Wrapping Threads Up
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer and Brit in Los Angeles, Robert Cave, takes a look at the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special…
Directors: Jamie Childs, Wayne Yip
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Stars: Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, Daniel Adegboyega, Michael Ballard, Nicholas Briggs
In a shock change to festive Whovian tradition, 2018 marked the first year since its resurrection in 2005 that there was been no new episode of Doctor Who on Christmas Day. Instead we were treated to what I hope will be the new tradition of New Year’s Day episodes.
Not that New Year’s Who is entirely without precedent in the modern era of the show; David Tennant’s swansong, The End of Time Part Two, hit our screens on the first day of 2010. That episode marked a climactic change for the show, both on screen and behind the scenes, as David Tennant regenerated into Matt Smith and Steven Moffat succeeded Russell T. Davis as showrunner.
By contrast, Resolution is a story of continuation, with plot threads Chris Chibnall sowed from his first episode in charge finally reaching fruition. As the title perhaps suggests, this story is an integral part series 11’s thematic non-arc story arc with the introduction of Ryan’s father, Aaron (Daniel Adegboyega).
It was wonderful to see Aaron immediately called out on his poor parenting by the Doctor, but it was also massively important that he wasn’t cast as the villain. Aaron’s let down his family in the past, but that doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t do better. After all, isn’t part of the appeal of Doctor Who that no matter what they have done before, there is almost always the opportunity for each character to redeem themselves through their actions?
And then we had the return of the daleks, or rather, a dalek, singular. The big reveal might have been spoiled for some by the trailers and publicity for the show in the week running up to its broadcast, but this did not hinder my enjoyment at all. The first appearance of the Doctor’s most iconic foes under Chibnall’s watch was always going to be a big moment. Focusing first on a single specimen, as Russell T. did in Dalek, really worked for me, as did the decisions to have the dalek spend so much of the episode “naked”, and forced to build its own shell. It was a lovely callback to the Doctor building her own sonic screwdriver back in the season 11 opener, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, but also served to deliver one of the greatest visual jokes of Chibnall’s run so far, one that many fans and Doctor Who merchandise licensees alike will understand all too well: it is very hard to build a convincing dalek shell, even if you know what they are supposed to look like.
The humour of the purposefully imperfect dalek shell might have flown over the heads of some viewers, but personally, I thought it was a great way to finally make some of the more unusually-shaped dalek toys of yesteryear canon at last. Maybe we will see some Louis Marx daleks in the future to accompany this episode’s Rolykin-like version?
Prospects look a little less rosy for the Doctor’s longtime scientific/military colleagues at UNIT. The whole organization appears to have been sidelined by a one-line gag with a very post-Brexit vibe. While I can understand the virtues of paring-down the show’s extended supporting cast and re-setting the Doctor’s relationship with both the military and Earth-based organizations in general, I am a bit sad to lose Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and the Osgoods. However, I am certain they will continue to live on in the land of Big Finish spin-offs– and a good thing that is too, as we now face the prospect of a long gap before the Doctor’s TV return in 2020.
It may not be fun to be waiting a year for more new episodes but we’ve waited longer in the past, and with a lot less certainty over whether the show would return to our screens at all.
With a hugely successful series of 11 episodes under her belt, Jodie Whittaker has now firmly established herself as The Doctor. The show continues to relentlessly reinvent itself. And long may it do so. I’ll certainly be watching it when it comes back next year.