‘Doctor Who’ Welcomes Back Jack Harkness & Says Goodbye to the Fam (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the holiday special of Doctor Who, “Revolution of the Daleks.”]
Daleks, an immortal, and the fam, oh my! Doctor Who‘s holiday special brings back an old friend, familiar foes, and Mr. Big. Yes, there are two Jacks — Harkness (John Barrowman) and Robertson (Sex and the City‘s Chris Noth) in “Revolution of the Daleks” — but only one deserves to be called by his first name. You’ll see why in a bit.
The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) remains in space prison when the special opens up, while the rest of the fam — companions Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh) — learns Earth is once again in trouble from Daleks, those dreaded foes. They are reunited with the Doc, but that’s tricky considering there’s time travel involved.
Plus, going in, we know this is Ryan and Graham’s last adventure through time and space, but will it by choice or circumstance? Read on to find out.
Familiar Foes … and a Friend!
The Doctor’s days (and there are many of them, which she’s keeping track of as she urges herself to “stay strong”) are tedious in the Judoon prison. She goes from one cell to another, the second of which is amongst the other prisoners’. She says hello to some old enemies, including a Weeping Angel, Ood, and the Silence (“I forgot you were here,” she quips to the religious order no one remembers if they’re not in sight), on either side, until her old friend Captain Jack Harkness reveals himself — and breaks her out with fancy tech. “Have you had work done?” she asks, and he retorts, “you can talk!” After all, last he saw the Doctor, David Tennant was in the role.
It just took committing “a lot of crimes” to get to the cell next to hers, he shares, before they use his vortex manipulator (don’t ask how he smuggled it in) to transport to her TARDIS. “I was in prison for being me, right at a point I wasn’t sure what that meant,” the Doctor tells Jack. But it’s back to her fam … only for the reunion to not turn out quite as she hopes.
Worry About the Present, Not the Past
Though she means to arrive in the U.K. immediately after they did, it’s been 10 months since the fam saw the Doctor. In that time, Yaz single-handedly has taken on trying to find the alien, until the others alert her to a more troubling matter: Robertson, with prime minister elect Jo Patterson (Dame Harriet Walter) is behind new police “prototype security drones,” the design for which is based off Daleks. (He got his hands on the recon one, ostensibly completely destroyed, the Doctor and companions dealt with in 2019.)
What they don’t know is engineer Leo (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) clones the organic remnants he finds in the hollow shell, and when Robertson orders him to destroy it, the creature instead latches onto its creator. Bye, Leo. Hello, Da-Leo-k and its clone farm.
Once everyone’s back in the TARDIS, the Doctor scans for Dalek traces across the planet, while Jack catches her companions up on his past with the aliens: “They killed me once, a long time ago, no big deal. … I can be killed, but I come back to life pretty quick. Partially her fault, partially a friend of hers on Earth called Rose. But she’s trapped in a parallel universe now.” It’s a bit forced, as far as exposition goes, but Barrowman delivers it so well we’ll let it pass.
The Doctor, Ryan, and Graham visit Robertson in his office and find he’s 3D-printing empty Dalek shells, while Jack takes Yaz with him to check out Dalek readings in Japan. He also offers her some advice as someone who’s traveled with the Doctor and stopped.
“Being with the Doctor, you don’t get to choose when it stops. Whether you leave her or she leaves you,” Jack says. “It felt cruel, to be shown something I couldn’t have anymore,” Yaz admits. “Felt like I’d rather not have known, I’d rather not have met her because having met her and then being without, that’s worse.” All she can do is “enjoy the journey while you’re on it,” he tells her. “Because the joy is worth the pain.” (And speaking of pain, as Jo unveils the “drones” to Britain, Dalek creatures attack Jack and Yaz. He shoots both.)
Meanwhile, on their way to rendezvous with the others, the Doctor apologizes to Ryan for being gone so long. The 10 months home were good for him, he shares. He spent time with his father and saw the work that’s needed on Earth. She tries to sidestep what happened with the Master, but Ryan refuses to let her. He can tell something’s changed in her, and, foreshadowing what’s to come, she can see the same with him. It very much feels like a goodbye, and it’s really good to see Doctor Who take the time for these emotional beats.
Fire Daleks With ….
As the Doctor’s group joins Jack and Yaz in Japan, Da-Leo-k reveals itself and its plan. The Dalek connected itself into the neural network and built the place. The humans it hired for the construction? They were liquidized and fed to the cloned Dalek creatures. “This is a PR disaster,” Robertson laments. The Dalek even augmented Robertson’s designs, and suddenly, those “security drones” all around Britain are “activated.” Those Daleks begin exterminating any human in their paths, including Jo.
But the Doctor knows who she is now: “I’m the one who stops the Daleks.” Doing so in this case, however, requires the “nuclear option,” and she calls in the Death Squad Daleks, enforcers of their race, to take out the new ones. It’s just very important they don’t know she’s behind the message.
After the Death Squad exterminates the “impure” Daleks (due to the human DNA mixed in), Robertson decides to turn on humanity and offers to guide the Daleks in taking over Earth. If they take him to their leader, he also has key information to share.
Goodbyes Are the Hardest
With Robertson’s Daleks off the table, the fam just needs to take out the Death Squad ship. That’s where Jack (“I have Dalek issues. You never forget your first death”), Ryan, and Graham come in, transporting on board with explosives. It’s there they hear Robertson give up the Doctor to the Daleks.
The Doctor, after promising Yaz she won’t disappear again (yes, she will, the companion argues), calls the Daleks to her like “obedient little pets,” and they follow her into the TARDIS. At the same time, Jack transports himself, Ryan, Graham, and even Robertson off the Death Squad ship and sets off the explosives. And the Doctor reveals to the Daleks with her that she’s a hologram and they’re in her spare TARDIS (which she made to look like hers). She set it to fold in upon itself and go to the heart of the Void, where it will break apart and destroy itself. As always, she escapes the Daleks.
Robertson manages to come out on top as the “savior of humanity,” with rumors of an honorary knighthood and a revived presidential run.
Jack’s staying on Earth for a bit, catching up with Gwen Cooper (his old friend from Torchwood). The Doctor is already planning on taking her fam to a meringue galaxy … but Ryan decides he’s staying. “I feel like my planet needs me,” he admits. Yaz isn’t ready to give up the adventures, but while Ryan tells Graham he can go, his grandfather chooses to stay with him.
“I don’t want to miss out on you,” he tells Ryan. “Being here without you ain’t gonna be the same. I’ll always be looking around to say stuff to you. Ryan, you’re my family.” With that, it’s farewell to the fam. After the two exit, the Doctor wonders about taking the TARDIS to go back and change the timeline to give them more time together. “It’s OK to be sad,” Yaz tells her.
So what does life post-Doctor look like for Ryan and Graham? It’s back to trying to teach the former to ride a bike … while noticing strange happenings around the world that they can check out using the psychic paper the Doctor gave them. And it’s both seeing Ryan’s late grandmother Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) watching them with a smile for a moment.
And so the fam is no more after quite the wild ride.