Doctor Who recap: 5 best moments from the New Year’s Day special

Photo credit: Doctor Who/ Sophie Mutevelian/BBC -- Acquired via AMC Press Site)
Photo credit: Doctor Who/ Sophie Mutevelian/BBC -- Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

The Doctor Who New Year’s Day special saw the Doctor face off with a terrifying new incarnation of one of her greatest enemies.

Although the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special was produced with the rest of Season 11, it really didn’t feel like it. On the contrary, it felt like an episode of the show produced after showrunner Chris Chibnall processed fan criticisms of the new era. “Resolution” was Doctor focused, tightly paced, purposively scored and it resolved in a satisfying manner. Most significantly, this episode felt of a piece with the rest of revived series in a way that the rest of Season 11 did not.

That’s not to say the special was a wholesale departure from the style and tone Chibnall established after taking over the show. It was still more character than plot driven and its focus was relatively small-scale. It’s just that this installment felt tighter and more purposeful than much of Season 11.

Also, “Resolution’s” runtime never felt padded and its shifts in tone all worked. In addition to being a very entertaining episode on its own, the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special suggested good thing are coming in Season 12.

 5. “You are my puppet”

The most prominent way in which in “Resolution” connected itself with Doctor Who’s history was by bringing in the Doctor’s (Jodie Whittaker) archenemies the Daleks. However, the lone Dalek featured in this episode wasn’t presented in the typical fashion. Dismembered centuries ago, an unnamed scout Dalek resembled itself after being uncovered by a pair of hapless archaeologists, Lin (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mitch (Nikesh Patel).

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Lacking its armored shell, the creature attached itself to Lin and used her body to further its aims. Both the Dalek’s Lovecraftian-natural appearance and the inhuman way it spoke to and through Lin were profoundly creepy. In particular, the unsettling way in which it described her as its puppet. Director Wayne Yip did an excellent job of making one of TV’s oldest monsters feel frightening in a whole new way.

4. “New Year’s Day. Turning over a new leaf”

In keeping with the new era of Doctor Who, this episode wasn’t all about extraterrestrial problems. A good chunk of “Resolution’s” runtime was dedicated to Ryan’s (Tosin Cole) awkward reunion with his absentee father Aaron (Daniel Adegboyega). Using the New Year as an excuse to reconnect with his son, Aaron took Ryan out for very tense cup of coffee. In the episode’s most powerful moment, Ryan expressed how his dad’s disappearing act had negatively impacted his life.

The scenes between Ryan and Aaron were really strong, giving Cole a chance to show off range as a performer. The mix of anger, resentment and longing his character was feeling was palpable. And he was well met Adegboyega, who was able to communicate a sense of lived in regret that made his character sympathetic despite his actions.

The fact the pair was closer together but still distant by the end of the episode was the right way to go. The decision to prioritize slow, meaningful character development is one of the best parts of this era of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who, BBC America
Photo credit: Doctor Who/ James Pardon/BBC — Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

3. “UNIT operations have been suspended pending review”

Another quality that separates “Resolution” from the rest of Season 11 was its many surprising moments. The reveal of the Dalek, and its possessing Lin unexpected, as was its survival after having its shell melted. But this episode’s biggest shocking moment, for long-time Doctor Who fans anyway, was the casual reveal that UNIT had been effectively disbanded.

Not featured since Season 9, the Unified Intelligence Task Force was a United Nations-funded military organization that was intended to protect the Earth from extraterrestrial threats. Though a fixture of the original series, the organization had only been featured sparingly outside of the Tenth Doctor’s tenure in the revival. Apparently, sometime after the events of the “The Zygon Invasion /Zygon Inversion,” UNIT had been dismantled due to budget cuts and international disputes.

Given the prominent position it has occupied in Doctor Who’s mythology, I really hope this isn’t the end of UNIT. Especially since, as the Doctor points out, its absence would open up the door for any number of hostile aliens to invade the Earth with minimal resistance. And that concept could be used for a compelling episode of Season 12.

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2. “The Dalek race is supreme”

After collecting fragments of its destroyed shell, the Recon Dalek rebuilt its armor using scrap metal. And though the DIY version of Dalek armor certainly looked a bit odd, it was still incredibly effective. Intent to contact the Dalek fleet to subjugate Earth, the creature attacked Britain’s Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ). As the British government wasn’t keen for this to happen, the Dalek was confronted by several dozen soldiers and a tank.

And as is almost always the case, conventional weapons proved totally ineffective against a warrior from Skaro. And though not the most expensive set piece in the show’s history, the sortie between the Dalek and military unit was impressive. Mostly because it showed off how utterly unstoppable Daleks can really be. After being relegated to the background for most of the Steven Moffat era, it’s nice to see Daleks depicted as a major threat again.

Doctor Who, BBC America
Photo credit: Doctor Who/ Sophie Mutevelian/BBC — Acquired via AMC Press Site) /

1. “Earth is protected by me and my mates, this year and every other”

Unsurprisingly, the Doctor managed to stop the monster of the week, although not without some complications. After using parts from a portable oven to destroy the Dalek’s shell, the TARDIS team thought they had defeated the alien. However, at the last second, it attached itself to Aaron and threatened his life to get the Doctor to take it to the Dalek fleet. The Doctor instead parked the TARDIS in front of a sun going supernova which, in tandem with Ryan’s emotional support, was enough to seperate it from Aaron.

“Resolution’s” finale was compelling for a number of reasons. One, it showed us that the new Doctor still has a passionate hatred of the Dalek race.

Two, she might be willing to sacrifice her companions for the greater good. Once it became obvious the Dalek wasn’t going to go easily, the Doctor didn’t move to save Aaron. It’ll be interesting to see when that element of character’s personality comes out again.

And three, it provided a definitive ending to the episode’ central conflicts while also providing a strong thematic conclusion via Ryan and Aaron’s reconciliation.

And since UNIT is gone, it is also reiterated the Doctor status as Earth’s sole protector. Really, you can’t ask for more from an episode of Doctor Who. And boy, is it a shame the show isn’t coming back until next year.

Next. 5 best moments from Doctor Who Season 11. dark

Did you enjoy “Resolution?” Leave your answer in the comments below.

Doctor Who will return to BBC America in 2020.