“Resolution” was Classic Dr Who: remolded history, newly made-up tech, drama midst a crisis, poor quality actors, average writing, but tonnes of tension and enthusiasm.
This recap of Doctor Who Season 11, Episode 11, “Resolution”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
After ten episodes of history, politics and brand new made-up baddies, “Resolution” is sci-fi as I’ve always known it from Doctor Who. Whittaker now seems more herself and less Tennant and sees in the New Year with a conflict against an old favorite… yes, another left-behind Dalek.
“Resolution” starts with a flashback to an ancient Earth battle against “an impossible opponent”, at the end of which the enemy’s body was split in three parts, to be buried in remote areas of the world with three “custodians” appointed to guard the site and pass down the duty for generations (Fifth Element style). Why they didn’t just burn the body, I don’t know… because in present day Sheffield, two archaeologists stumble upon a piece which wasn’t looked after as well as the other two. Next thing we know, an alarm is sounding in the Tardis (“I keep a little alarm on because, you know, it’s your home.”), and the Doctor quits visiting New Year celebrations after just nineteen of them to investigate.
Nobody knows at this stage that it’s a Dalek they’ve dug up, except of course older viewers like me who recognise the blobby entity from previous shows. It’s actually rather a good creature effect when it first appears on a wall of the Sheffield sewer, looking like a mini-Cthulhu; though archaeologist Lin (Charlotte Ritchie) reckons it looked like a squid. Us older viewers are firmly convinced it’s a Dalek though when we hear Nicholas Briggs’ voice: the Dalek attaches itself to Lin and controls her, explains he is her “pilot” now (almost like the Centauri’s Shadow “guardians” in Babylon 5). It’s great to have Briggs back, and he gives the Dalek quite a lunatic quality this time, less robotic: he even has an evil genius laugh once or twice.
And the Dalek is great! Turns out it can attack people (even police!) without being inside its traditional case, and once it gets a weapon, there are proper “exterminate” killings, tanks blowing up, attempts at taking over the world one military base at a time, etc.
But back up a bit. While the Dalek is being revealed to us all (though only to Lin in the show), the Doctor is also being treated to a bit of family drama; Ryan’s and Graham’s family, that is. Aaron, Ryan’s Dad (Daniel Adegboyega), turns up unexpectedly because New Year has found him ready to “turn over a new leaf”. The Doctor is beautifully stern, right at him, on Ryan’s behalf because of how let down Ryan had been when Aaron hadn’t turned up at Grace’s funeral, so it doesn’t really matter that Ryan can’t find the words straight away. He manages an excellent speech when he and his Dad go for a coffee though; Aaron doesn’t have much of a response, but it’s clear he’s listened. Family has been a recurring theme throughout this season, sometimes dealt with a little heavy-handedly, but always with a little meat added to what could have been cliche. In “Resolution”, the disconnect between Ryan and his Dad (which Graham gets involved with too) is resolved too neatly and with high cliche, but the lead up to it is nicely written. I’m not sure, though, that it belonged in this episode: the drama is a distraction to the viewer and the Doctor alike. Aaron only needed to be in “Resolution” to give Ryan a moment of heroism and to bring a microwave into the Tardis (don’t ask). Maybe Ryan needed a reason to loosen up before the next adventures, who knows… but this is a rather blunt instrument to use. Minor rant over.
I enjoyed this episode: I enjoyed the tension of poor Lin held hostage by the Dalek, and the chase the Doctor and her gang made to catch it. I enjoyed the creature itself, not just as a back-hugging squid, but when it (via Lin) made a new case from metal parts found on a Yorkshire farm. It looked almost steampunk and had the mad determination of a psychotic alien to kill (or enslave) all humans and contact its fleet. The scene on the military base reminded me of Mars Attacks!, it was so reckless and single-minded (though granted, less fun).
But I enjoyed “Resolution” despite countless flaws. Some pointless decisions (why destroy his satellite signal if there’s no fleet for it to reach?), some unexplained loose ends (what happened to the other two parts of the “impossible opponent” when they woke up?) and way too many made up “tech skillz” that hadn’t been even alluded to in earlier episodes or seasons. This Dalek was a type that hadn’t cropped up before too, just to explain some capabilities it had. (I’m not talking about the flying, that’s not as new as some might think; but the ability to mess with the Tardis’s system.) I wonder if every Doctor is obliged to confront a Dalek? If the BBC wants to keep bringing back Daleks (and personally I don’t mind that), they should stop trying to kill them off.