With the new New Year Special coming out for “Doctor Who” I figured it was a good time to go back to the first New Years Special we got last year and with it a chance to share my thoughts on Chibnall’s run so far. First, this is a good episode and is worth seeing. It does tie up the arc of the 13th Doctor’s first season but you get enough context from the text that you don’t need to have seen it to know what happened prior. For this reason it very much works as a special. Where it doesn’t work is Chibnall’s tendency to add too many characters to his scripts and important ideas getting dropped. I’ll get into what I mean there in the review. This is well worth checking out though if you’re a fan of the show.
“Resolution” was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Chris Chibnall.
The story follows a Dalek being discovered on a digsite as it attempts to gain back it’s power as the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions seek to stop it.
The Premise – The idea of a single Dalek being strong enough to take out humanity is pretty cool and it establishes just how powerful they are as a threat. We learn it took 3 armies to defeat and divide the Dalek in the first place, but even then all it took was one part to regenerate the other parts and all it needed for that was light. The stakes are high and the Dalek is good at being one-step ahead and having back-up plans.
The Characters – The characters are one of the stronger parts of “Doctor Who” as a show and that is very much on display here. The characters who get development are compelling and they are the ones I’ll be talking about here.
Lin – Lin is one of the archeologists who discovers the remains of the Dalek on the digsite and her arc is getting back her agency when the Dalek uses her as a weapon to kill people and to rebuild it’s armor shell. She does a good job of capturing the terror of being controlled by a Dalek and saving herself from the Dalek’s control.
Graham – Graham is the glue of the Chibnall run as he is someone both Yaz and Ryan can talk too and he has empathy that we don’t always get from the Doctor. This comes out big time here too as he shows Aaron (Grace’s son and Ryan’s Dad) that his mother kept all his things and that she considered him what she wanted to be remembered for. It is a touching scene with them and showed that even though they may never consider one another family that they can still be potential friends. Bradley Walsh is one of the best parts of the Chibnall years.
Ryan – Ryan has some great development this story as we see him deal with the dad who was never in his life and eventually come to forgive him and accept the regrets that Aaron feels that drive him to be better. Tosin Cole gives so much emotional depths to the scenes he has as we see his anger become empathy for his dad and how they have the chance to grow together during the episode.
Aaron – Aaron is a character driven by regret. He didn’t come to his mother’s funeral and he has been out of his son’s life for a long time. This episode is him doing what he can to try to put his life back in order and heal the bridges burned. “Resolution” handles it well as his mistakes are never dismissed or made okay, but the chance for new starts is the theme and his conversations with Graham and Ryan demonstrate the changed man he is at this point in time.
The Reconnaissance Dalek – The Reconnaissance Dalek is such a fun and scary threat. This is the first time in a long time we see how dangerous a Dalek can be outside of it’s shell and this being is clever and dangerous. We see it take out a military strike force and outsmart the Doctor a few times. It is only defeated in the end by it’s inability to control a human mind and I found that really well done. This is probably the best Dalek threat I’ve seen since “Asylum of the Daleks” as far as the new “Doctor Who” series goes and in the timeline of release dates. It was great seeing that level of threat again.
The Doctor – Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is great in this. In this we see how personal her vendetta with the Daleks are and her bluntness. She calls out Aaron for not being there for Ryan and is also rooting for people through it all, even bringing up to the Dalek how humans defeated the worst of the humans through history and that is what makes them unstoppable. We also see her cleverness too as each of her wins over the Dalek come from using what information is at hand or her technology to defeat the Dalek in the end.
The Three Custodians Plot – Three different armies from around the world defeated the Dalek in the 9th Century. After they went their separate ways with a part of the Dalek to guard and keep safe. The one in England died before finding his place. We see the guardians who know the story pop up when the Dalek reconfigures from the light but they never show up again. This felt weird to dropped and that it would have been better if they hadn’t shown up at all as they don’t help against the Dalek in any way.
Tell versus Show and Pacing – The first 20 minutes are a bit slow and it takes a while to get going after the Three Custodian Backstory. This I would say goes to Chibnall can often get “Tell over Show” in his scripts and this one is a shining example. The great thing is it picks up once the Dalek is revealed to be controlling Lin and the Doctor’s quest to stop it.
Cluttering of Characters / Little Character Development – We have a bunch of characters so quite a few get no development or scenes this episode. Mandip Gill’s Yaz is there to talk on the phone and help the Doctor pick people up and Mitch who has feelings for Lin that Lin returns is there just to worry about her and reveal that she was alone at one point. I wish there were less characters in these stories sometimes as Chibnall can do a good job at developing characters he focuses on.
I am looking forward to “Revolution of the Daleks” and am curious to see the direction the Chibnall era takes. All his companions are good, it is just there are too many of them in the story that at least one person remains underdeveloped or they just end up being a plot device. I hope the next New Year Special that is upcoming doesn’t have that problem as when he has a cool idea like the Reconnaissance Dalek, it can lead to a lot of cool and interesting ways to show drama and story.
Final Score: 8.4 / 10