REVIEW: Having yanked the last season from its Friday prime-time slot on TVNZ2 after just a couple of episodes, the state broadcaster have come up with a new strategy for Doctor Who’s return.
Clearly “Chasing” the fanbase of the most high-profile supporting actor, tonight’s (Saturday) feature-length holiday special Revolution of the Daleks airs at 7pm on TVNZ1, before being available to stream on TVNZ OnDemand.
Picking up the action after the events and revelations of season 12 closer The Timeless Children, showrunner Chris Chibnall’s (Broadchurch) tale initially focuses on The Doctor’s (Jodie Whittaker) companions Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) and Graeme O’Brien (the previously alluded to Bradley Walsh).
It’s now 10 months since The Doctor sent them back to Earth in their own Tardis and they’re beginning to lose hope of seeing her again. While “Yazz” won’t give up on her just yet, the other two are convinced they need to start thinking about getting on with their lives. They also know they need to do The Doctor’s work in her absence. So when footage of the government’s new “security drones” leaks, alarm bells ring, especially given they look awfully similar to “the most evil killing machine in the galaxy”.
* Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker left devastated as castmates depart
* Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker on creating possibility in times of uncertainty
* TVNZ will play new Doctor Who season – 22 years after show last screened there
* Doctor Who: Why Jodie Whittaker was reluctant to reveal her Timelord status
Their investigations then uncover another link to one of their past adventures, US entrepreneur Jack Robertson (Chris North), whose luxury hotel was infested by genetically modified spiders. In league with an ambitious politician, he’s the man behind the roll-out, but assures our threesome that his “solution to civil unrest” is entirely robotic. However, even he is unaware that one of his employees couldn’t resist cloning the fragment of organic material he found in the stolen, burnt-out shell that inspired his creation.
One of the best decisions Chibnall has made during his time in the hotseat of this BBC staple was ditching the Christmas-themed episode. For more than a decade, the various modern day incarnations of The Doctor had to endure snowbound and tinsel-adorned tales in order to make it suitably festive fare. Shifting the holiday season special to New Years has allowed Chibnall and his writers the freedom to go off on any tangent they like. And who doesn’t want to see everybody’s favourite Whovian-nemesis the Daleks ruling the streets of London once more?
True there definitely is a sense of deja vu about the conceit and especially the solution, but it all bubbles along nicely before building to a suitably explosive finale.
As has been heavily promo’d, this is a tale of two Jacks. Noth’s slimy Robertson and the revitalised Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). Both have their moments in the spotlight, with the latter taking a particular shine to Walsh’s “Silver Fox” Graeme. However, with now four companions, the Tardis does feel a little crowded and each character does struggle to truly make an individual impression.
That includes “13” herself, who is clearly still wrestling with her new backstory and sometimes feels like comic relief to the main narrative here. That said, Whittaker still proves what a fine choice she was, imbuing her incarnation with nuance and complexity that others haven’t always possessed.
Fans of the original series may still struggle with the over-caffinated soundtracks and overuse of slo-mos, but as Doctor Who continues to evolve, this special proves there’s still plenty of life in the now 57-year-old show.
Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks debuts tonight (Saturday) at 7pm on TVNZ1, before being available to stream on TVNZ OnDemand.