Now THAT is what I’m talking about! Kudos, Chris Chibnall. You may have opted out of the traditional Christmas special, and you may have frustrated me a fair amount in your first season at the helm of Doctor Who, but you gave me exactly what I wanted with “Resolution,” the last episode we’re likely to have before 2020.
In the ninth century, all of humanity came together in battle, in what would one day be England, against a terrible foe. When the humans won, they chopped their enemy into three pieces and three guardians traveled to the ends of the Earth to bury the pieces as far away from each other as possible. They vowed to guard them forever, passing on their duty to subsequent generations.
One guardian buried her piece in Siberia. One on a tropical island. The third was struck down by the arrow of an unwitting highway robber and left to die in the road with his piece of the enemy at his side. Centuries passed, and the fallen guardian disappeared into the ground as Sheffield grew over and around him.
On New Year’s Day 2019, two young archaeologists meet in a Sheffield sewer to work on their potentially significant find: a ninth century skeleton. The young man believes him to be a guardian from the great ninth century battle, but the young woman thinks that story is a myth. In any event, their attention is not entirely on the dig site, as they shared their first kiss at midnight the previous night and are both nervous about what it meant and what might happen next.
They notice something unusual near the hand of the skeleton, and they bag it up and place it under an ultraviolet light, turning away from it to continue working. Moments later, earthquakes shake the sites of the other two pieces of the enemy, and as the two modern guardians frantically dig, the remains disappear, reappearing in the bag under the light in Sheffield.
A number of bagged artifacts come crashing to the floor, and the young man, Mitch (Nikesh Patel), and young woman, Lin (Charlotte Ritchie), notice that one has gone missing. Mitch tidies up while Charlotte takes her torch to look for the “cheeky rat” that took one of their bags.
Instead of a rat, she finds a squid-like alien creature clinging to a shadowed sewer wall. Defying reason, she reaches out to touch it.
Meanwhile, in space, the TARDIS is hanging out with its door open so that The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) can show her fam some cosmic fireworks. They’ve just experienced 19 different New Year’s celebrations at different points in time and the universe, and The Doctor is game for making it an even 20. As she sets the navigation for a little place she knows in a distant part of the universe, an alarm sounds to alert her to something alien happening on Earth, so instead of heading to another party, they go to the sewer in Sheffield.
Mitch can’t believe his eyes as the blue police box materializes in front of him. The Doctor emerges, authoritative, and he fills her in a bit about what they’re doing while Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yas (Mandip Gill) step out of the TARDIS. Lin comes forward and shows them where she saw the creature. It isn’t there anymore, and The Doctor has Lin and Mitch escorted out of the sewer while she scans for it.
When it becomes clear that the alien isn’t showing itself, The Doctor takes a DNA sample from the wall and transports her team to Graham’s while she examines it. They’re surprised there by Ryan’s dad, Aaron (Daniel Adegboyega), who has decided to turn over a new leaf in the new year and has come to heal his relationship with his son. Ryan and Aaron go around the corner for a coffee and some real talk, and Aaron tries in vain to sell the cafe owner a hybrid microwave/oven that he’s carrying around with him.
Lin and Mitch have gone their separate ways, her claiming to be too freaked out to have a date right away. That turns out not to be true, though.
As soon as she arrives home, she hides in the bathroom and removes her jacket, revealing that the alien has affixed itself to her back and plugged itself into her brain with one of its tentacles. It tells her she is its hostage now, that it will use her or kill her.
The creature’s first order of duty is to search the web for information about weapons. When it finds the information it needs, it makes Lin drive at reckless speeds to the headquarters of a company called MDZ, rumored to have stockpiled all non-terrestrial weapons found on Earth. It makes a stop on the way to kill two police officers and commandeer their car and a vest, which makes Lin look official when she walks into MDZ and finds (and kills) the man with archive access.
While this is unfolding, The Doctor has identified the creature by its DNA. To her extreme horror, the squid-like creature is… A DALEK! Without its shell, this is what the creature looks like. (Which we have seen before in previous seasons, but that’s fine.)
