As the New Year begins, a terrifying evil is stirring from across the centuries of Earth’s history. As the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz return home, will they be able to overcome the threat to planet Earth?
A Doctor Who Christmas (or in this case New Year’s) special should be an event. This is not the time for a run-of-the-mill episode. A bumper holiday audience puts extra focus on every aspect of the production and it needs to impress.
Luckily for us this first Chris Chibnall-era special doesn’t disappoint.
What Chibnall and his crew cleverly did during the main season was avoid all of the well known, classic Who villains. Listening to fan criticism of previous over use of villains, particularly Daleks and Cyberman, has really worked for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.
Saving the Dalek’s, well Dalek, for this episode was a great move. Instead of rolling my eyes and exclaiming “not again!” This was actually cause to celebrate.
An unusually epic, historical opening builds some heavy intrigue for the rest of the episode. “Resolution” also goes to great lengths not to make it obvious as to who will be its villain. In fact it takes almost half the episode to confirm our fears that the Dalek’s have returned.
Everything that Chibnall did with the Dalek character was an unusual choice. Most of those choices pay off throughout the episode. At times the inner Dalek monologue comes off a little Venom-y. It veers off towards being a bit hammy but never drives to distraction.
Even the appearance of the Dalek is unique. Outside of its homemade shell it appears partly as CGI and partly as practical effects. Both are convincing and update what we’ve seen before to match the modern aesthetic of the show.
The junkyard chic look is something organic to the story which allows Doctor Who to present a Dalek we haven’t seen before. Overall I’m really impressed with what they were able to do here.
Where “Resolution” does let itself down is with some obvious story choices. Those familiar with my reviews of this season know I’ve picked holes in the show for tripping over itself with exposition.
“Resolution” takes the opposite approach and explains the resurrection of the Dalek in one short question. It’s all too convenient. Although it allows for more time to be spent on the action it just didn’t fit comfortably with me.
The second issue I feel torn over. After skirting around the subject all season Ryan’s dad finally appeared in this episode. There is, of course, tension between them. The usual scenes of Ryan telling his dad he can’t just reappear and it all be okay and his dad failing to live up to expectations are all there.
But then at the episodes conclusion a sequence in which Aaron almost dies at the
hands tentacles of the Dalek feels massively rushed. In second Aaron is almost sucked out of the TARDIS only for Ryan to step in, exclaim his love and forgiveness and save him.
All of a sudden the pair are family again. After a full season of angst it just feels disingenuous for the show to fix things so quickly.
Graham and Yas are relegated to second string here. Both do appear and have a handful of scenes but they’re not entirely necessary to the story. Hopefully they’ll have more to do next time around.
Jodie Whittaker has some of her best action sequences we’ve seen so far. This is her most physical episode of Doctor Who yet. It allows her to show off much more of her range and has me quite excited for where the series can go when it returns in 2020.
“Resolution” is an excellent example of how this ‘new’ Doctor Who functions. There are political undertones, bags of emotional content and enough scares to keep the audience happy. There are a couple of lazy moments in the story but these are easily outweighed by its overall impact.
The series stars Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair and Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien.
Doctor Who airs Sunday nights on BBC One in the UK and BBC America in North America. Time slots may vary.