So, for new year we had Daleks and adventure and lots of Tardis scenes and they managed to avoid making it “festive”. Very, very happy with that. Now, I’m not the world’s biggest Dalek fan – Remembrance is probably the only TV Dalek story I’d put in my top ten – but, when not overused, I think they deserve their place in the show and I certainly don’t object to the number of times the 8th Doctor has to encounter them on Big Finish. So, I think I’m with most fans here in thinking it was definitely a good move from Chibnall to make this one a Dalek story, just to reassure us that he is willing to have the Doctor battling the classics.
And this one did it well: like “Dalek”, this episode set out to demonstrate quite how powerful the Daleks are, to reinforce their position in Who-lore. The first half had the wonderfully creepy Dalek mutant showcasing, without its casing, how formidable they can be. Chibnall took the evil, deadly jellyfish that had a room full of soldiers terrified in Resurrection of the Daleks and gave it a power-boost. Could have been done badly, giving the Daleks previously unknown abilities like that, but it felt authentic and gave the great Nicholas Briggs plenty of time to menace the innocent archaeologist and draw out what “evil” entails.
And then, after the worrying possibility that the Dalek would be defeated before brought back to full power, and in a scene beautifully reminiscent of the Doctor’s screwdriver scene in episode 1, the Dalek reconstructs its casing and we get some proper Dalek action. My children cheered their way through the battle with the soldiers!
Okay, slightly worried about how much glee in death and destruction the Daleks seem to inspire, but never mind.
Overall, this story worked very well. I did feel some of the details were possibly a bit convoluted. For one thing, the “reconnaissance scout” story seemed to imply that this Dalek was one of the first out of Skaro, i.e. shortly after the original Hartnell story, long before Dalek Invasion. These were Daleks who had barely learnt to travel without static electricity and long, long before they had learnt to fly. Now, I get that this one was supposed to be a bit of a super powered Dalek, but having it with powers beyond that of post-Time War Daleks seems a bit off. What’s more, the Doctor wasn’t seen as a threat back in those days….. unless I misunderstood the back story here (hence convoluted). And then, did they really need to put an actual picture of the Dalek being destroyed in the book? That surely would have been a bit of a giveaway (and would have got UNIT’s warning system going decades ago). But, hey. Why waste the opportunity for a pretty picture.
It was disappointing not to have an appearance from Kate Stewart, I must admit, but it was almost worth it just for the number of “austerity/Brexit has killed UNIT” tweets floating around. Ultimately, UNIT would have made it into a different sort of story – this was Chibnall acknowledging the show’s past, giving us a teaser for a possible season 12 inclusion, or at least giving Big Finish more fodder for later stories.
And then we had the emotional heart of the story which was, on the whole, excellently done. And it had to be there. It was such the core of the last season that we couldn’t have had a pure adventure without a few quiet character moments, and the scenes between Graham and Aaron were beautifully done. They possibly felt a bit shoehorned in at times, and had the effect of reducing pace rather than increasing tension, but not detrimentally so.
My only complaint on this front was towards the end with Aaron’s redemption arc. The “ooh, microwave” scene felt like it had been cut from one where the Doctor told everyone that it was perfect for a plan she’d just come up with. The idea that Aaron then spotted a way to use it that the Doctor hasn’t seemed a little thin, and Aaron could easily have demonstrated his usefulness by offering to implement the plan….. and then…. well, did we really need him to get captured by the Dalek? Did we really need Ryan reaching out for him like that? That final scene felt a bit unnecessary. The were other ways to resolve Ryan’s plot arc.
And…. what in the name of Rassilon was that “family without internet” scene doing there? The joke had been made, by Ryan. The scene itself was cheap and ruined a what could have been a perfectly good joke. Just… why?
All in all, though, this was a solid story and a strong season finale. Just a pity we’ve got nothing else this year. Hopefully, though we’ll have a action packed season, focused much more heavily on Yaz, with at least one UNIT story in 2020!
Only time will tell…
Now, I’ll just have to get through this Doctor Who-less year. Well, except for the latest Ravenous box set, the River Song vs all the Masters, the new War Master box set, the Legacy of Time, the Lucie-Miller….. actually, 2019 is looking pretty good!
Happy New Year!!