo image, featuring the Doctor in a red prison jumpsuit and Daleks in the background, and Yaz, Ryan, Graham and Captain Jack in the foreground.
Something I’ve learnt about my fandom in the past year is that I don’t always do well with posting immediate reaction takes publicly, so with that in mind, here is a week-and-a-bit late review of Revolution of the Daleks.
I’m going to jump in with some negatives as I was generally unimpressed by the whole Dalek plot (and this is coming from a Dalek person!) Jack Robertson and Theresa May 2.0 were mostly irritating and their political thrillery chat felt unnecessary.
At the very least Chibnall does equate the police with Daleks, which is good, but he undermines this work with his treatment of race in the episode. Having Leo, a Black man, build the ‘security’ Daleks and be overtly complicit in the violent policing of his own community is not a good look, and there are SO MANY BIPOC deaths in this story! When will Doctor Who learn that representation does not mean hiring Black actors just to kill them all off/ have their bodies taken over?! The Dalek even acknowledges that it doesn’t have to kill Leo, and does it anyway, when the uncased Dalek in Resolution let Lynne, a white woman, go. It wasn’t the Dalek that made the decision to kill him Chibnall, it was you. Talia Franks writes brilliantly about this in their article. As my friends in Black Girls Create have rightly pointed out, this is likely another instance of colour-blind casting. You should definitely check out Nicole Hill’s article on the issues with this from last year. Will I ever not share that article in a Doctor Who post? Apparently not, because it stays relevant! Also, just because you let Ryan acknowledge how believable it is that the white male douchebag got away with no consequences doesn’t make it any less annoying that you do it!
Frustratingly, the push-back to Black fans’ criticisms of this has again shone a light on the racist and exclusionary behaviour of a sizable section of Doctor Who fandom (comprising mostly of white men.) Some of the responses to Talia’s article in particular show a shocking level of ignorance and lack of respect for women and non-binary fans of colour. I have seen so many replies claiming ‘more POC characters is bound to equal more POC death’ and ‘loads of white characters were killed too’, but if people actually stopped to pay attention and listen to POC fans, they would know this argument is nonsense, as both Black and Non-Black POC characters are still killed off way more disproportionately to white characters and BIPOC fans deserve to see more than just their deaths in every episode. Fans need to learn to listen to women and non-binary fans of colour when they tell us something is racist/ a problem!
I’m also not totally cool with the Doctor explicitly ringing up the Dalek eugenics squad to come and get rid of the impure Daleks. I know that’s the Daleks’ thing, and she has to do what she has to do, but it still feels iffy! I did, however, think the Dalek ship was very cool and I was happy to see the bronze, blue-eyed Daleks again!
I thought all of the Fam interactions were beautiful, although I was sad that we don’t see any escape attempts from the Doctor. Jack’s breakout is awesome, and I know she would’ve tried many times over the years, but I feel like we would’ve seen that from the other Doctors. Yaz is great in this episode, but I wanted more details about her time camped out in the TARDIS! Ryan and the Doctor’s chat is wonderful too. When the Doctor says ‘it sounds like you’ve enjoyed being back’ I thought it sounded weird, but then I thought, hang on did the Doctor just acknowledge how someone else was feeling? And acknowledge that not being with her might actually be a positive rather than just the absence of a negative?! It was amazing to see! And she kept saying how much she missed them all! My heart!
Moving to the end, THEY ACTUALLY LET RYAN AND GRAHAM GO! Of their own volition! No death, no cyber conversion, no memory wipes. The fact that they just got to go with everything they learnt, unharmed and happy, had me sobbing! As much as I wasn’t bothered by the plot, it was nice to see the companion leaving story given the same weight in relation to the plot as a companion entry story, rather than having an epic plot then thinking of a cruel and unusual way to get the companion to exit.
I was SO relieved that Ryan didn’t learn to ride his bike and the show said NOPE to inspiration porn and overcoming disability. I would have preferred if Ryan had realised it was more than OK to not invest any more time in an activity that isn’t accessible to him, OR to see him with an adapted trike or quad, but having seen quite a few tweets prior to the episode wishing for him to learn to ride successfully at the end, it was important to me that the show explicitly chose not to do that.
Of course, they HAD to use an image of Grace at the end, didn’t they?! Fridging a Black woman in episode one and then bringing back her image to aid two of her male relatives’ development over and over again is not cool, and this is just as problematic. THEN they had to go and spoil such an emotionally satisfying episode by announcing a new white male companion?! LET THE DOCTOR AND YAZ HAVE THEIR TIME! John Bishop seems lovely, but we absolutely do not need another white man on the TARDIS right now!
Overall, I loved Jack and the Fam, but this is one I probably won’t rewatch much, as it felt quite Series Eleveny to me, in that it had a meh plot with some really heavy emotional companion stuff, which is so valuable, but not the easiest to rewatch. I’m OK with this however, as I love Series 12 so much that I was fully expecting this to not get close, and I’ll definitely have suitably realistic expectations for Series 13 too, even though I am still on board and excited to see what it has in store!