Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks
January 2, 2022 5:59 PM - Season 13 (Specials) - Subscribe

New Year’s Eve. Sarah is working—again. Nick is her only customer—again. Same old same old. Except this year, their countdown to midnight will be the strangest and deadliest they have ever known. Why is an executioner Dalek targeting these two people, in this place, on this night? Why are they having to live through the same moments again? Can the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan save them and survive into the New Year?
posted by mumkin (29 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I liked this. I find it difficult to believe that Dr Who hasn't done "your basic time loop scenario" story yet but I think this was a fairly good use of the premise. The way the loop got shorter each time was a great way to ramp up the urgency and I think the Doctor/Yaz relationship is being deftly handled.

I am on record as being a fan of the Chibnall era but he consistently writes scenes in which characters run away from, around, or sometime through groups of enemies armed with what amount to laser machine guns. Here there is at least one scene where the Daleks should have mowed down the fleeing characters instead of firing volleys vaguely in the general direction. The problem persists across multiple seasons with different directors so I guess Chibnall is to blame.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:28 PM on January 2


I hope these last specials can just be fun outings for Jodie and the fam rather than overwrought world-enders and continuity-rewriting headscratchers. This was nice.
posted by rikschell at 7:20 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


My only real sort of complaint is there were a few cycles that felt like the result of someone on set going "uh hey guys you only wrote 6 cycles and your first clock was at 9 minutes to midnight, sooooo what're we gonna do here?"

Or they had to pad for airtime, maybe, ironically?
posted by Kyol at 7:25 PM on January 2


WE'RE HAVING A DALEK EPISODE!!!!
posted by Catblack at 8:25 PM on January 2


After enduring Flux, I wasn't even sure I wanted to watch this, but lots of people on Twitter suggested that it was fun and I give it a go and I'm glad I did. Love a good time loop story and a good single location story. The guest actors were fun, though the creepy dude storing things from his exes - just to get the EX-TERMINATE pun, was not great.

It looks like the next one with be fun (Sea Devils!) but I suspect Chibnall will try to tie his era together in his and Jodie's final special later this year.

I know Flux set up Yaz's feelings for the Doctor, after doing a pretty good job of not having Yaz fall for anyone in the previous two seasons. I don't love that it's coming so close to the end of Jodie's run, though. Because Yaz is going to have to watch the first woman she's fallen in love with die/regenerate. Bury your gay (feeling)s.

Anyway, it was nice to have a Doctor Who story that was about something - endless 2021 and people avoiding their feelings.
posted by crossoverman at 9:50 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


It could make for an interesting story about love, gender and identity when the doc regenerates into a man.

Not sure if I missed it, but why were they all assuming the time loop would be over at midnight?
posted by Marticus at 11:59 PM on January 2


It could make for an interesting story about love, gender and identity when the doc regenerates into a man.

A 21st Century Orlando.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:47 AM on January 3


This seemed like a “classic” Dr. Who episode. After Flux, it was nice to just watch an episode without having to spend all of my time trying to figure out what is going on.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:49 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Fun episode. Maybe a bit too long, though. There was a middle section of loops that felt like they were more padding than story building, but it's not a huge problem or anything. I thought it was a nice touch that the civilians twigged to it being a time loop first.

The "Yaz loves the Doctor" stuff kind of felt dropped-in, but it definitely works to maybe set-up the remaining specials (how many? when?) as more of a really long, really personal, story arc.

.........
Because Yaz is going to have to watch the first woman she's fallen in love with die/regenerate. Bury your gay (feeling)s.

Yeah, that definitely is a setup for a huuuuge gut punch, isn't it? I have a hard time believing they'd really do that, though. I mean, that would just be irredeemably cruel. And having Yaz stay in love after the Doctor regenerates into (assumedly) a man would be whole other kind of mean-spirited cruelty played on the viewers.

........
Not sure if I missed it, but why were they all assuming the time loop would be over at midnight?

The Doctor (or someone) noted that whichever loop they were on started a minute after the previous loop started, so they just did the maths. It kind of got lost in the endless exposition, though, so I'm sure lots of folks missed it, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:51 AM on January 3


"...the remaining specials (how many? when?)"

