Resolution

Posted in Episode by - January 02, 2019
Resolution

Aired 01 January 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following a confident first series of ten adventures that boldly introduced Chris Chibnall’s vision fronted by an immensely charismatic Thirteenth Doctor and her trio of friends, Doctor Who returns for a New Year spectacle in the aptly titled ‘Resolution,’ marking the first appearance of a classic foe in a series that deliberately avoided any familiar threats.

The Torchwood episode ‘Cyberwoman’ aside, ‘Resolution’ marks Chibnall’s first proper use of any known foe from throughout the Doctor’s long history, but it’s perhaps unsurprising that he takes a fairly unique angle with his lone Dalek that has finally revived after being buried in three pieces across the globe since the ninth century. While it is true that the story doesn’t necessarily explain just why this Dalek is so special that it can survive under such extenuating circumstances for so long other than stating that it is one of the very first mutants to leave Skaro on a reconnaissance mission, this isolated figure nonetheless provides ample scares and further solidifies just how nuanced individuals of this race can be in specific circumstances. For a race founded upon conformity and a singular purpose, the Daleks have produced several unique individuals over the years including Sec and Rusty more recently, but few have been quite as impactful as this lone survivor without its casing that is able to latch onto unsuspecting individuals and control their actions to further its goals of reuniting with its race. From the initial appearance of the creature to the tentacles reaching out to physically support an eerily hybridized voice, everything about the creature itself works perfectly, and Nicholas Briggs gives one of his most effective performances as a Dalek to date by initially pursuing a more understated and calculating voice that exemplifies the inherent menace of this individual incredibly well.

Taking for granted that the mutant is able to find everything needed to create a Dalek casing and weapon lying around in a nice counterpoint to the Doctor’s own crafting of the sonic screwdriver, this individual quickly shows just how ruthless it can be on a larger scale as well as it exterminates armed soldiers and ceases communications in the area surrounding it; although this “junkyard chic” Dalek by necessity should be a one-off appearance, this inherent capability for destruction provides a nice link and comparison point to the Daleks as envisioned by previous showrunners. There’s a nice thematic arc to the appearance of the Dalek and its increasing interactions with the Doctor even with the creature’s powers left somewhat unexplained, but barring a few glaring moments that feel unearned like the Doctor’s ability to jam the Dalek’s weapon with the sonic screwdriver and the convenient appearance of a microwave oven within the TARDIS that proves crucial to the resolution, this is a very strong if atypical Dalek outing that merges eras of Doctor Who to great effect.

Of course, said microwave oven is crucial to the other significant plot running through ‘Resolution,’ that of the return of Ryan’s father. Ryan has unquestionably been the best developed character of this first run of episodes given the loss of his grandmother, his burgeoning relationship with Graham, his dyspraxia, and his rather estranged relationship with his father that has only been hinted at so far, and Daniel Adegboyega ably steps into the role of this troubled but seemingly well-intentioned figure looking to make amends with his son. In fact, Aaron is presented quite sympathetically here, making the Doctor’s spite somewhat unreasonable and harsh by comparison, and though it remains to be seen if the attempts at reparations will become a throughline in future stories or remain an isolated but successful attempt at developing Ryan that also served as a means of introducing the vital machinery, the incredible emotion and introspection that Aaron experiences as he is confronted with everything he has chosen to miss is certainly a strength that resonates even amongst the Dalek’s greatest moments in this world without UNIT as a result of funding shortfalls and political differences.

Graham and Yaz are more sidelined than might be expected for a special episode with an extended running time, but this does allow the flawed but determined nature of the Doctor to highlight even more than usual. This incarnation is not a perfect one who can simply guess her way through every situation if she doesn’t already know more than she lets on, and that alone presents an exciting angle for the series to explore in the future and is a nuance that Jodie Whittaker has already captured wonderfully. As it is, however, with Charlotte Ritchie giving an understated but powerful performance to present the face of this Dalek threat in a tale that quite wisely swerves away from the series’s oft-recited message that humans are the worst monsters of all, ‘Resolution’ is an enjoyable installment that succeeds both on an action and personal level, albeit one that occasional repetitive exposition and a few narrative shortcuts undermine to some extent.

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