Every. Doctor. Must. Face. The. Daleks.
It’s a rule.
However, this is an interesting episode on a number of levels. For one, it’s a holiday special, but the holiday this time is New Year’s Day and not Christmas. But then again, what’s New Year’s Day to a Time Lord? I mean, the Doctor opens the episode by showing twenty different New Year’s Days in various times and places to her companions and asking them to compare the fireworks.
Oh, and for a holiday special, this one has a rather high body count.
But that’s because the Thirteenth Doctor gets to encounter the Daleks for the first time. Sort of. It’s really only one, but he’s a piece of work. The episode opens to tell the audience that centuries earlier, a massive battle was fought against a great evil, and the winning side divided the thing into three parts to be buried and guarded in three different, very remote parts of the world. However, one of the three guards never made it, and his piece was left unprotected in Sheffield.
Cut to the present when two archeologists, a couple who hooked up the night before and are looking forward to more, find something in a sewer and expose it to ultraviolet light. The woman archeologist finds a weird squid on the wall, but when the TARDIS shows up, it’s gone.
The weird squid is the Dalek. It’s a scout, one with advanced psychic powers that can scramble the TARDIS’s systems and take over a human host, like, you know, that poor woman archeologist. No one seems to know that since the Dalek is hidden under her coat, but the Doctor figures out pretty quick what’s going on, and her back-up for now is Yaz and Ryan.
See, Ryan’s absent father Aaron returned, leading to some deep conversations with Graham and later Ryan, and that’s the sort of emotional drama stuff that the Thirteenth Doctor’s tenure has actually done pretty well. It goes well enough that by episode’s end, not only will Ryan save his dad’s life, but the Doctor will offer Aaron a spot on the TARDIS crew that he declines, but in a good-natured sort of way that includes his request that he and Ryan spend more time together.
You know, for a guy who could have been easily demonized in a show like this, it mostly depicts Aaron as a guy trying to get his act together who had mostly avoided his mother’s funeral out of a feeling that if he went home it would have been real, and he really wasn’t sure how to deal with Graham or Ryan.
But yeah, the Doctor has to deal with a Dalek that is using the woman to build itself a scrap metal version of the traditional Dalek warsuit, and the Doctor actually has something like an action sequence to deal with it, something this Doctor hasn’t really has a chance to do. This comes after the realization that this Dalek is different and more powerful than most, so she has to call for help, leading to a rare light moment in an otherwise heavy episode. She gets a random switchboard operator when she tries to call UNIT and Kate Stewart, only to find out UNIT is at least temporarily shut down as the beancounters go over the group’s finances.
Instead, the Doctor ends up using her fam for back-up as she tracks down and confronts the Dalek, a group that swells to include Aaron and the two archeologists. And even if the Doctor prefers not to kill, she can still shove the Dalek out of the TARDIS into a supernova, after the thing had taken over Aaron, but before Ryan can grab Aaron to make sure his dad doesn’t go with the Dalek into the fiery heart of oblivion where calling the Dalek fleet from Skaro probably isn’t an option.
Basically, this is the sort of adventure I would expect from both a holiday special and a Thirteenth Doctor story, one that manages to do some family drama and character exploration in a way that I don’t think I have seen Doctor Who do very often if at all, and still do the crazy sci-fi stuff on a bigger scale than even a regular episode generally does.
Wednesday “Quid Pro Woe”
The X-Files “Talitha Cumi”
Yellowjackets “Two Truths And A Lie”