The TARDIS fam departs Graham’s in a hurry, inadvertently leaving him behind. (Although they do wind up with Aaron’s oven, since Ryan absentmindedly brought it on board.) They collect Mitch, but they aren’t reaching Lin on her cell. Mitch says that’s a red flag, as Lin is never separate from her cell. The Doctor scans for both the Dalek’s DNA signature and Lin’s cell signal, and she gets her next shock when she discovers that they’re together. The Dalek has Lin.
The Dalek is able to protect itself from the TARDIS’s scanner, shorting out The Doctor’s system when she finds it. She works quickly to rig a communication link with the creature, though, and soon she’s able to both speak with it via hologram and lock in on its location to follow it. The Dalek loads the police car with boxes of weaponry taken from the MDZ archive vault and races to a farm, where it kills the farmer and puts Lin to work fashioning it a new shell.
Although the Dalek attempts to cover its tracks, The Doctor traces it. She and her fam (plus Mitch) spot the dead farmer and follow sounds they’re hearing into the barn/forge. They get there just after Lin has successfully fought the Dalek and caused it to release her… and just after the Dalek has assumed its new shell.
The fam moves Lin back to the TARDIS to care for her, and The Doctor confronts the Dalek face-to-face. (Or face to glowing electronic eye on a sick.) They engage in the comfortingly familiar back and forth that every new Doctor has with a Dalek, concluding with the revelation that she is The Doctor and the Dalek going mad trying to exterminate her. This first encounter ends in a stalemate, as the Dalek flies away to complete its mission of conquering Earth and calling all Daleks to come join it.
The Doctor tracks it again, first to where it somewhat arbitrarily engages a bunch of soldiers in battle, killing them all. Then to the hub of all UK communications, where it crashes into a secure bunker full of servers and kills the lone man on duty. It then redirects all of the UK’s power and communications resources to its purpose, preparing to send a message through space to the Daleks.
The TARDIS makes a quick stop to pick up Graham and Aaron, who needs to be filled in about a few things, then appears in the bunker. En route, they’ve realized that Aaron’s oven might be the perfect weapon to defeat the metal-clad space squid. They emerge from the TARDIS with a plan.
First they confront the creature from behind an invisible shield, where The Doctor offers it a last opportunity to leave the planet immediately. When it refuses, she pulls down the shield and makes a run for the Dalek, with the fam running at it from the other direction. They affix all of the key parts of the microwave to its metal shell and pull the trigger on their improvised weapon. The Dalek’s shell melts before their eyes, and they’re ready to celebrate their victory. Unfortunately, the squid has gotten loose and affixed itself to Aaron.
The Dalek demands that The Doctor take it to the Dalek fleet or it will kill Aaron. She agrees, asking her fam to trust her. Everyone loads up on the TARDIS, and they travel to space. The Doctor surprises the Dalek by opening the door on a supernova-ing sun instead of his fleet. The Dalek is pulled towards the open door by the vacuum of space, and Aaron is dragged with it. Nobody but Ryan seems able to get free, so he goes to his father and begs him with words of love to fight the creature’s hold on him and grab Ryan’s hand. Of course he does, and the defeated Dalek is sucked out of the TARDIS to presumably burn to death.
The Doctor takes everyone back to the Sheffield sewer, where Aaron declines the invitation to travel space and time with his son and stepfather. He does ask Ryan to call him when he comes home, and Ryan agrees. Then the TARDIS fam takes off to see everything, everywhere.
On our post-special episode of AnyWho, you can bet we’ll be talking about the scene where The Doctor decides she needs help and calls U.N.I.T., only to discover that U.N.I.T. has been suspended due to funding disputes and there not having been any alien invasions recently. (Was “Day of the Doctor” really five years ago??) This moment was delightful in that it referenced and opened the door for U.N.I.T., and disappointing in that when U.N.I.T. wasn’t available, The Doctor moved on immediately without seeking or receiving help from anyone. Was I the only one holding my breath for Captain Jack or some other U.N.I.T. alum to materialize on the TARDIS and suggest that U.N.I.T. is always in operation, although sometimes under the radar?
See you in 2020, Whovians! (Unless there’s a Christmas special in 2019…)
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