These are my considered thoughts for the New Year’s episode of Doctor Who, Resolution and some comments on the entire series.
The emotional arc featuring the resolution between father and son was satisfying in an unexpectedly welcome way. I almost wish there was more to it than Graeme’s clever and sensitive chats. In fact, Graeme was probably my favourite companion in this most recent series, even though Ryan had some good moments and Yaz was occasionally given something to do beyond hang off The Doctor’s elbow looking serious. Sorry that was mean. But seriously, grief and how people grow through it was sensitively dealt with, even if very occasionally issues arising from emotional upheaval seemed too quickly resolved (ie Graeme’s revenge plan, Ryan’s apparently intermittent disability).
Anywho. Back to Resolution. The Doctor had her big showdown with a bespoke Dalek, but the usual gravitas of this confrontation was slightly undermined by her constant calling attention to how she refers to her group, gang, fam. Whatever they are, do they even need nomenclature? Some argued the family arc undercut the big crisis adventure feel of the episode but that wasn’t the problem. I mean having emotional issues intersect with emergencies to heighten the drama is an old writing technique. See every episode of MASH for instance. So that wasn’t the problem. I think the problem is I want more interiority from The Doctor and this episode only skimmed the surface, despite Dalek’s being her greatest enemy.
Yes, The Doctor is clever, and capable, and guarded like every iteration, as well as odd and amusing. My ‘but’ here is that I find myself wanting the situations she is placed in to bring out a dash of alien as truly Other. She isn’t after all, the cool Aunt visiting from OS, but an off-world, ancient, changing, self-appointed guardian of the universe and every now and then it would be great to remind her ‘fam’ she is more than they will ever understand.
Bits I enjoyed: the historical provenance, the quest and accompanying myth and the Sheffield archaeologists; the offhand call centre conversation / commentary on the impact of Brexit on UNIT. Hand forged Dalek housing, yes please. I thought the Dalek’s interpretation was interesting and effective as well.
And yet while it was all adequate I wasn’t overwhelmed, or even whelmed. It was good in a bland way. Kinda un-memorable. Basically, harmless, to quote a certain former Doctor Who producer. It neither won me nor offended me.
- As one commentator noticed, why wasn’t Yaz’s family used for the ‘internet is dead we’ll have to have a conversation’ family scene. It would’ve been a nice call back and instantly appreciated.
- Annoyed by military scene plonked in out of nowhere, un-linked to anything. If The Doctor was monitoring everything Dalek related, why wasn’t she seeing military responses so as to intervene and prevent pointless deaths? At least previous Doctors tried talking to soldiers.
I think Chris Chibnall can write safe heart-warming dramatic narratives until the cows come home, evolve and leave for somewhere better, but Doctor Who is more than sanitised soap opera the whole family can enjoy. While it is refreshing that every episode doesn’t feature the Awesome Mystery of Why The Doctor is a God who battles identity as destiny, something is missing. This Doctor is capable of so much more than a cool Aunt who babysits mildly troubled youth and their grieving dispenser of emotional wisdom. Please writers, add a dash of myth and don’t mistake special effects explosions or a bigger cast for this. Try inserting a The Doctor’s Wife-type episode, and avoid completely the The Doctor towing planets around space with every single companion type stories. K, thx.
The most memorable bits of this series, without having to look up anything, are as follows.
- The Solitract narrative and the frog ending. Weird, Nordic-noirish, and wacky dangerous. Good.
- Rosa – solid performances from the entire cast. Especially liked Ryan and Yaz discussing their experiences. This was the Volcano Day episode but points off for no resolution for the alien dude.
- The witches episode had great arguments made as well as physical jeopardy and stunts for The Doctor.
- Oh yeah, the spiders episode. Very Doctory ending. Of course the spiders weren’t evil, the evil American potential president developer was evil.
- Graeme in all the episodes.
Here’s to looking forward to 2020.