Review: ‘Doctor Who’ New Years Day Special

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After a small break since the season thirteen finale, Doctor Who returned on New Years Day. Titled “Eve of the Daleks,” the first of three specials spread out over the course of 2022 serves as the swan song for current Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. So where did the beginning of the end take the Doctor and the fam? Manchester England on New Year’s Eve 2021, of course. 

Warning: Spoilers from ‘Eve of the Daleks’ are below!

It seems like Chris Chibnall had a specific question on his mind when writing this episode. What would the film Groundhog’s Day be like if you traveled with the Doctor? While that storyline has been done way too many times, Chibnall created something incredible in this New Years’ Eve special.

The episode opened with newcomers Sarah (Aisling Bea) and Nick (Adjani Salmon) dying at the hands of a Dalek. However, instead of life ending with the flash of bright light, the two find themselves back to the opening moments with severe deja vu. 

Before we can learn anything else about the situation, we flash to the Doctor in the T.A.R.D.I.S. Speaking her scientific jargon, she explains to companions Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) that the T.A.R.D.I.S. needs time to reset therefore they have to disembark the ship. While she promised them time on a beach while everything settles, the T.A.R.D.I.S. drops them off in a storage facility instead. The exact same facility that Bea’s Sarah inherited from her uncle and where she and her only paying customer died moments earlier.

The episode plays out the typical Groundhog Day storyline, where the Doctor and her companions, along with Sarah and Nick, continue to die at the hands of the Daleks. However, with each reset, they lose a minute to the time loop, creeping closer to midnight. This structure to the storytelling was something I thoroughly enjoyed. The loss of time with each loop added pressure to both the individuals in the story as well to the viewers. 

The pressure forced the characters to make some difficult decisions and admit things to themselves or others that may not have otherwise happened. Sarah, who starts the episode with obvious disdain for Nick grows to have feelings for him. The journey of dying together over and over and each time having to work together to find new ways to survive brought them close, something I was expecting but enjoyed seeing all the same.

However, the biggest revelation from the special was something I have been waiting for multiple seasons to happen. Yaz finally admitted her feelings for the Doctor! This happened in a tender moment between Yaz and Dan, who out of concern and kinship for Yaz asks her if she has told the Doctor of her feelings. The acting from Gill in this scene alone is award-worthy. The look of panic, relief, and fear that crossed her face when Dan voiced what was in her head brought tears to my eyes. There wasn’t any resolution to this revelation yet, there’s hope that this comes back over the last two specials of 2022.

The acting from every single individual was top-notch. While Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill have always been exceptional and shone more than others in past seasons, they are more balanced with Dan as well as the newcomers. I wish we would have had more time with Salmon and Bea. Both were exceptional as one-off characters for a Doctor Who story, and while their stories ended happily together, I hope they return for one final appearance at the end of Whittaker’s run.

Something surprising was that I found myself sad for the Daleks. I feel crazy even writing that. Their mission in the episode is to kill the Doctor, however, it’s in response to the past actions of the Doctor and not just the desire to rule the world. The Daleks are retaliating because of the Doctor’s back-to-back mass genocide that occurred during the Flux.

While watching Doctor Who: Flux, it didn’t hit me how the Doctor’s actions were questionable in her attempt to save the human race. Although like the Doctor said, her actions are starting to catch up to her, and perhaps her hands are not as clean as we would like.

What did you think of “Eve of the Daleks”? Did you enjoy it as much as I did, or did you feel like it exterminated your hopes for the other two specials in 2022? Let us know on Twitter @mycosmiccircus!

Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks is currently streaming on AMC+

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