This New Year’s special was a special kind of dreadful.
Coming on the heels of the forehead-slappingly awful finale that revealed that The Doctor had actually lived hundreds or thousands of lives and that she isn’t even a Time Lord, but rather an unknown alien that the Time Lords stole regeneration from, Galifrey destroyed… again, the Master dead… again, and the Doctor thrown into prison for the crimes of one of her unknown lives, “Revolution of the Daleks” sees the annual return of not only the Doctor’s greatest and most celebrated enemies, but also the long-awaited return of John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness and the departure of two companions.
With the content of this episode alone, all Chibnal had to do was take a victory lap, but instead, he hits the gas, misses a turn, and crashes right into a maternity ward. “Revolution of the Daleks” is so inconsequential and so blasé that watching it made me angry with rage.
First, let’s talk John Barrowman. I love me some John Barrowman and it was great to see him again, but when you get right down to it, he did shockingly little in the story. So little in fact that he could have been removed entirely and it wouldn’t have mattered.
Captain Jack should not be an optional accessory!
Heck, even his long-awaited reaction to finally meeting our new Doctor was so muted that the disappointment was palpable.
Everything about this episode seemed devoid of joy. The Tardis fam were doir and gloomy, Graham was hardly used, and the dialog was so stilted and obvious at times you have to wonder if Chibnal thinks we’re all so stupid we can’t keep up with him.
Even the Daleks, admittedly benefiting from a very nice redesign, were hardly in this episode. At one point, we’re promised a war between the Reconnaissance Daleks and SAS Daleks and 99 percent of it happened off screen.
I am also going on record to say that I hate the character of Jack Robertson. I hate everything about him. Yes, I get that he’s a parallel for Donald Trump. My dog could understand that because it is constantly trumpeted into our brains by the lackluster writing that thinks we’re stupid. It’s insulting. Remember when subtlety was a thing?
When it came time for Graham and Ryan to depart, it was a nonevent because, sadly, I just don’t care for these characters. Graham was a lovable goof when he first came along and I positively loved him, but the overcrowded Tardis and an inept head writer relegated him to a background prop. Ryan was never given a proper opportunity to connect on any level whatsoever. Calling him a prop would be charitable.
This is, by no means, a condemnation of Tonsin Cole or Bradley Walsh. I honestly think that these guys did the best they could with the pathetic scripts that have been given to them. A lot like Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, they’ve been given nothing to work with and, in the hands of better writers, all of them would shine like supernovae.
But we don’t have better writers.
We have Chris Chibnal.
I guess the problems of this episode manifested for me at the same time that the literal ghost of Grace appeared to Ryan and Graham at the end in the cringiest thing I’ve ever seen on this show. I exclaimed out loud, “Oh, come on!”
This show has fallen so hard and, in my opinion, it rests on one man’s shoulders. Something has to be done and I sincerely hope that the BBC is paying attention.