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Doctor Who Recap: New Year's Dalek

Doctor Who Recap New Year Day

Fall behind? Read our previous Doctor Who recap here.

Doctor Who fans have been wondering two things all season: Would we meet Ryan’s father, and would the Daleks put in an appearance even though new showrunner Chris Chibnall insisted that Jodie Whittaker’s first year would feature all-new monsters?

The New Year’s Day special, “Resolution,” written by Chibnall, gave us both arrivals, and while it initially seemed as though Ryan’s storyline couldn’t compete with the return of the Daleks, actor Tosin Cole delivered in the climactic moment. Let’s recap.

‘A PROPER FIND’ | On Jan. 1, 2019, two archaeologists, Lin and Mitch, found themselves working because Lin wanted to talk about their New Year’s Eve kiss, and continuing to excavate an ancient burial site in the sewer tunnels under the Sheffield Town Hall was her excuse. You immediately ‘shipped them, which meant you for sure thought Lin was going to die when she separated from Mitch to look for the artifact bag they assumed a rat had stolen. We, the audience, knew it was the re-animated “impossible opponent” that humans had defeated in the 9th Century, which we’d heard about in the opening flashback. It’d been hacked into three parts, and while the Custodians successfully buried and guarded pieces in the South Pacific and Siberia, the guy who was headed to Yorkshire, England was killed by men who didn’t bother to check the parcel he’d been carrying, even though they’d searched his pockets.

The archaeologists’ UV light activated the resurrection, with the other two pieces being teleported to England to form a squid-like creature Lin encountered clinging to a wall. Team TARDIS forewent their 20th fireworks display to investigate the non-terrestrial spatial shift. When they arrived in the sewer, there was only slime where the creature had been. The Doctor took a sample for analysis, but for some reason she didn’t think to scan Lin to see if it had, say, attached itself to her back after she’d touched it.

Instead, Team TARDIS retreated to Graham’s house so the Doctor could be confused by the doorbell (“Is that your intruder alert or mine?”) and we could meet Ryan’s dad, Aaron. It wasn’t a particularly warm welcome from the Doctor, or from Graham, who reminded Aaron that, “Family isn’t just about DNA. … Or a name. It’s about what you do. And you haven’t done enough.”

Ryan and his dad went to a café, where Aaron clumsily tried to sell the new combination microwave/oven he’d developed with a friend — read the room, pal. It was easy to dislike him, and satisfying to hear Ryan tell him not to walk back into his life demanding respect. Aaron asked Ryan what he should say. Ryan wanted to hear his dad admit that he’d messed up, let him down, and made life hard for him. The fact that Ryan had this speech ready meant he’d spent so much time thinking about it: “If it meant that over the years you ever felt lonely or abandoned, or didn’t know where to turn or who to talk to or how to be, then I’m sorry,” Ryan offered. “‘Cause you mustn’t ever think that you didn’t deserve my love.”

Aaron said that the time he realized he’d made the wrong decisions, he knew the damage was done and so he ran, ashamed. Ryan said no, Aaron hid when his son needed him most.

‘YOU ARE MY PRISON NOW. YOU ARE MY PUPPET’ | Lin, meanwhile, had returned home to reveal (and argue with) her new appendage. “I am your pilot now. Do not fight me,” it said. “I have control of your body. All brain and motor functions are under my power.” (Whovians might have recognized the familiar voice of actor Nick Briggs.) The Doctor finally got her slime results back and confirmed what those fans no doubt suspected by now: it contained the DNA of the most dangerous creature in the universe — a Dalek. As the Doc explained for new viewers, Daleks are the mutated remnants of a warring race, genetically created and housed within a metal case, designed to be a relentless killing machine. This, we’d later learn, was a Recon Dalek sent to Earth to learn everything about the planet and its defenses so it could send a signal to the Dalek invasion fleet. It needed Lin’s body so it could do some computer research, steal a police officer’s uniform, and break into the archives and retrieve its weapons.

‘HERE’S MY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: I’M COMING FOR YOU, DALEK’ | Once Mitch hooked back up with the Doctor, he told them about the Order of the Custodians and gave the Doc the idea to trace Lin’s cell signal since she uncharacteristically wasn’t returning calls or texts. They realized Lin and the Dalek were in the same place, and that Recon Daleks have special capabilities, like frying the TARDIS’ navigation, in addition to an evil laugh that haunts you. The Doc was able to use bio-tracking and holo-projection to converse with the Dalek long enough to reboot the system. More importantly, she could tell Lin to keep fighting.