Two. They've vaguely said one in the spring and one in the fall, though it wouldn't surprise me if the latter were on Christmas. RTD v2 begins with the 60th anniversary special, November 2023.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:10 AM on January 3


Practically speaking, they're going to give RTD a free hand, so I can't see Yaz sticking around through the regeneration. She's already been a companion for 3 full seasons, which has been the limit for the modern show. She'd been great, though (unlike the interminable Clara years), so I hope they don't give her a tragic end (*cough* *cough* Donna *cough*).
posted by rikschell at 7:17 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I rather enjoyed this. I think Aisling Bea brought a lot to the episode, and elevated Chibnalls often flat jokes. The high concept was decent, and the fact that everyone knew they were in a time loop actually made this a bit different to normal time loop stories. The dalek dialogue was also pretty great

That said, once again (as AndrewStephens notes) there is a lot of protagonists running away and not getting hit by villains, and once again villains defeated by ducking when they both shoot at the same time. Its not actually necessary for the plot, and it makes the worlds deadliest killers look deeply incompetent. Again.

I also wish we could avoid the "man does creepy thing, gets the girl anyway" trope, but Chibnall is not alone in this kind of writing
posted by Cannon Fodder at 8:41 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Nice to see Mrs Doyle.
posted by night_train at 12:44 PM on January 3


Two. They've vaguely said one in the spring and one in the fall, though it wouldn't surprise me if the latter were on Christmas.

They've said the one in the fall is part of the BBC Centenary celebrations. The BBC are running things all year as part of the celebration, but the actual anniversary is in October.

Practically speaking, they're going to give RTD a free hand, so I can't see Yaz sticking around through the regeneration.


This is a good point. There won't be anything held over from this era for what I expect will be a soft reboot for the 60th Anniversary of Who.

I'm wondering if we'll even get a new Doctor at the end of Jodie's last special? She starts to regenerate... credits roll. And the 60th introduces him/her/them?
posted by crossoverman at 3:54 PM on January 3


Thinking about when a New Doctor announcement might come...
- Tennant was almost kept a surprise, so was only announced a couple of weeks before Eccelston regenerated (because it was leaked by The Sun)
- Matt Smith was announced a full year before Tennant regenerated
- Capaldi was announced four months before Matt Smith regenerated
- Whittaker was announced six months before Capaldi regenerated, though we had to wait almost a full year from announcement to first season

Thinking on it, I don't think they can really keep the surprise until the 60th because location shooting will mean people will see who it is long before the airdate. I am still keen for the BBC to do a regeneration where we don't know the actor before; what a perfect time to do that for the BBC 100th Anniversary.

If they do announce, I suspect it will come after the next special, at least. Take as little away from Jodie's run as possible.
posted by crossoverman at 4:09 PM on January 3


It was good to have a consciously light and fun episode - lots to enjoy so long as you didn't think too much. Although the blase attitude to being exterminated was a little too much for me.

I think (and hope) the 'soft reboot' transition will see a lot less of a 'massive unbeatable climax (of diminishing returns)' for the current Doctor's final episode than we've seen in the past - meaning we can simply sit back and enjoy without all the hype.
posted by jjderooy at 7:34 PM on January 3


And having Yaz stay in love after the Doctor regenerates into (assumedly) a man would be whole other kind of mean-spirited cruelty played on the viewers.

Or, a rare bit of representation for bi or pan viewers. Some of us would be thrilled to see this show depict a love that transcends sex. Yeah, we already got that with Captain Jack, but he's a glamorous intergalactic sex machine from the far future. It would be lovely to see a more earthbound person like Yaz discover that she can love someone regardless of what sex they happen to be at the moment.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:24 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


jjderooy, I wouldn't count on putting the massive climax in the rearview. RTD invented that strategy. And ratings have been slipping pretty hard in the UK. It's an expensive show that a lot of BBC higher-ups resent. I think Davies is tasked with either pumping the show back up or putting it to bed to rest awhile again (he's also demonstrated he can bring it in on a budget). To me, the show works better as a quirky jury-rigged period-piece spinner than as a sci-fi blockbuster, but it's been a little bit of everything over the decades.
posted by rikschell at 5:25 AM on January 4


so I hope they don't give her a tragic end (*cough* *cough* Donna *cough*).

I'm still waiting for Donna to show up again--memories restored and with her own TARDIS--to save The Doctor at the last minute. That is the return we need.

Donna: "I got better"
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:38 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Aisling Bea is such a damned treasure. Wouldn't have minded her as the next Doctor.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:38 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


She can still be the next Doctor.
posted by crossoverman at 5:23 PM on January 4


I enjoyed the general mood of this episode, and I love Aisling Bea, but the writing was so sloppy, which seems to be Chibnall's calling card.

Like, I didn't understand the timeline of Nick & Sarah's relationship at all. I think she says that he's been coming to the storage unit on New Year's Eve for 3 years, so... they've only met 3 times? Or does he also come in throughout the year? By the way, Nick's storage unit is HUGE, and there's so much stuff in it, and some of it dated to way before Sarah inherited the storage unit (5 years, I think?), so it seems like he's been saving items from his girlfriends since grade school (and were they all in his tiny apt. until he got the storage unit?). He also must have been overlapping with his women, because one relationship listed covered 4 years, and why does he have items from women he's only dated a couple of times? And if he is really her only customer... how the hell does she even keep the lights on, and why would she need to hire someone? (Or I guess maybe that meant the only customer at the moment ...)

