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Saturday, 5 January 2019

Doctor Who - New Year's Day 2019: Resolution (Quick Review)

Episode:851|Serial:287|Writer:Chris Chibnall|Air Date:01-Jan-2019

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, I hope you weren't looking forward to that Doctor Who series 11 review I promised, because this ain't that. I got distracted with other things and ran out of December to put it in. I believe I also mentioned that I might not be reviewing the New Year's special because I'd written about enough Doctor Who already, but that was before they revealed that this was going to be the only episode aired in all of 2019. How am I suppose to leave it out now? What sort of a monster would go from An Unearthly Child to the very latest season (skipping a year or ten along the way) and then stop exactly one episode before the end?

I kind of assumed that we were done with year-long breaks in between seasons now that the series has a different showrunner who's not trying to write Sherlock at the same time, but I guess that's just how the series is these days. The only difference is that in the Chris Chibnall era we get the one-off episode on New Year's Day instead of Christmas Day, because after thirteen consecutive Christmas specials they've used up every possible way of shoehorning Christmas into a Doctor Who story. Which means no more Christmasified opening titles! No opening titles at all in fact, for perhaps the third time ever in the series' history.

Resolution is also unique among Thirteenth Doctor stories as right now it's the first and only episode to allow anything major from an earlier season to return. Series 11 was very much about the new, with new actors, monsters, writers, a new visual effects house and a new composer, but this episode brings back director Wayne Yip! Also the antagonist might be a bit familiar too but I'll not spoil that here.

All my SPOILERS are safely contained below the next screencap, so continue at your own risk.

I was going to start my tiny review with a bit of mock outrage about how the Doctor's new scarf was in all the promo photos but only showed up for six minutes in the actual episode, but I kind of surprised myself with how much I genuinely cared about it vanishing on us. Or, to be more precise, how little I cared about anything else. I've been sitting here trying to come up with lists of things I liked and hated about the episode, to give me subjects to write about, and to be honest #1 on my 'Liked' list turned out to be the scarf, #1 on the 'Hated' list is the scarf disappearing, and that's where the lists end. I didn't love or hate anything else that I saw on screen in this story, I was just indifferent to it all.

Actually that's not entirely true, I also liked that they used their damn phones for once and I was shocked that they revealed the title during the end credits but didn't call it Resolution of the Daleks! I was so sure that they'd given the title as 'Resolution' to keep the secret, like how they called the first part of Invasion of the Dinosaurs just 'Invasion' back in the day. But no. They gave away that it was a Dalek story in the second trailer anyway, which is a bit of a shame seeing as the episode seems to assume viewers will be utterly unaware until the reveal 15 minutes in.

I guess it makes sense they went with the shorter title though as the real reason it's called Resolution is because it's the first Chris Chibnall story with a proper ending! Actually no the real reason is probably because it's a resolution to Ryan's issues with his dad. Because what this season really needed was more time given to Ryan and Graham instead of Yaz.

I was fairly indifferent to the episode in general, but my indifference really hit a peak during the scenes with Ryan's dad Aaron. I'm not about to say that Chris Chibnall shouldn't take the occasional detour into Coronation Street for a bit, as this is where he shines as a writer, but I feel like I would've been more invested if they had anything to do with the story at all. Well aside from Aaron being the key to defeating the Dalek... twice.

We've come a long way since the Peter Davison era, where the companions often came off like an unwelcome complication that the writers had to deal with, and I appreciate that the episode's as much about Ryan and Graham dealing with their issues as it is about an ancient alien super soldier, but Aaron's so isolated from the actual story that he doesn't even realise he's in a sci-fi show until 45 minutes in! I get that I was supposed to be too engrossed in all the drama to notice it wasn't being Doctor Who anymore, but to be honest I was more concerned about the poor woman being mind controlled by a Dalek. Though they did have me feeling sorry for Aaron's actor, who was hated by everyone all episode for things his character had done off screen, while being nothing but regretful about it.

I can't blame Chibnall for introducing Lin and Mitch with a realistically awkward conversation about New Year's kiss either, despite the fact that their relationship turned out to be incidental to the point of practically being a red herring. I was totally expecting it be crucial to their victory, but then the two characters were basically as useless as Yaz by the end, and Aaron and Ryan got the power of love ending instead. The microwave oven turned out to be far more important than their relationship, because they can apparently melt Daleks now.

To be fair the Dalek's casing wasn't exactly the factory standard version we're familiar with, as he'd Tony Stark'd it together himself in a scene made to mirror the montage of the Doctor creating her screwdriver in The Woman Who Fell to Earth back when she was the one stranded with no technology. Only instead of making his shell out of spoons, he made it out of Dalek shell bits, which seems like cheating somehow.

Fans finally got the big iconic returning villain they wanted in this episode, a full-on unrelenting no-shades-of-grey bad guy, and genuinely I hope they were satisfied. He certainly did the unstoppable Dalek massacre thing, he had a proper confrontation with the Doctor, and he even pulled off a few tricks we've never seen before. Well okay his mind control trick was kind of like a cross between the spiders on the backs in Planet of the Spiders, Sarah Jane's possession in The Hand of Fear and the ventriloquism in The Creature from the Pit, but he also pulled off long-distance teleportation reconstitution and remote Tardis sabotage! I really wish he hadn't though, as his abilities were pointlessly magical and overpowered, and it meant the episode had to explain them away by saying he's a special recon Dalek. The Daleks already think they're the bestest lifeforms in the whole universe as they are and they hate everything different to them, so that didn't quite ring true to me.

