Twelve seasons into this “Doctor Who” relaunch… the special effects are finally impressive. Like the full CG shots in space. Back when it started, they didn’t even try, then they got lousy CG, then it got a little better over the years but never looks, you know, better than a CW show.
But here, there’s finally a great CG space shot. The special effects are fine the rest of it, but not actually great. Not wow, but fine.
It’s like a fifteen second scene.
This New Year’s Day special opens with a destroyed Dalek getting nicked—so epilogue to the previous New Year’s Day special, in 2019. As the action jumps ahead to returning guest star Chris Noth (who’s playing this charmless, weasely Trump-ish American businessman caricature and it’s frankly tiring) and new guest star Harriet Walter (a corrupt British MP) cooking up a scheme to unleash a Dalek army on Antifa.
Writer Chris Chibnall certainly seems to have seen some Robocop movies.
Finally we catch up to the previous season’s cliffhanger, which has Doctor Jodie Whittaker locked up in a space prison. There she counts the days, says hello to the security cameras, and tries to banter with her fellow inmates. It’s a bunch of the usual suspects from previous seasons, which is relatively fun, especially since the other plot seems to be the British government unleashing ED-209s on, you know, protestors.
Once Whittaker’s situation is established, the special brings back the rest of the regular cast—Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh. Whittaker sent them back to Earth ten months ago and disappeared. Cole and Walsh are getting on with their lives, Gill is obsessively trying to find Whittaker.
Apparently Covid does not happen in the “Doctor Who” timeline, but then again I actually wondered if the show will ever acknowledge the special’s eventual Dalek invasion of Earth or if everyone will magically forget it by next episode.
Team Doctor—minus Whittaker—find out about Noth’s new Dalek project and go to confront him, only to realize they aren’t time traveling nearly immortal adventurers with working time machines so they can’t really do much to stop Noth. Or to save Whittaker (or find her, they don’t know she’s in space jail).
Luckily, Whittaker knows someone who is a time traveling nearly immortal adventurer with a working time machine–returning co-star John Barrowman, who popped up last season to let everyone know he’d be back for a more substantive appearance.
There are a lot of team-ups, a lot of Daleks, a lot of Terminator and Matrix “nods” (rips, nods, potato, potatoe), a lot of character development for the regulars—including Whittaker, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts—some great Barrowman moments, and the setup for the next season.
It’s a pretty successful special overall, notwithstanding Noth’s bizarre decision not to be charming for the first time in his career, some rushed moments, and not enough Walsh. Good work from the regulars, especially Gill (who’s great with Barrowman) and Cole. Walsh has got his moments, he’s just not in it enough. Also—not enough Barrowman and Whittaker together. It seems like there’s going to be more, then it’s already time for the epilogues.
But, again, a successful outing. Especially for the regular cast, who get to do some actual character development.