Doctor Who Review: Resolution

by thethreepennyguignol

Well, what a way to start the year – with a Doctor Who review. Instead of the Christmas special, we have an hour-long episode to kick off 2019, and I’m so ready to get into it.

Honestly, I’ve been missing Doctor Who since the day it finished. While last season had a wobbly start, it kicked into high gear with the back end and just killed it week after week. As I wrote in my review of the finale of the last series, it’s been so nice to feel like I’ve fallen back in love with one of my favourite shows of all time.

But one of the things that made the last season so magical was the fact that it was entirely comprised of new monsters. It felt so fresh, because Chibnall and company weren’t relying on what had been, but rather on what could. And this special, Resolution, has been highly touted as featuring the return of one of the show’s biggest bad guys, and, ever since that reveal, I’m been sincerely interested in finding out what happens when this version of the show, that has been so forward-thinking, takes a step backwards.

And, of course, what would the show be bringing back but the Daleks? It’s always the Daleks. That guy who your first girlfriend cheated on you with? Dalek. The postman who delivered my copy of Heir to the Empire to the house next door last week? Dalek. Steven Moffat? Dalek. These fuckers are never good news, is what I’m saying, and that’s mainly because they’re inescapably, utterly everywhere in the Whoniverse, a rite of passage I thought we could have left behind by now. Why is it never the Rani? I feel like Bradley Whitford in Cabin in the Woods, always praying for the Merman this time around and only getting it when it turns up to chew on his face. Bah. I desperately need to get out more. Anyway.

What I’m saying is that we’ve also had every single version of the Daleks that we could possibly have, so delivering a new one is going to be tough – and hell, it’s not like I’ve much enjoyed the delves into Hot New Dalek Takes of Yesteryear, and those didn’t even include the love of my life, wife, and favourite university lecturer Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. They look dumb, they sound dumb, they feel dumb, and I don’t want them back unless I can be assured a genuinely new angle on the trundling teapots of death.

And, well, I guess I got that, at least to some extent. This episode revolved around a dessicated Dalek attempting to rebuild itself via mind-control of various humans, and at least that spared us the actual horror of watching them waft around trying to convince us they’re scary. And yes, vaguely Venom-esque, since you mention it, but mercifully not constructed from the same utter garbage as the movie.

Having the Dalek in question literally infecting humans with their hatred was a pretty good retooling of their original form as intergalactic fascists and, while I would have preferred a different old villain to return (or, you know, none at all, because I like the new stuff a lot better), it was only a matter of time till they cropped up for Whittaker’s Doctor. And hey, Oregon from Fresh Meat got to screech around in a cop car and do a funny voice and have a cute romance plot, and I’m here for that. Chuck in a couple of Brexit gags, some delighfully exasperated Whittaker moments, and direction so Dutch-tilt heavy it was almost horizontal, and yeah, sure, I can live with it. Just.

But really, what these festive specials need to deliver beyond anything is some kind of broad emotional story, and I think all the best stuff in Resolution came from that. Ryan’s absent father, Aaron, makes a return this episode, and it’s by far the most compelling thing about this episode. Daniel Adegboyega plays Aaron, and honestly he puts in one of the most instantly memorable performances of the season so far. A scene that he and Toisin Cole share in a diner is the best thing the episode has to offer; no sci-fi, no Daleks, no explosions, just a son confronting his father about the devastating impact his leaving had on him, and a father trying to find explanation for the unthinkable. It’s a sympathetic plot but not an instantly forgiving one, and, despite a slightly trite resolution, it’s elegant and well-performed and written with grace. An episode as silly and brash as this needs something to ground it, and I’ll take this as a solid answer to that question.

Like most festive specials, Resolution isn’t my favourite episode of Whittaker’s run by a long shot – as I wrote a couple of years ago, Who Christmas specials have to fill a special, specific, slightly boring hole in the festive schedule, and that rarely makes for the most compelling storytelling. But, even with the dead weight of the Daleks, Resolution manages to find something melancholy and bittersweet amongst the billowing smoke and gritty laughter and ridiculous angles, and for that, it fulfills its purpose.

What did you think of this belated festive special? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Tumblr! If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check out the rest of my Doctor Who recaps right here, and also check in with my other recapping projects – I’m currently covering the first Harry Potter book as well as the current season of Riverdale. If you want to read some of my fiction, please check out the ALPHA FEMALE erotica series (eighteen-plus, obviously), available on Amazon now. As ever, if you want to see more stuff like this, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image via Bleeding Cool)