After the Dalek outsmarted additional attempts to track it, the Doctor tried to phone a friend — Kate Stewart at the Unified Intelligence Taskforce — but was told by a UK Security Helpline worker that UNIT operations had been suspended without funding. They were on their own and they needed to hurry: The Dalek “exterminated” a farmer to get to his metal scraps, which it welded to create its new casing in a montage that was reminiscent of the Doctor forging her new sonic earlier in the season.

Lin fought back, slamming her back against objects. When the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Mitch arrived, they heard her calling “Help me.” Was it a trick? No, she had succeeded in getting it off her back, and she was alive, the Doc said, only because the slime the Dalek secreted blocked her from bleeding out. Lin apologized, but the Doctor told her she had nothing to be sorry about: “You fought and you won.” It was an empowering moment, fitting for a season featuring the first female Doctor and in the #MeToo era.

‘ME AND A DALEK – IT’S PERSONAL’ | The Doctor sent the others back to the TARDIS and with 20 minutes of story left in the episode, the action picked up. There was an explosion and out wheeled the iconic shape of a Dalek, pointing its lasers at the Doctor and shouting its signature “EXTERMINATE!” catchphrase. The Doctor used her sonic to block its lasers’ signals and took a moment to comment on its “junkyard chic” armor and remind the Dalek that humans are stubborn — they’ve fought off everything, including the worst of their own people. Once the Doctor identified herself, it knew to override her sonic. And it now had all the information it needed to summon the invasion fleet. It flew off and was no match for the armed forces it encountered. It was headed to the Government Communications Headquarters, which was apparently staffed by one person since it was New Year’s Day.

Before the TARDIS could follow, it had to pick up Graham and Aaron, who’d been left behind at Graham’s house, where they had their own heart-to-heart. Aaron had said he wished he was better at life, and Graham said there was still time — so you were expecting Aaron to die a heroic death, right? He almost did.

To send the signal to its fleet, the Dalek needed to divert all power, which meant shutting down the nation’s Wi-Fi (!), phone signals (!!) and Internet (STOPPPPP). “On New Year’s Day, when everything’s shut and everyone’s hungover?” Graham asked.

“What a monster,” Ryan said.

Once the Doctor made sure her shield worked, she called the team out of the TARDIS and offered the Dalek once last chance to leave the planet. The plan was simple: she’d take the shield down, knowing the Dalek would focus its weapons on her, giving the others a chance to run around behind it while she performed the best skid of her life to evade the lasers and hold the Dalek while they placed repurposed pieces from that combo oven Aaron had been trying to sell. Like the Custodians, they were going to burn its shell.

The Doctor had miscalculated though: The Dalek survived the melted metal and attached itself to Aaron. It demanded the Doctor take it to its fleet or he’d kill Ryan’s dad. The Doctor took it instead to a sun going supernova and made a squid-size vacuum corridor that was supposed to pull him out into space. Of course the corridor expanded and was large enough to take Aaron with it.

Brave Ryan moved toward his dad, for once not having time to second-guess if his coordination disorder, dyspraxia, might hinder him. The Dalek said Aaron was his now. “No, he’s not. He’s mine. Dad, dad, I’m here for ya. I forgive you. I love you, dad. Take my hand. Fight it,” Ryan said.

Did you think Aaron would sacrifice himself since there was now a chance Ryan could get sucked out into space as well? It seemed like a poetic fate, but that wasn’t the point: Aaron had to stay, not hide from a situation that scared or upset him, and be there for his son.

Ryan reached out his hand and Aaron took it. “Leave my dad alone!” Ryan yelled. They held each other, waiting for the Dalek to give up and let go. The music swelled and, it’s safe to say, many viewers cried. Did we now like Ryan’s dad?

Well, not enough to be sad that he turned down the Doctor’s offer to take him on another trip in the TARDIS. Aaron told Ryan to phone him when he returned and asked the others to take care of him. “Always,” Yaz said.

What did you think of “Resolution”? Did the Ryan’s Dad storyline give you the ending you expected? Was the Dalek all that you hoped? Was it the best episode of Whittaker’s first year? Hit the comments.