Dear Chris Chibnall: Resolution

Dear Chris,

This might be my final Doctor Who review. The end of the Doctorin’ decade seems as good an arbitrary cut off as any. But I’ll be honest, Chris. I’ve been looking for an excuse to stop for some time. Life without Steven isn’t what I imagined. I thought I’d be happy sans his indecent, vigorous conceptual masturbation, but I feel like a great detective who’s succeeded in vanquishing his ultimate foe. Now Professor Moriarty’s lifeless husk is trapped under a rock beneath the Reichenbach Falls, being slowly eaten by assorted species of freshwater fish, I’m bored. Bored and tired.

The challenge you pose to the armchair pundit is finding something in your horse tranquilliser of a series to write about. I liken the experience to being trapped in a pub conversation with someone whose only topics of conversation are dog walking and drinking. And if this introduction feels long, Chris, it’s because I’m trying to defer the moment I have to start talking about your New Year special. And if I now read as morose it’s because I’ve reached the point where I can’t delay any longer. I’m hitting return, and never has my finger felt heavier. Seriously, it feels like it’s strapped to one of Danny Dyer’s testicles.

I suppose I should be grateful to you for not making a Christmas special. I know this wasn’t mercy on your part, rather creative anaemia, but it was joyful to sit through the festive period without that cat turd mince pie in prospect. Instead “Resolution” was, idiotically, set on New Year’s Day 2019 – something I’m sure you were told to tack on as it had no bearing on the plot. Please tell me you were obliged to refer to the New Year, Chris. That alone would explain the excruciating joke about the family with no WiFi who were now expected to talk to each other; a joke as old as time in an episode about dusted off relics. I hope in the next series Bradley Walsh gets to do the one about 2.4 children, and what the hell is .4 of a child? Work it in if you can. Dave Allen’s estate need the royalties.

It’s not such a ridiculous idea, Chris – after all you built your entire special from old material; one familiar scene after another, with the only original filler being the plodding, EastEnders-like insert where Ryan’s Dad returned to the family and the two had a bland absentee father conversation in a café. I hoped this sedative would connect with the A-story at some point, but when it did, with Ryan’s old man being held hostage by a Kaled mutant, just to facilitate a reconciliation by episode’s end, my deadened senses felt nothing. It was like that void the TARDIS was exposed to had sucked all the joy and vitality out of me. For the first time I understood the hatred of those Skaro murder droids.

I don’t blame you for bringing back the Daleks, Chris. What else could you do? You hadn’t created any exciting villains in your first series so you thought it was time to throw the fans some red meat. But man alive, wasn’t there a more interesting story on the table than this one? It was so lacking in ambition – the kind of “fuck it, that’ll do” concept that you might scribble down after a screening of Venom, with the treatment deadline just two hours away. The Tom Hardy movie was lazy and confusing, Chris, but you managed to make it look bold by comparison. Many will hate you for that alone.

Dalek history is a continuity clusterfuck, so I have no idea, because I can’t be bothered to do the research, whether your Retcon Scout Dalek landing on Earth in the 9th century contradicts established events, not least because Daleks can time travel (essential if you’re going to fight Time Lords). Still, assuming we accept that a bunch of ancient sword-wielding grunts would have any chance against a thing that, 12 centuries later, laid waste to a tank and men with machine guns, the episode’s basic premise still didn’t make much sense.

In the present day we learned the two parts of the Dalek that made it to their improbably widespread destinations – a pacific island and somewhere in Siberia, had been guarded by, what one assumes to be, an unbroken line of guardians. We didn’t learn whether these were the descendants of the original men, or what instructions they’d been given, or how they were incentivised to give up their lives and carry on throughout the years, because you didn’t tell us.

What of dead Yorkshire man? Was he under orders to father a child and order him to look after the Kaled’s remains for life if he made it, that child having to find the time to father his own child and give him the same orders and so on? What if he was infertile, or lost a kid to child mortality – a pertinent problem for most of the time humanity’s existed? What if one generation rebelled, wanting to pursue a rich and rewarding career in HR instead?

If the fate of the world depended on this man successfully delivering his package to the chosen destination and guarding it, might it have been better for him to travel with a garrison? And shouldn’t all those men have had instructions to get the squid to its very shallow and easily disturbed burial ground no matter what?

When Yorkshire warrior was felled by an arrow, no one knew where he’d fallen. He remained undiscovered until the 21st century. The men that killed the Dalek were clever enough to intuit, despite their 9th century level of scientific understanding, that this dead alien might regenerate if not separated into three and spread to the far corners of the known world, but not enough to take rudimentary precautions to ensure it happened.

Of course in the real world you simply didn’t care enough about the audience, who you imagine to be undemanding children, to think through any of this shit – just sketch a prologue and move on. But by not taking the plotting of the episode seriously, by including laboured jokes and clunky emotional beats for the characters, by having Jodie Whittaker talk like a preening idiot, you reinforced your reputation for hackwork.

You’re the TV equivalent of a cowboy builder, Chris. The BBC got you in at great expense and have paid way above the odds for the job you’re supervising, but sooner or later they’re going to realise that both executive and audience alike are just one door slam away from witnessing a complete collapse. Your Doctor Who’s built from knock off bits, and half of them haven’t worked for decades. In the age of premium TV and streaming services, you’ve written a show that could have gone out in 1963.

I don’t have a time machine, Chris, yet I can see into the future. Eventually all the group think and social media stodge packed around this series will crumble and fall away, leaving your work to be judged against its genre peers. The people who think Jodie Whittaker’s fantastic, though they can’t quite say why, will disappear. The people who find Bradley Walsh charming will disappear. The people who think slivers of boring, Sheffield-set domestic melodrama add depth and feeling will disappear. The people who think the production values are a talking point will disappear. The people who think identity politics is a substitute for characterisation will disappear. The people who like nostalgia, so don’t notice it’s been used as a distraction will disappear. The people who say you can’t expect the show to be written at an adult level because it’s for kids – a cliché that patronises both adult viewers and actual kids – they too will disappear.

Your next big job in TV will disappear.

Now I must disappear, Chris. I’m going to go and live a simple life in the country, without TV or the ability to play legacy media. I may never know if Doctor Who becomes interesting again; a show that finally lives up to the promise of those Virgin tie-in missing adventure novels of yesteryear; but sometimes the risks of going to the nearest populated area and starting a conversation are just too great.

Goodbye and thanks for nothing,

Ed

P.S: “These are my best friends…” The Doctor’s only friends, surely?

P.P.S: “Doctor, I don’t like it when you go quiet.” Yaz, don’t you have somewhere to be?

P.P.P.S: Congratulations on that emergency armed forces support line scene, Chris. It just might be the worst thing ever filmed.

P.P.P.P.S: GCSE philosophy question: What’s worse? Doctor Who being on hiatus or on the air with Chris Chibnall as showrunner? Discuss.

Everybody do the Chibnall drag:

Capaldi’s Long Goodbye:

Christmas 2016:

Christmas 2015:

The Old Man and the C: 

The Clara Oswald Show:

Smith – The Dark Suit Jacket Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time: