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Everything We Know About The Doctor Who Festive Special

This content was paid for by New York Comic Con and created by Looper.

Wish the holidays would last just a little longer? Good news: Even after the New Year's Eve fireworks have faded, the menorah candles have melted down, and the tree has been condemned to the curb, there will still be one annual tradition left to enjoy: the annual Doctor Who Festive Special. On January 1, 2021, the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions return to BBC America and BBC One for "Revolution of the Daleks," which is shaping up to be the greatest challenge Jodie Whittaker's Time Lord has faced yet.

After all, "Revolution of the Daleks" doesn't just feature the return of the Doctor's classic foes. It has to resolve the breathtaking cliffhanger that closed out Doctor Who's latest season. It brings back a number of recurring characters, including one big fan favorite, and says goodbye to a couple of others. All that, and a new, updated take on the classic Dalek designs, too? Forget the presents. From all indications, the Doctor Who Festive Special is shaping up to be the real highlight of the holiday season.

Where we left off

Of course, as fans know, the last episode of Doctor Who's twelfth season, "The Timeless Children," ended on a couple of major cliffhangers. First, the Doctor learned that she was the Timeless Child that has been referenced over the past few seasons, and that it was her DNA that gave the Time Lords their signature regenerative abilities. Next, she was captured by the extra-terrestrial police force known as the Judoon, given a life sentence, and locked away in an outer space prison, far from Earth and her friends.

That's where the episode ends. If you want to see what happens next, you'll definitely want to catch "Revolution of the Daleks," which presents new challenges for both the Doctor and her friends. As Jodie Whittaker explained, this is "one of the first times that the Doctor is away from the gang, and from the Doctor's point of view [she] has no idea about what's going on Earth." Instead, she's biding her time in a Judoon jail cell, an image of which Whittaker shared during an online New York Comic-Con 2020 panel. "I would say from clues in the photograph that I may have been there for a while," Whittaker quipped.

Not that her companions are having an easier time of it. "Basically, we don't know where the Doctor's gone. We don't know if we're now in Sheffield forever and our journey with the Doctor is over," added Mandip Gill, who plays Yaz on the series. "I can speak for Yaz. She's finding it very difficult."

Things get even worse when the Daleks, one of the Doctor's oldest and deadliest enemies, make an unexpected return. "We then do come across a plot that involves a Dalek, and we go, Okay, she's taught us lots of things, how are we going to fight a Dalek without a Doctor?'" Gill said.

Her co-star Bradley Walsh expressed similar sentiments. "How do we sort of now as three save mankind, womankind, everyone?" Walsh, who plays Graham, asked. "Talk about being thrown in the deep end!" Still, while the adventure may be rough on our heroes, Walsh promised fans will love results. "What you'll find happens next is extraordinary," he said.

An old foe returns, but with a new look

This is far from the first time that the Doctor has tangled with the Daleks, of course. The Time Lord has been fighting the creatures since their debut in 1963, after which they quickly became a pop culture fixture, spawning toys, novels, spin-off movies, stage plays, novelty songs, cameos both official and otherwise, and so much more.

More recently, the Thirteenth Doctor took on the Daleks in the last Doctor Who Festive Special, 2019's "Resolution." In that episode, two archeologists accidentally revive an old Dalek scout, who promptly takes over one of the researchers' bodies, re-creates the iconic Dalek shell from old junk, and tries its best to summon the Dalek fleet to Earth. The Doctor, Yaz, Graham, and their fellow companion Ryan stop the invasion before it gets too far, of course, but the Daleks aren't out of commission just yet.

Still, the Daleks featured in "Revolution of the Daleks" don't look quite like the ones the Doctor as seen before. As revealed in the Festive Special's first trailer, the latest Daleks are sleeker and more modern than ever before. However, they're still crafty enemies. This time, it looks like the Daleks are posing as new, government-run security drones, which is almost certain to end in disaster. The Daleks may not be the only classic Doctor Who villains returning for the special, either. In the trailer, a shot of the Judoon prison reveals Cybermen, a P'Ting, and, possibly, a Weeping Angel lurking in jail cells.

A big reunion, and some even bigger goodbyes

The Daleks aren't the only fan-favorite characters returning for The Doctor Who Festive Special. Following a one-episode cameo in season 12's "Fugitive of the Judoon," Arrowverse star John Barrowman is back in "Revolution of the Daleks" as Captain Jack Harkness. As die-hard Whovians know, Captain Jack is a former time-traveling con artist who first appeared way back in 2005's first season of the current run of Doctor Who. From there, he ended up headlining the adult-oriented Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, in which he led a team of alien hunters at the behest of a covert agency.

But that's not all. "Revolution of the Daleks" will also see the return of Sex and the City and The Good Wife actor Chris Noth, who will once again play hotel owner Jack Robertson, a character that first appeared during season 11. Dame Harriet Walter, who recently appeared on fellow BBC America hit Killing Eve, and Misfits' Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, will also appear in the episode.

Sadly, "Revolution of the Daleks" isn't all returning villains and happy reunions. As confirmed by the BBC, the latest Festive Special will be the last episodes for Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole, who have played the Doctor's companions Graham and Ryan since 2018. For Doctor Who, this is largely par for the course — companions seem to come and go every few seasons — but that doesn't mean that their departure won't tug at the (double) heartstrings.

"It is very, very dramatic. It is very sad," Walsh said. "You can expect a lot of poignancy from the episode." At the very least, the episode has already brought one person to tears: In a statement, Whittaker admitted that saying goodbye to her friends made her sob. "On a personal note, absolutely devastated!" Whittaker said. "Both of them had to carry me to my trailer. I haven't cried like that for such a long time."