Doctor Who: Is there a hidden clue in the festive special title?

“Revolution of the Daleks” could hint at more than first appears…

A Dalek with Jodie Whittaker's Doctor (BBC)

With months still to go until the airing of Doctor Who’s festive special (filmed before the coronavirus pandemic), there’s still a lot we don’t know about Jodie Whittaker’s winter return as the Doctor.

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Will Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole exit? Will John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness play a part? And how will the Doctor escape from Judoon prison?

For now, the only thing we do know is what the special’s called – Revolution of the Daleks. But aside from the tacit confirmation that the Doctor’s deadliest foes will be making an appearance, it’s possible there are some other clues to take from the title…

From the moment the episode title was revealed, fans were quick to try and decode its meaning. Could the “revolution” apply to some kind of Dalek civil war akin to the one seen in the classic series, and as hinted by leaked filming of an inter-Dalek battle? Or was there another meaning hidden within?

When RadioTimes.com spoke to Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs a few months ago, he told us it was a “very apposite title” given the story.

“It fits perfectly. I can see why they’ve called it that. But not in the way that you’d think,” he said – and while he wouldn’t give much else away, he did confirm that the title wasn’t any kind of pun involving “revolutions”, aka an instance of Daleks revolving…

“I think I can safely say that is not what happens in the episode,” he laughed.

Still, beyond the dictionary definitions the choice of title has some interesting comparisons to be drawn with Doctor Who history. When “Revolution of the Daleks” flashed up on the screen, some viewers were quick to notice the similarity to 1985 episode Revelation of the Daleks, which saw Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor caught up again in the Dalek Imperial/Renegade civil war.

During this clash (which had its seeds sown in the earlier Peter Davison story Resurrection of the Daleks), two factions of Daleks loyal, one loyal to creator Davros and another to the Supreme Dalek, battled for supremacy – and given the leaked filming of a Dalek-vs-Dalek clash believed to be a part of the new Jodie Whittaker episode, could the similar titles hint that Revolution will follow Revelation in key story elements as well?

When we put this idea to Briggs, he waved off any direct associations – “No I don’t think so,” he said when we asked if the title was a “play” on Revelation of the Daleks – but he did note that the title had a wider precedent in the series.

“It’s interesting isn’t it, because there was that thing in old Doctor Who where they started having lots of Re-titles,” he said, referring to Resurrection of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks.

“We’ve had [2019 New Year special] Resolution and now Revolution [of the Daleks].”

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant in Revelation of the Daleks (BBC)
Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant in Revelation of the Daleks (BBC)

Notably, despite starring different Doctors (specifically Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy) all three of these classic Re-titles followed one story thread – different stages of the Imperial/Renegade Dalek Civil War – and since then, no stories involving the Daleks have directly followed this naming convention.

Sure, we’ve had a few good “of the Daleks” titles in the new series, like Asylum of the Daleks, Victory of the Daleks and 2007’s Evolution of the Daleks (which is only one letter away from the upcoming festive special’s title, funnily enough), and 2019 Dalek special Resolution without the “of the Daleks” suffix. But we haven’t had a “Re- of the Daleks” title since Remembrance – until now.

All of which is to say that in titling terms, Revolution of the Daleks does seem to follow Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance – so is it possible that the story will be something of a sequel to that unofficial trilogy as well?

Think about it. The only Doctor Who episodes with this particular naming convention dealt with an inter-Dalek civil war – and the only thing we’ve seen of this episode’s filming is a newer, 2019-era “Recon Dalek” being apparently destroyed by a group of post-2005 Gold Daleks. Surely there’s some sort of intended connection there?

Maybe this is a new front in the continued Imperial/Renegade battle (but with Gold Daleks instead of white and gold Imperials, and a darker Recon Dalek instead of a grey and black Renegade), or an entirely new civil war that showrunner Chris Chibnall intends to be a reflection of the earlier clash.

Or maybe it’s more of a spiritual sequel with just a hint of Dalek-on-Dalek action, with the title intended as a subtle nod to fans rather than an explicit connection to the classic series.

Whatever the truth, we’re convinced there’s more to Revolution of the Daleks than meets the eyestalk. Time for the Doctor to wade into Dalek politics once again…

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Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks air on BBC One in late 2020/early 2021