It’s New Year’s Day. There’s a new Doctor Who special on BBC One. And it’s a Dalek episode. Have we done this one before?!
No, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. It’s the (almost) annual Dalek extravaganza from series showrunner Chris Chibnall, and this time it’s a matter of time! Like previous New Year’s outings Resolution (2019) and Revolution of the Daleks (2021), Eve of the Daleks is a simple little story, undemanding and entertaining in equal amounts, and perfect viewing for those poor hungover Whovians who are feeling a tad fragile after the previous night’s festivities.
Eve delivers what it says on the tin – there are no big twists, no major reveals or hidden surprises. What you see in the trailers is what you get – Daleks, a small group of characters and the TARDIS team trapped in time loop in a self-storage facility. There’s a neat bit of tidying up on Chibnall’s part in regards to the Flux storyline from earlier this year (the damaged TARDIS is key to the plot, whilst the destruction of the Dalek war fleet in The Vanquishers provides a motive for these Dalek infiltrators) but beyond that, Eve of the Daleks is a purely standalone tale that relies more on character then sci-fi shenanigans.
With such a small core cast (excluding killer pepper pots, of course), there’s more room for character development here than a more ‘busy’ episode would usually have. Guest stars Aisling Bea (Sarah) and Adjani Salmon (Nick) are a fun pairing and are each afforded moments of humour and charm in and amidst their various death scenes, whilst John Bishop manages to deliver a lot despite getting very little, especially in Dan’s more personal scene with Yasmin.
The real meat of the episode comes in the form of the blossoming relationship between the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yasmin (Mandip Gill). Fans have long been ‘shipping’ Yasmin and the Doctor in the hope they’ll finally get together romantically, and Eve does at least confirm that there are feelings there in a rather sweet little scene between Yaz and Dan. Whether the relationship will develop or can even be paid off in a satisfactory way across just two more specials is questionable, but it does at least give Mandip Gill a chance to flex a bit more in terms of performance, which is always welcome.
At most, Eve of the Daleks is a predictable yet cosy runaround. There are a few too many loose ends left hanging at the end of the episode, and the contrivances used to escape the time loop are left rather vague. But to the episodes credit, the character development feels natural, the humour mostly lands and the action is thrilling and frequent enough to keep everything rolling along at a fair lick.
The Daleks at New Years may be an old trick from Chris Chibnall‘s playbook, but there’s certainly no sense of déjà vu here.