The Doctor Who New Year’s Day 2019 special promised to be “one of the most dramatic episodes this series” with Jodie Whittaker at the helm as the Chris Chibnall’s storyline saw the Daleks return. Chibnall also promised that this special was going to be ‘epic’, but did it fulfil all of these promises sufficiently? Well, I’d argue it made a very good stab at it.
It says a lot about ‘Resolution’ that Doctor Who’s first ever New Year’s Day special that it overrides the usual opening titles to launch us straight into the action. A pacy and atmospheric opening rattles through all the backstory we need as a monstrous force is overpowered and torn apart, scattered in pieces across the planet. Even if I did feel this section was a little drawn out, and some opening credits would have been nice, this did feel very ‘epic’ to quote Chris Chibnall and felt very different from conventional Who episodes. Although I wasn’t entirely keen on the massive intertitles that played out every time we jumped between the different burial sites, and when I say massive, I honestly mean that they filled the entire screen. It was just a bit much, that is all.
One thing that must be commended immediately is the fantastic visuals that can be seen throughout the episode. From the recurring, totally awesome time vortex to the magnificent TARDIS materialisations, it all looks fantastic and is a welcome sight from previous years of rather dodgy CGI. Resolution was promised to be action packed, and to say it doesn’t let up on the promise is an understatement. The special effects team certainly had their work cut out in this episode, from the scene when the car was drifting all over the road to the scene where the Dalek got exterminating those soldiers. All that can be said is that it all certainly looked ‘epic’ and that I had no problem with the execution. Credit must also go to Wayne Yip who provided a very fresh feel and helped to make this episode that bit more special and stand out. His direction felt very different from what we’ve received in Series 11, but this totally is not a bad thing and, if anything, helped to make it more distinctive. If it wasn’t for Yip, this episode would have gone down an entire notch for me.
One nice little touch I noticed early on with this Dalek, once back inside the casing, was the with the gun sound effect. It’s the sound that first debuted in Remembrance if the Daleks and man do I love it. Additionally, it was very cool to see a Dalek actually exterminating people for a change, as in previous Dalek stories this has definitely been lacking, and it’s what makes them so threatening so it was a great sight. It makes sense in terms of the canon, if this really was one of the first Daleks, that it would resonate much more closely to Daleks of the past, as opposed to those of more recent years. For this, I must commend Chibnall a lot. It’s precision and small touches like this that makes this episode that bit more special than just a regular Dalek adventure and really gets the fans on board.
There is also a really great score from Segun Akinola present here once again. There were moments where he was really subtle and really exemplified the on screen action perfectly. Although, there were moments where his music was certainly very bombastic and I loved it. I especially enjoyed the newly updated Dalek theme which was certainly a highlight for me. I really cannot wait for this series 11 soundtrack to come out, I think it’s gonna be a belter.
Credit here has to go to Charlotte Ritchie for her performance as a sort of ‘human Dalek’, just managing to stay on the right side of comedy when she’s spouting Dalek catchphrases, in a part that could have veered into farce. Nicholas Briggs, long-time voice of the Daleks, also does a great job in this segment of the episode, creating a new, less staccato and more unique take on how the species talks that oozes with malice, arrogance and contempt. It provided a very fresh feel to the Dalek speech, especially in the scenes where it was without its casing and controlling Lin, which just felt so new and original, which is something I don’t think I could say about the Dalek episodes we received in the Steven Moffat era.
It must be said however that I wasn’t really a fan of the cobbled together Dalek design, it was more like a fan’s take on a Dalek and I also wasn’t a fan of the rockets coming out of the bottom section- this doesn’t really make an ounce of sense. I am very aware of the fact that this isn’t a re-design, instead it is a design put together as a one off, and for that reason it is effective. Although, I’m not entirely sure how the out of casing Dalek found all of those spare parts and was able to construct them all together so quickly. Considering how Richie’s character Lin was collapsed on the floor when The Doctor and the TARDIS team arrive, this felt a bit clunky to me.
Also, there was this very weird scene where we cut away from the central plot and where the main action is taking place to see the effect that this Dalek is having on a family UK. In a previous scene, the Doctor explains how this Dalek is a reconnaissance scout and that it is more advanced than many other Daleks. She also explains how the Dalek, having arrived at the GCHQ or Government Communications Headquarters, is using all of the wi-fi and other similar singles to try and contact the Dalek fleet sitting somewhere in space we presume. We cut away for this scene with a family where they discover the wi-fi has gone down and that they must have a conversation, and I must say I really didn’t like this scene. It really takes a joke, already established by Ryan’s dialogue when he called the Dalek ‘a monster’ for tampering with the internet, and sucker punches it. Essentially, by re-instating and trying to further emphasis the joke it ironically lost all of its emphasis. It also just felt unnecessary from Chibnall, especially in a script where we have already had enough of a sub-plot with Ryan’s dad to already contend with and just sidelines the main plot with the Dalek where the episode should really be focusing on.
However, that first scene between the Doctor and this newly constructed Dalek was the scene we’ve all been waiting for. All of series 11 in fact. Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor finally facing an opponent of a decent threat and of course the first time a new incarnation of the Doctor meets the Daleks is iconic, even if the scene did feel like it was ripping off Series One’s Dalek a tiny bit. Nevertheless, Jodie excels in this scene and finally gets some dialogue and interaction with an enemy enough to make the blood boil, and man does it show. She is really on fire in this scene and just highlights how good she can be, when faced against an enemy of a significant calibre. I particularly enjoyed the line “Oh mate, I’m the Doctor. Ring any bells?” which I felt Jodie delivered expertly. Another great touch is how we adopt the Dalek’s perspective via the visualiser once again, a trend starting with the First Doctor in ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ and still continued here. Wayne Yip certainly uses it to his advantage whilst directing also, and it really emphasises the on-screen conflict between The Doctor and the Dalek excellently and, for me, is one of the best scenes of the episode.
No, Resolution wasn’t a perfect story but it was certainly a good Dalek story and I had a lot of fun with it. It allowed the classic villain to return in a unique manner, and for this Chibnall must be commended, but it definitely fell short at a couple of hurdles. If there were some more stakes established, as in they could have killed off someone more significant than just soldiers, then this episode would have improved tenfold. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the traditional Dalek story and this helped to make this one that bit more special than in previous years. Arguably, it was just what we needed after the trials and tribulations of series 11, but I still can’t help but see significant flaws with Chibnall’s scripts which I do find a bit worrying for the future. Time will certainly tell; it usually does…
‘The Doctor Will Return’, plays out just after the closing titles and signals the beginning of the long hiatus until Series 12 in early 2020. Strap yourselves in, we’re in for a long wait now.