Eve of the Daleks

Posted in Episode by - January 02, 2022
Eve of the Daleks

Aired 01 January 2022

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

After a tremendously successful run of six serialized episodes with Flux, Doctor Who and writer Chris Chibnall return with the Daleks in their third consecutive New Year special with ‘Eve of the Daleks,’ picking up a few dangling threads from recent episodes while hinting at what lays ahead in Jodie Whittaker’s final two episodes.

Chibnall’s run has often been marked by episodes with grandiose plotlines that require technobabble or plot holes to reach their end, but ‘Eve of the Daleks’ keeps things simple with the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan trapped in a time loop that shortens by one minute each cycle through while the TARDIS repairs following the events of Flux. No time is wasted with anyone having to slowly understand what is happening to them, and by mixing up characters’ actions and interactions, a tremendous amount of character work is able to unfold with the lead trio and supporting duo of Sarah and Nick alike. For the latter, Aisling Bea is a superb addition to the cast, and although Sarah doesn’t purposefully intend to hurt others, her selfish and insensitive actions create not only emotional harm to others but also plenty of room for growth and realization and she is forced to confront her very recent past. This is especially true as she is forced to get to Adjani Salmon’s Nick who always chooses New Year’s Eve to put items into his storage unit precisely because he knows that the woman he has had a crush on for three years will be working. The literal race against the clock and the adapting strategies of the Daleks make for an immensely serious and tense backdrop, and though there is plenty of comedy to be found such as Sarah, Dan, and Yaz trying to decide if there is something more concerning about Nick’s habits of storing old girlfriends’ items, this relationship that begins to develop as all pretenses and defences are dropped proves to be a distinct highlight of the episode.

After spending some four years traversing the globe together during Flux, Yaz and Dan know practically everything about each other, and so it’s fitting that that familiarity and Dan’s previous hesitation to admit his own feelings should allow Dan to realize Yaz’s true feelings for the Doctor, a truth that Yaz is only now beginning to admit to herself. It’s equally fitting that Dan should recognize that the Doctor is far more knowledgeable about Yaz’s feelings than she would ever admit. The Doctor and Yaz don’t receive the opportunity to directly discuss any of this with each other, but that groundwork should create an intriguing discussion and narrative opportunity in the future, and it’s refreshing that feelings between a female companion and female Doctor are as open to discussion as those between female companions and male Doctors previously. These moments are relatively brief in the grand scheme of the story, but the emotions that Mandip Gill, John Bishop, and Whittaker portray are impressive and wholly grounded. Given that the Thirteenth Doctor is arguably at her most authoritative elsewhere as she must devise a plan to outsmart the Daleks who seemingly have the advantage at every turn while boldly accepting her fate in each aborted loop, this is an immensely impressive outing for Whittaker in general and certainly highlights how clever this incarnation can be while still constantly reminding viewers of the darker territory she has recently traversed while hijacking the Sontarans’ stratagem with the Flux.

Indeed, as the Daleks bluntly state that the Doctor is their utmost priority to eliminate given her involvement in the destruction of millions of Daleks, the Doctor’s realization that her actions and time are catching up with her is a fitting reminder of the consequences of just what she felt she had to do to emerge victorious and of how she acts around others. Fittingly, the upgraded Daleks with rapid-fire weapons are every bit the impressive menace they are intended to be, and the malicious glee with which they mock the Doctor and her companions as the number of time loops remaining draws to a close with no means of survival evident creates one of the most effective appearances of the Doctor’s most notorious enemies in the entirety of the programme’s modern run. There are, of course, plenty of questions that could be asked- such as why the Daleks that are adapting to actions their prey has taken in previous loops would veer from what previously worked to allow parts of the Doctor’s ultimate plan for victory to fall into place- and plot points asked that are never again referenced- such as Nick’s time of survival as the loops condense- but the claustrophobic and yet open spaces of the storage facility are the perfectly isolated backdrop for a an isolated story that is high on drama and tension, marking a true high for this era and a strong beginning to 2022.

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