We’ve had a New Year special episode before – The End Of Time part 2 back on New Year’s Day 2010 (nine years ago! that’s mental!) – but this is the first year since the series came back that there’s been no Christmas Day episode (to much grumbling from certain quarters of fandom), so this is the one festive episode we get.
After a prologue, where we get some backstory about medieval warriors dividing the body of a defeated monster into three parts and burying it at opposite ends of the earth, the episode starts off with a couple of archaeologists, Lin and Mitch, who’ve ostensibly come in to work on New Year’s Day but are really there hoping for a date with each other. It’s cute, but it’s better once their new find awakens and transmats the buried other parts of itself to make itself whole again. The two of them notice it’s missing and Lin goes off to hunt for it, finding a squid-like creature. Meanwhile, the Doctor and companions arrive and escort Lin and Mitch out of the premises (no psychic paper necessary for some reason).
Lin, freaked out, goes home, where it’s revealed that the squid creature she found is controlling her body and actions. The Doctor, meanwhile, conducts some tests and realises it’s a Dalek (which will be no surprise to anyone who’s watched the series before).
The Dalek-controlled Lin goes on the rampage, killing a couple of police officers, a slightly dim security guard (poor guy!), and a farm worker. Meanwhile, the Doctor and friends, including Mitch, track Lin down to the barn – she’s managed to fight off the Dalek, but the Dalek has constructed itself a makeshift casing and escapes after a showdown with the Doctor.
With help from the slightly unlikely figure of Ryan’s negligent dad Aaron, the Doctor and co manage to destroy the Dalek’s casing. Unfortunately, it then latches onto Aaron and threatens to kill him unless the Doctor reunites it with its Dalek fleet. She tricks the Dalek by sending it into a vacuum in space, nearly losing Aaron with it in the process until he’s saved by Ryan.
There’s a nice happy ending with Aaron and Ryan starting a better relationship, Lin and Mitch getting together, and the Doctor, Graham, Yasmin and Ryan flying off into space for more adventures…probably in 2020, so we might have another festive episode before that.
Characterisation-wise, the best bit of this episode is the arrival of Ryan’s dad Aaron, who was an absent but important figure for the whole of the 2018 series. Obviously this has notable repercussions for Ryan, as he feels at first he can’t forgive his dad but then becomes closer to him as a result of the adventure. This subplot provides some great moments for Graham too – in the absence of Grace, he’s able to provide some fatherly advice to Aaron.
I love Mitch’s reaction to the TARDIS! No matter how many characters do the ‘bigger on the inside’ thing, it never gets old in my view.
I also think it’s cute that the Dalek part gets awoken by UV light. That’s worth remembering. Another point that should be noted is that it’s still the case that people on Earth don’t know who the Daleks are. After the giant overblown Dalek invasion during the RTD era (The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End) where the whole Earth witnessed everything, there was some vague handwavy stuff in the Moffat era where the crack in Amy’s room ate everyone’s memories, or something, and so since then nobody in contemporary episodes has known about Daleks, except when it’s convenient, or if they’re Adelaide Brooke remembering the 2008 invasion in the 2059-set The Waters Of Mars, which was an episode released before the handwave.
A very interesting point is that when the Doctor tries to contact Kate Stewart at UNIT, the telephone operative says that UNIT are on suspension, pending review, due to funding cutbacks. I’m looking forward to seeing if this is overcome at some point!
There’s another cute moment (well, by ‘cute’ I mean by Doctor Who standards – there is also a lot of gratuitous death in this scene) where the army show up to intercept a ‘drone’, then have to run away when they realise it’s actually a Dalek. Another funny, if slightly unnecessary, scene is where the Dalek drains the whole of the UK’s internet and we cut to a dim-looking family horrified at the idea that they’ll actually have to talk to each other.
On the whole, this episode gave me a bit of an odd, discordant feeling – it just felt a bit too lighthearted for a ‘Daleks are going to destroy the world’ story. I did enjoy it though, and I’m a bit sad that the next series is such a long way away! I’d hoped that under Chibnall we might return to yearly series, especially seeing as the series episode count has been cut (again) from twelve to ten, but apparently it’s not to be.
As such, for the rest of 2019 I’ll be rewatching classic episodes instead!