As we hurtle towards 13’s incoming regeneration, the Doctor gets stuck in a time loop with Aisling Bea, Adjani Salmon and some Daleks in the entertainingly done Eve of the Daleks
“Is it a toxic, hazardous or radioactive board game?”
The first of three Doctor Who specials to take us up to Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall’s departure from the show, Eve of the Daleks proved to be one of my favourite festive specials of recent times. Mainly, it has to be said, because there wasn’t anything particularly festive shoehorned into the story, it was just a tightly scripted (mostly) standalone episode that didn’t let itself get too bogged down in series lore or seasonal schmaltz.
Ironically, at the end of Flux I was sure I wanted a proper investigation of the consequences of so much of the universe having been destroyed but apparently I could do just fine without it. Instead, this almost-bottle episode made a virtue of the Covid restrictions it was clearly filmed under by minimising cast and locations and digging into some fairly deep emotional stuff.
Eve of the Daleks takes place in a Manchester storage unit where manager Sarah is grumpily fobbing off repeat customer Nick and where the TARDIS has dropped off the crew whilst it does a reset (I think). Then quelle horreur, a supercharged Dalek pops up and kills them all. But it’s not quite that bad as they suddenly reappear in their original places and repeat their actions because they’re actually trapped in a timeloop.
The twist is that the Daleks are actually learning every time it resets and so the Doctor’s escape are continually foiled and with there just being limited number of assassin Daleks, they’re actually more chillingly effective deployed this way, sadistic in their success. As the guest stars, Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon are great value for money in this extended meet-cute-gone-quite-wrong and in a crucial development, there’s a powerful deepening of the stakes of the relationship between Yaz and the Doctor, a development that it will be fascinating to follow in the final two stories. And if they’re half as good as this, then we’ll be in for a treat.