"Resolution" – Doctor Who New Year's Day Special

And so we come to the Doctor Who holiday special, "Resolution". For whatever reason, it's on New Year's Day instead of Christmas. Whether it's show runner Chris Chibnall trying to be different, or ratings taking a dip, or other stuff the BBC and/or BBCAmerica wanted to run on Christmas Day, or all of the above, or none of the above, who knows? Okay, maybe she does but I haven't heard else saying something authoritative.

Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Jodie Whittaker, Doctor Who 2018 New Year's Day Special

As for the holiday, they tossed in a couple of mentions of New Year's Day (NYD). There was a fireworks celebration (in space!) the Doctor took her companions to see and a couple of other references to not much going on except the Internet on New Year's Day. But the references could have easily been changed to Christmas Day with some post-dubbing. Or maybe they were originally references to Christmas Day, and the post-dubbing changed them to New Year's Day.

There's no snow, and I suppose it's less a necessity for a NYD episode as a Christmas episode. Although why snow is associated more with Christmas than NYD, I don't know. Something to do with Santa and a sled, I suppose. There are no references to Santa Claus, but then there have been a couple of other Christmas specials without Santa references.

Onto the plot. First we get a big epic barbarian fight which one wonders if it was lifted from something else. It seems like a lot of money to spend on the dozens of extra and barbarian costumes that we got, only for a two-minute payoff. The barbarians fight an unseen opponent and defeat it, and then cut the opponent up into three pieces and take the three pieces to the ends of the earth to hide. Which all sounds a bit like the plot of the Justice League movie.

One of the deliverers gets killed and the piece ends up beneath the Sheffield City Hall. Two archaeologists are digging there while discussing their first kiss on New Year's Eve. They find something weird and put it under a UV light, and it comes to life, comes together into a squid-like creature, and attaches itself to the female, Lin (Charlotte Ritchie). And she takes off shortly thereafter, wearing a bulky coat.

Jodie Whittaker, Doctor Who 2018 New Year's Day Special

The Doctor has detected spatial teleportations on Earth, which raises the first of at least two questions about Dalek capabilities. And in this case, teleportation in general. The Doctor is (presumably) scanning all of Earth's timeline, and only picked up one alien teleportation? Even if she's only scanning for alien teleportation frequencies, that would be a lot of teleportation activity, past, present and future.

For another... how is the Dalek organic creature teleporting bits of itself without any kind of technology? We've never seen the Dalek creatures teleporting before with casings: here we have one that is teleporting without it.

But hey, it moves the plot along. The Doctor and her companions travel to the dig. As noted, the Dalek creature has already escaped by bonding/possessing Lin. The company she works for, MDZ, is not only into archaeology but black-market weaponry, and has bits of a Dalek casing stored in its vault. Fortunately, the only rent-a-cop at the place has his palm print registered, so Lin/Dalek kills him and uses his palm print to get into the vault and take the casing pieces.

The Doctor & Co. have retired to Graham's house, and Ryan's father/Grace's son Aaron (Daniel Adegboyega) shows up. He's trying to reunite with his family, and we get several weepy family scenes of Aaron with Ryan, and then Aaron with Graham. Neither are too thrilled Aaron skipped Grace's funeral, and he's not too happy about it, either. Now he wants to get together with Ryan for no particular reason other than it's New Year's and he's turning over a new leaf.

Also, Aaron sells microwave ovens and carries one around with him. Plot point ahoy!

The Doctor eventually tracks down Lin/Dalek and along the way discovers UNIT has been shut down due to Britain's major financial partners withdrawing support. Although in "The Sontaran Stratagem", it was mentioned that despite the name change of UNIT ('United Nations' to 'Unified'), they got "massive funding" from the UN. It makes a cute moment when the Doctor calls for help and gets a British government helpline and an operator, Polly (Laura Evelyn, who was just in the Black Mirror special "Bandersnatch": maybe "Resolution" was another of that episode's alternate endings?). And Polly informs the Doctor UNIT effectively doesn't exist anymore.

