The Doctor’s greatest foe returns!

Just as The Doctor, the TARDIS and sonic screwdriver need a refresh every few years, so do the Daleks. Having been a key part of Doctor Who since 1963, it’s a challenge to make these long-lasting enemies threatening again. But for “Resolution,” Chris Chibnall leans into how dangerous a single Dalek soldier can be. He also manages to finally strike the balance between a fantastic plot and strong character work, offering a much better season wrap-up than the official finale.

We start off, appropriately enough, with The Doctor taking Yaz, Ryan and Graham to 19 New Year Eve’s parties in a row. Before they can make it an even 20, the TARDIS detects the trouble on Earth. Two archaeologists, Lin and Mitch, dig up a Dalek, supposedly killed in an ancient battle. But there are two things these aliens excel at: survival and conquest. When the Doctor and team arrive to investigate, it looks like the Dalek had ran into the sewers, leaving them to scramble for clues as to what was there.

But the Dalek never escaped. Instead, it wrapped itself around Lin and took control of her brain and motor functions. In a very freaky sequence, with some excellent acting by Charlotte Ritchie as Lin, the Dalek forces her to do its bidding to start the conquest of Earth. Its booming voice combined with Lin’s twitches as her attempts to rebel are crushed make for some of the most horrific Dalek moments in recent memory.

Plus, we get to see Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor react to her oldest foe. When she discovers who the DNA belongs to, she gets very quiet as it sinks in that her ancient enemy is back, again. After picking up Mitch and learning that the Dalek is using Lin as a transport, The Doctor discovers that this is no ordinary Dalek. It’s a reconnaissance scout, a more advanced Dalek, possibly the first one to ever land on Earth.

To make matters more complicated, Ryan’s long-absent father, Aaron, shows up. He wants to turn over a new leaf for New Year’s and be a family again with Ryan. They go to a coffee shop to have a heart-to-heart, where Ryan lays out all the ways his father has let him down and made him feel abandoned. Years of pain come rushing through in a few minutes, in a season-best performance by Tosin Cole. Later, Graham also has a one-on-one with Aaron, where he shows that Grace kept all his childhood mementos. Aaron admits his own denial about his mother’s death and his wishes to be a better person. Strong performances all around.

In a cool reflection of The Doctor creating her new sonic screwdriver out of scrap in the season premiere, the Dalek uses Lin and an industrial farm to rebuild its casing. The Doctor and team arrive and find that the Dalek has left Lin’s body for its new shell. She confronts the Dalek on her own, and what a great confrontation it is! Jodie Whittaker doesn’t approach her scene with the full-on rage of her predecessors. Instead, with a contained, simmering fire, The Doctor speaks to the strength of humanity and her confidence that the Dalek won’t win. Once the Dalek realizes which Time Lord its dealing with, it escapes and moves ahead. Its deadliness is fully on display as it effortlessly destroys an army unit, even taking out a tank with ease. From there, it heads to a government communications center to create a signal big enough to draw in the rest of the Dalek fleet.

After grabbing Ryan, his dad and his dad’s microwave oven, the TARDIS arrives with extended companion crew. They scuttle the signal and use components of Aaron’s microwave oven to melt the Dalek’s new shell. Okay, sure, it’s Chekhov’s oven, but it’s still an exciting sequence! But even that’s not enough to kill the Dalek. Outside its shell, it takes possession of Aaron, threatening to kill him unless The Doctor takes him to the Dalek fleet. She transports it in the TARDIS, but instead takes it to a supernova, letting the gravity of the star pull it off Aaron and into space. Ryan saves his dad, forgiving him for his past misdeeds, and they agree to try and build a relationship.

New Year’s is a time for a refresh and redirection of familiar elements, so it’s a rather appropriate episode to wrap up a Doctor Who series that has been all about new beginnings. In this fantastic special, we finally have all those new components gelling together. The Doctor in the TARDIS with companions, facing off with the Daleks. That classic story told once again in a brand-new light.

Show Notes:

  • If there’s one weakness in this episode, it’s that Yaz is once again left with little to do. We’ve seen that three companions can work on this show, but it needs to stop dedicating so much time to guest characters.
  • “These are my serious tech skillz. And yes, that is with a ‘Z’.”
  • The Doctor tries to call UNIT for help, only to learn that its operations have been suspended following withdrawal of funding from major international partners. I blame Brexit.
  • The Doctor gives Lin medicine to help with her recovery from Dalek possession and adds, “Don’t take it with alcohol, you’ll grow an extra head.”
  • That’s it for Doctor Who until 2020! Thanks for reading along!