I’ve found Jodie Whittaker’s episodes as the Thirteenth Doctor very hit and miss – the hits have been fantastic, the misses…not so much – and Resolution, the New Year episode, was, for me, pretty much all miss.
There is a Dalek. No longer is this a sixties Dalek, a creature horribly mutated by nuclear war stuffed into a personal armoured tank; or even an early noughties Upgraded Flying Dalek (it can handle stairs!). No; for this War on Terror era, this age of political division, we have a levelled-up Scout Dalek, which can crawl about outside its shell in order to possess innocent humans and thereby gain secret information about Earth’s defences.
I think my problem with Resolution is that the Dalek here is not doing anything very interesting, or, at least, anything that another monster could not do better. Sure, we could say that fear of infiltration from within, of brainwashing, of not knowing who your neighbour is, is more relevant today than it was forty years ago, but I’m not even sure I’m convinced by that argument: spies were a thing in the Cold War, they’ve always been a thing. And we cannot argue that the Dalek of Resolution is a Dalek in any meaningful way, at least for the first half of the episode. Why do the Daleks need scouts when one of them in a makeshift casing can destroy a whole military patrol all by itself?
Actually, that is probably the most effective moment of Resolution: that doomed military patrol facing down an enemy which we know is too strong for them. And it’s a moment that happens after the Scout Dalek has put together a casing out of scrap metal – in other words, after it’s become a recognisable Dalek again. The emotional power of the Daleks lies in their unconquerable force; they’re an enemy which cannot be destroyed. That’s…the whole point of them?
There’s also a subplot involving Ryan’s deadbeat dad trying to re-enter his life, but it feels poorly integrated into the Dalek plot, thematically speaking, and as a result I don’t really care. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Daleks are only here because Daleks go with Doctor Who – not because Chris Chibnall had anything to say with or about them.