Doctor Who: EVE OF THE DALEKS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: EVE OF THE DALEKS Review

Tony’s in the basement.
On the 1st of January, 1972, Jon Pertwee faced at least the first episode of Day of the Daleks.

Fifty years later, on the 1st of January, 2022, Jodie Whitaker faced what wags all over the internet are already calling Groundhog Day of the Daleks. A story based in the last handful of minutes of 2021, involving Executioner Daleks (We’ll get to the part where they have worse accuracy than Imperial Stormtroopers in a very narrow corridor in a bit, trust me), sent, in a style reminiscent of The Chase (the William Hartnell story, not the Bradley Walsh quiz show), to kick seven shades of regeneration out of the Doctor for messing with their plans on a previous occasion – in this case, their own stupidity in falling for the Sontarans’ Flux Gambit.

Thankfully, there’s a handy time loop at work – the result of the Doctor’s attempts to reboot the Tardis, (slightly perversely with exactly the same design), after its recent damage by the Flux. Thankfully, because without the time loop, our heroes would have simply been exterminated before the credits, and…well, that would have been that. 59 years and that’s all she wrote – and while the world was still reeling from Betty White’s departure at 99, too.

So yes – luckily for fans, there’s a time loop in play, and unlike Groundhog Day, it has a noticeable progression because it’s unstable – every time the New Fam, and their new only-ever-sort-of-friends, Sarah and Nick, get exterminated, the time loop has advanced one minute. If it gets to midnight, game over, victory to the Daleks.

It’s also a useful little bit of technobabble that the time loop is unstable, because it helps Chris Chibnall get away with the idea that you can retain memories across an advancing time loop. You could get away with the Tardis crew doing that in other ways, through artron energy and their tangential relationship to time, but to allow the humans to remember things? Sure, unstable time loop.

That’s more or less all you need to deliver Eve of the Daleks, which at its heart is an hour of running around a single location – a storage facility, run by Sarah as a kind of family obligation, trying, and failing all but once, to not get exterminated by the Daleks.

Let’s talk about the Daleks for a second. I’m among those who had no problem with the remote-control Daleks that were front and centre of Resolution and Revolution of the Daleks, but it was refreshing and satisfying to see the return of Old Bronzy, on the same instinctive level as it was good to have an episode of Doctor Who returned to a Saturday night. Something just clicked into place and felt instinctively right about that.

Also – ooh, get this lot and their snazzy new ray-machine-guns. Would it have been more fun to see the new weapon do more exciting things? Absolutely. In fact, it was screen-shoutingly mystifying that such a snazzy new weapon TOOK FOREVER TO DESTROY A DOOR. And while we’re at it, what was that “Daleks are patient. I will wait” business all about? Beyond, obviously, allowing our heroes to exchange some less-than-vital character arc dialogue and for Nick to do the “doomed hero” thing?

Daleks have been patient precisely twice in the whole of their history – in Power of the Daleks and in Victory of the Daleks (or Power of the Daleks Redux, if you prefer). The rest of the time? Ohhhh hellno, Daleks are not patient. Especially when faced with a fairly crappy storage facility door.

If you’re going to introduce a snazzy new Dalek weapon, you kind of have a storytelling obligation to show us what it can do, as Robert Shearman did to the whole concept of a Dalek back in 2005. Powerful enough to blast through the concrete walls that were mentioned? That’d be a thing. To be fair, the new weapon was able to defeat the Doctor’s sonic chicanery, which was fun, and it did seem to have a wider range per single blast than the standard gun stick, so that counts too – but to have it stumped by the kind of door your average Dalek would spend half a second blowing to its component atoms pretty much broke the suspension of disbelief.

And then (told you we’d get to it), there’s the fact that multiple Daleks with snazzy executioner weapons, in a fairly narrow corridor, couldn’t hit any of several fleeing targets. Seriously, bring in the Stormtroopers. Given that for the rest of the episode at least, the Daleks were almost tediously efficient at exterminating people, it’s another scene that makes you leap up and go “WHAT?” like David Tennant on…well, most days, to be fair.

And before we leave the Daleks alone, let’s briefly touch on the dialogue they were given. Maybe the Executioner class is just extra petty and pedantic, but most of the dialogue they had in this episode seemed to consist of “Erm, actually, Daleks don’t DO that.” Daleks do not have managers (Really? Someone get the Emperor on the Space-Time Telegraph). Daleks are not fair. Which, ironically, is fair enough. Daleks, perhaps most of all, do not store…stuff.

Stuff. Mm-hmm. Sure, it could just have been extra-pedantically repeating the words of Nick, but a less inherently “Dalek” word probably hasn’t been uttered since…well, again, since The Chase, when a Dalek appeared to have difficulty with maths and stammered “Erm… um… err…” to general confused merriment across the land.

