Should auld spoilers be forgot and never brought to mind…
Ask and you shall receive. After the season finale, I said that for me the show needed to do two things: face a classic enemy in a new way and go beyond what we consider classic. I am glad to say it delivered, on time and to full compliance. Breaking away with tradition, and I will be the first one to say that is not a bad thing, the show opted to eschew the Christmas episode and offer a special for New Year’s Day. We had but a teaser that hinted at an old enemy coming back.
Yes, it has a name. A Dalek, even one, and actually specially since it’s only one, spells a lot of trouble for the Doctor. This results in the stakes being particularly high, to the point that the show must actually start with a Dalek that has been dismantled and killed. The idea of taking down an enemy so fearsome that it has to be split into three parts and each part hidden in a different place on Earth adds to the myth of the show. It works, and it works so well without even showing us what it is.
As a matter of fact, having the Dalek being able to snare and control other living creatures when out of its casing is just genius. A wild animal is at its most dangerous when cornered. This lone reconnaissance Dalek must survive as a parasite that takes over humans until it can rebuild the casing that makes it a living weapon of destruction. The fact that it literally can grab on to a human body as a “pilot” is horrifying and actually scarier.
The special did not forgo its human element, although I feel the execution was lacking. We get Ryan’s reunion with his dad, Aaron (Daniel Adegboyega), not without some shade from Graham. Ryan and Graham’s relationship has become the emotional anchor of this show. Aaron is an outsider to us, so when he seems to garner some of the coldest reactions from both Ryan and Graham (and the Doctor too), it seems unwarranted. We don’t get a feel to what Aaron’s character used to be like. He’s already on repent mode. I was hoping we’d get some sort of telltale signs of the absent parent, but we have to rely entirely on Ryan and Graham’s take. I think it could’ve been done better. It feels like a missed opportunity.
Going back to the big bad, we did get to see a Dalek facing modern warfare. The whole futility of it made me wonder how exactly do the medieval armies did it? The way it looked, it seemed the warriors of old just overwhelmed it with numbers but that hardly seems possible. If this Dalek can take down a tank, how did it fall to swords, axes, hammers, bows and arrows? I’m still scratching my head on that one. A simple way to fix that inconsistency would’ve been to mention that the deadliest creature in the entire universe was wounded from crash landing on Earth. That would have at least make the premise that it was defeated before plausible.
The confrontation itself was good. We were definitely seeing The Doctor herself and that was a Dalek on screen. Props to Jodie Whittaker on a good performance. And yet, my nitpick here is that it could have had more. A little more gravitas would’ve done it. If the Doctor would have chosen to kill the Dalek by sacrificing Ryan’s dad, Aaron, we would have had a deep emotional toll that would carry into next season. I envisioned the possibility as it was going down and I’ve heard similar ideas from other fans as well. The Doctor putting everything on the line to take out the Daleks is not out of character for the character. Perhaps it would set a darker tone that the show didn’t want to impart on its first season. We’re left to wonder on that one.
The show went for the all-around happy ending without any consequences. I don’t think that decision ruins the season nor do I think a darker outcome would make it a success. I do have to say with the bar raised a bit higher, the expectations will be higher for the next season. That also means that this first season’s ups and downs overall factor in as average compared to the New Year’s Day special. It accomplished what I wanted from it, and the mythology of the show is richer for it. However, it does frame the rest of the season as a bit underwhelming. That makes me want to raise a glass for richer and deeper storylines for next season.
That will do for now.