Doctor Who 12.11 – Revolution of the Daleks

I was talking about Yetis on the loo in Tooting Bec? This might just be one of the very best examples in all of Doctor Who. “Revolution of the Daleks” is good, despite a few very large problems with its premise, but this little bit might just be the best part. Our son absolutely loves it. It is among his favorite of all Who stories.

I know that I should be saying that the character growth is the best part of the hour, because it’s clearly where Chris Chibnall’s heart is, but it’s not. I really like that in the ten months since her fam last saw the Doctor, Ryan has accepted that she is either dead or gone, and he has moved on. Yaz hasn’t. There’s a reason that “Thasmin” shippers are so loyal. So it feels weird that the TARDIS needs to take an uncharacteristic four minutes to fly from London to Osaka in order for the Doctor and Ryan to have a hearts-to-heart about something the story has already shown us, while Yaz has a chat with guest star John Barrowman about what it’s like to stop travelling with the Doctor. Flip the companions around and you’ve got a much stronger emotional story: let the men underscore what Ryan has decided, and let Yaz tell the Doctor how hard the last ten months were.

But where I just can’t get on board with this story is the really weird theft of the dead Dalek from 2019’s “Resolution”. I can buy that the scheming Jack Robertson, played again by Chris Noth, would want to get his hands on that tech within six hours of the Doctor and friends blowing it up, and television being television, I can even buy that his team has an agent in place at some random food truck on some bypass somewhere just in case the salvage driver wants to refill his tumbler with fresh tea, so they can poison him.

What I can’t buy is that since the dead Reconnaissance Dalek had virtually no alien tech inside its shell – it pilfered its laser gun from storage after some previous Dalek invasion and built the rest from scrap and salvage – it is actually necessary for Jack’s plans. He has teamed up with the woman who is about to become prime minister, played by Harriet Walter from the 1987 Lord Peter Wimsey series, to build an army of AIs in 3D-printed shells that look like the dead Dalek that attacked GCHQ in 2019. But why do they need to look like that when, stripped of their laser gun and armed instead with gas and a water cannon, they could look like anything?

Obviously, they “need” to look like that because they get a bunch of cloned, slimy, mutated Daleks teleported inside of their shells, and they get to have a big showdown with some proper Daleks. The Doctor called them to Earth, correctly guessing the proper ones wouldn’t stand to have inferior mutations rolling around. I guess it’s the cracks in the universe from series five again, because this really underlines that the events of series four’s “Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” didn’t happen here. And I guess I’m disappointed that we see another massive, planet-changing event – the PM is exterminated on live television – without any consequences ever being mentioned. I think there’s such a good story someone could tell, should tell, about the ramifications of these things.

With all that grumbling, I’m almost surprised that I do like this story after all. It may try to do too much on an unsteady platform, but it does it pretty well, and much better than the previous two hours. It has many clever and intelligent moments – the Doctor’s spare TARDIS resolution is terrific – and I enjoyed all the actors. Ryan and Graham’s departure seems a little long, but it’s entertaining. If the Daleks outside Downing Street is my favorite moment, Yaz shoving the Doctor is my second. It’s an hour that gives audiences a lot to chew on, even if the more you chew, the more you realize it doesn’t make the most sense in the world.

Also, it is way past time for the Doctor to start cleaning up all the alien tech left behind when an invasion goes south. Humans simply can’t be trusted with any of it, especially if Jack Robertson is among them, and she really, really should know that after all these years.

Doctor Who 11.4 – Arachnids in the UK

“Rosa” might be a stronger episode, a more important episode, but what it isn’t is any fun. “Arachnids in the UK” is remarkably fun. It’s a great old-fashioned monster story, dipping into the giant spiders well for the third time in the show’s long history, but done differently enough to “Planet of the Spiders” and “The Runaway Bride” that it doesn’t feel like it’s doing the same thing again. Our son remembers this one very well from 2018, although he has not rewatched it, and mumbled “This just made everybody afraid of spiders, didn’t it?”

Where it does feel like it’s doing something old again is the explanation of why these giant spiders are scuttling all over Sheffield. Somebody bought a disused coal mine, filled it full of industrial waste and sludge. Nature goes wild, creepy-crawlies come to the surface, and the story is very, very political. The last time we told this tale, it was 1973 and the critters were maggots. But that’s okay.

Bringing the politics this time, it’s one of my absolute favorite contemporary actors, Chris Noth, as Not-Trump businessman and presidential aspirant Jack Robertson. Noth is best known as “Mr. Big” from Sex and the City, but my favorite of his roles is Detective Mike Logan from the Law & Order universe, especially seasons five, six, and seven of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Sometimes I figure Logan is my favorite L&O character, sometimes it’s Nichols. Anyway, my jaw hit the floor when I saw he was appearing in my favorite series, and he doesn’t disappoint. Robertson is a germ-obsessed creep who’s quick to fire people and celebrate using guns, but he’s also got just enough humanity in him to feel real, and consequently sympathetic. I’m glad the character returned a couple of years later and I hope that we see him again.

And speaking of feeling real, I think my favorite scene is the Doctor trying to make small talk with Yaz’s family, finding herself socially awkward and agreeing that Yaz’s father’s pakora is terrible before he’s even made it. I really enjoyed how Capaldi’s Doctor was also very awkward, but he projected cold when he didn’t know what to say. Whittaker’s Doctor is so hilariously poor at relating to people that I just laughed like a drain in this scene. This whole story is remarkably fun, and from that perspective, possibly the highlight of the season.