To be blunt, Doctor Who in 2018 was a disappointment.
If you missed my reviews, most episodes could be summed up as having lethargic plots that lacked threat and usually ended with the villain not getting its comeuppance, grating incidental music, a Doctor without a character to speak of, and too many companions, resulting in not enough for any of them to do.
It’s not that the episodes were awful – indeed a small number were good – but after I’d finished watching them I had no real desire to watch them again.
All very insipid.
2019 has one solitary episode to change things, in form of Resolution.
And as much as I tried to avoid spoilers, I was aware that it would somehow involve the Daleks.
Hopefully that would at least fix the lack of threat…
Doctor Who – Resolution Review: What’s This One About?
A Dalek mutant, out of action since the 9th century, has woken up in 2019 Sheffield.
And Ryan’s dad has shown up too.
Thoughts – Much, Much Better
To get straight to the point, I thought Resolution was great. It was much better than any episode from the 2018 season, not only because it was well written, but because it had the very spirit of post 2005 Doctor
Who at its heart.
You’ve got a contemporary setting, a proper Doctor Who monster that you can invest in, a Doctor that had to actually work hard to vanquish that monster, some domestic drama and character development, and a tie in to the occasion it was broadcast on.
The addition of Aaron was an important one as it gave both Ryan and Graham some purpose outside of just being there to ask the Doctor to explain the plot. Now sure, Aaron didn’t seem quite the deadbeat dad that he was made out to be in previous episodes (I was expecting a proper cad like an extended family member of mine who shall remain nameless), but on the whole I thought he worked well in the episode.
Unfortunately, Yas still had very little to do and could easily have been left out altogether.
And as for the Doctor? Definitely Jodie Whittaker’s best performance to date. Not only was her Doctor finally challenged, but she also came across as a character in her own right, rather than a David Tennant knock-off.
How To Use The Daleks Correctly
I have to admit I was initially a bit disappointed to hear that the Daleks were coming back, although I did warm to it towards the end of the last season because of the poor quality of monsters and villains we saw in 2018.
That being said, I thought the use of one single Dalek made for a far better story than we’ve come to expect from them.
In terms of how they have been used, this is definitely the most effective and enjoyable Dalek story we’ve seen for a long time.
By giving it a character and having it – as an individual – be responsible for each act of menace that it committed, then more is invested in seeing it defeated.
And it always helps to take the Dalek out of its casing to add to its personality.
What definitely worked was the way it used Lin to get around, and Charlotte Ritchie acted her part very well.
Furthermore, the makeshift Dalek casing – though perhaps a little too good considering it was made by Lin – was a nice touch.
Brexit UNIT and the Continuity of Alien Invasions
The absence of UNIT helped Resolution. If they’d been involved, it would have taken away from the more personal confrontation between the Doctor’s group and the Dalek.
So I have no problem with that.
And as a single joke for the benefit of the casual viewer on New Year’s Day in the current Brexit Shambles environment, having UNIT disbanded because of budget cuts was fine. In fact, the scene was handled pretty funnily.
However – and I say this hoping not to be as churlish as the reviewer in the example I’ll come to below about WiFi – the line about there being no alien invasions recently made no sense on a greater level.
Even as a Doctor Who geek, I get confused sometimes because I think the show itself gets confused.
Where are we on people knowing about alien invasions? I’m afraid I don’t have a flow chart to hand.
They’ve definitely hit the reset switch a couple of times, and I can accept that because it wouldn’t do to have the general population be aware of all the different worldwide invasions that have happened; that would take away from the writing of the companions.
But surely world leaders and UNIT are still aware of them somehow? Even as recently as The Woman Who Fell To Earth, there was an alien invasion on a small scale.
So it doesn’t make sense that UNIT were disbanded, and that’s without bringing up that they are a United Nations organisation rather than a British one…
And even though I hoped not to, I know I do sound churlish. Sorry, not sorry!
- It would be easy for people who only want to be negative to say that Resolution works because it has a single Dalek, rather than how that single Dalek is written. But then I would counter that argument with Into the Dalek; it was bang average. Yes, I know that some other Daleks showed up at the end, but you get my point.
- Even as someone who actively hopes the Daleks are used less than they are, I think you’ve got to give credit where credit it due. If you replaced this individual Dalek with any other alien, the chances are the episode wouldn’t be as good. Ultimately there’s a reason that the Daleks are the most enduring alien monsters, not only in Doctor Who but in any TV show or movie. They are distinctive, they carry menace and they just have that certain something about them.
- I’ve seen some people pick on the joke about the WiFi going down, calling it a cheap gag. I even read one reviewer say something like “Families don’t actually spend time together on New Years Day, actually. So there! Actually!!!!”, but I had mine over for a New Years Day steak pie and we all watched it together. Also, it’s a joke that could work any day of the year. So stop being so bloody dour!
- In the traditional ‘Goodbye in front of the ranch house’ scene at the end, Lin was all smiles. Surely she’d at least be sick with worry that she was about to be arrested for internet hacking, speeding, assaulting (at the very least) two police officers, stealing a police car, impersonating a police officer, trespassing at a secret weapons development site, assaulting a member of their security staff, theft and murder? It’s not like it would be easy enough to explain away, and local police officer Yas doesn’t seem interested in staying behind to help sort things out from her end.
- It’s a shame that the world’s best ever microwave was destroyed like that.
- I’m not sure how the Doctor thought that opening the TARDIS doors would only remove the mutant Dalek rather than both it and Aaron?
- I see Aaron was as confused as I have been over the last few months about Ryan calling Graham ‘granddad’. Rightly so.
- There was a brief moment where I thought the Doctor was going to be able to resolve the issue with the Dalek peacefully. If that had happened I’d have thrown a brick through my TV.
- I’ve just came up on my twitter timeline (@sgmilne for those who use Twitter) that some papers are running a story about how people were offended by the UNIT/Brexit gag. Here’s an example tweet: “wtf I can’t believe they had a dig at brexit during that episode. I take it back that is single handedly one of the worst doctor who episodes ever.” Jeeeeeeeeesus Christ. What a world we live in. People need to just cheer the fuck up and stop letting their political leanings ruin their lives.
- The current Doctor definitely has a tendency to overuse her sonic screwdriver. Using it to check whether that guy was dead rather than simply checking his pulse was a bit much though.
- Ok, hands up how many of you shouted “Blackpool” when the Doctor replied to Yas asking where they were going next.
Doctor Who – Resolution Review: Final Thoughts
I thought Resolution was a proper Doctor Who story; the sort of story that Russell T. Davies would have been proud to have written.
As far as I can see it’s the sort of story that the public want from the show, and after such a disappointingly bland 2018 season, it was very welcome.
Thankfully, it also showed that Chris Chibnall is capable of writing a good episode on his own, which has made me more positive for next year.
Alas though, not everyone will have enjoyed it, whether that’s people who have decided it was bad because of a Brexit joke (those people desperately need to get a grip) or people like my mum who in spite of sitting in a room with four other people who enjoyed it, simply said “That was a load of shite” as the credits rolled.
Ah well, you can’t win ’em all.