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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

103 Comments

  1. JFrancis
    January 5, 2019 @ 10:22 am

    I’m still grouching over the couple of moments where the Doctor ‘works out’ something that was blindingly obvious a couple of scenes back (e.g. not immediately twigging what the Dalek stole when it’s going around lasering traffic cameras), but thank you for reminding me that I should probably be more angry about the advance scout for an invading horde of murderous aliens being referred to as ‘a refugee’.

    Also – even setting aside another murder-your-gays moment (arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh), it would not have altered the story one jot to make the archeologists a gay/lesbian couple. You had a golden opportunity to make good on the lack of positive representation all season right there and instead . . . nope.

    Also, because I’m just bitter about this, if you’re going to have a Dalek build itself a casing out of farm equipment, you should bloody well make it look like a Dalek made out of farm equipment, not a slightly dinged-up, pinched-in-the-middle version of the normal casing. Urgh.

    Reply

    • Cliff Bedlinog
      January 5, 2019 @ 1:41 pm

      That’s the thing. It’s one thing to coincidentally broadcast a ‘the invading evil creature is a refugee’ during a week when the Home Secretary is deliberately whipping up anti-‘migrant’ sentiment by dispatching military vessels to the English Channel.

      But to have such a comment in Dr Who, and have the Doctor say it, in post-‘Breaking point poster’ Britain is just malignant.

      I guess, like with ‘Talons’, you could argue that Chibnall and team intended no harm. But worse is that they didn’t even think it might be a harmful remark. Fuck them.

      Reply

      • JFrancis
        January 5, 2019 @ 5:51 pm

        Yep. The complete lack of compassion or even comprehension that editorial choice represents pretty much sums up why this year’s Doctor Who has largely felt like a kick in the teeth.

        Reply

  2. Alex
    January 5, 2019 @ 10:54 am

    If you’d told me 3-4 years ago that DC’s Legends of Tomorrow would become my current favourite sci-fi time travel show, I would’ve laughed at you. But here we are.

    Reply

    • Angus
      January 5, 2019 @ 11:11 am

      100%. It never makes a fanfare about its progressiveness, it just gets on with it and tells good stories. And I can still take it more seriously than Arachnids or Battle of Ranskoor Av Bandersnatch.

      Reply

  3. FezofRassilon
    January 5, 2019 @ 11:04 am

    A bit of me wants to say this episode is fine for what it is: a move away from sentimental Christmas tv and into a mini action movie whose main goal is to get people excited about the Daleks again. It’s Doctor Who for people who didn’t watch the Moffat era but heard bad things. It’s event television which has no idea how to be event television and the ratings reflect that.

    I have heard people say the Daleks needed to be scary again, and that they appear too often in cameo roles to be defeated easily, and people wanted old monsters back in the series after season 11, so their return here is fine. although the decision to rebrand them as a psychopath refugee and not a fascist perplexes me. How do people have the gall to say this show is anti-Brexit when it has this view on immigration?

    I think the UNIT gag probably could have worked in a very Holmesian way had it happened earlier and not as a way to rule out the return of a supporting character. “Other armed services are available” is admittedly a proper line, but not in a good place to appreciate it.

    This is probably Jodie’s best performance, mind. And Briggs was properly terrifying even if his dalek probably got farted on the whole time.

    Reply

  4. Emily
    January 5, 2019 @ 11:11 am

    On the plus side, this was Chibnall’s best script yet! On the negative side, THIS is Chibnall’s best script.

    Reply

  5. Richard Bennett
    January 5, 2019 @ 11:11 am

    bit of a miaow…but I always thought mediocrity would be childsplay to achieve but they’ve made it look like really hard work

    Reply

  6. Jarl
    January 5, 2019 @ 11:15 am

    This is Doctor Who reduced to pure spectacle, with no job to do other than sell toys. Except they don’t actually make a toy line anymore it looks like, so really it’s just selling itself, a serpent eating its own tail.
    It didn’t even sell the Dalek. They just re-aired the same commercial just with a clip of a Dalek yelling “Exterminate!” over it. From a different episode.

    Reply

  7. mx_mond
    January 5, 2019 @ 11:52 am

    I enjoyed Doctor Who doing Venom and… that’s about it. I thought the script was pretty bad (TWWFtE is probably Chibnall’s best script for me), and the direction… I’ve seen it praised, but the more ridiculous moments (the posession scene with porn-y music or one missile colliding with the other) clashed very weirdly and rather dissonantly with the tone of the story. The result seemed hilariously bad in an enjoyable way, but where with early RTD era I had a feeling that the show consciously masquerades as a B-movie, here it seemed like the makers tried to create an A-movie and failed.

    Add to that another murdered gay character and the deplorable “refugee” line, and I don’t feel like I’m going to miss DW this year. I’ll probably spend 2019 rewatching Clara Who, then maybe series 10 as well.

    Reply

    • CJM123
      January 5, 2019 @ 10:45 pm

      I’m sort of leaning to The Ghost Monument or The Burrowing P’Ting being the best Chibnall scripts this season. Both at least felt at least like they cared about the characters and had a basic sense of movement.

      I actually enjoy Ghost Monument a lot more than most people. It just felt solidly in control of itself in a way that say Archanids in the UK didn’t. This episode actually feels like a better version of t, complete with reducing the terrible, “unsubtle yet simultaneously saying nothing” political commentary to two scenes instead of a whole character and setting.

      Reply

  8. taiey
    January 5, 2019 @ 1:17 pm

    I really don’t feel like UNIT’s been taken out of the box—you could put it back with one sentence.

