13 December 2021: not really a review of Flux added.
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Resolution. What an on the nose title. Who could it possibly be that would write something so obvious? Ooh! We know! But you'll have to wait till the end to confirm it, because there are no titles. Daring decision, or subtle manoeuvre to stop the audience switching off as soon as they read "by Chris Chibnall"?
Either way, we're committed now. Off we plunge into a video gamealike yarn about a terrifying enemy being hacked into three parts and buried all around the world so they can never be reunited. Because that always goes so well. If they can split it into three, why can't they then grill the bits on a stick and feed them to their dogs? We bet it's way harder to reassemble yourself if you've been through the digestive tract of a poodle.
But no, it's the three-way split. Which goes wrong right from the off when one of our doughty warriors is the victim of a drive-by arrowing. Done, moreover, by the world's dumbest criminals, who rifle through the guy's pockets yet completely ignore the bag he's clutching. As does every other passer-by until he disappears from view under the loam. My, what honest citizens! If a trifle lazy in the burial department, given he's actually lying in full view on a nice wide road.
Segue to a modern-day archaeological dig and an appealing pair of diggers. Their awkward flirting might not be the freshest lettuce in the fridge, but nevertheless these two have more personality than Yaz has been assigned all season. There's an ominous rustle, so Lin gets out her torch and starts hunting for the source…by trooping through the water. Huh? Who would do that? Reaching the far shore, she turns around, and for the first time this season we genuinely shrieked.
And then, just when they'd ratcheted the tension right up for once, here comes the TARDIS! Can't have the kids being too scared, remember, so the Doctor is here to save the day! That's…nice.
The Doctor wipes some phlegm off the wall and asks for something to store it in for analysis. Why doesn’t she use the sonic like every other bloody time? Then they all discuss how worried they should be about the space squid being in the water. Considering the water couldn't drown a chihuahua and the squid would therefore be sticking up like a mountain range, this was about as pathetic a red herring as we've ever seen.
Because we knew where the space squid was, and so did you. It was impossible to avoid the rumours about this being a Dalek episode, and that being the case, it didn't take too many brain cells to guess that said space squid was actually a Dalek using Lin as a new casing.
We're not normally huge fans of the Daleks, just because they're so often misused. This use of them? We actually like it. It's a new take, at least. And while we couldn't understand at first how the squid part of the Dalek was so powerful, when initially the casing was adopted precisely because Daleks were squishy and feeble, later they acceptably handwave it away with a story about this one being a super-powerful recon scout. Go on, then. If you must.
The Doctor chucks Lin and Mitch out of the sewers (it is, of course, all about SAFETY!) and Lin sets about conquering the earth in tandem with her Dalek driver. The TARDIS crew, meanwhile, get back in the TARDIS. We've said before that the crew in this season have never felt like they're in any danger whatsoever, but this definitively takes the piss. They seem to spend virtually the entire episode safely tucked up inside the TARDIS. We're surprised they don't have popcorn.
And when they're not in the TARDIS, they're (safely) in their own gaff so that the subplot can kick off. Apparently one season of Ryan occasionally mentioning his deadbeat dad is plenty to trigger a, you guessed it, resolution. Aaron attempts to shake the Doctor's hand, and she springs like a tiger. He's no prince, granted, but what is she, Ryan's mum? Watching her clucking around her little brood of chicks really makes us grind our teeth. This Doctor's deep involvement in her companions' lives is just so unGallifreyan. She's more guidance counsellor than Time Lord.
Meanwhile, the Dalek's steering Lin around the greater Sheffield area like a shopping trolley as it kicks its plan into gear. It's well enough done, but having started novelly it's now back to the usual Dalek mojo, the we will conquer exterminate exterminate stuff. That comes with the territory, though, and although we find it a trifle yawnsome, lots of people like it, so fair enough. Lin, in a smack-you-in-the-face obvious reference to the Doctor building her sonic screwdriver in the first episode, bangs together a Dalek casing, and we're good to go.
And while she's making with the anvil, Aaron bizarrely interrupts his long-awaited reunion with his son to try and flog a microwave to the café owner. Followed by Ryan inexplicably carrying the microwave into the TARDIS. We have never ever seen such a hamfisted job of planting a plot point. It has all the subtlety of the Sixth Doctor's jacket.
Back into the TARDIS! We might trip over something out here and stub our toes! Once safely inside again, the Doctor and the Dalek trade, you know, action for engaging in a competition to hack each other's phones. We particularly hate the bit where the Doctor demands the Dalek release its prisoner. Why the hell would it? No wonder it laughs like a drain. We've seen far too much of the Doctor trying bravado on without backing it up in this season. It just makes her look silly. This kind of Doctor/Dalek confrontation should send a tingle down your spine, but instead we just feel embarrassed for her.
