WRITER: CHRIS CHIBNALL / DIRECTOR: WAYNE YIP / STARRING: JODIE WHITTAKER, BRADLEY WALSH, TOSIN COLE, MANDIP GILL / EPISODE REVIEWED: S11E11 / WHERE TO WATCH: BBC IPLAYER
A common criticism of new showrunner Chris Chibnall’s first series of Doctor Who was a lack of truly threatening monsters. The recent New Year’s Day special, Resolution, addresses that issue by bringing back the Doctor’s oldest and most iconic enemy – the Daleks.
Like Dalek back in 2005, Chibnall’s script introduces the pepperpots to a new generation by pitting Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and her companions against a single solitary Dalek, resurrected on Earth and building itself up into a seemingly unbeatable threat.
It’s a solid foundation for an episode, helped by trailers pitching it as a globetrotting blockbuster. Unfortunately, the episode takes the narratively bizarre but budget-sensible path of ditching the Russian and Pacific settings five minutes in, in favour of a story mostly set around the motorways and farms of South Yorkshire. Oh well.
The Dalek is nonetheless a menacing presence, even in its squid-like nudity. While the scenes with it controlling Charlotte Ritchie’s Lin never dig fully into what the most hateful mind in the universe could do to your psyche, they have a tensely chilling interplay between Ritchie, who’d make a good horror movie lead, and Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs on delightfully cackling form.
When the Dalek rebuilds its tank out of bits found lying around a farm (try not to think about it), Lin mostly drops out of the story, but we get some explosive action. Whereas recent episodes claimed to be ‘cinematic’ due to swankier cameras and a widescreen ratio, they often felt statically staged, but here, director Wayne Yip and his crew seriously impress, with dynamic camerawork making for thrilling action. Yip is also the first director to, somehow, get some energy out of the new TARDIS set.
If this review hasn’t mentioned the Doctor or her companions much, that’s because they’re distanced from the Dalek until those final confrontations. That’s not to say they’re absent from the story; Jodie Whittaker is on fine, chirpy form (“How long’s a rel?” is the best line of the episode) as she gradually tracks the Dalek – a strength of Chibnall’s Who is the Doctor working problems out piece by piece rather than materialising in and fixing everything with a snap.
And there’s the return of Ryan’s dad. Appropriately for the New Year, Aaron wants a fresh start with his son, which gives Tosin Cole, Daniel Adegboyega, and Bradley Walsh (as step-grandfather Graham) chance to show off their emotional range. Though all talented actors, they’re let down by the dialogue, as every character’s willingness to say exactly what they’re feeling means that all is forgiven between Ryan and Aaron rather too easily. Someone should tell Chibnall that good character drama needs subtext – what is not said, as well as what is said.
Resolution suffers from the same problems as Chibnall’s other recent episodes – there’s the structure of a good story, but many niggling problems mean it could be much better. We’ve not even got to the completely pointless scene in which UNIT, part of Doctor Who for over 50 years, is killed off in a cheap gag. But as a de facto finale to Series 11, this action-packed adventure, with a properly nasty villain for once, is a big step up from the dreary Battle of Ranskoor Av Whatever.