In her travels across time and space, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) has halted the villainous efforts of homicidal cyborgs, alien parasites and celestial beings – but one foe she just doesn’t seem able to pin down is the slippery Jack Robertson (Chris Noth).
The corrupt business mogul first encountered our hero and her “fam” in Sheffield, 2019, where he’d built a luxury hotel complex… on top of abandoned mine tunnels being used as a dumping ground for industrial waste. Robertson’s dodgy dealings led to the creation of genetically modified giant spiders which briefly plagued the city, until the TARDIS team arrived to combat the mutant arachnids.
Unusually for a Doctor Who villain, Robertson didn’t get his comeuppance at the close of the episode Arachnids in the UK. Instead, he walked away from the chaos practically unscathed, announcing his plans to run for President of the United States – though we learn in the show’s latest episode, the bumper-length New Year’s Day special Revolution of the Daleks, that the scandal surrounding Robertson’s hotel of horrors has temporarily put the kibosh on his political aspirations.
Robertson returns in Revolution of the Daleks eager to repair his reputation, pitching the drone army created by Leo Rugazzi (Nathan Stewart-Jarett) to the UK’s Technology Secretary, Jo Patterson (Harriet Walter), as the perfect robotic wardens, blissfully unaware that their origins lie in the DNA of the universe’s most hostile alien creatures.
This being Robertson, his plans of course backfire – under the influence of a Dalek mutant, Leo alters the design plan of his “drones” to swap out water guns for laser blasters and arranges for a man-made breed of Dalek clones to take up occupation in the now-lethal metallic casings. It’s again up to the Doctor to come up with a solution, fighting fire with fire – or rather Dalek with Dalek – by calling on a Skarosian Death Squad to eliminate their “impure” cousins bred on Earth and fed on human corpses (Happy New Year!).
Our Jack isn’t out for the count yet, though – always looking to climb the ladders of power, even if it means striking a deal with an extraterrestrial menace, Robertson briefly allies himself with the bronze Daleks (who’ve emerged the victor in their race’s civil war), outing the Doctor as the one who called them to Earth and offering to serve her up in exchange for a guarantee of his own survival.
The Doctor’s one step ahead, of course – she uses the spare TARDIS that Yaz (Mandip Gill) has been calling home for the last 10 months to trick the bronze Daleks into destroying themselves – but in the aftermath, Robertson is somehow able to wriggle his way out of facing any repercussions again. He insists his selling out the human race was a mere bluff and that he was merely acting as a “decoy” to fool the Daleks – and while his cover story is flimsy at best, the Doctor apparently decides to let him walk away for a second time. (The decision is made off-screen, so it’s not entirely clear why she lets Robertson go, though maybe it’s in the belief that he’ll have to face the consequences of his drones having gone haywire.)
Somehow, though, he again manages to come up smelling of roses – the news media is under the misapprehension that it was Robertson who quashed the Dalek invasion and he’s hailed as “the saviour of humanity” – there’s even talk of an honorary knighthood, with a big hint that now his standing in the eyes of the public is repaired, he’ll relaunch his efforts to take the White House.
Is this the last we’ll see of Jack “Teflon” Robertson? Quite possibly not. Speaking of the decision to revive the character for Revolution of the Daleks, writer/Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall explained, “His character’s story didn’t feel like it was at an end. He was disgraced at the end of the previous episode where we met him, and the story of his recovery and how he claws back into the world, continues in this story.”
Note the use of the word “continues” rather than “concludes” – does that imply there are more stories to be told with Robertson? Certainly, it’s quite a fun notion that, for all her past skirmishes with threats on an intergalactic scale, the one villain the Doctor can’t ever quite wrangle is this too-slick-for-his-own-good tycoon, and there’s certainly story potential in having him rise to arguably the highest position of power on the planet. If anything, he’ll be even trickier to bring down as US Commander-in-Chief.
Certainly, one imagines it won’t be too hard to convince Chris Noth to return to Doctor Who again – his encore on the show was part inspired by the actor’s own desire to reprise the character. “It’s a fabulous performance from Chris,” Chibnall has said. “He loved being in the show, and was really keen to come back.”
Of course, the real question is: the next time we see Robertson, will he finally get his just desserts, or will he escape justice for a third time? Having survived giant spiders and now a Dalek death squad, we certainly won’t be betting against him.