“Eve of the Daleks” is a New Years Day special episode of Doctor Who. Doctor Who is a sci-fi show created by the BBC, running for nearly 60 years. The current showrunner is Chris Chibnall, who is also the writer of this episode. Directed by Annetta Laufer. The Doctor is played by Jodie Whittaker, with Mandip Gill and John Bishop as her companions.
After the events of Flux, the Doctor has been told that this life is her last iteration. No more regenerations. She, Yaz, and Dan land in a Mancunian storage facility. The owner of the facility is Sarah, disgruntled and bored. Customer Nick visits her every New Years’ Eve. But now, the five of them are trapped inside the facility. And with Daleks inside the building. This will prove to be one of the deadliest adventures to date.
There is a fantastic concept to this episode. Even a slight hint would ruin, but the fact that it has taken the concept this long to reach this series is amazing. Chibnall executes the structure brilliantly, adding a twist that makes it feel more like Doctor Who. The pacing is slow, perhaps too slow at times, but it is important to the story. As the plot gets deeper, there is a sensation of an ever-increasing grip that heightens the tension and makes events happen quicker. An overarching plot will stretch beyond this episode, but “Eve of the Daleks” is self-contained and entirely circular. It is small in its scale, which is welcome after the universe was about to end in “Doctor Who: Flux.” The ending is heartwarming and hopeful, as Who stories should be, but there is a purposeful frustrating building in the guts of the viewer.
This episode has a minimal cast: The Doctor and her companions, two guest stars, and the Daleks. This is brilliant as it allows the five humans to shine. Something that Chibnall does well in the special is put extra emphasis on Sarah and, to a slightly lesser extent, Nick. Irish comic actress Aisling Bea is phenomenal in the role. She spends a lot of time on her own in her scene but captures the attention beautifully. Excellent at monologues and facial expressions, her stand-up career clearly influenced her ability to be okay when going solo. Sarah is fantastic. She isn’t necessarily a good person and definitely not nice in places, but there is a strength there too. She stands up against the Doctor and the Daleks. Nick is also a brilliant character, Adjani Salmon bringing depth to a character that could have been annoying to watch.
As for the recurring characters, all three enter 2022 with fantastic deliveries. Whittaker is sensational as always, building up to the crescendo of her time as the Doctor. The Time Lord has always been secretive, but the ones she is eep now are becoming harmful to the chemistry in the TARDIS. She is snappy and uncommunicative. There is a lot of guilt when she fails to save people, and the anger within her is building. Yaz spent a lot of time separated from the Doctor in Flux. So to see them again is wonderful. There is tension between them, but it heavily hinges on their worry for each other. Chibnall makes a decision in this episode that is incredibly brave and one that many fans have been longing for. Bishop doesn’t do anything for over half of this episode but becomes very important towards the end. He is growing into the role, and the acting was much better.
The direction and set design of the episode are very different than in other Doctor Who stories. It appears very small, taking place inside one building. There are many different rooms inside the storage unit, but nowhere near the open space, we are often used to. It adds a cramped and claustrophobic element to what is already a constricted setting. In addition, are several instances where singular colors are used to light a scene. In different rooms, the entire shot will be bathed in a deep blue or green, or red. This can drastically affect the emotion of the moment.
“Eve of the Daleks” is a fantastic episode that does a lot with a little. A small set and a small cast only show the different levels of what a Doctor Who episode can look like. It still contains aliens and adventure, but it is grounded and personal. The performances and presentation feel like a theatrical play instead of an episode. And the confirmation of a theory will be a massive point of contention for fans. The final part of this special will be vital for the characters going forward.
“Eve of the Daleks” is available on BBC iPlayer and BBC America.
Doctor Who "Eve of the Daleks"
“Eve of the Daleks” is a fantastic episode that does a lot with a little. A small set and a small cast only show the different levels of what a Doctor Who episode can look like. It still contains aliens and adventure, but it is grounded and personal