    [Also didn’t get the impression Asron had been present enough to be abusive.]

    Reply

    • Aylwin
      January 5, 2019 @ 1:33 pm

      Yes, what she said was, from memory “suspended pending review” and “put on hold”. It seems the whole fuss was basically in there just to keep them out of this story, while keeping options wide open on bringing them back, changed or unchanged, at any time. Which makes it even more bafflingly pointless.

      Reply

    • TomeDeaf
      January 5, 2019 @ 4:36 pm

      Neglect is a form of abuse.

      Reply

      • taiey
        February 7, 2019 @ 10:05 am

        “cycle” of

        Reply

  9. Lambda
    January 5, 2019 @ 1:23 pm

    The ‘refugee’ line absolutely stunned me. Just what thought process could possibly lead someone to writing that?

    Unless I’m misremembering, (which is very possible because I don’t care much at this point,) you could describe Ryan’s two biggest moments so far as calling Graham ‘Grandad’, (which he feels entitled to and the scripts seem to agree,) and expressing love for his Dad. Combine that with the knowledge that Chibnall’s nephew has dyspraxia, which is probably behind it being realistically portrayed in the opening episode, and I think I see where all this is coming from. In any case, it forms part of this era’s worldview that middle-aged men and their problems are what’s most important and they deserve love.

    Reply

    • TomeDeaf
      January 5, 2019 @ 4:38 pm

      I’d add various bits of Rosa, there, mostly his talk with her on her porch.

      Reply

  10. (Not That) Jack
    January 5, 2019 @ 1:29 pm

    0 for 11 this year on the re-watch meter.

    I could sum up my relationship with the show right now with this: because of the holidays and having various days on and off from work, my sense of time is utterly wrecked. I woke up on New Year’s Eve, half convinced that it was 2019, and thought “oh god, Doctor Who is on today” and then felt a sense of relief that it was in fact still 2018.

    I’m gonna have to look in the mirror a lot before I decide to continue supporting a show I actually no longer enjoy to keep annoying people who don’t like Jodi as the Doctor in 2020. A show that expects me to believe that 9th century people with swords and fire defeated a Dalek that was wrecking modern military with a cobbled together shell is one that really doesn’t respect my intelligence.

    Reply

  11. G. Salt
    January 5, 2019 @ 1:54 pm

    This is what I expected from Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who. It is ITV Doctor Who. More specifically, it is a mid-2000s ITV attempt at competition for Doctor Who. It is Primeval with weaker sci-fi elements.

    (I appreciate this is a very UK-centric comparison, but I’m sure you get the gist.)

    Reply

    • Cliff Bedlinog
      January 5, 2019 @ 2:39 pm

      This is so spot on. It’s absolutely ITV Dr. Who. Starring Bradley Walsh.

      Reply

    • PI
      January 5, 2019 @ 6:12 pm

      This is a tragically exact phrase and makes complete sense. Ugh.

      This is, in one sense, better than the TV movie, which was a hideous fuckin’ mess. But it was a ****weird**** fucking mess and at this point I’ll go with “weird mess” over “B minus-level competency”.

      Reply

    • Sleepyscholar
      January 6, 2019 @ 2:04 am

      I just want to agree with the others that “ITV Doctor Who” and the Primeval comparison constitute a brilliant description of the current state of the programme. And that’s not to in any way discount El’s usual excellent turns of phrase (I particularly enjoyed: “His oven is given almost exactly as much characterization as he is.”)

      Reply

    • Ike
      January 8, 2019 @ 1:11 am

      Some of us Yankees saw an episode or two of Primeval on BBC America or Syfy, so this works.

      I was going to offer an alternative boring, bland comparison from Syfy or the CW for those who haven’t seen Primeval, but it’s hard to come up with one that seems appropriate and that people would actually remember. Maybe if I went back to Defiance? Or one of the Stargate shows? I’m not saying everything on Syfy is good — far from it — but at least all their current shows (of the ones I’ve seen anyway) have some sort of distinctive qualities or points of view. I’ve watched two episodes of Happy! and it was awful, even with Patton Oswalt and SVU guy chewing the scenery, but at least it was different.

      Which reminds me, I need to catch up on People of Earth (from TBS of all places). Now there’s a sci-fi comedy that’s fun and smart.

      Reply

  12. Jane
    January 5, 2019 @ 2:24 pm

    Still not interested in catching up with this season… I’m much more looking forward to the next chapter of The OA.

    Reply

    • Sarah42
      January 6, 2019 @ 3:32 am

      After all that relentlessly mediocre Chibnall/Whittaker output, I just want to be able to see S4 of The Expanse (at some vague time in 2019). That’s a show that began a bit clunkily, but with promise, and became ever more intense. S4 will be so much more worth watching than anything Chibnall creates for DW.

      Reply

    • Rodolfo Piskorski
      January 6, 2019 @ 4:53 am

      The ending of The OA just made me hate it too much.

      I am basically living for more episodes of The Good Place.

      Reply

    • Ike
      January 8, 2019 @ 1:13 am

      “It Takes You Away” and “Demons of the Punjab” were good! (You can skip most of the rest of it.)

      Reply

  13. Rodolfo Piskorski
    January 5, 2019 @ 2:24 pm

    Can we get your final ranking of episodes, Elizabeth?

    I’m curious because I thought the script for this one was very weak. I think because the plot had to do so much more the obvious Chibnall problems were amplified.