Cutest Dalek moment of the episode, though – “I am not Nick.” Nick Briggs there, everybody – anyone want to take a bet on that being the sole reason Nick was called Nick in this story?

OK, enough Dalek whinging. What about the story as a whole?

Not by any means a world-beater, but that’s always going to be an issue when you set your story in a time loop, because there’s always going to be a certain amount of unavoidable déjà vu throughout the story. But on the other hand, it was reasonably clear, the shrinking time loop gave a good ticking clock element to drive the drama, the Doctor’s relatively new-found certainty in her actions was undone fairly fast, meaning she had to scramble for information and understanding along with everyone else, and it contained at least a couple of solid gold characterisation-advancing moments.

Aisling Bea as Sarah wasn’t so much a revelation if you’re familiar with her work as a confirmation of the brilliance and value for money she can bring to practically any script you give her. From the generally begrudging (and funny) person she is at the beginning, she matures as the night goes on, finding value in a geeky weirdo (a message more or less custom-written to appeal to fans), and by the end, like all the best one-shot companions, we want to know more about her.

Nick (Adjani Salmon) is harder to like or warm to, simply on the grounds that his unlikely story of what he stores in his unit (the left-behind belongings of a fairly high number of former girlfriends, given that he’s so shy and stalkery when it comes to his crush on Sarah) is both entirely as weird as Sarah initially thinks it is, and apparently turns out to be the simple truth. It stretches credibility in our cynical age, and we’re forced to agree with Yaz when she asks if all the owners of the items he stores are, in fact, still alive.

For all that, Adjani Salmon pitches the shyness and awkwardness of the character well, and unbends from his initial fear-based position as the episode unfolds, allowing him moments of bravery, truth, and ultimately some likeability. Still though, the geeky weirdo thing – while undoubtedly reassuring many Who-fans of the possibility of finding true love - doesn’t really stretch far enough to cover the unnecessarily stalker-like, potential serial killer behaviour that leads Nick to be in the storage unit at all at a handful of heartbeats to New Year’s Eve.

Which means despite the quality of the acting, the fact that he’s ‘rewarded’ ultimately by at the very least getting to accompany Sarah around the world leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Apart from that, the story does embody the spirit of new year – both when the Dalek gives Nick his ‘therapy’ by destroying the baggage he’s been needlessly hanging onto, and when the Doctor does the same for Sarah, destroying the millstone that’s been keeping her static for far too many years, instead of letting her see the world as she wants to. New year, new them, new possibilities.

And there are of course new possibilities in the Tardis too. Quite apart from the literal renewal of the ship, there’s the news that will have fan fiction writers everywhere punching the air. Despite there being nothing outright to suggest it in the three preceding series, Yaz, with a little nudge from Dan (playing a superb wingman game), confesses, sort of, to having more than companionly feelings for the Doctor. And again with his dry, Liverpudlian nudge, Dan also lets the Doctor know of those feelings.

It’ll be interesting to see how this self-avowedly socially awkward Doctor deals with those feelings, eventually – though she needs to get a shift on, clearly. In a fairly typical New Who Doctor way, 13 is putting off having awkward conversations with companions who form attachments to them, though both 10, 11 and 12 eventually had to do the right thing.

It’s possible, two stories away from a regeneration, that 13 will run out the clock of her life without ever either telling Yaz the secrets she’s been holding, or giving her friend the space she needs to speak the truth of her feelings for her own geeky weirdo.

But let’s hope not, because while it’s as yet uncertain whether Yaz’s affections will be returned (as Rose’s were), or over-complicating factors for the Doctor, (as Martha’s and early Amy’s were), the Doctor has a reputation for eventually facing up to things, and it would be unfortunate if 13 were to drop that ball. Especially as it would leave the message of the first Companion-Doctor lesbian attraction in the Tardis being that such an attraction was avoided, rather than faced, by the subject of that attraction, as though, like the previous lives with which she can’t currently deal, it’s something to be swept under the carpet of silence.

So, what, ultimately, is the verdict on Eve of the Daleks?

While not any kind of stone cold classic, it had a good deal of fairly logical plotting and some stunning performances – let the record show that Aisling Bea, John Bishop, and Pauline McLynn as Sarah’s literally phoned-in Mammy are the chief reasons to re-watch the episode. It also had some good, confident Doctoring from Jodie Whitaker. But while it’s good fun for most of its run-time, the happy ending with Sarah and Nick still feels unwarranted, and Nick’s storage peculiarities – through no fault of the actor – feel like a weirdness too far to nod and smile at. A good-ish story structure then, hampered by an unnecessary oddness in the writing that goes on to slightly sour the results we’re led to hope for.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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