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‘Doctor Who’ New Year’s Day Special recap: “Revolution of the Daleks”

Doctor Who New Year’s Day Special recap: “Revolution of the Daleks,” Aired Jan. 1, 2021

Happy 2021, Whovians! It’s so nice to be back!

“Revolution of the Daleks” really followed “Resolution,” with the burned and damaged dalek shell serving as a template for a weapon of defense for the U.K. And this year’s special is such a gift. There are lots of fun cameos from fan-favorite villains, a companion departure, and the return of none other than Captain Jack Harkness.

“Revolution of the Daleks”

Another sleek dalek redesign intended to help out humanity – will Britain ever learn? It ends badly every single time. Seriously, how many prime ministers have daleks killed now? Also, does the general population just forget all the alien attacks on the U.K.? It’s pretty much a seasonal occurrence at this point. 

This episode brought a dalek “security drone” that was supposed to quell unrest and ease the burden on law enforcement. It was supposed to be a shell with programmed AI, but a tech expert finds some dalek matter inside the burned-out shell and basically grows his own dalek. Naturally, that dalek takes over the expert who grew him and clones the dalek matter into many, many more daleks, and it feeds them with liquified human (ew, but that’s important later).

I want to shout out the return of Jack Robertson, who you might remember from “Arachnids in the U.K.” He was very clearly written to resemble a certain American politician, and despite the daleks exterminating people all across the U.K., Jack Robertson was the true villain of the special.

Even after seeing how hateful and ruthless daleks are, he went and joined the dalek side against The Doctor and humanity. He sells her out for calling the dalek death squad to Earth to exterminate the “impure” dalek mutations with the human DNA (since the death squad doesn’t care about actual 100% humans). Without him, her plan just might have worked! And The Doctor STILL rescues him (I mean, of course she does). Maybe he’ll make another appearance and get what he deserves. 

“Have you had work done?”

If you remember where we last left off, The Doctor is serving her life sentence after being arrested by the Judoon. She’s in a prison with weeping angels, evil ood, a pting, and one of my personal favorite enemies, the Silence.

Or maybe I should say she was serving her sentence until Captain Jack Harkness broke her out of prison. Upon hearing The Doctor was in prison, Captain Jack committed numerous crimes of his own to get himself arrested so he could help her – the most Captain Jack strategy ever?

Oh, then later, Captain Jack gets to blow up that death squad dalek ship. “You never forget your first death,” after all. All this Captain Jack has me wanting to rewatch Torchwood.

“What’s new on planet Earth?”

Graham, Yaz, and Ryan get word of the security dalek drone prototype and take it upon themselves to protect the Earth while The Doctor is away. When she returns 10 months later, she joins them on their quest to save Earth from daleks…again, but not before a bit of a confrontation from Yaz about showing up after all that time and acting like it’s nothing. 

Those 10 months really messed with Yaz, and Captain Jack has a heart-to-heart with her. He tells her that when you travel with The Doctor, when you stop isn’t up to you. One day, it does stop, and you’ll deal with the heartache and the loss because of all the joy you had while it lasted. 

And of all the people to ask The Doctor about what happened to her on Gallifrey, did any of us expect it to be Ryan? We did expect The Doctor to gloss over it or pretend like it doesn’t matter, but Ryan wasn’t having it. She admits she’s not sure who she is anymore, and she and Ryan both agree that something changed while she was gone. Seems like that goes for Ryan just as much as it does The Doctor. He liked his time on Earth while she was gone. And, of course, we know what’s coming with Ryan…

New companion

We knew before the special that Graham and Ryan were leaving the show. What we didn’t know is we get a new companion joining The Doctor and Yaz! Welcome to the TARDIS, Dan! 

I was hoping we wouldn’t have too crowded a TARDIS after feeling like the companions haven’t had room for their own stories thus far, but I’m willing to give Chibnall the benefit of the doubt with John Bishop as Dan.

As for Graham and Ryan’s departure, I’ll admit I teared up a bit. I’ll miss Graham most of all. However, it was super in character for Graham to decide to stay with his grandson. Despite the sadness, I think psychic paper is maybe the best goodbye gift ever. I hope the new TARDIS team comes back to visit Graham and Ryan. 

Reference and cameo highlights:

Since I couldn’t help myself, here are some of my favorite references from the episode: Rose Tyler, Silence, Weeping Angels, Pting, Ood, Boeshane Peninsula, Grace, Gwen Cooper, among others! Now I wait to find out what happened to The Master after last season…


“Revolution of the Daleks” was one of the better Thirteenth Doctor episodes, if you ask me. It kept me invested and laughing, and it had a couple heartfelt moments in the form of Ryan’s talk with The Doctor and Yaz’s chat with Captain Jack. Plus, I loved all the little references and cameos for us longtime Whovians. This episode renewed my excitement for more Jodie adventures. Bring on series 13!

I don’t know what 2021 has in store for us, but “Revolution of the Daleks” was a heck of a way to start off the year.


What did you think of “Revolution of the Daleks”? Let us know at @PureFandom on Twitter!


Jordan Alperstein

Jordy has a degree in English literature and communication studies. When she isn't attending concerts, she's watching way too much TV for her own good and fangirling over fictional characters. Jordy is a self-proclaimed optimist and bookworm, and she's a sucker for fantasy, superheroes, and good old-fashioned villains.

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