Synopsis of 11×11: An ancient foe returns to earth and the Fam must stop it; Ryan’s father (finally) enters this picture.
It’s been over a month since New Year’s Day 2019. You’ve tidied your apartment
This year has been a series of firsts for our favorite classic sci-fi show: first female Doctor, first BAME writer, and now the first New Year’s episode of New Who.
This episode felt like less of a holiday standalone and more like wrap up to Series 11. A resolution, if you will. Take for example, my continual prediction that Ryan’s father, Aaron, would return for the finale. If you consider “Resolution” as the end of the arc, then I was correct!
And why shouldn’t we think of this special as a finale? It ties into the theme of the season: family. It resolves one of the long-standing arcs of the season (Ryan and his father). And it keeps in touch with the monster of the week format that this season leaned into.
The Doctor and Fam see 19 New Year’s in a row, apropro of nothing to do with the plot. But on Earth, two young archeologists are just beginning their relationship. There’s Lin, expertly played by Charlotte Ritchie, and Mitch, adorably played by Nikesh Patel. Their relationship begins with a New Year’s kiss. How adorable is that!
They discover a squid-like creature, that was been split apart centuries ago. Considered the most dangerous creature in existence, guardians have watched over the segments for centuries. And within minutes, this storyline is swiftly tossed aside when the creature reforms. I actually would have loved a plotpoint where the two other guardians came to help defeat the creature. But the UNIT name drop will have to do instead.
The creature, the most fearsome thing in the universe, is a Dalek. It was nice to have a nearly complete season without a Dalek. But this Dalek is an ancient Dalek, a Recon Dalek, a Dalek without a shell. And what made this episode more than just a “Dalek” episode is that Lin becomes one with the creature. It was difficult to watch Charlotte Ritchie, who I loved so much as the kind-hearted Barbara on Call the Midwife, become an evil killer. But it was also so fun to watch her in a new role. It reminded me a lot of Jenna Coleman in “The Zygon Inversion” two-parter.
Probably the best stuff with the Dalek was when it is controlling Lin. Once it is protected in it’s old shell, the storyline returns to the same-old, same-old format. Lots of lasers and angry yelling. At least there was some human drama to keep the audience engaged.
The Lin-Mitch love story was cute. But more important was the Father-Son story presented by Aaron and Ryan. Ryan’s father is trying, a little bit. He could certainly have tried harder. It’s not until the end, when Ryan sees the very real possibility of his father falling into space forever, that they both quickly come to terms with issues. Ryan has to claim his father as his own, a man who he’s been avoiding and who has let him down time and time again. It’s an intense moment, but this is a holiday special. Aaron survives, but what will this mean for next season?
To be honest, for a season that has some spectacular episodes, the New Year’s special felt lackluster. Weirdly, for a show about aliens, my favorite episodes seemed to be those that were grounded in history. Maybe that was purposeful; maybe it will change next season. Only time (and space) can tell.
So here’s to a new series, with the cast and crew returning for the next season. In the meantime, I guess now is as good as any to give this past series a whole new rewatch. Alan Cumming, here I come!