This was good, actually!
Broadcast on New Year’s Day 2022, The Eve of the Daleks is pretty much everything one could want (or, at least, everything I could want) from a Doctor Who special. Taut, focused and propulsive, it makes compelling use of that old sci-fi plot device, the time loop, ratcheting tension up nicely before releasing us into a seasonally appropriate feelgood ending.
Hoping for a relaxing beach holiday after the events of Flux, the Doctor, Yaz and Dan instead find themselves in a run-down Manchester storage facility on New Year’s Eve, in the company of the building’s bitterly sarcastic owner, Sarah (played by the wonderful Aisling Bea), and its only customer, Nick, who, naturally, has a crush on Sarah. When the group’s members, separately, come face-to-face with a murderous Dalek, and, crucially, wake up alive after the encounter, they figure out that they’re in a time loop that’s inexorably shrinking: each time round they go they lose one precious minute. With no resources and no way to escape the facility, can they defeat the Daleks before the time loop collapses at midnight?
This, then, is almost a bottle episode: no far-flung locations, relatively little in the way of special effects, a plot that puts characters under stress and looks at how they react. It works beautifully: no detail is wasted, as we get an insight into the relationship between the Doctor and Yaz, courtesy of Dan playing the part of impartial third party, and watch Sarah and Nick grow into a better understanding of what they want from their lives. None of it is particularly cutting-edge, but this is Doctor Who: cutting-edge is not really in its remit. But it is fun, watchable and full of heart – all things that very much are in its remit, and which have been sorely missed in recent years.