This is probably my favourite episode of the Whittaker era so far. Not only is it a good fun adventure story that progresses the whole Graham/Ryan thing a bit and gave the Thirteenth Doctor an opportunity for a classic A-lister baddie showdown, but there are moments at the very start where it comes SO CLOSE to being my exact aesthetic. A secret cult formed centuries ago to watch over the remains of a Dalek which has been cut into three pieces and hidden in secret locations around the world? Not since Moffat have I felt so catered to. It's sci-fi stuff wrapped up in fantasy stuff and given a big glossy layer of mythologising into an epic secret history of the world that nobody but a select few know about. I was SO hooked, but then the Order of the Custodians gets forgotten about and we're back to a standard UNIT story, which is perfectly fine and good, but still. This is the first Chibnall era episode that flirted with being right up my alley.
And yeah, this is basically a UNIT story. I mean it isn't in it sense that UNIT isn't in it; a gag is even made out of their absence. But even when UNIT refuse to show up, we have soldiers shooting at the Dalek and the Dalek going to a secret storage facility to get its gun back, which I just assumed was the Black Archive until someone said otherwise. It's a UNIT story in spirit and structure even if it doesn't have the specific people and stuff we associate with UNIT (although the show still remembers Kate Stewart so hopefully she'll show up in Series 12).
A big reason why I like this episode so much is that it makes Series 11 feel more substantial. Bringing in Ryan's Dad moves his story along and builds on his current relationship with Graham. The status quo is now slightly different and the groundwork is laid for it to change and develop further in Series 12. Series 11 was a completely blank slate for the show but we're slowly starting to build up steam with these characters and their personal stories. Resolution made me realise that things are actually happening to these people (although I'd rather more things happened to Yaz and the Doctor). That being said, the Ryan's Dad stuff wasn't particularly deep. The scene in the cafe just went on for far too long and Ryan forgiving him at the end, backed up by an offer from the Doctor to be a companion, felt really rushed. This surface-level drama is still not a satisfying enough substitute for the lack of big cosmic mysteries or deep character arcs we had with the previous New Who Doctors.
Still, the most important thing this episode had to get right was the Dalek, and it for me succeeded. I would've liked it more if the Dalek did call in a fleet of proper fully-formed Daleks just to get that epic showdown moment for Thirteen, but the one lone Dalek in a steampunk casing is enough. The idea that a Dalek can take over a human body makes complete sense with established lore and it's such a creative new power for them to have. I loved seeing this TARDIS team interact with the history of the show and I'm sure Series 12 will have a lot more returning monsters to make the wait for 2020 worth it (also, Series 12 better have more episodes in it than 10).
Resolution is my favourite Chibnall episode so far and the one that comes closest to hitting the bullseye of my exact Doctor Who preference. It's a big fun adventure with a memorable monster that made Series 11 and Ryan, Yaz, and Graham's time in the TARDIS feel much more substantial by drawing on what the characters have learned and experienced so far. If the Order of the Custodians thing stuck around for the whole runtime rather than being dropped after five minutes, this would be a straightforward highlight of the Whittaker era for me. A nice way to spend New Year's day and I'm very excited for what comes next.