Well, it’s a Groundhog day episode… again. Well, to be fair, Doctor Who on TV hasn’t really done them but so many other shows I’ve watched or even Who on Audio has used the concept in recent years that it’s a bit old hat to me now. That being said, is the episode good regardless? It’s actually perfectly fine, though not without a few niggling bits. Let’s take a look!
Sarah is working – again. Nick is her only customer – again. Same old same old. Except this year, their countdown to midnight will be the strangest and deadliest they have ever known. Why is an executioner Dalek targeting these two people, in this place, on this night? Why are they having to live through the same moments again? Can the Doctor, Yaz and Dan save them and survive into the New Year?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Sarah and Nick were the highlight of the story, which makes a change as Chibnall’s one-off “funny” characters normally grate on me…
So as mentioned it’s the good old fashioned time loop story as The Doctor, Yaz and Dan arrive in a storage warehouse with only two other people in it: blunt and grumpy Sarah (Aisling Bea) who runs the place, and slight-odd and quiet Nick (Adjani Salmon) who is her only real customer. The five of them are soon killed by a Dalek (with a chain laser gun arm thingie!) and then suddenly appear where they were eight minutes earlier. Then they meet up and get killed again and appear seven minutes earlier, and so on. Well, it might have been ten then nine, or… well, anyway, the important thing is each time the loop resets they’re a minute closer to midnight and apparently midnight is when the loop will close and their fates will be sealed. That last bit is at least a new spin, though the fact that some of the attempts when they have five, four or three minutes go on way longer than those periods of time does harm it somewhat…
Each loop they start coming together, including Sarah and Nick, the latter of which admits he has a crush of the former, and eventually she comes around to the idea. The two are actually a very believably couple (well, apart from how well they take the whole “being murdered over and over again by aliens” thing, but it’s the tone they went with and they’re good at it, so I’ll look the other way) and are played well, especially the comedic timing which is often rare when Who tries to go full-on comedy. Also, and perhaps more crucially, Dan susses out that Yaz has romantic feelings towards The Doctor and then later that The Doctor knows but it trying her best to ignore it, whether that’s because she feels the same way but is awkward about it, or she doesn’t feel the same way and is even more awkward about it. It’s an interesting twist, though I have always preferred Who when it keeps romance out of The Doctor’s life.
Eventually they explode a bunch of Daleks and escape the warehouse just at midnight, enjoying an accidental fireworks display, well, apart from Yaz who now feels extremely awkward. Overall it was a fun, mostly light-hearted story for the New Year’s.
Déjá Vu of the Daleks would’ve been … a worse title actually, if I’m honest with myself…
A lot of the bad is a hang-over from the disappointing Flux finale. The Doctor resets the TARDIS to fix all the corruption from the Flux and Dan mentions The Doctor having “saved the universe last week” but nothing seems any different and nobody seems that bothered about most of the universe being wiped out. The Daleks blame The Doctor for unleashing the Flux on the Dalek fleet but they obviously survived in big enough numbers to ambush her on Earth, one of the last planets left in the universe… Again, say the universe was reset or make it a big plot point until it is, don’t brush it under the carpet and forget about it! It’s MOST OF THE UNIVERSE being wiped out!
As much as he seems like a nice guy in real life, I have to point out that John Bishop as Dan was pretty poor in this. A lot of the time he just looked tired like he couldn’t be bothered to hang out on set any more. He’ll slightly perk up to say a few lines but then go back to looking bored right after. It was distractingly noticeable to me and took me out of a few scenes. Maybe that comes from mostly being a stand-up comedian rather than an actor, he knows how to deliver lines but not how to act when its not his turn to say something.
Also, as already mentioned, the timing of each loop was off. “We’ve only got six minutes!” meanwhile two characters are talking on-screen for eight minutes and we’re still five away from the next reset. Don’t tie your hands so tightly if you’re going to do this kind of story. Oh and in one loop a Dalek shot the electricity box and cut the power to stop Sarah from using the left, killing her in the process, but then the next loop it just randomly shot at her as she got into the lift and used it to escape. The Daleks were all about how they adapt each loop and yet they just… forgot what they’d successful done previously right away and then never did it again.
Our heroic trio looking forward to adventures in space, but there isn’t any space any more, so they’ve had to make-do with a warehouse in Manchester.
Obviously there were a few mentions of the Flux, including dealing with the TARDIS-related fallout from the final part of the story, though the actual impact of the story remains unaddressed…
That was it really. Someone I didn’t even remotely recognise took a photo of the makeshift firework display right at the end of the episode, and apparently it was “Karl” from the Thirteenth Doctor debut story “The Woman Who Fell To Earth”. Sorry, I guess he wasn’t very memorable to me… (in fact I didn’t mention him once in my review of that story, so it’s no wonder really…)
The Doctor faces off against the Daleks for the final ever time! … This month. Maybe.
Eve of the Daleks was a perfectly fine bit of fun on a New Year’s Day, with two new characters getting the majority of the laughs as well as a realistic and fun budding relationship. There were a few flaws, especially factoring in the major incident that happened just before this, but hey-ho. At least we get the return of the Sea Devils next time!