I have to admit, I wasn't hyped to see the return of a classic villain myself, possibly because I've just come off a marathon of about a million classic serials and I'm sick of 'em all. Plus I'm now well aware that Dalek and Cybermen stories aren't typically the high point of their seasons. Dalek serials were the stand outs back in the Hartnell era and everyone loves Troughton's Power of the Daleks, but since the series went to colour we've had a 1 in 3 chance of them being anything really special. So I wasn't hugely shocked when this episode turned out to be nothing amazing.

I'm not so keen on the design either. There's an Easter egg in one of the classic Fallout games which gives you a chance to come across the Tardis, and it seems like they've repaid the reference here by giving us a Dalek that looks like it's right out of the Fallout wasteland. It's got that same rusty retro post-apocalyptic look. But it also looks like the Ewoks have gotten it with one of those swinging tree trunk traps, as it's a bit squished in the middle section. There's no crystals on it though that I can see, so I can be thankful for that at least.

We almost got the return of an fan favourite character as well but sadly Kate Stewart couldn't make an appearance due to the loss of UNIT. That was a bit sad to learn about, seeing as they've been around saving the world since the 70s... or maybe 80s, but my main reaction was 'Oh, of course the agency responsible for saving the world has been shut down due to a deficit of international cooperation.' Probably the most depressingly realistic part of the episode. Plus I had this problem all the time playing XCOM. If they really wanted to surprise audiences they should've had the Doctor try phoning the DEO, MIB or SHIELD instead and get a crossover going. (Or if she was really desperate she could've called the Ghost from Return of Doctor Mysterio).

We didn't get UNIT but we did get GCHQ, introduced with a comically bad over-dramatic text transition. The building looks so sci-fi and CGI I was wondering if they'd made it up for the episode, but nope it's a real place. They call it 'The Doughnut', for some reason.

That wasn't the only time the episode time-travelled back into the tone of the Russell T Davies era, as that weird Family Guy insert joke with the family realising to their horror that they'll have to have... a conversation was definitely a relic from ages past. The intro with the three warriors splitting the Dalek was a bit more like something I'd expect from a Steven Moffat era story though, as it's not like the Chibnall era to indulge in complete historical bullshit like that. The episode was a bit tonally all over the place and not in a good way.

I sound like I'm going on a long rant about the episode, when really it was fine. Like I said at the start I couldn't come up with even one thing I hated about it, aside from the disgusting and unforgivable absence of the scarf, and it was as well produced, directed and acted as anything this season. It was the 'Yaz' of Doctor Who episodes, in that it was likeable enough and did everything expected of it in a competent manner, but it was hardly essential. Plus I have to give Chibnall credit for not having the characters racing to save the world before the clock strikes midnight (GMT). And even though the Dalek was continually pulling magical new abilities out of its ass I thought Dalek-Lin was a good idea, executed well. I also appreciated it having a surprisingly happy ending, with Lin, Mitch and Aaron all surviving and all three companions staying on for a second year. Sure Lin was caught on camera murdering a few police officers, but I'm sure UNIT can sort out that misunderstanding. Oh, wait...

Next on Sci-Fi's a mystery. I'm going to be taking the next few months off and I haven't decided yet if I'll have one more post up in January for you. Even if I do it'll probably just be a season review or something, so adjust your hopes accordingly.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year by the way! And anything else I've missed by being really late getting a new review up.


  1. they can apparently melt Daleks now

    I was briefly excited by the notion of chocolate Daleks. Maybe for Valentine's Day....

  2. I hope those "donut" style buildings are designed so people don't have to go from one end of the building to the other too often.

  3. I too thought it was going to end up as "Resolution of the Daleks" and was surprised when it wasn't.
    I too missed the scarf.
    I too thought the episode as a whole was a bit naff and all over the place.

    I'm not fond of Daleks being vulnerable to Del Boy microwaves now, but even if we accept that because it's not a proper Dalek casing, we still have to believe that a bunch of people with swords managed to destroy the original casing by tying it down and setting fire to it? Wouldn't the ropes burn before the Dalek did?

    But yeah, it was fine. I've seen worse episodes.

    1. I was able to buy that the ancient warriors managed to take a Dalek down, as we learned that have had a strange vulnerability to dudes coming over and hitting them with sticks until they explode back in Death to the Daleks. They're also vulnerable to mirrors, getting pushed off cliffs, cold water, and rogue Time Lords who show up during historical events to help out.

    2. That's a fair point; they are oddly vulnerable for what are supposed to be tanks.

  4. I was a big disappointed that the huge setup with the enemy being split up into three parts, to be hidden at all the corners of the earth, amounted to.. well, nothing, really. I was constantly expecting the episode to cut back to the other two locations, or for the remaining two guardians to come back into play somehow... I didn't realize until the end that nope, that was it, the Dalek had just magically fused back into one being again. Kind of defeated the entire "split into three" bit if just uncovering a single part was enough.