It is with great relief that I declare that Resolution, the Doctor Who New Years Day special, and the last episode of Doctor Who that we’ll be getting until early 2020, is…pretty good! I was braced for disappointment after a thoroughly lackluster series, and if it had been bad, I may have found myself marinating in bad feelings about the show for a full year, which would not exactly be setting myself up to give series twelve a fair shake. Fortunately, Chris Chibnall surprised me by pulling out a surprisingly enjoyable and fresh-feeling take on a classic Who monster, producing what is almost certainly his best Doctor Who script ever. It has some issues, but I think with only a few minor edits Resolution could have been an all-time classic story.
After a string of guest writers, during which the writing quality spiked noticeably, showrunner Chris Chibnall returns to the writer’s chair to pen The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, the series finale of Doctor Who. Low-rent Ice Warrior Tzim Shah, him with the teeth in his face, returns from the series premiere, this time in command of a genocide machine powered by a pair of psychic aliens with religious issues. I wish the episode was as exciting as that description makes it sound, but unfortunately, I must report that this episode is merely Okay. Just like every script Chibnall’s submitted this year. Goddamit.
In this episode of Doctor Who, we travel to Norway, where the Doctor and her companions discover an isolated cabin, its doors and windows all barricaded. Its only inhabitant is a blind young girl named Hanne, who warns them that there’s some kind of monster in the woods outside, which broke into the house and stole her father away. When this episode opened, I hoped that we might be getting into some Norse monsters, which are awesome and terrifying. What I got instead was something far stranger.
Doctor Who travels back into the past once again, this time to 17th Century Lancashire, where the Doctor and her companions find themselves in the middle of an old-fashioned witch hunt. It’s an episode with a few too many moving parts, but which manages to be a lot of fun, especially by the standards of historical episodes, which I tend to not enjoy as much.
Series eleven of Doctor Who continues the trend of being substantially better when Chris Chibnall’s not getting a writing credit. Kerblam! is not a true classic, but it is an awful lot of fun, by turns funny and frightening, with a great spooky robot design and an actual mystery to solve. Ultimately, what holds the episode back from true greatness is an excess ambition without direction; it has pretensions at social commentary, but lacks a coherent political stance, making it all feel a bit confused and flimsy. Which is a shame, because apart from that, this really is a fun little show.
I’ve been waiting expectantly for this day to come. Finally, the eleventh series of Doctor Who has a properly good episode. Unlike much of this series, Demons of the Punjab is not merely adequate or mediocre, and while it is not as sweepingly ambitious as Rosa, it also dodges many of the problems that plague that episode. At last, Jodie Whittaker stars as the Doctor in an episode that I can feel good about recommending.
And all it took was Chris Chibnall not getting a writing credit for the first time this series. Bless.
In The Tsuranga Conundrum, Chibnall-era Who has finally given me an episode that left me feeling satisfied at the end. That’s not to suggest that this is a particularly good or memorable episode; in another season, this would be a middle-of-the-road piece, neither a favorite nor hated. But I wasn’t bored or put off by this episode, and for this season, that makes it stand out.
This week saw the return of perennial favorite British science-fiction series Doctor Who, with a brand new actor in the (sort-of) titular role and a new man running the show. One of those I’m excited for. The other I’m sort of dreading.