The series 12 finale of Doctor Who back in March ended on a cliffhanger, with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor imprisoned and her loyal companions (or “fam”) back on Earth without her. Fortunately, we don’t have much longer to wait to find out what happens. The BBC dropped the official trailer for the upcoming holiday special, Revolution of the Daleks, slated to air on New Year’s Day.
(Spoilers for S12 below.)
As I noted in my review earlier this year, series 12 felt like classic Doctor Who, to the delight of longtime fans disappointed by Whittaker’s first outing. (I thought that first outing was solid and showed a lot of promise.) In the episode “Fugitive of the Judoon,” the Doctor encountered the intergalactic police force-for-hire, the Judoon (introduced in the series three episode “Smith and Jones“). The Judoon were supposedly hunting a man who lived in Gloucester with his wife, Ruth (Jo Martin). But their true target turned out to be Ruth, who recovered lost memories and declared herself to be the Doctor, with her own buried blue police box TARDIS. Yet neither Doctor had any recollection of the other.
In the penultimate episode of series 12, “Ascension of the Cybermen,” the Doctor and her “fam” traveled to the far future and humanity’s last outpost. They discovered a portal leading to the now-ruined planet Gallifrey, out of which popped the Master. In the finale, the Master revealed the truth about a story the Doctor and the Master were told as little Time Tots about a “Timeless Child” (briefly mentioned in last season’s “The Ghost Monument“), who was the source of the Time Lords’ ability to regenerate. It should be painfully obvious that this Timeless Child was the Doctor herself. Doctor Ruth was a prior incarnation she just couldn’t remember, thanks to past memory wipes. And that revelation is definitely going to have plenty of repercussions going forward.
Anyway, with the help of a Lone Cyberman, the Master converted all the dead Time Lords on Gallifrey into “CyberMasters,” and while the Doctor and her allies thwarted his original plan, he escaped with the CyberMasters. The companions safely made it back to Earth in another TARDIS (with the outward appearance of a house), but as the Doctor was making her way back to her own TARDIS, she was arrested by the Judoon and taken to a prison somewhere in deep space.
Ending on such a cliffhanger was a bold move, but showrunner Chris Chibnall promised back in March that the Doctor’s current predicament would be addressed in the upcoming holiday special, chock-full of Daleks, exterminations, and “thrills, laughter, and tears.” Chibnall deliberately avoided bringing in classic Doctor Who villains in his first outing as showrunner, although the Doctor and her “fam” defeated a Reconnaissance Dalek that had managed to rebuild itself after a long hibernation in the 2019 holiday special, Resolution.
Chibnall has said this latest holiday special will be both a standalone episode and a sequel to Resolution. “In a sense, that Dalek gives birth to this next iteration,” he told Radio Times.
In the trailer, we see Jo Patterson (Harriet Walters)—who appears to be the British Prime Minister—introducing two Daleks as “defense drones” in front of 10 Downing Street before peering inside one of the shells along with the villainous Jack Robertson (Chris Noth) and his sidekick Leo (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). We’re also getting more Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)—we last saw him in “Fugitive of the Judoon,” in which he delivered a cryptic message to the Doctor via her companions to “Beware the Lone Cyberman.”
Per the official description:
Viewers last saw the Thirteenth Doctor at the end of season 12, where her fate was left hanging in the balance as she was locked away in a high-security alien prison with no hope of escape. In the upcoming New Year’s Day special, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham are far away on Earth and having to carry on with their lives without her. However, they soon discover a disturbing plan forming. A plan which involves a Dalek. How can you fight a Dalek without the Doctor? Even with Captain Jack’s help, the gang are set to face one of their biggest and most frightening challenges yet.
Alas, it’s been confirmed that Revolution of the Daleks will mark the final appearance of two of the Doctor’s trio of companions over the last two series: Bradley Walsh’s Graham and Tosin Cole’s Ryan. “The fam as a four is no more,” Whittaker said at a recent press conference, pronouncing herself “absolutely devastated” at the cast shakeup. Chibnall was understandably loath to offer many details, particularly on the question of whether the characters might return to the series at some point in the future. But he did say we could expect an emotional exit.
“We’ve all been in tears watching it,” Chibnall said. “It’s a really important part of the mix of the special, lots of thrills, lots of humor, lots of Daleks, and lots of emotions. We don’t shy away from what it means for this family to have its final moments together. I hope it feels like a good send-off for those two characters.”
Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks will air on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2021, at 8pm EST on BBC America.
Listing image by BBC