There was a lot of news surrounding this year’s holiday special. First, there’s the fact that it would be a New Year’s special rather than a Christmas special. This didn’t bother me much. In fact, I thought it was a pretty great idea. The Brits have a tradition of creating a bonus episode of their most popular shows at the holidays, but Doctor Who’s sci-fi nature doesn’t always lend itself to this tradition very well, especially recently. The past few Christmas specials have either been good but not that Christmassy, or Christmassy but not that good. Gone are the halcyon days The Christmas Invasion. There’s only so much you can do with the Doctor at Christmas. Shifting to a New Year’s special allowed them to give the audience a bonus episode without being weighed down with tinsel. Not to mention, not focusing on a solely Christian holiday is more in line with the modern, equality-driven show we’ve seen this year. The other bit of news is that this special is the only Doctor Who we get this year. That does indeed bum me out quite a bit. Not only because I love Doctor Who and I want more all the time, but also because this special is the best Doctor Who yet from this team and I’m mad I won’t be getting more any time soon.
There was a lot of good in this episode, but let’s start with guest star Charlotte Ritchie. She was outstanding! And she’s serving this season’s tradition of proving why you should always hire great actors for guest spots to elevate your sci-fi show. This character of the Dalek-posessed Lin (how creepy was this new ability of the Dalek’s?!) could easily have come off as silly in the hands of a lesser actor. Ritchie was convincingly menacing, terrified, and badass by turns; a far cry from the meek but strong-willed Nurse Barbara on Call the Midwife. After this, I can really picture her in an action role now, so please get on that immediately, film and TV higher-up types who are obviously reading this and taking all my advice. I could have done without the blossoming romance between her and Nikesh Patel’s Mitch, but it was handled very cutely and I appreciated that the show didn’t leave it up to him to rescue her, so fine, leave it in.
Also in the realm of incredibly competent guest stars is Daniel Adegboyega as Ryan’s long-absent father Aaron. He did well with what he was given, but his true purpose was to give two of the regular cast big chances to shine. First, Graham’s response to Aaron won him my heart forever. His totally justified refusal to back down and forgive Aaron for his sins made me love him more than I thought I could. It was really enjoyable to see him have the high ground over Aaron for the rest of the episode. Between Ryan’s well-timed “Grandad” and Graham’s nonchalance when Aaron finally gets in on what his son’s really been up to, it was all pitch perfect from the moment Graham slammed the door in Aaron’s face with a single word, “no.” The real star of this plot line, however, was Tosin Cole’s Ryan. In his big scene, the way he delivered the apology he deserved but never got from the father who should have given it was KILLER. To hell with “apologies” in which the wrongdoer wants to skip right over atonement to forgiveness and good for Ryan for not giving it to him. That speech was just goddamn fucking amazing and proves his acting chops. It’s the scene he was cast to play. Still in all, no matter how badly they’ve screwed up, you don’t want someone you love by being sucked into an exploding star, so good job saving him. I also greatly appreciated the microwave coming in clutch, never seen that happen to a Dalek before, TBH.
Speaking of the Dalek, holy shit. As Kris said, the new showrunner has officially earned the right to tackle any old monster he wishes. The “junkyard chic” look is very cool and was an organic way to give us a new Dalek look, not that there was anything wrong with the last one (stop redesigning Daleks, you got past the whole “can’t go up stairs” thing, just leave it alone). This version of the Dalek was very smart, very calculating, and very scary. It simultaneously showed new viewers why this villain is really something to be afraid of and exposed its tragic flaw, which is that it’s no match for the Doctor and never is. The only way to beat the Dalek was to do something over the top and reckless which is of course right up the Doctor’s street. The Doctor was at the top of her game as well. I mean, why DID the Dalek let her keep talking while she rebooted her system? Because ultimately a Dalek’s a Dalek and the Doctor’s the Doctor and this is always how it was going to go. For such a fearsome villain, the Daleks can be so DUMB sometimes. Still, I’m extremely pleased with how the show handled its first outing of a canonical baddie. I didn’t necessarily notice it missing during the season, but once you add in that dash of the old school, it’s the secret ingredient that, when combined with all the positive changes we’ve seen in the past ten episodes, makes for the best Doctor Who has been yet in this regeneration.
I’m really going to miss Doctor Who for the next YEAR that we’ll be without it, but I think this season (minus the giant spider episode, which can fuck off into the sun forever) has a high rewatchability factor. I’m also going to miss writing these pieces, but my thanks to all of you for reading them and I hope you’ll click over to my new Game of Thrones catch up series, which should be out very soon. Till then, stay brilliant, fam!