I also don't understand how the heroes got past the one loop where the Daleks just killed all of them within the first minute before they got to do anything -- why wouldn't the Daleks just do exactly the same thing over and over again? Or why would there even be another time loop, at least for the 2 regular humans, since Sarah realized that if someone died within the first minute they wouldn't come back in the shorter loop? Why did it take the Daleks so long to get a 2nd or 3rd Dalek in, and why didn't they keep sending more? And yeah, it gets frustrating that in one scene the Daleks are brutally efficient killers, in the next they are beaten with tactics straight out of the Three Stooges. (See also: the Sontarans taking over Earth yet defeated by a frying pan to the back of the head)

The Misdirection Plan B also didn't make any sense to me... the Daleks just forget everything from the previous 7 loops or whatever? I know I'm over-thinking a show that has rarely paid much attention to logical consistency, but it's like Chibnall flaunts it: he sets up a rule to almost immediately break it. The laziest one: the basement escape door that was jammed shut in an earlier loop is wide open when they finally escape in the final loop -- in fact, it may have even been a different kind of door!

Regarding Yaz's feelings for the Doctor, my feelings are also a bit mixed. I'm glad for the representation of queer relationships, but I'm not sure if they would do the same storyline with a male doctor and male companion (Jack Harkness' bisexual flirtations notwithstanding), but two cute women is a lot more palatable to many in the fandom. And a real dick move by Dan in telling the Doctor that Yaz has feelings for her; that's totally not his call to make, and it ruins the previous scene when he was Yaz's confidante and supportive and sensitive to her feelings.

There's still no sense of what the aftermath of the Flux even was. All the Daleks and Cybermen and Sontarans the Doctor killed at the end were still killed (so one Dalek said), but has the destruction of 90% of the universe been reversed? And everyone seemed remarkably chill given that they are just a few months or maybe a few weeks after the Sontarans took over Earth after it was surrounded by a shield of space-ships flown by talking dog-people.

Last thoughts: the Doctor seemed like a jerk in this episode, snapping rudely at everyone and being all superior, and getting killed so many times makes her look like a chump. It's not like even the first kill was all that impressive of a trap, she just stumbled into a Dalek and it shot her.

Oh, and who was that guy watching the fireworks display on his phone? Was that Jeff?
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:16 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


After all the Flux stuff, this was a lot of fun.

And yes, the Doctor did seem very snappish in this episode, but I think was supposed to reflect that she feels deep guilt for everything that happened all throughout the Flux, and now here's something else happening because of her. I mean, she's only been reunited with the other two-thirds of her "self" a matter of hours, right? Reasons to be cranky!

First, I didn't think Nick was creepy. I took him as sentimental and very sweet. He dates girls and they leave stuff and he holds onto whatever it is in case they want it back. Foolish? Of course, but not creepy. He's not stalking them to give the stuff back. He's just being like your mom who holds onto all that macaroni art you made in kindergarten, just in case! (I say this as a professional organizer who teaches people how to get rid of stuff. I want to help Nick.)

But, I mean, his very first (and second, and third) inclinations are to save Sarah and then save these people he's just met! And he figured out in the course of a few minutes that he can get Daleks to shoot one another if he ducks at the right time.

Second, I think he's a regular client, coming in throughout the year. But he has come on New Year's Eve for three (or is this now four) years running because he knows Jeff will screw her over and she'll be there. And I'm sure he's not her only customer. Sarah was being hyperbolic.

What I want to know is, do people in the UK really call the striking of midnight on New Year's Eve as "the bongs" as it sounded like Sarah was saying?

And yes, I assumed that was Jeff at the end. And some small part of me wonders if Jeff blows Sarah off so that Nick and Sarah will get to hang out.

I also want to know whether the 90% of the universe was destroyed, or just the baddies who were surrounding Earth during the whole Dalek/Cyberman/Flux double-cross bit.

What I didn't understand, or I guess I don't remember after a week, is that if Sarah's the owner, isn't Jeff her employee? She says she "let" him keep all his crap there and of course he violated all the rules, but given that he blows off every NYE, why hasn't she fired him unless it's narratively necessary but nonetheless confusing.

I don't find Yaz's feelings for the Doctor has a surprise at all. I assumed that was what all of her obsessive behavior at the start of Jodie's second season (while the Doctor was in Judoon jail) was all about.