Lin/Dalek has gone to a farm, killed the owner, and made a crude casing of its own consisting of parts from the owner's... barn? garage? It abandons Lin's body to get into the casing and because Lin has been fighting its possession on and off throughout the episode. Why it didn't kill her, before or after it got into the casing, I have no idea. In probably the best scene of the episode, the Doctor confronts the Dalek, reveals she's the Doctor, and does some actual Doctoring. Granted, she uses her sonic to jam its gun temporarily, and seems more interested in ordering it to go back to Skaro than killing it. But it's a new sorta-peaceful Doctor, so we'll roll with it.

The Dalek flies off and battles some squaddies... somewhere. Near a windmill farm. Why, I don't know. They're unable to penetrate its casing with their guns, which seems odd since the casing isn't Dalekenium: it's just scrap metal the Dalek gathered. There's no force field glints from the bullets bouncing off that I could tell. The Dalek has also equipped its casing with missiles, and blows up a tank shell and then a tank. This fight contributes nothing to the plot.

The Dalek then flies to some big government communication center and redirects all the power in the UK to sending a signal to the Dalek fleet. This leads to a brief scene where we see a family deprived of the Internet, which doesn't go anywhere. I'm also not clear what the threat is, since the Daleks already know where Earth is. They've been on Earth since at least 1866 ("The Evil of the Daleks"). They can fly a fleet in any time that they want, so why a lone reconnaissance scout calling them in makes a difference, I don’t know.

The Doctor tracks down the Dalek and thanks to Aaron's microwave oven, comes up with a way to heat up the armor like the barbarians did in the opening tag. Which we didn't see then, but a book the other archaeologist, Mitch (Nikesh Patel), has includes an illustration of the barbarians basically burning the Dalek at the stake. How they managed to do that, I have no idea. Okay, I can kind of imagine hundreds of barbarians ganging up on a lone Dalek and tossing it into a bonfire. But it seems kind of silly. Maybe a regular Dalek, but we keep getting told this Dalek is a reconnaissance scout and has powers above and beyond that of a regular Dalek soldier unit. Which means whatever powers the script calls for, like teleporting body parts. So you'd think the recon Dalek would be even less likely to be taken down by barbarians than a regular Dalek.

The Doctor & Co. then gang up on the Dalek and attach Aaron's microwave oven parts, overheat its improvised casing, and cause it to melt open. However, the Dalek jumps onto Aaron and takes control of him. It demands the Doctor take it to Skaro, and she does so. However, she opens the TARDIS on a supernova and creates a vacuum corridor to suck the Dalek into the supernova. It takes Aaron along with it, but Ryan tells his father he loves him, Aaron reaches out, and Ryan pulls him to safety while the Dalek gets sucked into the supernova. Which seems like overkill if you ask me: can it survive in the vacuum of space at absolute zero?

In the end, the Doctor invites Aaron to join them. Aaron refuses, so he can go back to his life of selling microwaves. Or making them. Or something. And the team takes off for, as the Doctor puts it, "everywhere".

"Resolution" is an okay episode. I've noted in my previous reviews the Doctor really needs a competent, and evil, opponent to fight, putting her in the best light since the "villains" she's fought so far have been either incompetent, or one-shots, or both. Or she just sits around and has to make sure the course of history proceeds as intended. So we get the Daleks. Or at least, a Dalek.

On the other hand, it's a pretty unimpressive Dalek. It's more impressive than the other villains in Season 11, but that's pretty weak sauce to exceed. The Dalek is actually more impressive when it's outside of its casing and taking over Lin. I can't tell if the creative team wasn't that impressed with the Dalek design, or wanted to try something new, or some of both. Me, I'd rather have seen the original Daleks before they started tinkering with the design.

It doesn't help that the Dalek here is a singleton. It's not that a single-Dalek episode can't work, see "Dalek" in season 1, but that had several things going for it that "Resolution" didn't. Things like a Dalek with somewhat of a personality, the yet-unrevealed Time War backstory, a decent human opponent, and battle sequences that made sense.

Jodie Whittaker, Doctor Who 2018 New Year's Day Special

The Doctor is okay: they actually give Jodie Whittaker a villain to act against, and she appears to be having fun. The best parts of the episode are when the Doctor is confronting the Dalek, either via hologram or when she faces off against it directly as mentioned previously.

Bradley Walsh is good as always although he really only has one scene. Tosin Cole gets to do something, as his scene telling off Aaron is pretty powerful stuff. They had to toss in a mention of his dyspraxia, though, even though it in no way impedes him throughout the episode. As has been typical most of this season, Yasmin has nothing of any significance to do.

