Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: Resolution

In the 2019 New Year’s special, the team finally come back to Sheffield, only to discover a great evil has been unearthed. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief, genocide

I’m so glad to have finally caught up with Doctor Who, but I’m sad I don’t have more to watch. It should be apparent at this point that I’m deeply in love with all four of these characters and the stories told for the Thirteenth Doctor. This special is such a perfect place for me to end, though, because it allows me to reflect on just how special Doctor Who is to me. The show does feel different, and it’s not just in the casting. There’s a joy across these eleven episodes since Chibnall took over that is palpable, and it’s clear that the people behind-the-scenes are having the time of their lives creating this show. The cinematography, the music, the stories themselves: much of it has changed, but I truly feel it’s all for the better. I LOVE IT SO VERY MUCH.

Let’s talk.

The Greatest Enemy

I cannot recall one traditional villain/antagonist across Thirteen’s run, and perhaps that’s another reason why this series felt so refreshing. So it was particularly exciting that when the show did come around to bringing back a familiar evil, it did so in a way that did not feel repetitive. Hell, I didn’t even figure out that the weird squid creature was a Dalek until maybe half a second before the Doctor announced it. And that’s a good thing! I was so trapped in the horror of this thing that had commandeered Lin’s body that I wasn’t catching the obvious signs. Seriously, while the coloration was a tad different, the Dalek looked just like the creatures out of their shells. And the voice! Oh, that was a dead giveaway, and yet it went right over my head. 

Yet even once we know this is a Dalek scout—the literal first Dalek to ever make it to Earth a thousand years prior—nothing unfolded quite like I expected it to. Daleks are agents of genocide and hatred, and that does manifest here. But because it’s all filtered through Lin, it was so frightening. I don’t necessarily find the image of a Dalek terrifying, but the creature attached to Lin? Forcing her to do what it wants? Oh, that was definitely a nightmare, and it’s a smart choice from a craft perspective. There’s the adorable romance between Lin and Mitch that fueled the tension, since I wanted her to fight off the Dalek and reunite with him. It wouldn’t have happened if there’d just been a Dalek in its casing trying to take over the Earth by itself. Plus, what a primal source of terror! It’s the possession trope taken to a strange place, and I loved watching Lin’s slow-burn rebellion. On top of that, Mitch’s interest in the Custodians added another layer of cleverness, since we got more of a look at what had happened back in the 9th century. 

But this episode also doesn’t pull any punches to show just how violent Daleks are. Seriously, so many people die on-screen! And that scene where the Dalek decimates all those British soldiers? It’s ruthless, and I think it had to be. There’s a threat that hangs over “Resolution”: if this Dalek succeeds, it will summon the Dalek fleet. But, as Graham says, it’s just one Dalek against billions of human. It can’t be that bad, right? 

WRONG. UTTERLY WRONG. So, we get an incredible sense of the capabilities of this lone Dalek, and I was thinking of first-time viewers during that scene. If there had been people who were watching Doctor Who for the first time who caught this, they’d know just how serious this was in a heartbeat. And that’s good storytelling!

The Greatest Disappointment

But there’s a plot that unfolds parallel to this that I loved even more. Ryan’s reunion with his father was something that was seeded in past episodes, and after both “It Takes You Away” and “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos,” I wondered if Ryan would get closure. And did that closure even matter to him anymore?

This episode answers that with a resounding YES, and some of the most emotional scenes in the entire series are in “Resolution.” Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Daniel Adegboyega are all stellar here, and they bring the tragedy of Aaron and Ryan to life. I was struck by how empathetic this episode was, both because Ryan was allowed to express his rage and sadness and because Aaron was not written as a one-note, antagonistic father. No, this is about a character who made a choice he came to regret. Maybe not immediately, and the passage of time certainly upset Ryan even more. But while I felt the most sympathy for Ryan, I believed that this script gave Aaron a chance to be a whole person as well. He disappointed his son; he abandoned Ryan when Ryan most needed him; and now, he’s trying to return to his son’s life, but nearly a year since his own mother passed away. 

This is the story of someone who made a mistake and then compounded that mistake with further bad decisions and due to other bad circumstances.

But he’s here. He’s not running away. And is that enough for Ryan?

I can’t stop thinking about the climactic scene in “Resolution,” where the Dalek tries to take Aaron’s life as collateral. Ryan does something he wanted from his father: he was there for him. He even says so, and wow, that moment broke my heart? That’s all he ever wanted: to know for sure that his dad cared. And so, faced with the idea that his dad will die before his eyes, Ryan risks his own life to save him, to be there for him, to give him a helping hand. (LITERALLY.) Oh, it’s such a beautiful, emotional moment, and the script totally earned it. Forgiveness has to come when the harmed party is ready, and Ryan was finally, finally ready. 

I have no idea what’s gonna happen in series 12, but y’all. This was such an incredible experience. I’m sad I don’t have anything more to catch up on, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thrilled for what’s next: Sense8!!! It’s been a few years since I finished the first season, and it’s about time that I finish that show off. Onwards!

The video for “Resolution” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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