Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks, review: funny, scary, inventive and the best episode in years

New Year, New Who. Happily, Doctor Who (BBC One) began 2022 with a bang. A demolition blast and a spectacular pyrotechnic display, to be precise. Hour-long special Eve of the Daleks was the most entertaining episode in a long time, raising hopes that the Chris Chibnall/Jodie Whittaker era may just end on a high after all.

This adrenalised adventure was essentially Groundhog Day with Daleks instead of hibernating rodents. It combined high-octane thrills with time-loop trippyness and a sweet romcom subplot. A stripped-back single setting provided narrative simplicity, tightness of focus and lent propulsive momentum to the plot. Sometimes the limitations of a BBC budget can be a blessing in disguise.

It was nine minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve in Manchester and long-suffering Sarah (Aisling Bea) was reluctantly working the night shift at Elf Storage warehouse. We later learnt that it wasn’t a festively named business. An “S” had simply fallen off the sign.

Shy, nerdy Nick (Adjani Salmon) was her only customer. The lonely pair had slipped into their same old annual routine, except this year the countdown to midnight was accompanied by deadly pepperpots rasping “Exterminate!”

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) landed in the damp, dingy warehouse by mistake, having been aiming for a beach holiday in space. Executioner Daleks with machine gun weaponry were on a mission to kill the Doctor. The innocent humans were collateral damage. “Increased fear levels detected!” honked a Dalek, referring to viewers at home as much as its on-screen adversary.

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