“Eve of the Daleks,” the first of Jodie Whittaker’s final three Doctor Who specials aired today. The episode features the Doctor’s arch-nemesis wreaking havoc in the midst of a time loop on New Year’s Eve in Manchester. Three weeks after wrapping up the rollercoaster that was Doctor Who: Flux, this episode manages to be a bit of a relief. Honestly, Flux episodes went so all over the place that I went into this episode expecting to come out with a headache. Thankfully, audiences don’t have to deal with a byzantine plotline they need a compass to get through. However, the episode does suffer from a lack of thrills and a lack of character development to get you emotionally invested. All-in-all it’s a fine episode, but it’s not the greatest Doctor Who special by any stretch of the imagination.
Doctor Who “Eve of the Daleks” Story
While resetting the TARDIS after damage from the Flux, the Doctor, along with Yaz (Mandip Gil) and Dan (John Bishop), is stranded at a self-storage business facility on New Year’s Eve. Also in the facility are an employee Sarah (Aisling Bea) and Nick (Adjani Salmon) who is clearly infatuated with her. Also present, unfortunately for all of these people, is a Dalek who exterminates all of them. And then they arrive where they all were at the Doctor’s arrival and the Dalek kills them again… and again… and again.
Confused? Here’s the explanation. The Doctor’s TARDIS reset has caused a time loop where all of these characters are consciously reliving the moments the Doctor and company arrived up until the Dalek kills them. And each time they must work together to try to get out of the loop and stop the Dalek. And to make the situation more challenging, they are arriving one minute later after each loop, and they will eventually run out of time.
This episode also takes a new dive into the Doctor’s relationship with Yaz and actually confirms a fan theory. Turns out that years of traveling with the Doctor and overcoming obstacles and dangers with her have caused some feelings to blossom in Yaz. She now has romantic feelings for the Time Lord. The Doctor has had female companions attracted to her before, but of course, this was back when she was a man. This is the second time we’ve seen an LGBT companion for the Doctor, the first having been Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) from season 10.
Doctor Who “Eve of the Daleks” Review
Some are going to find this whole time loop storyline confusing, but I didn’t find it hard to follow at all. It’s explained in a clear way that’s pretty easy to understand. I had no trouble keeping up with the story, which was a relief given how confused I was during so many Flux episodes, particularly “Once, Upon Time.” Six weeks later and that episode still has me dizzy.
There’s a lot to like in the episode. The Daleks are more menacing than they’ve been in some time, and I love seeing the way the trio works together in their efforts to defeat them. Whittaker is exciting and quirky as always, and she’s got a fierceness that has made her an underappreciated but memorable Doctor. Yaz is dealing with some complicated feelings which are bound to make her emotional, and Gil does an excellent job portraying those emotions. Bishop continues to entertain me as Dan. The character seems a little brighter and more useful than he’s been in the past, possibly because of gaining some wisdom traveling with Yaz for four years during the Flux. I am glad he’s still around for at least one more special.
However, the episode suffers a major issue that makes it less invigorating for me, and that’s the lack of character development with Nick and Sarah.
You could say, “They’re only there for one special. Why be so nitpicky?” Because I have seen many Doctor Who specials before, and I have characters featured for one episode where there was development and where I did care for them. The characters Lucy and Grant from 2016’s Christmas special “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” immediately come to mind as great examples. The issue I feel Nick and Sarah suffer from is lack of likability. Nick actually comes off as a weird stalker in this episode, which Sarah isn’t afraid to point out in a harsh way. And while Sarah has a point, she still comes off as quite mean to him, and I really didn’t care about any potential budding romance developing between the two. I’m gonna blame this on very clumsy writing. It’s a shame because Bea and Salmon clearly have talent, but unfortunately it was wasted on characters I’m happy I won’t see again.
“Eve of the Daleks” is not as exciting or memorable as past Doctor Who holiday specials. It lacks the character charm and development that made the series fun in the past. This has always been my issue with Chris Chibnall’s era. No matter exciting a plotline sounds, I am not gonna get into it unless I have a real connection to the characters. With Chibnall’s era, I have very rarely felt that connection. I can only hope that Russell T. Davies will give the characters some flare again.
Those flaws aside, it’s not a bad episode. It’s entertaining, and unlike some Doctor Who: Flux installments it’s easy to follow. And while I wasn’t blown away by Nick and Sarah as characters, I did enjoy the chemistry between the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan. I also enjoyed the time loop plot (even though we’ve seen it in Doctor Who many times already), and I loved the resourceful way the heroes won out in the end (which I wont spoil).
This is the beginning of the end for Whittaker’s era, which has been a rollercoaster. Thankfully, they didn’t do her third to last special disservice with a jumbled plotline. Ultimately, she’s on the way towards a satisfying end.
Whovians, did you enjoy “Eve of the Daleks?” Are you optimistic about the future of Doctor Who? Are you sad to see Whittaker go? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
- Intriguing plot
- Easier to follow than Flux plotlines
- Great acting from the trip
- Nick and Sarah are unlikable
- Not an original plot