❉ The New Year’s Day Special was fast, furious, funny, epic and a bit soppy, writes Robert Fairclough.
“…with his Dalek New Year special, Chibnall had stepped up his game in what, at the eleventh hour, shows he can deliver barnstorming, crowd pleasing, RTD-style Doctor Who.”
Is it stretching it a bit, I wonder, to suggest that Resolution was a satire on Brexit? Here we had a (literally) tin-pot relic from a bygone era attempting to “annexe” the Earth, trying – but failing – to achieve its ends by intimidation and bullying and, effectively, not facing up to the reality that its time had been and gone.
It probably is. Satire was, however, certainly in the mix from scriptwriter and showrunner Chris Chibnall this time around, with references to alien defenders UNIT being mothballed due to pre-Brexit spending cuts, random airborne drones and a family wondering what to do when the Wi-Fi went off. The mother’s tremulous suggestion – “I suppose we’ll have to have a conversation” – may have been visible a mile off, but it’s a scenario we’ve all imagined at some time. It was also an indication that, with his Dalek New Year special, Chibnall had stepped up his game in what, at the eleventh hour, shows he can deliver barnstorming, crowd pleasing, RTD-style Doctor Who.
There were some faults with some of the internal logic (but that’s never been uncommon with Doctor Who). The Order of Custodians, based on the Knights Templar who apparently – and similarly – guarded the divided Holy Cross, fell at the first hurdle of common sense: if the Dalek creature was that dangerous, why not just completely destroy it rather than cut it up? (Assuming it was just the creature that was sliced up; it wasn’t clear). The answer is, of course, because there wouldn’t have been a story.
Secondly, much as I really like the idea of a marooned Dalek fashioning itself a new casing out of a couple of tractors and a muck spreader, would that level of technology really account for a bullet proof shell, anti-gravity drive and concealed missile batteries? No wonder Dalek-controlled Lin (Charlotte Ritchie) was knackered; during the construction sequence, they should have speeded the film up rather than slowed it down. And I’m assuming the farmer was also conveniently a blacksmith?
Speaking of Charlotte Ritchie, how good was she? It was such a pleasant surprise, after a parade of supporting characters in the last series who’ve tended to serve the plot rather than be personalities in their own right, to see her change from the sweet archaeologist nearly-getting-it-on-with-a-bashful-potential-boyfriend to a Dalek “puppet” sometimes resisting and sometimes, perhaps, enjoying the power this creature gave her. A great piece of understated acting.
Daniel Adegboyega as Ryan’s estranged father Aaaron (look it up, irony fans) was impressive too. He had a hard job to do, making a character who appeared to be beyond hope sympathetic, but he did it well. More to the point, he did it well in scenes a sizeable proportion of the audience would have been impatient with as they wanted to get back to what the Dalek was going. Arguably, Aaron could have sacrificed himself to kill the creature – a final, noble gesture from a man who knew he’d let everyone down and would continue to do so – but, hey, this was New Year’s Day and everyone deserves a second chance.
While I’m singling the guest cast out for praise, a punch in the air for Laura Evelyn’s ‘Call Centre Polly’ whose air of bored, professional condescension was (unfortunately) extremely authentic.
As you’ll have gathered by now, I really liked Resolution. The direction by Wayne Yip – the only director of Whittaker’s premier year to have worked on the series before – was confident and assertive, with none of the leaden moments we had in some of the Thirteenth Doctor’s other stories. Pleasingly, exposition was mixed in with plot twists and set pieces, which is as it should be. I also liked the incidental music’s tendency towards Soft Metal in the convincing action scenes, a nice tip of the musical hat to the way particularly adrenalised action movies do it.
Yes, I liked Resolution. A few hours earlier, I’d watched Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, Christopher Eccleston’s concluding story, and had worried that Jodie Whittaker’s first tussle with the Daleks was going to fall short in comparison.
It didn’t. It was fast, furious, funny, epic and a bit soppy, and if that isn’t an accurate summary of 21st century Doctor Who, I don’t know what is. Jodie’s Doctor also – finally – drew first blood in offing an adversary, even if she stressed she gave the Dalek “a chance”. There’s something about the Daleks that brings out the defining qualities of the performers who inhabit the Doctor, and that was certainly the case here. Jodie was terrific. There was also a new, muscular quality to the production, with the most deaths in a Thirteenth Doctor story so far and a real sense of high stakes. In that sense, Resolution was much more of a satisfying series finale than The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.
The 13th Doctor calendar for 2019 is hanging on my wall. So there.
❉ BBC iPlayer Series 11: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006q2x0
❉ ‘Doctor Who Series 11’ available for pre-order on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon and HMV. All the episodes from Series 11 and selected VAM is available to buy now on digital download from iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sony, Virgin Media, BT TV Store and Sky.
❉ Composer Segun Akinola’s soundtrack for Doctor Who Series 11 is to be released on 11th January 2019 on CD and as a digital download. Pre-order here: http://radi.al/DoctorWhoSeries11
❉ Robert Fairclough is a film and TV journalist and blogger and a regular contributor to We Are Cult, ‘Doctor Who Magazine’, ‘Infinity’ and ‘SFX’. He is the author of The Prisoner: The Official Companion to the Classic TV Series, and co-author (with Mike Kenwood) of definitive guides to the classic TV dramas ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘Callan’.