Television

New Year’s Day special Doctor Who: Resolution review

After a disappointing and underwhelming season finale just a few short weeks ago, Doctor Who is back with a special episode to ring in the new year. As it’s the only episode we’ll get in 2019 (which we’re still fuming about), and with the previous episode being a rather damp squib (that too), the expectations for Resolution among seasoned Who fans has been nothing short of high.

These expectations are well and truly met though, in what is certainly one of the best episodes of the most recent series. Easily Chris Chibnall‘s best episode in his tenure as head-writer, Resolution is a bonafide success from start to finish. An action-packed epic that sees the unorthodox but triumphant return of the Doctor’s greatest enemy, coupled with breakneck car chases, impressive battles and some great humour, the final product truly shows just how great this new incarnation of the show can be when everything fires on all cylinders.

Every successful element of the 2018 series is incorporated into a tightly-plotted and thrilling adventure, one that plays out in the manner of a proper series finale. It’s almost like a wish list for the frustrated fan at times – the excellent character moments, domestic settings and interpersonal drama that enlivened the more mundane episodes from this year’s run are here, but not at the expense of action or plot. The story zips along at breakneck pace, but never feels rushed, whilst there are some genuinely creepy moments scattered throughout that offer plenty of chills.

Most of these moments are down to the presence of the Daleks (or in this case, just the one), which marks the evil aliens’ first major appearance in the show since 2015. Like all the best Dalek stories of recent years, Chibnall dreams up a new nightmarish scenario that offers a fresh perspective of the show’s oldest enemy, whilst still reminding the viewer just how nasty these unstoppable monsters can be. We’ve always known that the Dalek Mutant within the shell of the creatures is deadly, but Chibnall takes that idea to shocking and interesting places, with the Dalek Mutant commandeering a human body and using poor Lin (Charlotte Ritchie) as a way of getting around and exterminating countless innocent humans. The imagery this conjures is disturbing at the best of times – whilst we’ve seen human/Dalek hybrids in the show before, the concept has never been utilized more effectively then it is here.

Wayne Yip‘s direction is some of the best we’ve seen yet, many of his shots providing some of the most awe-inspiring imagery we’ve seen all series. Before the show’s return last year, we were promised a more cinematic look for Series 11, yet Resolution is the first episode to truly look and feel that way. The various action sequences are fantastic, with great cinematography and editing at play, whilst Segun Akinola‘s musical score is big, loud and bombastic (just as Who scores should be). The design of the piecemeal Dalek is wonderfully off-kilter and odd, but it works incredibly well in making the audience underestimate the threat the creature poses, proper casing or not.

With a longer running time then usual, Chibnall also has time in and among the explosions and body horror to explore the main cast in further detail (something which has become a staple of his tenure thus far). It’s perhaps this aspect that lessens the episode somewhat. The crux of the story revolves around Ryan (Tosin Cole) and the return of his estranged dad Aaron (Daniel Adegboyega), a confrontation that’s been building for quite some time. The resulting fallout from said-confrontation does provide some great edge-of-your-seat drama during the episode’s climactic moments, but the earlier scenes feel a tad inhibitive to the pace and progression of the main plot, especially considering the interplay between the two is hardly revelationary. Bradley Walsh‘s Graham and Mandip Gill‘s Yaz feel somewhat sidelined here too, which is a shame considering how great the two actors are.

However, for Jodie Whittaker‘s Doctor, Resolution is a step in the right direction. The big face-to-face confrontations between Doctor and Dalek are always a trial by fire for any new incarnation of the Time Lord, and Whittaker’s Doctor is well overdue a chance to really steal a scene. The resulting moments between her and the Dalek shows us the Thirteenth Doctor’s fire, passion and air of authority in abundance, and Whittaker owns every second from the very beginning. Her speech and subsequent jibes at the mutant menace reveal an anger and dominance we’ve seldom seen from her so far and each proves to be a perfect gift for the character, with some fantastic lines that long stick in the memory.

A proper old-school blockbuster in the Doctor Who mould from start to finish, Resolution is the perfect cure for any New Year’s hangover. Entertaining and epic, the episode takes every aspect and ups it at least three notches, delivering one of the Jodie Whittaker era’s finest stories to date. High stakes, great gags, solid action and some neat special effects help make this one a cut above many of the show’s more recent outings.  If Chris Chibnall is in need of a new year’s resolution, having Series 12 deliver stories of this calibre is the one to go at the top of the list.

Doctor Who returns to BBC One in 2020, read Matt’s entire Doctor Who blog by clicking here.

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4 thoughts on “New Year’s Day special Doctor Who: Resolution review

    • Ah Steve, like most of us I think, I bloody agree.

      I’ve never wanted companions/assistants/other folk to die so much before – although I think Clara went on a season too long – but they really need to pull it back and let the Doctor take the focus. That’s the whole point, after all!

      Thing is, I worry it’ll be Graham and he’s been surprisingly the best! Only a year to see (!!)

      Liked by 1 person

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