There were two sizeable criticisms of Doctor Who‘s recent eleventh season. First was that there was a serious lack of any classic monsters in its ten episode run, and second was that its finale was a bit of a dud and failed to wrap up the year in a satisfying way. It was up to New Year’s special “Resolution” then to save the day on both of these fronts, seeing as it was revealed to feature the return of the Daleks and its very title promised that it would be the true ending of the Thirteenth Doctor’s first year in the TARDIS. But did it resolve to measure up to the hype?
Thankfully, we can say that it did. Showrunner Chris Chibnall provides perhaps his best script of the season for this episode, injecting a certain showmanship and scale into the proceedings – much like his predecessors Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat used to do – that was often missing from season 11.
Things start off well with the globe-trotting mythical prelude, explaining how the Dalek creature’s DNA came to be hidden across the world. I mean, it’s a concept ripped straight out of Justice League, but it works. The challenge with the Daleks, though, is how do you do something original with them when they’ve been facing the Doctor for over 50 years?
Remarkably, Chibnall manages it here by kicking the Dalek out of its tank-like casing and focusing on the squid-like creature inside. Though it’s been glimpsed before, a lot of people probably aren’t aware that there’s an evil blob controlling the outside, so to remind us that the creature itself can do a lot of damage is a terrific way of making the monsters even more of a threat and even creepier.
No doubt some fans got impatient watching the Dalek use poor archaeologist Lin (Charlotte Ritchie) as a host body for most of the episode, but employing the Daleks as a kind of facehugger – or, in this case, backhugger – is another smart move that allows for a different dimension to be added to the murders. It’s a shame this situation isn’t mined more for drama though as in the end, the Dalek hops off its temporary host without much to do.
What that does mean, however, is that we get what we came for – an actual, proper Dalek, at home in its distinctive casing. Chibnall clearly put a lot of thought into to how to successfully reintroduce the monsters into his show and once again he pulls out another great idea from his hat with the makeshift casing. The Daleks were due a redesign and the grungy, rusted steel look used here is gorgeous, though purists will probably have problems with the minor changes to its shape. The Dalek creating its own casing also neatly recalls the Doctor making her own sonic screwdriver the same way in the season 11 premiere, both bringing the year full circle and demonstrating how alike the two enemies are. Like the Doctor says, “I learned to think like a Dalek a long time ago.”
Speaking of the Doctor, as awesome as Jodie Whittaker’s been all year, season 11 didn’t give her too many classic “Doctor-y” moments – those scenes we all love where the Doctor gets to face off with a monster, being brave and silly all at once. It was a much-awaited treat, then, when Whittaker got to enact one of the most traditional of Doctor-y moments in this episode, the part when the Time Lord reveals themselves to be the Doctor, causing the Dalek to quake on its castors. Whittaker makes the most of the scene and it’s a real squee-inducing joy to watch.
While everything to do with the Dalek is spot on, there are a few flaws in the rest of the episode that mire the whole somewhat. Ryan’s absent dad, Aaron, has been mentioned numerous times throughout season 11, so “Resolution” definitely lives up to its title in actually dropping him back into his son’s life. It’s just a shame that the scenes between the two men feel rather rote and out of sorts with the main action. Furthermore, the big climax involving the Dalek almost killing Aaron is well done, but I’m not sure we really feel the reconciliation between the duo by the end.
There are a couple of other curious narrative decisions as well. The plant and pay-off of Aaron’s microwave is very messily done – it might as well have a label on the box that says “Caution: May destroy a Dalek.” The same can be said for the bit where a random family are introduced for one scene only to effectively repeat and dilute a (good) joke that Ryan just made. And, it almost goes without saying by this point, but can poor Mandip Gill please be given some more to do as Yaz? Chibnall’s recent tease that she’ll get a proper storyline in season 12 had better come true.
Yes, the sad news is that season 12 won’t be with us for a long while yet, as we have to wait until “early 2020” – perhaps next January? – for more adventures in time and space. It’s extra frustrating, too, as “Resolution” feels like this new era of Doctor Who finally finding its groove and slipping into a more comfortable balance between Chibnall’s more down-to-earth style and the general barminess that we love about the show. Hopefully then, season 12 – when it does arrive – will continue this more assured tone, bringing with it additional Daleks (perhaps with a proper redesign) to boot.
The first year of Jodie Whittaker's era of Doctor Who ends on a high with an entertaining, thrilling and very special episode that reintroduces an age-old monster with style and originality.