    Reply

  14. Jesse
    January 5, 2019 @ 3:18 pm

    I’ll just add: If you’re going to turn a Dalek into a slug from Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, then for heaven’s sake give us the crazy paranoia of The Puppet Masters. There’s no excuse for borrowing that idea and then not going anywhere weird with it.

    Reply

  15. Mark Pompeo
    January 5, 2019 @ 3:37 pm

    In this day and age, all TV shows can be divided into two really broad categories:
    1) More interesting than diddling around on my phone
    2) Less interesting than diddling around on my phone

    You can take a guess as to which category this fell into. (Hint: It’s not #1)

    Reply

    • Cliff Bedlinog
      January 5, 2019 @ 6:15 pm

      Yes, and in this sense Dr. Who is very lucky to find itself sandwiched between Countryfile and Strictly Come Dancing on a Sunday evening, where it’s going to get some kind of default large audience figures, even if aspires to be no more than televisual wallpaper, where paying close attention to what’s happening is in no way rewarded.

      Reply

      • Rodolfo Piskorski
        January 6, 2019 @ 4:54 am

        “Dr. Who is very lucky to find itself sandwiched between Countryfile and Strictly Come Dancing on a Sunday evening, where it’s going to get some kind of default large audience figures”

        This sentence has to be proof that we are in the darkest timeline.

        Reply

        • Mark Pompeo
          January 6, 2019 @ 3:04 pm

          Shall we make fake goatees out of felt and glue them to our faces?

          Reply

          • Aylwin
            January 6, 2019 @ 5:06 pm

            I know someone who could do us a good deal on eyepatches.

  16. Sean Dillon
    January 5, 2019 @ 5:44 pm

    Look, if you’re going to do an episode where the Dalek has to rebuild (it? his? her?)self out of spare parts and not have a gag where the Dalek uses an actual plunger, you’re just failing at being Doctor Who. To say nothing about the rest of the mediocre episode.

    Reply

    • mx_mond
      January 5, 2019 @ 6:34 pm

      This.

      One gets the sense they they didn’t use a plunger because they thought it’s too silly and a claw thing will be cooler. Which is just really sad.

      Reply

    • FezofRassilon
      January 5, 2019 @ 6:35 pm

      I think this is part of a bigger problem. The removal of the plunger is emblematic of Chibnall wanting the show to be taken seriously by getting rid of all the bits audiences might laugh at. There’s no “why didn’t they call unit”, no “why has that dalek got a plunger”, no “why does the Doctor go to a Christmas themed place every Christmas”. This is a Doctor Who that takes itself entirely too seriously. usually, when Doctor Who does a B movie plot, the levity and willingness to transform the text elevate it. This version of Doctor Who plays B movies straight.

      Reply

      • tachyonspiral
        January 5, 2019 @ 8:48 pm

        Similarly, the consistent use of ‘sonic’ in place of ‘sonic screwdriver’.

        Reply

      • BoringOldSocialDemocrat
        January 6, 2019 @ 12:29 am

        And this is the reason I’m just not loving this era. I think Doctor Who is at its worst when it takes itself seriously. This is in no way to say it shouldn’t tackle serious issues and such, RTD and Moffat both did. It’s more about the general tone. Doctor Who is a weird show with a weird concept and a weird genre-fluidity that very few other shows have. It’s a ridiculous but brilliant format and RTD and Moffat both had fun with it and casually pointed out the major flaws in it. But it’s just lacking this time around – from my recollection there have been no “Lots of planets have a Yorkshire” or Santa turning up moments. I just isn’t reveling in the fact that Doctor Who is an odd little show with a bonkers premise that through a series of miracles is somehow allowed to be part of mainstream British culture. God knows there is enough self-important, humourless science fiction around – I’d rather watch a show that celebrated its weirdness than tried to hide it.

        Reply

      • Jesse
        January 6, 2019 @ 1:50 am

        The removal of the plunger is emblematic of Chibnall wanting the show to be taken seriously by getting rid of all the bits audiences might laugh at.

        Credit where it’s due: He did give us the gremlin and the frog.

        Reply

        • Sean Dillon
          January 6, 2019 @ 2:40 am

          That’s because that episode was the designated weird one. We only get one.

          Reply

    • John Peacock
      January 16, 2019 @ 1:31 pm

      Better yet, with a scene in B&Q where the Dalek-possessed woman either buys or steals the plunger. Buying is better. Standing in the queue with the plunger in one hand and a basket full of parts in the other.

      Reply

  17. prandeamus
    January 5, 2019 @ 6:09 pm

    As for the whole penis thing – I am amazed that, regardless of intent, this was not noticed before. I can only assume that the camera has been simply uninterested in putting the TARDIS interior on who in any kind of meaningful way. It’s just a wierd room with some stuff in which people exposit at the start or the end of the show. And the willies don’t even get noticed until 11 eps in.

    Reply

    • Richard Bennett
      January 5, 2019 @ 8:09 pm

      The set was lit noticeably brighter in Resolution, not that that was an improvement

      Reply

    • tachyonspiral
      January 5, 2019 @ 8:42 pm

      i submit that the bouncing pillar tops actually look sort of sphincter-y, making the overall effect vaguely pornographic

      Reply

    • TheWrittenTevs
      January 6, 2019 @ 12:51 am

      The first time I ever noticed then penises was in the background of a shot at the end of “Demons of the Punjab” in a shot that was meant to be about the Doctor and Yaz getting over the emotional fallout of watching her not-grandfather be shot. To say that they distracted from the scene is an understatement.

