Doctor Who Adds Unrequited Love to the Mix in “Eve of the Daleks”

We got to ring in the New Year with the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan! How lucky are we.

 

Recap

Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

Sarah (Aisling Bea) has to work at her storage facility on New Year’s Eve due to an unreliable coworker named Jeff. As she leaves him an irate voicemail about how he always does this to her on NYE, Nick (Adjani Salmon) arrives per his own New Year’s tradition to store a Monopoly board in his unit. Simultaneously, the Doctor is in the process of resetting the TARDIS to get rid of any residual damage from the Flux, and plans to take her friends to a resort-type world. Instead, they wind up in the storage facility and there’s a time disturbance. A Dalek shows up and kills Nick, then goes down to the lobby and kills Sarah. The Doctor comes across their bodies and a barrier preventing anyone from leaving the building through the front door. She, Yaz, and Dan are then killed by the same Dalek.

Time resets, triggered by the TARDIS’s reset. This time Sarah tries to find a weapon among Jeff’s stored stuff (which turns out to be far more than she agreed to let him store, and also contains all sorts of items he’s not allowed to store, like taxidermy animals and canned food). She runs into Nick, but they are both killed by the Dalek again, and so are team TARDIS. When time resets this time, it resets one minute later—the time loop is shortening by a minute each time. During the next loop, they discover that Nick is storing items left at his tiny flat by old girlfriends. Sarah thinks that’s incredibly creepy and says so, hurting Nick’s feelings, so he decides to sacrifice himself to save the group. On the next loop, the Doctor gives them directions on where to go and how to meet, but things keep going wrong because the Daleks are anticipating their next actions. They tell the Doctor that they’ve tracked her down to execute her for her actions regarding the Flux.

Eventually Sarah and Nick try to sneak out of the building on their own, and in the process, Nick admits to Sarah that he’s had a crush on her for three years, which is the reason he always comes on New Year’s to see her. In that same loop, as the Doctor splits off to find the two over Yaz’s protests at being left behind, Dan asks Yaz how long she’s been in love with the Doctor. Yaz admits that she’s barely allowed herself to come to terms with it, and doesn’t know what she should do.

Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

The Doctor figures out that they need to be one step ahead of the Daleks by tricking them about their plan, so they have to throw away their second-to-last loop on misleading them. The Doctor sends Yaz away to grab Sarah and Nick and inform them of the plan, giving Dan the chance to let the Doctor know that Yaz likes her; the Doctor balks at this. For their final loop (which is only a minute long) the group gathers in the basement and uses a bunch of Jeff’s illegally stored fireworks and a call from Sarah’s mum to blow up the building while they all escape. The group watches the fireworks from a distance. Later on, the TARDIS is reset and the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan move along. Sarah and Nick are about to start traveling together as well, now a couple.

 

Commentary

Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

On the one hand, I am delighted to the point of screaming that Yaz has finally admitted to being in love with the Doctor. Because it’s been there for a long while, bubbling under the surface since at least season twelve, and it’s so understated and real and lovely and yes this is good.

On the other hand, I’m worried about a Martha Jones repeat here—in which a person of color pines after the (white) Doctor, and the Doctor, being generally extremely bad at these sort of emotions, mistreats that companion because they don’t know how to handle it.

Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

And it’s extra awkward because we’re getting this twofold within the episode itself. As much as I agree that out of context, Nick’s compulsive need to save all of his exes’ leftover stuff in a giant storage unit comes off as a serial killer move, he’s a very sweet person who Sarah is sort of glaringly cruel toward? I get that she’s being played by a comedian, but Sarah’s character isn’t coming off funny—she just comes off mean. The episode doesn’t do enough work on the character to suggest that perhaps she’s deeply depressed about the state of her life, so we’re not given a reason for why she treats poor Nick the way she does. She’s just like that, apparently. And then we’re supposed to buy them as a couple by the end. And I’m a sap, okay, I’m usually all in for this kind of stuff. But what I’m seeing is an episode where two white people are incredibly nasty to two people of color who adore them, and that’s… not the romantic boost Chris Chibnall seems to think it is.

But. On the other hand.

Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

This is something that queer audiences and fandoms have wanted for ages—and I’m not speaking of the relationship specifically (though a very vocal contingent has been ready for Doctor/Yaz since both of them stepped aboard the TARDIS), but of the way this reveal was handled. We didn’t actually know what Yaz’s preferences were in regard to sexuality and romantic attachment before this episode, and we pointedly still don’t because this isn’t about queerness—it’s just about people. Dan notices that Yaz is in love with the Doctor and brings it up. Yaz answers that she barely has admitted this emotion to herself, which could be a signal that Yaz has never had a crush on a woman before, but could just as easily not mean that. There’s no surprise on Dan’s end, or shock or upset because queerness is not an anomaly to him, nor something to fear. In terms of a reveal, this is an ideal version of how these conversations should go now.

But. On the other hand.

Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

Sarah has a moment in the episode where she admits that her meanness is a sort of defense mechanism (which is a heck of a thing to slide in there after essentially goading someone into suicide? but what do I know), and perhaps this is meant to be a parallel to what’s going on with Yaz and the Doctor? Because the way that the Doctor is behaving is also certainly a defense mechanism—whether she feels the same for Yaz or doesn’t (that look she gives Yaz as she’s busy watching the fireworks has me leaning toward “honey, you’ve got it bad”), the Doctor always has complicated feelings about falling for her friends. There are a lot of angles to consider there, from the seemingly endless age gap to the regeneration thing to the “this can probably only end badly” fear and on and on. But when these things happen, the Doctor’s reaction is almost always to turn inward and ignore those feelings. Rose was the only real exception to that rule that we’ve seen. (Maybe Romana, but she was always the one in charge in that dynamic anyhow.)

The problem with this potential parallel is that it wasn’t executed with any clarity, so the only thing that really stands out is Sarah and the Doctor being seismically unfair to Yaz and Nick. If this was meant to be a time loop episode that existed for the sake of exploring relationship dynamics, then that is an excellent premise… that the show did not deliver on.

Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

I kinda hope that was the original plan, because otherwise, it’s just a time loop with Daleks. But it’s too bad the episode didn’t land that arc better. And, of course, the real question is where things will go now: Thirteen isn’t long for this timeline, and she and Yaz still haven’t worked anything out. If this is going to be the genuine arc for Thirteen’s final episodes, I’m extremely okay with that. I just hope that both of these characters get the complexity that they’re due, and that it leads somewhere new and hopefully wonderful.

Aside from my concerns over this pressing arc, this episode has a lot of great bits in it. The Doctor’s speech about improving and learning from our mistakes is one of Thirteen’s best yet, and the images inside the storage facility are such a great way of using a minimalist set, from Jeff’s makeshift apartment to the room that is just a bunker full of canned beefy beans. It makes the time loop a little extra odd in that very Whovian way.

Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

 

Things and Asides:

  • These Daleks have been specifically named “Executioner Daleks” by the production team, which… I mean, I guess. Not really sure how sectioning them off is any more interesting.
  • When they start talking about time loops, Dan is the only one who says Groundhog Day, so he gets all the entirely imaginary points for the episode.
Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

  • Thirteen’s lovely speech echoes the words of Samuel Beckett in 1983’s “Worstward Ho,” which said: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Of course, the rest of that story is a bit more complicated than that sentiment alone. And so is Thirteen’s speech, in fact, which winds up being more about the nature of life and its perseverance.
  • Okay, but it’s very cute how people are sort of staring happily and/or longingly at each other through the fireworks, while Dan is just like *sigh* I love my gay af friends, even if they’re being idiots.
Doctor Who, Eve of the Daleks

Screenshot: BBC

  • So we’re still not gonna talk about how the universe is doing, or whether it’s still mostly gone? No? Um.

We’ll be back… whenever the next special is! Sometime this year! See you then.

Emmet Asher-Perrin just feels extra bad that Yaz, just like Martha, has to deal with Doctor having lots of issues once the Master shows up. The Master is probably pretty pleased about it, though. You can bug them on Twitter, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.

citation

Back to the top of the page

12 Comments

This post is closed for comments.

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.