Speaking of Dan tattling on Yaz, what I find more confounding is that Dan basically knew the Doctor for a wackadoodle day or so before he spent like four years circumnavigating the globe with Yaz, and we start this ep right where everything left off at the end of the last bit of Flux, so he barely knows the Doctor. I get him comprehending Yaz's feelings, as they've been in each other's pockets all this time, but this makes his assumptions about the Doctor (and his out-of-turn revelation) all the more mystifying.

That said, I really like Dan. He's fun and cheery and I think he'd have gotten along well with Graham, whom I adored. (The older I get, the more I want older companions represented.) And try as I might, I've just never warmed to Yaz (Demons of the Punjab notwithstanding). I feel like they keep telling us she's great and resourceful, but the show often doesn't give her much agency, so she's often just reacting. And her reactions just aren't all that much fun for me. Her family members always seemed like more interesting characters, and I thought we could have used more of her sister as a complicating factor, sort of like Rose's Mickey.

Regarding the new TARDIS, considering it usually revamps itself when the newest incarnation of the Doctor appears, having a new one now makes me wonder if we'll have another after the specials. Also, regarding the new TARDIS design, "You've redecorated. I don't like it."

Finally, nobody wants to talk about Sarah saying, "Oh, my giddy aunt!" about her mum annoying her? The second Doctor used to say that, and Missy said it once (to Osgood) as a callback.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:38 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


And wait, how have I not wondered this until now? Why didn't the Doctor regenerate each time the Dalek killed her? Does a time loop beat a regeneration in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock?
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:41 PM on January 8


Some review online said the guy watching the fireworks was a crane operator from Whittaker's first episode. It'd be more fun to imagine it's Jeff.

I assumed that the stuff about Nick being Sarah's "only customer" referred to that particular New Year's Eve. She was complaining that she had to work when nobody but Nick was going to show up all night.

I thought Chibnall's run had been just incompetent, but he got better as he went and I thought this last season (Timeless Child malarkey aside) and the NYE special were actually pretty good. I didn't know the ratings had been sinking so quickly, and I hope RTD can save the show. But then I read a quote like this:

“I was in the middle of running an empire, and my god I did that 10 years too soon, didn’t I?,” Davies recently told writer Paul Kirkley. “There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series.”

... and it makes me tense up a bit. When fans get nostalgic for your era, Russell, we're not talking about your tendency to overextend. Please don't launch so many damn shows that I literally can't keep up with them all every week.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:51 AM on January 9


Why didn't the Doctor regenerate each time the Dalek killed her?

Oh my giddy aunt, how did I not see that? I mean, I think it has been implied that a Time Lord can be super-killed so fast/brutally that they don't have time to regenerate, but still...

re: RTD's quote about a possible Whoniverse: I don't think he's saying that he will overextend (again), at least I hope not. Giving it a charitable reading, I think he's saying that he was too young and inexperienced for the responsibility he had, so he failed to establish a truly solid basis for additional shows, and that maybe now he knows how to rebuild? I'm just hoping...
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:44 AM on January 9


I think Davies is gently poking at the BBC: I gave you a franchise with the potential of an MCU or Star Wars and you squandered it, you tight-fisted hacks. In the end it’s all about budget. Big Finish has built a sprawling empire of Whovian stories, but as they don’t have to actually film anything, they can afford to! And since the BBC’s mandate is not profit first, there’s no particular reason they WANT a sprawling empire of Doctor Who spin-offs.
posted by rikschell at 1:13 PM on January 9


Why didn't the Doctor regenerate each time the Dalek killed her?

I think the time loop reset immediately each time after they were killed. Had time progressed normally I think the Doctor's companions would have died and she would have regenerated.

Giving it a charitable reading, I think he's saying that he was too young and inexperienced for the responsibility he had, so he failed to establish a truly solid basis for additional shows, and that maybe now he knows how to rebuild? I'm just hoping

Well, he says there should be a Doctor Who channel, and all these other projects. To me it sure sounds like he wants to make Doctor Who a media empire again. A lot of good stuff did come from his boundless ambitions the last time around, but I also remember some week when I was setting the DVR (or whatever we were using circa 2009) to record Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and it all just felt like too much to keep up with. (In the end we never did catch up with poor Sarah Jane.) I really hope RTD can keep his focus on giving us one good show, with maybe a new spinoff every seven years or so, so you don't have too much overlap. Something on the order of the 90s Star Trek model, not the current Star Trek "firehose of content" approach.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:00 PM on January 10


What I want to know is, do people in the UK really call the striking of midnight on New Year's Eve as "the bongs" as it sounded like Sarah was saying?

Yep. Specifically, we're talking about Big Ben's bongs.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:32 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


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