      Reply

  18. Tymothi Loving
    January 5, 2019 @ 6:56 pm

    In a way, Chibnall’s failing’s for me are best represented by him having a Dalek controlling someone driving a car, yelling at them wanting them to go faster, and utterly passing on the opportunity to have it yell “ACCELERATE! ACCELERATE!”

    Reply

    • liminal fruitbat
      January 6, 2019 @ 12:34 am

      Oh my god.

      Reply

    • Stacy Livitsanis
      February 14, 2019 @ 5:03 am

      The laugh I just had from reading this comment surpassed all entertainment value present in this episode.

      Reply

  19. Saxon_Brenton
    January 5, 2019 @ 9:51 pm

    FWIW, I think reinventing Daleks as dangerous big bads every now and then is kind of necessary. Otherwise your long running iconic villain becomes an empty icon through the likes of repetition, event fatigue and law of conservation of ninjitsu, etc. And in that regard using the basic high concept of ‘show how dangerous a single Dalek can be’ from the episode Dalek, and doing it new with it is rather encouraging.

    But, yes, it could have been more than that. I like the idea of Daleks as a force that threatens narrative collapse, and in that regard I’m genuinely astonished that after all these decades that the Daleks can’t claim the death of one of the Doctor’s incarnations. (And not just in the sense of ‘J. Random Dalek gets a lucky shot while the Doctor is busy running down corridors’, as was teased in Journeys End.)

    Another variation would be the death of a companion. A better one would be the corruption of a companion. (And again, not in the sense of infecting them with nanogenese to make them mind controlled slaves with eyestalks on the foreheads.) Imagine a scenario where the Daleks take seriously their contention from Asylum Of The Daleks that the Doctor works best with companions, and try to undermine the Doctor’s faith in companions in general by engineering from behind the scenes a high pressure situation which plays on a companion’s character traits to make a bad ethical decision that gets the companion chucked off the TARDIS. The Daleks don’t need to be a threat to the entire universe, just a threat to what the Doctor considers important.

    Reply

    • Cliff Bedlinog
      January 5, 2019 @ 10:25 pm

      Hmm. Maybe it’s necessary to re-invent the Daleks every now and then as dangerous big bads. The classic era did so with Power, Genesis and Remembrance.

      If Resolution was attempting to ‘show how dangerous a single Dalek can be’ … Well, it got quickly destroyed by a microwave oven …

      Reply

      • tachyonspiral
        January 7, 2019 @ 10:29 am

        It was a really good microwave oven.

        Reply

  20. Inverarity
    January 5, 2019 @ 10:05 pm

    Did anyone else have the sense that this was an old Torchwood idea that Chibnall dusted off and moved to Sheffield? I can’t shake the idea that this is the way that they might have tried to make a Dalek story feasible in the Torchwood universe- ramp down its power by losing the shell, add in a healthy dose of alien possession, and tie it to an archeological dig under a mid-sized British city.

    I want to be optimistic – mostly because I don’t want to slog through 3-5 years of my favorite show being generally lousy – but I agree with the sentiment that this might be the best Chibnall is capable of. That’s really disheartening. I can stick with the show knowing that there will be the occasional “It Takes You Away” or “Demons of the Punjab”, especially as my eight-year-old still adores it. Can’t say I’m enjoying my first taste of “definitely not my era” Doctor Who, though. Sigh indeed.

    Reply

    • Aylwin
      January 5, 2019 @ 10:36 pm

      Sounds pretty plausible.

      Reply

    • Rodolfo Piskorski
      January 5, 2019 @ 10:48 pm

      They even had the quintessential Torchwood move: hack into the CCTV

      Reply

      • Aylwin
        January 7, 2019 @ 2:49 pm

        Urgh yes, the “surveillance systems are good and on our side, protecting us from the monsters” gunge. Worse when it’s the Doctor, whereas Torchwood are supposed to be rather shady and authoritarian. If you’re going to bring that stuff in, it should be the Dalek using it and the Doctor trashing it.

        Then there’s the odd bit where it seems to say “GCHQ, that’s where all the big transmitters are controlled from!”. No, that’s not what GCHQ is.

        Reply

        • Rodolfo Piskorski
          January 7, 2019 @ 10:27 pm

          If a Dalek whose only knowledge of humanity is from what it gathered from the 9th century can use a normal laptop when controlling a human and then use it hack into the Black Archive, I guess there is nothing it can’t do with GCHQ computers.

          Reply

  21. CJM123
    January 5, 2019 @ 10:39 pm

    I agree with this review pretty much in its entirety (apart from just enjoying the sheer ridiculous anticlimax of the UNIT reveal for what it was). But I also agree with Andrew Ellard, and would say that I think Charlotte Richie deserves a fair amount of praise. More than she is getting

    She plays the possession scenes brilliantly, especially given the weak script. You can tell at a glance when she’s Lin and when she’s the Dalek (which might be a weird script choice, but it is how the script plays it) and more impressively, manages to make it clear which different parts of her body are under the Dalek’s control and which aren’t. Her eyes looking out in terror whilst her mouth speaks Dalek is perhaps the best single shot in the episode, even if the staging felt vaguely like this was all somebody in production’s fetish.

    Perhaps as someone with a lot that isn’t great going on in my life, who isn’t going to stop watching Doctor Who even as it gets pretty poor, this is the only way to watch it. Looking for the good bits in the mediocrity.

    Reply

    • Dan
      January 5, 2019 @ 11:28 pm

      This.

      And I was sorry that after she was released she basically just fell out of the plot, although I didn’t notice at the time due to being carried along by the spectacle.

