Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks (spoilers)

The Doctor Who New Year’s Eve special featured Daleks, Manchester and Irish comedian Aisling Bea. Despite a few missteps, it’s an entertaining time with genuine humour and some touching moments. More after the fold.

The Doctor and crew are looking for a place to hold up while the Tardis repairs itself after the events of the Flux. Rather than landing on an extraterrestrial beach as intended, they find themselves in a self-storage business in Manchester. At the same time, the manager of the business Sarah (Aisling Bea) is once again having to staff the desk on New Year’s Eve because her one employer (Jeff, who we never meet) has called in sick as he does every year. Meanwhile, Nick (Adjani Salmon), the business’s only regular customer, has arrived as he does every New Year.

The comedy of the situation is interrupted by a Dalek who proceeds to murder everybody. Luckily, this is a time-loop episode and the four humans and one Doctor find they have multiple opportunities to find a way past their inevitable extermination.

It’s a time loop story and that means personal revelations and new beginnings, appropriate enough for New Year. It’s also Doctor Who, so not unreasonably, little time is wasted on people working out that they are in a time loop. The added complication is the loop keeps resetting and creeps closer to midnight on each cycle. Why midnight? That is just brushed over — arguably the biggest plot hole but not an annoying one.

There are two romance plots here. The foreground one is Sarah and Nick, which unfortunately aims for Nick’s behaviour to be wacky and weird but comes off more as stalkerish. Given that the script has the rest of the cast worrying that he might be a serial killer at one point doesn’t help. Having said that, if you put aside the more absurd background he’s given, it is otherwise a quite sweet and plausible arc. Nice actors having fun with the idea in an absurd story with killer monsters.

The second one is the long-discussed but never confirmed (until now) attraction between The Doctor and Yas — the ship known as ‘Thasmin’ (THirteen + yASMIN). This isn’t resolved in the episode and carries with it all the usual issues of doomed romance that comes with The Doctor. Anyway, it is definitely a thing now.

The biggest single positive is that it ended up being a much, much better use of the Daleks than I expected. There are some absurdities (the time it takes for a Dalek to blast through a door) but no more than the usual number that the absurd pepper-pots bring with them. What a time loop gives the Daleks is a genuine ruthless lethality. The core characters are repeatedly murdered by the Daleks, which is good because the Dalek’s are supposed to be the ultimate killing machines. Only, the time loop gives the five non-Daleks any advantage and it takes multiple attempts to defeat them.

Otherwise, largely funny with some nice character moments and no deeply annoying aspects.

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15 responses to “Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks (spoilers)”

  1. I enjoyed the episode. The other plot hole as I see it is how that self-storage place survives (and supports two people) with just one customer.

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    • Indeed! Although Jeff seemed to be involved in multiple sidelines eg fancy dress & beef n beans!!

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  2. I liked it a lot, except for the fact that the characters kept stopping to talk about pretty much everything (why Nick had a storage space, how Yas felt about the Doctor, how much Sarah hates her irresponsible employee Jeff) instead of running like hell from the Daleks. What is wrong with you people?

    I thought Nick was cute, and that the others were being very unfair in suspecting that he was a serial killer. But yeah, thinking about it, there is that stalkery vibe.

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  3. Ever since Dr Sandifer stopped doing her Doctor Who reviews, i’ve been coming here to see what your thoughts are, and honestly it’s nice to have a reviewer who is actually positive about the show in its current form, certainly there is a lot to be worked on but I think that in the past there has been some overly unfair criticism of Jodi Whitaker Doctor Who era.

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  4. This was an enjoyable episode with the usual caveat of not looking too closely at the plot.

    Was this an example of Deus ex TARDIS?
    It was the TARDIS that deposited them in England instead of San Monrova.
    It was the TARDIS that created the time loop (and we never get told why it ratchets one minute closer to midnight every time the loop resets)

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  5. I thought it was mostly OK, and to be fair a lot of the specials from other eras haven’t been much better. Above average for Chibnall, I suppose..

    I did feel that the loop was beginning to wear out it’s welcome by the last iteration (and I can’t believe they got that much done in the time that was left).

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  6. I thought it displayed all of Chibnall’s strengths and weaknesses pretty well; there were some set-ups that were important but weren’t explained well, some that were highlighted and then not really used, and some that were solely there for jokes (albeit quite often good jokes: I thought “ex-terminated” was pretty funny.)
    He gave good scenes to Yaz, Dan and the Doctor but ultimately they went nowhere in terms of advancing their characters (although this was an Xmas special so that doesn’t feel so bad.) I did like someone’s observation that Dan is far more Yaz’s companion than the Doctor’s after the events of Flux, which makes sense.
    He changed his own rules to suit the plot (which is fine; everyone does that) and it definitely did feel as though the final loop was implausible given the time constraint (although that was an excellent tweak on the usual time-loop form.)
    On the whole, I had a good time and I suspect that (unlike too many other Whittaker episodes) I will continue to have a good time when I rewatch it, even though this story may not really stand up to rewatching.

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  7. I enjoyed it a lot more than most other recent episodes. There were a lot fewer loose threads hanging out all over the place, and I liked Sarah’s character arc from being selfish and cynical at the start to being a bit softer and kinder. I also thought they crammed a somewhat unfeasible number of actions into the last 60 secs (especially given these included at least one trip in a lift).

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  8. I agree that there’s no way everything in that last loop fit into one minute. OTOH, who says that midnight is a magic deadline? It’s just an arbitrary point on the clock. Maybe that last loop happened over the course of ten minutes, and then since the Daleks were killed, time was okay to continue.

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  9. Over and above the plot as a whole I really liked so many of the details
    – Nick storing all the detritus of his previous failed relationships (inc tellingly a monopoly set)
    – Yas & Dan’s friendship (“I’m the only one allowed to diss him”)
    – Sarah’s mum calling on her mobile before midnight because by then “all the phone lines will be jammed” (footnote: Sarah’s mum was played by the inestimable Pauline McLynn of Father Ted fame)

    And as I said in a post in Susan’s Salon, I appreciated the overall message of iterate and reiterate but do better each time, which seems entirely appropriate given the times …

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  10. Tyop(?) Shouldn’t it be “looking for a place to hole up” rather than “looking for a place to hold up”. I don’t recall Team TARDIS planning a robbery

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  11. They did actually explain why the time loop was getting shorter — the Tardis couldn’t maintain the loop while fixing itself due to the energies required and so the time loop was gradually collapsing and would then close. But I can understand why folks missed it because they were all talking a hundred miles a minute throughout most of the episode.

    But that did put them into an only a second to diffuse the bomb sort of scenario where they set up an elaborate number of items from different floors down in the basement within one minute to escape the building that was completely implausible. Unless the elevator lift had a hyperspeed setting which is unlikely given that it took like thirty seconds for the door of it to close previously.

    I was kind of surprised that they were doing a time loop plot for the special, given that they had just done a massive time loop story with the angels and the flux. But this one was a lot clearer and certainly had a lot of fun bits.

    I would have like to have had them make Yas’ bisexually more directly established than one possible mention in one previous early episode and then mostly jump out of the box in the special, less baiting, but it worked okay in the special. I’m afraid that Yas is probably in the Martha category for the Doctor, but you never know.

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