It’s been months, years…well, a long time since the Doctor was locked away in a space prison.
She’s hoping to get out. She hasn’t figured out how.
She better think fast. The Daleks are back, thanks to a familiar face.
Her former companions are back on Earth, and will also get help from another familiar face.
That’s what the trailers have been suggesting for weeks, but what really happened turned out to be a great way to start a new year.
After years of Christmas specials, the Doctor has become a New Year’s tradition. For the second time in three years, the Daleks are her adversary. The story, though, touches on a lot of themes including politics, security and dealing with change. It also involves the return of Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and businessman Jack Robertson (Chris Noth).
Robertson got a husk of a Dalek from “Resolution” and converts it into a prototype of a security drone that quells protesters who get too dangerous. He gets help from an ambitious minister, Jo Patterson (Harriet Walker), and a computer wiz named Leo (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). However, Leo also managed to clone a Dalek creature, and Robertson tells him to kill it. He tries, but the Dalek possesses Leo…and gets busy.
Meanwhile, 79 billion light years away, the Doctor deals with life behind bars after the Judoon arrested her for…being her. The facility includes some familiar foes like The Silence, The Ood and a Weeping Angel. It’s not known how long she has been there, but she’s had time to think, especially what she found out about herself last season.
To her companions, it’s been ten months. While Graham and Ryan have been settling into normal life, Yaz has spent her time into what was left of a spare TARDIS, investigating strange happenings. She really wants her to come back.
Thing is, it doesn’t take long to them to figure out what Robertson is doing, and that Daleks are involved. It seemed they did it too quickly, and they couldn’t do anything without the Doctor.
That changes when the Doctor meets Harkness at the prison, convicted of things he’d rather not list. He’s got a “breakout ball” and some other gizmos to get them out. Again, it was a little too easy, but it’s safe to say the Judoon and the warden will respond to this eventually (and maybe decide to “pardon” them).
The important thing is they’re back in the TARDIS, and they talk about what has happened before they re-awaken the ship.
The fam is reunited with the line “Hey, I was in space jail.” Ryan and Graham are stunned, while Yaz shoves her. They admit soon enough they’re happy to see her, and she apologizes for taking so long.
So, while the Doctor finds out what she missed, Patterson is now Prime Minister, and introduces the Security Daleks to everyone. She says they will bring about an age of security that will benefit the nation. This is telling because the UK has had a lot to deal with, including Brexit and coronavirus. The Patterson plot line fits because it reflects the anxiety, and how it can be exploited.
As for DalekLeo, he heads to Osaka, where he finds a facility where the Dalek that Leo cloned has been able to clone hundreds more creatures. It later reveals how it was able to get it built, and liquidate (literally) the workers as Dalek food. The Doctor, Harkness, the companions and Robertson get there, too, and discover that has been done. Of course, Robertson is more worried about PR, insurance and loss of inventory. Noth is very good being a grossly imperfect Mr. Big.
Not only that, the cloned Dalek also figured out how to put the others into the Security Dalek shells. That means the Age of Security is now the Age of Extermination, and Patterson’s career and life are over.
This leads to a very interesting twist: the Doctor anonymously contacts a ship filled with Classic Daleks who are similar to the SS. She thinks they will not like the Security Daleks because their DNA isn’t pure. Sure enough, the Classic Daleks destroy the Security Daleks for that reason. It’s a great metaphor about politics in general, even in the US.
By the way, “Evil of the Daleks” is a similar story where some of them get the “human factor” as a way to evolve them. It also wound up as a civil war that brought them down.
Robertson, of course, betrays the Doctor to save his own skin. However, she is prepared. After tricking a bunch of Daleks into getting into the TARDIS (or so they think), Harkness, Graham and Ryan are able to get rid of the Classic Daleks. The Security Daleks find out they’re in Yaz’s TARDIS room and they’re sent into a void that crushes them all.
The down side: Robertson gets all the credit for destroying the Daleks, but maybe he might consider being a bit more ethical from now on. If he shows up again, he probably won’t.
While the Doctor, Harkness and the Companions deal with the Daleks, they do discuss her a lot. Harkness had a lot to say about the Doctor, and sometimes referred to her as him (Nine and Ten). He understood how Yaz felt about not seeing her for ten months, but reminds him a Companion doesn’t always decide when to get off. “Enjoy the journey while you’re on it,” he says, “because the joy is worth the pain.”
The Doctor also talks to Ryan about her revelations about who and what she is, and it helps them both. He realizes that being with his dad and friends helped him not miss the journey, because he’s needed on Earth, too. Also, he tells her she’s the Doctor, as she always has been, and she should deal with what she knows and still doesn’t know about herself.
Finally, Ryan and Graham decide to leave, and it’s a touching goodbye. Even the Doctor wants to go ahead in time just to meet them again, but Yaz says it’s time to let them go.
The episode ends the same way Graham and Ryan were introduced, Ryan trying to master a bike. They also talk about some strange things that are happening, and how maybe they should look into them. This suggests these two guys could come back to the show, or maybe have a one-off of their own.
Good thing the Doctor gave them psychic paper. Might be useful.
Also, Harkness talking about Gwen from Torchwood is a good sign it’ll come back somehow. He’ll stick around on Earth, at least, so he might return to the show, too.
It’ll be a while until new episodes arrive, thanks to coronavirus, but this episode was an entertaining return.
Then came this surprise after the show, which was quickly picked up on Twitter.
While some fans think it should be just the Doctor and Yaz for a while, remember that some Doctors preferred more than one Companion at a time, and others preferred just one. In any case, John Bishop is listed as part of the first episode in the new season, and likely more than that, according to TVLine. It’ll be interesting how he’ll fit into the TARDIS in the near future.