Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks first thoughts (spoilers)

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Jodie Whittaker’s final Doctor Who Festive Special has just landed. Here’s what we thought of Eve of the Daleks… 

  1. Naturally, spoilers follow.
  2. Tony Jones:

New Years Day brought a treat for Doctor Who fans in the form of Sugar Puffs sponsored Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 AD on Talking Pictures TV. It also brought Chris Chibnall’s festive frolic. To be fair, I did think it a decent stab at a time-loop story, and Nick Briggs put in an even more menacing than normal Dalek voice. I’d go so far as to say the Dalek elements / dialogue were generally well written, and if you liked a nod-back to the 1960s, we had the fact the new Dalek guns seemed no more accurate than any other weapon when used on any of the TARDIS crew, and you only have to duck to get Daleks to exterminate each other.

The idea of the loop growing ever-shorter added something, but I was never convinced the ending could be achieved in the final one-minute loop. Still we got fireworks, both on screen and emotionally between Aisling Bea’s Sarah (please, RTD, can she come back to the TARDIS? and Adjani Salmon’s Nick. What I find less convincing is the Yaz / Doctor possible romance. We know this Doctor is emotionally insensitive, and the on-screen chemistry between the two has lacked for me. Only two more stories to go before all is revealed I suppose.

A shame all Dan had to do was complain about Mancs, and even five people + Daleks felt like a crowd at times, but it served a purpose. Will I ever rewatch? Unlikely. Is it the weakest story in the show’s history? No. Was it a classic? I think you know my view!

  1. Ian McArdell:

  2. After the smorgasbord of Flux, a compact festive special was certainly called for. I was pleased however to see a story thread picked up; contamination from the Flux was what ailed the TARDIS in the previous story.

I’m always a sucker for a time loop. This one came with a couple of quirks – first, all its participants remembered the events of every iteration and second, it contracted by one minute on each occurrence. The latter fact seemingly to propel the plot, rather than for any reason I caught in the dialogue.

Of everything we’ve seen across the Series 13 filming blocks so far, this felt the most pandemic induced, the most like a bottle show. Five principal cast members and two Daleks on the same sets throughout, with a few shots outside at the end. Effects-wise it looked impressive – I liked the rapid-fire dalek gun and the collapsing building was great. (Which makes me wonder, does Dan still have his house in his pocket?)

I enjoyed Aisling Bea as Sarah (as I do in This Way Up) and Adjani Salmon was oddly charming as Nick. It was probably a stretch to bill this as a festive romcom, but I felt invested enough in their story. Let’s hope he’s not a serial killer, eh? The pair fared better than either companion though, who both mostly fell into the role of bystander. Doubtless elements of fandom thrilled at the spoken acknowledgement of Yaz’s feelings, but it feels rather late in the game. It’s not something I look for in the show either and can’t help but wonder if it’s just a lever to increase the feels for the regeneration.

For her part, Jodie Whittaker was on excellent form, facing down Daleks and outwitting them, not overwhelmed with jokey business. Unlike Flux, it was nice to see her with the companions for the most part. Expositional dialogue was at a minimum and, despite an over-reliance on Daleks telling us what they are not, the pepperpots seemed like a palpable threat. Even if their ability to shoot straight was oddly variable! I did hoot at the Dalek, voiced by Nicholas Briggs, intoning “I am not Nick.”

In short, Eve of the Daleks is a serviceable festive outing. It probably doesn’t bear too much scrutiny but it entertained in the moment.

Doctor Who will return in the spring for a further special, Legend of the Sea Devils, ahead of the Thirteenth Doctor’s final bow in the BBC Centenary special.