      Reply

      • CJM123
        January 6, 2019 @ 12:04 am

        Lin being dropped really is bizarre. She doesn’t even get a line about how she feels about killing multiple people with her own hands. That scene writes itself and replaces “We’ll have to have a conversation.” Come on, instead of lecturing us on having conversations, show us a conversation which can be used as part of the episode.

        You could use it to make a statement on grief or parenting or something. And given what else she did in this episode, Charlotte Richie could probably pull it off.

        Reply

        • Dan
          January 6, 2019 @ 12:49 am

          Yes, I almost feel you could have made the rest of the episode about the aftermath of her experience, as well as dealing with the Dalek.

          Reply

  22. Paul F Cockburn
    January 5, 2019 @ 11:45 pm

    At least in the UK, the alleged anger at the show’s “anti-Brexit” UNIT “joke” (with “droves” complaining on Twitter) was reported primarily by pro-Brexit, anti-BBC newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Express. So far, so predictable. That they didn’t praise the “refugee” reference, admittedly, is somewhat puzzling.

    Ah, when poor Richard the security guard got it in the neck barely 20 seconds after mentioning he had a boyfriend, I did sort of think: “Oh, come on Chris. Really?” But then, isn’t a Dalek an equal opportunities killer? Plenty of straight folk among the soldiers and GCHQ staff were also killed, and I like to think that Father Dingle was definitely a Friend of Dorothy too. The only difference is that Richard was self-identified, the others not (and so assumed – my Head Canon not withstanding – to be straight).

    “Why are there progressive fans defending this shit?” (Note: I’m not shouting.)

    Perhaps because they simply don’t share your view.

    Reply

    • mx_mond
      January 6, 2019 @ 8:16 am

      But that’s just the thing: queer people only appear on the show in the context of death. This ties into the thinking that non-normative sexual orientation/gender identity has to be “relevant” to the plot to be included, and furthermore that the only way it can be relevant is to make it more sad when the character dies. It’s very exploitative.

      Reply

  23. BoringOldSocialDemocrat
    January 5, 2019 @ 11:50 pm

    I think ‘fine’ is possibly the best word to sum up, not just Resolution, but the whole of Series 11. You can’t hate it, because it just isn’t shit – it’s fine. It’s 11 episodes of adequately and competently made television. But, you know, Homes Under the Hammer is fine television – in that I’ll watch it until the end – but I personally think Doctor Who should strive to be a bit better than ‘that was something that just happened of adequate entertainment value’. It is has been a series of succeeding at mediocrity rather than attempting brilliance. Doctor Who has entered its beige period.

    Reply

  24. Daibhid C
    January 5, 2019 @ 11:55 pm

    I kind of liked it, but a lot of that was down to reduced expectations. Can’t disagree with anything here.

    And another niggling plot thing; why Sheffield? I mean, if the story opened with the Doctor finishing her tour of New Years by taking the fam back home for 2019, and then stumbling onto the plot, then I’d think “Okay, it kind of has to happen in Sheffield”, although I’d still think that eventually Chibnall is going to have to introduce a Sheffield Rift or something to explain why things keep happening here.

    But instead we get the Doctor homing in on a signal with the TARDIS, and it just happens to be in the city her friends come from. And the only reason I can see for it is that they need to be in Graham’s flat for Aaron to find them.

    Reply

    • liminal fruitbat
      January 6, 2019 @ 12:37 am

      “Why Sheffield” is only slightly more of a problem than “why the UK” though.

      Reply

  25. Brian B.
    January 6, 2019 @ 12:56 am

    Since I occasionally mentioned in comments this year that I was enjoying the season for all its maddening flaws — enjoying the DIY screwdriver assembly and Ed Sheeran jokes and adorable p’Ting and action-plot use of grime basslines and blown-up Amazon robots, as well as the actual quality of “Punjab” and the first 2/3 of “Rosa” — I should drop by to admit that “Ranskoor” and “Resolution” may be the most dispiriting scripted TV I’ve ever seen.

    My 10-year-old son has no idea how to tell a story yet. But he’s imaginative, within a general read-lots-of-superhero-comics limits, so he will go on long, long, LONG rambles in which he lists all the things he would like to be in a story if he were actually telling one. I phase in and out when he does it, but sometimes, even when I’m attending, he’ll drop a line of thought and leap somewhere completely else, or back up and reverse an earlier idea.

    The last two Who episodes feel like someone followed him for 90 minutes with a tape recorder, handed over his monologue to top-notch professional actors and designers to render in full, and then inserted a few quick first-draft scenes about family.

    Reply

  26. Roderick T. Long
    January 6, 2019 @ 6:12 am

    I’m in agreement with the consensus here. But I also thought the following was an interesting take:

    https://www.polygon.com/2019/1/1/18152028/doctor-who-whitaker-season-review

    Reply

    • Roderick T. Long
      January 6, 2019 @ 6:15 am

      And related to the above — why is it okay to kill this Dalek and not anybody else? Shouldn’t her companions wonder about this?

      I mean, WE know the Doctor has a bit of history with the Daleks, but they don’t.

      (Also: why does no one on Earth remember the Daleks?)

      Reply

      • tachyonspiral
        January 7, 2019 @ 10:05 am

        Because they fell into the cracks, i think?

        Reply

      • wyngatecarpenter
        January 8, 2019 @ 1:31 am

        “why is it okay to kill this Dalek and not anybody else?”

        It’s fine to kill as long as you don’t use a gun to do it appears to be the logic of this season.

