With less than a week to go until the New Year's Day premiere of Doctor Who Festive Special 2020 "Revolution of the Daleks," the public relations machine is shifting into overdrive to get viewers excited. In the special, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is still locked away in a space prison, leaving the returning Captain Jack (John Barrowman), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and series-departing Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) to save the Earth from the machinations of a new version of the Doctor's arch-enemy. But will "Team TARDIS" be enough to stop them without the Doctor? Joining the special are Chris Noth (Sex and the City) as the returning (and disgraced) Jack Robertson, as well as Dame Harriet Walter (Killing Eve, Succession) making her Doctor Who debut alongside television star Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (The Trial of Christine Keeler).
As you just read, Walsh's Graham and Cole's Ryan will be departing the TARDIS after the dust settles on the special (hopefully, a "happily ever after" ending for both), which is why Whitaker found filming the special and keeping the news under wraps so tough. "I was absolutely beside myself. I don't have a poker face. It's my actual job, so I should be better at it. But I remember when they called wrap on that day, Tosin was like, 'Calm Down!' I'd gone, I'd absolutely gone. In a way, it's just reflective of the time we've had and this journey. I'm really lucky. Me and Mandip are still on the journey, but, because it was the end of us four, and us four have been so tight, it was one of those things," Whittaker explained during an interview with EW. "I know that in my life, this is one of the best things that will ever happen to me and the best times that I will ever have on set. This job is this thing that is untouchable. There'll be a million other amazing experiences, hopefully. But if I do this for 20 seasons I know my first time as the Doctor was with this family as this four and this is our time — a 'Goonies' moment, it's our time! I felt very much like a kid in a well. I was so sad."
With Whittaker currently filming Series 13, questions about the series and her future in the role are only natural. But if you're expecting Whittaker to think that far ahead, you better think again. "As far as I'm concerned, right now, I'm the Doctor and that's taking up everything of me, as an actor," she responded. "And to think something beyond that, I can't put my head there, and I don't want to."
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 is set to face one of their biggest and most frightening challenges yet.
As we mentioned in previous posts, something viewers should know about "Revolution of the Daleks" is that it's pulling double-duty: serving as both a stand-alone episode as well as a sequel to 2019's "Resolution (of the Daleks)." In fact, from what showrunner Chris Chibnall and executive producer Matt Strevens had to say, it sounds like a rewatching before "Revolution" might be in order. "I kept to using just one Dalek in 'Resolution' because they're powerful things singly anyway, so that's fun just to be able to give one that space. But also I was planning to bring them back in greater numbers for this episode," Chibnall revealed.
"We knew that when we said goodbye to the Reconnaissance Dalek, when it was jettisoned out of the Tardis doors into a supernova at the end of 'Resolution,' that that would not be the end of it. Chris already had the idea of this return, that the next time we see the Daleks, it'd be straight into a sort of origin story for the version in our era of the series."
When it came to designing a new look for the iconic villains, Chibnall wanted to make sure that they went with a look that would be unique while still staying true to the Daleks. "We wanted something sleek, shiny and powerful, and slightly different from any Dalek you've seen before," he revealed. "There's always a pressure when you refresh any Doctor Who monster. But equally, that's part of the job and that's part of what keeps it new and interesting." That said, neither Chibnall nor Strevens are looking to replace what came before them.
"You're never replacing what's gone before, you're just adding a new variant," Chibnall explained. "It's just this story is about these black and red Daleks, which light up at night and do all sorts of things." Strevens agrees, adding, "You want to contemporize them, and make them hold up to scrutiny under modern filming techniques, and to look as high-end as you possibly can. You can't stray too far from the classic design – but then what can you do within that? How can you make them feel different and relevant, and sexy, and lethal as well?"