In Britain in the 9th century, an unlikely group of warriors united to defeat a foe unlike any other. Vowing to dispose of their enemy’s body, they divided its remains and scattered them across three continents, where the pieces have remained dormant… until now. A routine archaeological discovery in Sheffield by Lin and Mitch bring the creature back to life – triggering an instant response from the Doctor and her friends, who arrive in the TARDIS. The Doctor instantly fears the return of her most deadly foe, the Daleks, and begins her investigation.
However, Lin has become enslaved by the Dalek reconnaissance scout and is forced to assist it with its plans. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s companions Ryan and Graham receive an unwelcome visit from Ryan’s father which leads to a tense family reunion. With the Earth once more under threat from the Daleks and her friends dealing with their own problems, can the Doctor still save the day?
Well, this was certainly a surprise.
Given the lackluster season building up to this, this New Year Special of Doctor Who is a very welcome change of pace. The story itself is a throwback to the classic era of DW, with a few elements from Torchwood’s Cyberwoman episode thrown in for good measure, and it’s a good mix. The episode breezes along with a sense of lighthearted adventure and family-friendly creepiness that’s been absent of late, and just in time for the new year. It isn’t a classic itself even if it has strong elements of others, but it’s a solid enough piece of work.
And no, it isn’t perfect.
There’s plenty for nitpickers to obsess over, from the questionable resurrection of the Dalek to the construction of its armoured shell without proper materials. There’s plenty to complain about for purists with the throwaway joke/potential story arc of the apparent dismantling of UNIT based on Brexit and a lack of interplanetary threats… just a couple of short years after appointing the Doctor as the President of Earth, countless alien invasions, and even that time when the whole planet was “stolen” across space. Did everyone conveniently forget all about that? And how was the Dalek beaten centuries ago?
Then there are the odd story beats, like halting the action just when it gets going so they can show a quiet chat with Ryan’s dad. There’s the questionable narration at the end, the Doctor once again being a secondary player in solving the problem, Yaz once again being pointless, and the aren’t-we-clever? title for the episode which is obviously meant to be interpreted on several different levels.
However, this time around, the episode ticks every box of
The directing is solid too, and despite the limited amount of special effects they make a lasting impression and add something special to the legacy of the Daleks. The performances from the cast are mostly impressive, with Jodie Whittaker looking increasingly comfortable and convincing as the Doctor. But please, can we get the opening title credits back again? It may sound like a small thing, but just jumping into episodes without them is particularly annoying.
And so the new year begins with a pleasantly enjoyable Doctor Who episode and a reminder from the Doctor that, this time and always, she’s here for us and isn’t going anywhere. It’s a great message for the fans… even if it’s one that doesn’t quite fit right since there won’t be another episode until 2020. Yet it’s an optimistic thought and, hopefully, there will be a bit of tinkering around behind the scenes to get this show back on the rails properly for next season.
Doctor Who strides in to the New Year with style