        Reply

        • Roderick T. Long
          January 13, 2019 @ 6:58 am

          But the Doctor also made a fuss when that guy pushed Tim Shaw off the rig in the first episode.

          Reply

  27. Howard David Ingham
    January 6, 2019 @ 8:22 am

    All of these things are fair, but I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on the point that yet again the Doctor winds up being impotent/more incompetent than usual and defers to the companions/guest cast/whatever to save the day when she messes up. And this seems a running thing this series.

    Why do they wait until the Doctor is a woman before having a scene where the Doctor is called out for bucking authority and apologising for it? Why does she stare mutely as the tycoon walks away? And OK, you could lay a lot of these things at the feet of (frex) the Davison era, but there’s also context here, the simple sense that when the Doctor is a woman and “put in her place” she’s being put in “her” place, and it’s interesting I guess but not terribly surprising that this is the least feminist the show has been for a while now.

    Reply

  28. Tim Matthews
    January 6, 2019 @ 5:50 pm

    So what now?

    If common sense would prevail in the face of audience reaction (online aggregated reviews, overwhelming fan hatred, falling ratings) this “epic fail” of a version of Doctor Who should result in someone at the BBC thinking “hang on this was a major cock-up!” and taking action.

    The bad stink of this season is akin to Twin Dilemma where no average punter wanted to carry on watching the egomanic in the clown suit who strangled his companion. Us fans had to wait a couple of years for that Remembrance moment, but the damage had been done.

    Who really is going to want to come back for more of this Chibbers/Whittaker, barely substandard, shit in 2020? I personally had to stop watching after 6 episodes of season 11 (finding it demoralisingly depressing) and only caught up a couple weeks ago – and regretted it (sat on the sofa hitting my head with a cushion throughout many episodes to dull the pain). With this set up continuing I won’t be back for season 12 – life’s too short.

    I’d say Chibbers definitely needs to go, preferably Whittaker with him but the worry is that they’ll all just be told to try harder next time!

    The least I’d hope for is a halfway measure, with Chibbers ousted, the best writers from the previous 10 seasons brought back to do a salvage season and Whittaker remaining (who knows with a decent script she might be okay) with one companion.

    Either that or just cancel the show and reboot it in 16 years – time heals all wounds.

    Dammit, as a fan since Tom Baker’s last season I feel f**king wounded and insulted by this past year. I know it’s only a TV show, but it has meant so much to me over the years.

    Shame on you Chibnall. Shame on you Whittaker! Shame on you BBC!

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      January 6, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

      This seems to me both a hysterical overreaction to the current response—this got a good but not exceptional overnight and was critically well-received—and a willful misrepresentation of what happened in the 1980s, which can be blamed more on Michael Grade and Jonathan Powell being uninterested in doing anything to repair the show than on the inherent damage done by Twin Dilemma.

      Reply

      • Tim Matthews
        January 6, 2019 @ 6:22 pm

        Apologies. Tiredness, bitterness and hyperbole getting the better of me.

        Please remove the post.

        Reply

        • August West
          January 7, 2019 @ 2:19 pm

          It’s very easy to get emotionally charged when you feel someone has vandalised something you love.

          It’s also tiring hating something which isn’t really worth the energy that entails.

          In my opinion this past season can just join the list of seasons, 15, 22, 23, 24 (insert your own preferences), where things went awry. Ah well…

          Reply

          • Dan
            January 8, 2019 @ 12:26 am

            Still, a popular and critical success at least, despite its flaws.

          • Ike (H)
            January 8, 2019 @ 2:49 am

            TV critics often only review season premieres (sometimes that’s all the screeners contain), at least in the U.S., so unless otherwise specified by the reviewer, you should assume any TV criticism is just of the season premiere — and TWWFtE was certainly one of Chibnall’s stronger efforts, as they go. So critical acclaim for this season doesn’t mean much.

            In many cases TV critics no longer have time to watch full seasons anyway, given the hundreds and hundreds of shows out there.

            Are there prominent UK critics who actually reviewed Ranskoor Av Kang-Kodos, for instance, or the bulk of the season as a whole?

    • Roderick T. Long
      January 13, 2019 @ 7:02 am

      I can’t see that Whittaker deserves the blame for this. She didn’t write the scripts.

      Reply

  29. Matt P
    January 6, 2019 @ 7:02 pm

    I took the UNIT bit as an already-dated attempt at a jab at Trump threatening to defund NATO. I’ve only found one other person who read it that way, though, so I’m probably way off base.

    Why was this a New Year’s Day story instead of a Christmas story? Or, rather, why did this feel like a Christmas story with the tinsel filed off? Is it really a big deal to find a cafe open on New Year’s Day in Sheffield? Are most shops closed, as I believe was stated in the episode? Is New Year’s associated with family coming together, moreso than Christmas? I feel like I’m asking strident leading questions, but I really am curious about whether this makes more sense in its native context.

    Reply

    • Cliff Bedlinog
      January 6, 2019 @ 8:15 pm

      New Year’s Day is traditionally the day when archaeologists and farmers get down to some hard work, and when trees are in full leaf.

      Reply

      • Matt P
        January 6, 2019 @ 8:42 pm

        Ah, thank you! That sounds more like traditional Presidents’ Day festivities in the US. We truly are a common ocean divided by a language.

        Reply

        • Rodolfo Piskorski
          January 6, 2019 @ 10:58 pm

          What?!

          Reply

        • tachyonspiral
          January 7, 2019 @ 10:11 am

          Hint: the UK is not in the southern hemisphere.

