Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks Review

by thethreepennyguignol

A happy new year to one and all, and welcome back to the Guignol! After a much-needed restorative break (ie, lying very still face-down in bed while the cats jumped up and down on my head), I’m back, and what better reason to return to this fair blog of mine than because of a new episode of Doctor Who – Eve of the Daleks.

I shall not bore you again with my run-down of exactly how I think the festive Doctor Who specials should function: as televisual blood-thinners for the alcohol, sugar, chocolate, coffee, and everything else you’ve been indulging in over the Christmas period, which is to say, nothing too heavy.

And if there’s one thing that I can say with great confidence about the Chibnall era as a whole, it’s that Chibbers seems to at least understand the function of a festive special, and that all of his Christmas outings have had that suitable level of silliness and easy digestion, balanced with a bit of pathos dabbed around the edges like leftover gravy to be mopped up with crusty bread. And Eve of the Daleks, for the most part, sticks by that premise.

The time-loop premise allows, by its nature, for a small, focused story – following Sarah (Aisling Bea, playing it delightfully broad with pitch-perfect comic timing and ridiculous heapings of charm), the owner of a storage unit company, as she deals with her long-time customer Nick (Adjani Salmon) and a couple of Daleks who’ve turned up to take out the Doctor and her crew. The small cast, single location, repeating loops, and familiar villains mean that this isn’t much of a taxing episode, but instead one that draws on what we already know to tell a pretty tight and entertaining story (and, after the hugeness of Flux, it feels rather nice to settle down into something a bit smaller).

I am, like most people with functioning eye-stalks, somewhat tired of the Daleks, but I don’t mind them being used as a motif for Chibnall’s festive specials – if Christmas can act as a containment tank for these bastards, long may they live. Eve of the Daleks has some great direction, not far removed from the fabulous Gothic-y horror of Village of the Angels, that gives the ol’ tin teapots a bit of menace, and their history with the Doctor always makes for an episode which feels a little more weighty and grounded than their other villainous counterparts.

But I know there’s something that you’re no doubt itching to hear my scorching-hot takes on, and that is, of course, the step forward the show has taken in the Yas-Thirteen romance. But I know there’s something that you’re no doubt itching to hear my scorching-hot takes on, and that is, of course, the step forward the show has taken in the Yas-Thirteen romance. It’s a pretty minor part of the episode in terms of screentime, but God, I’m so glad it’s here. Dan gently confronts Yas about her obvious feelings for the Doctor, and Yas confesses that she’s not even sure she’s ready to acknowledge to herself that she’s attracted to women; later, the Doctor pointedly dodges some questions about Yas’s feelings for her, but it’s clear that they’re not entirely unreciprocated.

It’s a pretty minor part of the episode in terms of screentime, but God, I’m so glad it’s here. After the way that Flux framed their relationship, I felt like the show had to at least acknowledge that developing romance between them, even if it didn’t necessarily act on it – dangling all the hints of their feelings for each other in front of us as an audience, their parallels between married couples, their confessions of deep emotion for one another, and not taking that next step to have the characters see it, too, was starting to feel like something a bit close to queerbaiting.

Mandip Gill, whom we eternally stan here, really brought the scenes to life for me; her fear, her longing, her long-time-coming acceptance that she might have these kind of feelings, after all, they’re all so well-articulated in her performance, and so familiar to me as a queer woman. These moments, though they might be relatively small, are enough to convince me that Chibnall has actually been aware of what he’s been doing with their relationship all along, and I’m really keen to see where he takes it in the next few specials (though can’t help but wish we got a full season to really explore Yas coming to terms with her sexuality and her feelings for the Doctor).

As a woman who writes lesbian romance as part of my job, I know that I have an ultra-soft-spot for this kind of sapphic loved-uppery, but even still seeing it in one of my favourite leads in one of my favourite shows – let alone one that I’ve watched for so long, and that had such a big impact on my own acknowledgement of my sexuality – is something so, so special to me. I know there are some people feeling let-down about the fact that this plot has been relegated to the final run of specials, and I can see why – but, for me, having the Doctor in an explicitly romantic same-sex relationship is a big step for the show, and I’m happy to take my time (and space) in letting it unfold.

And where we’re going next – well, my loves, how long have been banging on about the Sea Devils on this here blog? Years? Literal, actual years? And now, finally, we’re getting some proper oceanic demonology with our next special, and I am BESIDE MYSELF. I can’t wait for what’s coming next – not just to see where the Yas and Doctor plot will go, but because I am hyped to see some of my favourite classic villains making a return. Eve of the Daleks left me wanting more and keen to see what comes next, and I can’t think of a better compliment than that.

If you liked this article and want to see more stuff like it, please check out the rest of my Doctor Who reviews! I’d also love it if you would check out my short story collection, and, if you’d like to support my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image via Daily Research Plot)