And here comes the second genuinely frightening moment of the episode: they leave Graham behind. We were terrified he was leaving. To be honest, we'd happily drop the Doctor if we could keep Graham.
Because she's not really a lot of use to anybody. And she makes it even worse by deciding she can't do this without help and tries to call in UNIT. Yes, they really are calling this character the Doctor. Then she has the cheek to turn around and claim she's always fought the Daleks on her own! In that case, a) why was she trying to call in help, and b) cheers to all the people who've fought and died to assist the Doctor against the Daleks in the past.
Given that this Dalek doesn't recognise the Doctor and she doesn't have any obvious weapons against it, wouldn't you think she'd want to hang on to her anonymity? You know, for sneakiness purposes? But no, she invites, nay urges the Dalek to scan her and then helpfully provides it with an annotated biography. Thus forewarned, it instantly deactivates her sonic. Bummer. (Who can blame it, though? We only wish we had that remote control.)
The Doctor returns to the TARDIS (where the crew are, obvs, safely tucked inside) and confesses she's made a giant balls-up of the entire thing. This speech couldn't have sounded less Doctorly if it had been squeaked out by Barbie. Meanwhile, the Dalek lands in a random field, possibly for a picnic, and is quickly surrounded by random soldiers and a random tank. Much WTFery therefore abounds, although we admit we did enjoy the bumps being gun ports. Even if we're baffled as to how a casing forgeable in a human forge could be so impervious to incoming fire.
And it's not just the gunfire: the Dalek can also crash unharmed through floors of a concrete building. This kind of thing is massively annoying. Daleks should be scary enough without giving them every power in the universe. When they can do everything including flossing your teeth, who the hell are they? It makes all the bad guys merge into one giant villainy bollock.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is in hot pursuit in the TARDIS. Yes, in the TARDIS. It's now a transdimensional Uber. Assured it's safe (of course!), the TARDIS crew finally tiptoe outside, and the Doctor microwaves the Dalek's casing to death. However, it turns out she can't count to six, as while she's congratulating herself the Dalek has latched onto Aaron. It tells the Doctor she's underestimated it, but we think it's more a case of her overestimating herself.
But she does have a cunning plan: to shake off her stowaway, she opens a vacuum corridor. Note that she's too busy taunting the Dalek to warn any of the people who she doesn't actually want to flush into space. Note also that the vacuum corridor instantly gets out of control. Dear God. Can't she do anything right? It takes Ryan's I love you and extended hand to somehow magically force the Dalek to de-tentacle itself.
Whoa. That's bad. That's very bad. When it comes to Dalek stories, we're supposed to be scared by the Daleks' might and hatred, but in awe of the Doctor's brilliance in dealing with them. Instead, this Doctor cocks it up from start to finish and only avoids ejecting her entire crew into space by sheer luck. Groan.
What's more, the Doctor here is exactly as she's been all season: one-note, panting, grimacing, with no gravitas whatsoever. When you find yourself far more engaged by the companions' scenes than with the ones that are supposed to be gripping faceoffs between a legendary Time Lord and a legendary villain, you know an episode has gone seriously off the rails.
It starts really well: great characters and a couple of genuine zowie moments with the Dalek, both on the wall and in its brand new casing. But it all slides rapidly downhill from there. The companions' scenes are fine: often they're more interesting than the Dalek plot. But by surrounding them with safety padding, it not only lowers the stakes, it dislocates them from the story. The local characters are also good, but the pacing is seriously off in their story, dizzyingly accelerating in random directions in the second half. And the Doctor versus the Dalek? Disaster. By overstuffing the Dalek's powers and dumbing down the Doctor, in the end it’s a sad disappointment.
The TARDIS is working overtime in this one. As well as a taxi, it's also a giant oblong sonic screwdriver. We thought the real one was bad enough. Can't this Doctor work out anything in her head?
LED BY THE NOSE I
Apart from "other armed forces are available" and Graham's "You broke my chair!" (which was all in the delivery), the biggest laugh in here, sadly unintentional, is when Yaz says to Mitch politely "We met in the sewers earlier". Bwa-hahahahahaha!
LED BY THE NOSE II
"Where do these tunnels lead to?" Doctor. They're sewers. It's not going to be Narnia.
"Hi! I'm gay, me! Urk." Diversity at its best.
It's hard to encapsulate the sheer appallingness of the Doctor's line to Aaron "You're almost making up for your parenting deficit". To suggest a tiny helping of usefulness wipes out years of neglecting your kid is just….ugh. And if she was joking, joking about years of neglecting your kid is just…ugh.