          Reply

    • wyngatecarpenter
      January 8, 2019 @ 1:24 am

      “Why was this a New Year’s Day story instead of a Christmas story? Or, rather, why did this feel like a Christmas story with the tinsel filed off? ”

      I can only assume the real reason the special was moved to New Year was because of Dr Who’s decline in the ratings in recent years leading to it being less important in the schedule. I think last year the special was 6 in the ratings (behind Mrs Brown’s Boys). Certainly the “run out of ideas” line isn’t very convincing.

      Reply

      • Matt P
        January 8, 2019 @ 2:30 pm

        Thanks! I wasn’t aware of the ratings situation, and that makes a lot of sense.

        Reply

    • Scurra
      January 17, 2019 @ 2:52 pm

      I have a tiny suspicion that there’s also the “no Doctor Who in 2019” aspect too. By moving the episode so that it actually aired in 2019, there may be some legal or financial small print that is being adhered to (for instance, it could be that the BBC is contractually obliged to show it every year which this would comply with.)

      Reply

  30. Richard Bennett
    January 6, 2019 @ 10:57 pm

    I’m not sure if it’s the writing or the acting (but I think it’s a bit of both) but Whitaker is just not doing it for me. I don’t see a lot of moral steel there. A shame as I was rooting for her all the way. But when I watch her I keep thinking ‘Wow, wouldn’t Rami Malek make a great doctor’ I wish it were different

    Reply

    • TJS
      January 7, 2019 @ 2:40 am

      I feel similarly. I liked her to begin with and thought her performance was promising – but somewhere probably around the spider’s episode I just stopped being able to really see her as the Doctor.

      She’s just not had any really great “Doctor” moments.

      Reply

      • Ike (H)
        January 8, 2019 @ 2:41 am

        I blame this on the infinite dullness that is Chibs — I’d like to see what Whittaker could do with a decent showrunner. She seemed to lose some Doctor-ishess as time went by. I wonder if it was just the shooting schedule or if she was actually getting worn down by the interminable plodding dullness of the scripts. She seemed to perk up a lot in “It Takes You Away” but then I found out that one was filmed second, in the block with “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, so that’s why.

        Reply

    • taiey
      January 8, 2019 @ 8:31 am

      “Moral steel” has to be the writing. Whittaker can’t act the Doctor uprooting Robinson or Kerblam or the pretty terrible race organiser if it’s not in the script.

      Reply

  31. David Ainsworth
    January 7, 2019 @ 4:11 pm

    Late to the party (complaint department?) again, but this comment took a while to cook. What interests me in all of this season, and what I’d like the more qualified regulars here to address at some stage, has to do with the problem of this Doctor. I note that El’s review of Resolution doesn’t address the Doctor herself at all. And I wonder whether the problem of the Doctor relates to a mix of problems related both to disagreements between feminist “waves” and Chibnall’s likely inability to address feminism coherently within the context of the program.

    Because the theoretically interesting thing about this story is that, by confronting the Doctor with a Dalek, it seems poised to force this Doctor into action, potentially violent action, and yet as things turn out the Doctor deploys her “fam” and environmental features against the Dalek despite her willingness to confront it. I could well believe that Chibnall is giving us a Doctor who rejects Ten’s weaponized approach to adventure and wants to refute Davros’ accusations in Journey’s End, and who also wants to focus on teaching her companions and giving them a chance to take heroic action (as when she sets a boundary for Graham but lets him get on with Tim Shaw while she does something else); in an era of entertainment where popular heroes ruthlessly and remorselessly murder people, this Doctor is refreshing (even if the neo-liberal politics underlying her are not).

    But Chibnall didn’t bring back Eight for another go (and how much would I love to see Eight and Thirteen in a multi-Doctor story). By casting a woman and making these other changes to the character, he made the other changes impossible to disentangle from the inherently gendered approach to this Doctor which the audience inevitably takes. On the one hand, here’s a heroic example for young girls to emulate. On the other hand, almost the whole season was originally written without Jodie in mind, and it shows. There’s a really vibrant and fascinating debate within and across feminist theory that the new Doctor inevitably involves herself with, but at present no sense that anyone associated with the program is engaging in more than a superficial way with any of that. I can’t even tell if these stories are attacking gender essentialism or reinforcing it.

    And by having nothing coherent to say about feminism, the show undermines the potentially powerful message of this Doctor’s stand against violence: all of the male Doctors, despite their rhetoric, could be imagined (or seen on screen) shooting somebody with a gun (or braining them with a rock), though in fairness, Eight would probably have been shooting himself. Thirteen is the first Doctor who might actually believe the “no gun” rhetoric and behave accordingly. But that behavior can’t be read in isolation from her gender, and the show has dodged that connection. I’m unsure how to address that problem now–making Jodie shoot bad guys is clearly not the answer–and nervous about how ham-fisted Chibnall would be in doing so (oh, look, the Dravins are back and they’re insulting Thirteen by saying she’s as weak as a man).

    While I’m posting, can I also share my frustration at the obvious comparison between Graham-Ryan and the Doctor-Susan, and the ways in which Aaron abandoning Ryan brings up the Problem of Susan in a new and interesting way that the show is almost certain to do nothing about at all?

    Reply

  32. Christopher Brown
    January 7, 2019 @ 9:44 pm

    The buffering scene is the exact moment that pushed me from I not liking Chibnall as a writer to intensely disliking Chibnall as a person.

