The Daleks are one of the oldest and most popular villains on Doctor Who. They were created by Terry Nation for the second story ever made for the series. They have appeared in more stories and episodes than any other villain. They have become true icons of popular culture all over the world. Yet, and let's be honest here, they aren’t really that scary or effective characters. From a design standpoint, they are basically tin cans with a whisk and toilet plunger for hands. Depending on the story needs, they can sometimes withstand the blasts from a tank and yet have also been defeated by someone throwing a towel over their heads and turning them in circles. There is very little nuance of personality; their main characteristic is howling in a monotone shriek. Yet I love them still.
The difficulty for any new show runner is to find a way to incorporate the Daleks into your episodes (and at this point, it is absolutely necessary that they do show up at some point) and still make them interesting, scary, and fresh. With Resolution, this year’s New Year’s special (not Christmas special, because apparently everything about this new Doctor must be different), Chris Chibnall has done exactly that.
An introduction tells us that centuries ago three bands of opposing factions narrowly defeat an impossible enemy, chopped its corpse into three sections and buried it in the remotest corners of the globe. One piece does not make it to its burial site as its bearer is killed before he can make it to his destination. On New Year’s Day 2019, two archeologists find it buried in a tunnel, accidentally revive it, and cause it to reunite with its other pieces. This newly revived squid-like creature attaches itself to the back of one of the archeologists, Lin (Charlotte Ritchie), and takes control of her. It forces her to create a makeshift casing out of scrap metal and steal a weapon from a government archive. It is then revealed that this squid is actually a scout Dalek and it's ready to summon a fleet to destroy the world.
Meanwhile, The Doctor and her companions have landed at the archaeological site, determined from the slime left over by the squid that she is once again facing her oldest and most sinister foe. They race after it and narrowly save the day. Along the way, Ryan’s father shows up promising that he has changed his absentee ways and promises to do better.
After a pretty bumpy first season, the cast and crew have finally come together to create the kind of Doctor Who story I love. With three new companions and a new Doctor, there has been a lot of resetting and introducing to do. The show has needed time to let us get to know everybody but by the end of the season, it felt more sure-footed and with Resolution, it really feels like everybody has settled in. I liked Jodie Whittaker’s performance as the Doctor from the start but I’ve really come to love her by this point. Her Doctor is warm and caring and always seems to find little moments to look a character in the eye and let them know how special they are. It's quite a leap from Peter Capaldi’s cold, sarcastic Doctor (which I loved) and a nice change.
If you are like me and didn’t pay any attention to the million ads declaring that the Doctor would be facing off against her oldest enemy, then the fact that the squid creature was a Dalek was genuinely surprising. It was a creepy monster that gave shades of the bug creature that attached itself to Donna Noble's back in the fourth-season story “Turn Left.” It gave the Dalek an edge. We've rarely seen one outside of its casing and for the first time in a long time, a Dalek was actually creepy and truly scary. Watching the Dalek create a makeshift shell out of spare parts was a lot of fun.
I found the story between Ryan and his dad genuinely moving as well. We’ve been told all season that he's a dead-beat guy and we saw Ryan upset over his absence at his Nan’s funeral so to finally see him in the flesh was impactful. It resolved a little too quickly and cleanly, basically the dad showed up said he was sorry, helped the Doctor save the day, and all was forgiven. But what it lacked in nuance, it more than made up for by emotive acting from Tosin Cole and Daniel Adegboyega.
Overall, Resolution was a fun, funny, and thrilling special that finds cast and crew settling into their new roles and proving why Doctor Who has remained an important series for more than fifty years.