The main problem with "Resolution" is it's a bit too... variable. The Dalek is all over the place, from super-powerful (teleporting body parts, possessing humans) because it's a recon scout, to kinda weak because a bunch of 9th century barbarians defeated it. It spends the first part of the episode out of its casing, and arguably it's more effective and scary there. There are a number of body-horror type shots that make it look fairly impressive. Once it's in its the Dalek casing, its appearance is tweaked and it engages in a pointless battle scene just to look tough. I can appreciate the production felt the need to show what a bad-ass a single Dalek is, but why not show it off in a battle sequence that actually serves some purpose? In "Resolution", the Dalek just flies down onto a country road, several Army trucks surround it, and the Dalek eventually blows them away.

The apparent elimination of UNIT is treated more like a joke aside than something serious. Maybe it'll be explored in future. That's what a lot of fans thought about the Trump act-alike Jack Robertson in "Archnids in the UK" or the Stenza: that we'd see them again before the end of Season 11. And we didn't. So whether we'll get the Daleks, or the Stenza, or Robertson, in Season 12, we'll see.

My overall view of Season 11, including "Resolution" is that it was... mediocre. "Resolution" brings back the Daleks, and the show needed a good shot of both real villainy and some continuity to the old series. But the Dalek here seemed obligatory, like the creative team didn't want to commit to a full-on "Dalek episode". But knew it was required so they did it. So they tossed in one Dalek, but saved it for a holiday special and gave it a new look. And we, hopefully, all know how well new-look Daleks did in "Victory of the Daleks", right? Hint: not very, and we've never seen them again.

And yes, a lot of this is nitpicky about what Daleks can and can't do, and what Daleks are and aren't like. But if the creative team wanted to create their own monster, let them create their own monster. What's the point of bringing in a Dalek if it doesn't act like the Daleks many of us know and love?

So "Resolution" is probably the most Doctor Who-ish episode of season 11. I wouldn't say it's the "best" episode: that honor probably goes to "Demons of the Punjab" (good historical drama, lovely cinematography, something about Yasmin) or "The Witchfinders" (an evil menace, Alan Cumming, looking at the Doctor as a woman). But "Resolution" is a watchable episode and/or holiday special.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Jan 2, 2019

Comments

mad_man1983 posted 13 days ago

I like Jodie, but the episodes with her so far has not been that good, need some better writers for the episodes i think, because i like her Doctor, i just don't find the stories that entertaining this season

jepafo posted 17 days ago

Thanks for the review. Insightful as always. Agree with Gislef. Better than the average for the season - but too much SJW messaging. Maybe next season will be better. Won't be thinking of The Doctor much until then, which is unusual for me.

Gislef posted 17 days ago

The female Doctor concept by itself doesn't bother me: it's more that it's a symptom of the whole... well, SJW element that Chibnall seems to have embraced. I don't expect Whittaker to act like Capaldi, or Smith, or Tennant, or Eccleston. But she has minority companions (pensioner, black, Indian, handicapped). And she has to be a pacifist to sometimes absurd lengths. And most of her opponents either have to be not-so-evil after all, or incompetent, or practically non-existent. Which is why I don't consider "Rosa" that good an episode. It casts the Doctor as a pacifist against time, and the "bad guy" as a lousy shot with a gun that overheats into uselessness after he fires it.. twice? Yes, there are fixed moments in time that the Doctor can't change, and back in '63-'64 the Doctor couldn't change the path of the Aztec civilization. But that was over 50 years ago. It's not Doctor Who now.

So the Dalek was an awkward fit for Thirteen. To be "the Doctor" she had to stand up to something evil that wasn't willing to negotiate or compromise, and wasn't just "following its nature" like the Pting. But we've had a season of her not doing that: too little, too late.

LadyShelley posted 17 days ago

And I think that's me done with Doctor Who until Chibnall is gone. I admit I wasn't thrilled with the idea of a female Doctor, but was willing to be convinced. My bigger concern was Chibnall. His other Doctor Who stories were fair to poor. I thought Broadchurch moved at a glacial pace with little characterization. He did nothing to change my mind with this season of Who. I somehow doubt he will be doing any chatshow interviews with fans in the future. (karma can be a real ...)

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