    Also, I didn’t pick up on the refugee line when I saw it but Jesus fucking Christ. Fuck you, Chibnall.

    It really says something that the best he could do for a season-long emotional arc for Ryan was to recycle something SJA did much better and more maturely over a decade ago.

    Reply

    • Rodolfo Piskorski
      January 7, 2019 @ 10:24 pm

      Sorry, which one do you mean by “buffering scene”?

      Reply

      • Roderick T. Long
        January 13, 2019 @ 7:23 am

        The thudding scene when all the phones and the computer screens are buffering because the Dalek is messing with the grid, so the mother suggests her family have to have a conversation now,

        At least they had the grace not to give that line to the Doctor.

        Reply

  33. wyngatecarpenter
    January 8, 2019 @ 1:18 am

    I quite enjoyed it but I think that was in the sense that it ticked a load of Dr Who-ish boxes – archaeologists uncover something alien; alien takes over and controls ordinary human (this section particularly felt like a rehash of Hand Of Fear ep 1); Dalek wipes out troops (Dalek). But that was about it.

    I disagree with your comments about the “Brexit satire” though “though It’s explicitly blamed on all the other countries involved pulling their funding, i.e. entirely not on any UK actions whatsoever. ” From a UK perspective this was clearly allying the programme with anti-Brexiters or at least anti-Hard Brexiters, whose main argument (rightly I think) is that will cause chaos and leave us unable to access a lot of basic resources, and isolated against external threats.
    The Brexiters argument tends to be “everything will be fine” and that’s about it as far as I can see. It didn’t quite work as Brexit satire because it implied that UNIT was somehow a mainly British concern rather than an international one, but then the programme has always present UNIT as that I suppose.
    The theory that it’s actually a comment on Trump might make more sense.
    I missed the refugee reference somewhere along the way – not good.

    Reply

    • Voord 99
      January 8, 2019 @ 5:08 pm

      I think that it was deliberately wishy-washy. The bit about funding disputes probably is meant to signal a Brexit reference, but it suppresses any element that would clarify whose fault this fictional funding dispute is supposed to be. I.e., if you resent Britain paying money to the EU, it’s the EU’s fault, if you see Britain’s contributions as more than outweighed by the benefits of EU membership, it’s Britain’s fault. I think it’s a Brexit reference that’s geared towards not offending anyone, whose point does not extend beyond being a Brexit reference.

      But, hey, the episode could decisively come down on the side of “Isn’t awful how we’re all glued to screens these days and families don’t talk to one another any more?”

      Reply

    • Roderick T. Long
      January 13, 2019 @ 7:15 am

      “it implied that UNIT was somehow a mainly British concern rather than an international one, but then the programme has always present UNIT as that I suppose”

      Though on the original show the “UN” in “UNIT” was the United Nations; and on the new show UNIT was international enough for the Doctor to be declared President of Earth, which presumably involved the consent of multiple countries (though the idea that multiple countries would agree on a President of Earth requires a much greater suspension of disbelief than the idea of digging up a Dalek in Sheffield).

      Reply

  34. Leslie L
    January 14, 2019 @ 7:48 pm

    That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw them move . BY the By , I think this Is the first time that You used a gif in One of these .

    This isn’t Family Guy . Family Guy , isn’t the same .

    I tolerated the ChibaI episodes . up to a point . He needs a active Julie Garner On board . And I really have ny moments with RTD , but I felt high emotions , anger , happiness , annoyance ( Rose ten) But his writing , Yikes is A Clean word for it.

    Reply

  35. Pheeel
    January 16, 2019 @ 8:59 pm

    I was so excited for the idea of a female Doctor and all the directions the show could go from this point on, but it feels like the opportunity to do something amazing has been squandered through consistently weak writing

    The Doctor no longer feels like a character in her own right, but a device to drive the plot. Okay, you could say the same of Hartnell’s Doctor in the early years of the show, but back then the character was compelling and unpredictable, as well as a perpetual source of mystery. You couldn’t really put that genie back in the bottle after all this time, but I’d really like the Doctor to be surprising again at the very least.

    Although she constantly namedrops famous figures from history, you get no sense that this is a person who has lived many lives and seen things beyond all our imaginations. There’s no sense of being more than meets the eye. This is not a problem with Whittaker’s performance, it’s all down to the quality of material she is being given to work with – it’s just not good enough. She deserves better, we all do.

    Reply

  36. Przemek
    February 13, 2019 @ 1:46 pm

    I’ve stopped watching halfway through and only finished it last week out of sheer sense of obligation to the show I used to love. It was exactly as poor as everyone says and it just made me deeply sad. “Resolution” feels like something an amateur screenwriter might come up with after realising that the comissioned script they thought was weeks away is due next morning. Fuck, * I * could write a better episode and I haven’t seen a TV script in my life. How do you make a career out of writing for television if you can’t even come up with ONE thing worth saying?

    I’m looking forward to your redemptive reading of the Chibnall era, El, if there is any to be had.

    Reply

  37. Vadron
    April 29, 2019 @ 8:57 pm

    I cannot tell you how much it warms my heart to see such an ostentatiously, almost outrageously left-leaning person as yourself tear down the Chibnall era, after all this time of watching the “Chibnall is a very mediocre showrunner” opinion get tied down (pejoratively) to far-right views.

    And for the record, you calI this “TV-movie-bad”, but… I like the TV Movie better than Series 11 still. Paul McGann beats Jodie Whittaker, I like the music, I like the visual look, and the American Master is, yes, ridiculous, but also an old guilty pleasure. So there.

    Reply

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