We finally have some idea what to expect from upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special (or rather, New Year’s special) Revolution of the Daleks, with a first-look trailer giving us plot hints and a few character reveals for the adventure.
The Doctor’s in jail, the “fam” are back on Earth with Captain Jack and the Daleks are on the march – but which Daleks, exactly, is less clear. You see, we’re not entirely convinced that the new-look black Daleks debuting in this special are “real” Daleks at all – instead, they may just be a copy.
Look, we know it sounds weird, but let us explain. In the festive special’s trailer we see Harriet Walter’s character Jo Patterson (who may or may not be the Prime Minister, but it seems likely) unveiling two Daleks as “new defence drones” set to protect the UK from outside threats.
Fans were quick to note that this seemed like a similar premise to 2010 episode Victory of the Daleks, which saw the Doctor’s greatest foes pretend to be human-made weapons – but what if this time, it’s true? What if the UK government has actually created their own Daleks, which will go rogue during the episode?
Certainly, there are a few hints to this effect in the trailer (above). Chris Noth’s villain Robertson and his sidekick Leo Rugazzi (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) are seen opening one of the Dalek’s shells at one point and poring over what appears to be a Dalek mutant suspended in a small tank, suggesting they have had some involvement in creating them, and generally speaking the new Dalek design looks a lot more man-made than previous versions.
Plus, there’s the connection to 2019 episode Resolution. Speaking to Radio Times, showrunner Chris Chibnall and executive producer Matt Strevens noted that this new episode has a close connection to the earlier Dalek episode, which saw a hibernating Reconnaissance Dalek rebuild itself from spare parts and attack Earth.
“This story is essentially both a standalone episode and also a sequel to Resolution,” Chibnall said.
“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,” Strevens added.
So how does this all fit together? Well, here’s our theory. In Resolution, the Reconnaissance Dalek reclaimed some of its weaponry from a company called MDZ, rebuilding a shell before being defeated and thrown into a supernova.
However, its damaged casing was apparently left behind in GCHQ, which could have inspired the British government (or MDZ) to try and copy it after seeing its destructive capabilities.
Notably, Patterson’s description of the Daleks as a “drone” echoes how it was described by attacking soldiers in Resolution, while the new-look Daleks also closely appear to match the one-off Resolution Dalek rather than the more common bronze Daleks we’ve seen in recent years – so what if this new design is just an attempt to copy and refine the battered Reconnaissance Dalek?
Showrunner Chris Chibnall has certainly hinted something like this could be the case.
“It harks back to the Reconnaissance Dalek in Resolution,” he said. “It’s almost like that might be a plot point…”
“We wanted the audience to see the origins in the Reconnaissance Dalek,” added Strevens.
“Because in a sense, that Dalek gives birth to this next iteration that we see in Revolution of the Daleks.”
After seeing how quickly that Dalek took out their armed forces and after being essentially handed the technology, why wouldn’t the government try to make their own, possibly even down to genetically engineering squid-like “pilots” to move them around (which could be how the shady Jack Robertson got involved)? And then how likely is it that these Daleks, just like the originals, would decide to act on their murderous heritage?
It certainly seems plausible – though there is one major hole in this theory. If the Daleks aren’t the usual model from Skaro, why do we see a Dalek spaceship in the trailer? If they really were knock-offs they’d already be on Earth, after all.
But there may be an explanation for this as well. Leaked filming pictures back in 2019 appeared to show one of the new black Daleks facing off with a crowd of the more familiar bronze Daleks, suggesting some sort of confrontation between the two. And while many at the time theorised that this could be some sort of civil war, maybe the truth is simpler – the “real” Daleks just arrived to protect their patent.
Adding fuel to the fire for this theory is the fact that regular Dalek operator Barnaby Edwards has confirmed his involvement in the episode, despite the new Daleks being remote-controlled due to their slimmer build. If Edwards and his fellow operators are on the scene, it stands to reason that the more traditional Daleks are back.
What if Revolution of the Daleks sees Ryan, Graham and Yaz (Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh and Mandip Gill) recognising these drones as Daleks and trying to stop the project, before the whole thing inspires the “real” Daleks to come and destroy what they would see as inferior copies? Maybe they’d even be able to hijack the new black Daleks, turning them against humanity.
Or maybe we’re wrong and this whole thing really is about Daleks undercover once more. Whatever the truth, and whether or not these versions stick around beyond this episode, one thing’s for sure – after Revolution of the Daleks, we’ll have even more Dalek designs to argue about. Bliss.
Want to learn more about the Daleks? Check out our exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes details in the Radio Times Doctor Who preview issue, on sale now.