New Who’s Best Resolutions

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Guest contributor Caleb Howells ponders, what’s the best resolution to an episode of Doctor Who?

One thing I find particularly noteworthy about Doctor Who is the fact that the resolutions are generally very brilliant. After watching more and more TV, I’ve come to the conclusion that I rarely see a climax to an episode better than the average Doctor Who one. Even really great shows created by expert movie directors. Of course, you’ll get an exceptionally good one every now and then, but they’re all like that on Doctor Who! That just goes to show how brilliant this show is.

The thing is, I view the resolutions to programmes and films as incredibly important aspects (admittedly probably more so than they actually are, but oh well). So whenever I watch an episode of anything, I always hope that it’s going to have a really great climax. Depending on who’s writing it, that can be one of the things in an episode that I’m most looking forward to! So, here’s the question I’m going to try and answer in this article: What’s the best resolution to an episode of Doctor Who?

Firstly though, what makes a great resolution? Something I read in a book once said that when you’re writing a story, you need to make things as difficult as possible for the main characters. The harder it is for them, the more dramatic the situation will be, and so your readers (or audience, in the case of Doctor Who) will be really engaged and on the edge of their seat. I think this is an extremely good point. However, as always in the case of rules of writing, they don’t have to be obeyed. Someone can ignore these rules we so often hear about, such as using the 3 act structure, not having any Mary Sues, and the one I mentioned above, and yet create a masterpiece. But I’ll come back to that later.

As I said in the first paragraph, almost all episodes of our beloved show have a brilliant resolution, so I’m sure you can agree it’s very hard to think of which one is the best. However, after a lot of thought, here are my top five:

5. The Waters of Mars

This episode is a favourite of many, and it’s not hard to see why. The whole episode is superb, but one of the things a lot of people like most about it is that we get to see the Doctor go out of control. He finally snaps, and attempts to break the laws of time by changing a fixed point in history. The climax of this episode is wonderfully thrilling, seeing the Doctor rush back to save the crew of Bowie Base 1, determined to succeed whatever the cost.

Forgetting, for a moment, the whole point about him becoming Time Lord Victorious by the end of it, I thought it was genuinely wonderful and exciting to watch the Doctor coming back and being so brilliant. It was thrilling, in my opinion, seeing him battling against time itself and winning! It was obvious just how determined he was. He had finally had enough of letting people die. But of course, as noted by the Time Lord himself by the end of the episode, he’d gone too far. In saving the crew of Bowie Base 1, he had altered a major point in the history of space exploration, which had the tragic rebound affect of Adelaide shooting herself.

So, this is a very dramatic, thrilling, dark and tragic climax. It’s extremely good, but I think we can do better. So let’s continue.

4. Day of the Moon

The climax of this is one of my all time favourite scenes in Doctor Who. It is, in my opinion, the Eleventh Doctor at his best. He gives an epic speech to the Silence before revealing his truly brilliant plan to eradicate them from the Earth. It’s episodes like this that remind me how clever Steven Moffat is, especially when it comes to resolutions. He created a scenario in which the alien species already inhabits the Earth, with an ability that makes them undetected and allows them to influence human society. Yet the Doctor still managed to defeat them, with one brilliant, genius move. And then of course there was the shootout with the Silence, which I thought was very exciting.

The thing is, though, it wasn’t difficult. As I mentioned earlier, things don’t have to follow the rules of writing to be excellent (though it’s risky). And this doesn’t really. As soon the TARDIS starts materialising, and The Majestic Tale (Of a Madman in a Box) starts playing, you know the Doctor’s got something seriously game-changing up his sleeve. There’s not really any threat involved in this scene (other than the shootout, but that wasn’t particularly threatening either). You just sit back and watch with immense joy the Doctor defeat these incredibly troublesome foes.

And that’s completely fine. If you like the Doctor’s speeches and brilliant gambits, then this is an utterly brilliant scene. But as I said, while it’s not necessarily a problem, it is lacking significant threat and suspense. So let’s have a look at some others.

3. The End of Time

I watched this again fairly recently, and I must say, I thought it was incredibly epic. It’s probably one of the most epic, grand scale episodes of Doctor Who ever. And it has a suitably epic climax. The Doctor leaps out of a space ship hundreds of feet in the air (???), crashes through a glass roof and lands in the middle of the Master’s base, half dead. Just as time itself is about to end, the Doctor stands up and points a gun at Rassilon.

After a tense scene during which the audience thinks he actually might pull the trigger, he shoots at the device behind the Master, breaking the link, sending the Time Lords back into the Time War. And just as you think the Doctor’s going to die with them, the Master returns the favour and uses his energy to shoot Rassilon.

Every human is back to normal, the Time Lords are back in the war, and the Master’s gone with them. The Doctor has done it. He’s saved the day. Just when you and the Doctor himself think he’s managed to defeat the prophecy and actually survive… we hear those four knocks. By Wilfred, of all people. Tragically, the Doctor has to give his life to save his friend. This is, in my mind, an incredibly superb resolution. One of the best (hence why it’s third).

But I do have some problems with it. For one thing, the Doctor jumps out of a space ship several hundred feet up in the air. The Fourth Doctor died by falling from a far lesser height, so one wonders how the Tenth Doctor managed to survive. Perhaps it’s because he prepared for it in some way, like a cat can prepare itself for a fall more than 7 stories up by deploying its parachute skin. I’m not suggesting the Doctor has parachute skin, of course, but maybe he tensed up in some way that allowed him to survive. I still think it’s ridiculous.

The only other problem I have with it is the Doctor’s attitude towards Wilfred. Yes, he had a false hope of survival which only made it more painful for him, but still. The Doctor’s been prepared to (and has, when the story allows it) give his life for people numerous times. But it’s not something that I’d say takes away from the whole thing too much, so here it is at number 3. It’s an incredibly thrilling, edge-of-your-seat climax, but I feel there are still better ones.

2. The Eleventh Hour

As I’m sure plenty of you will know, The Eleventh Hour is possibly my favourite episode ever (I can’t decide between this and The Time of Angels), and the resolution is one of the things I like most about it. With no screwdriver, no TARDIS, and only 20 minutes, the way the Doctor saves the day here is quite possibly the cleverest thing he’s ever done. Using plot devices that were elegantly and logically weaved into the story, our favourite Time Lord conceives an utterly brilliant plan to make sure the Atraxi find Prisoner Zero.

This is very much like in Day of the Moon, and both use somewhat similar plot devices, but this has much more threat to it. The Doctor executes his ingenious scheme, and just when you think all is going well, Prisoner Zero countermoves in a dramatic way, taking on the form of Amy! Thinking quickly, the Doctor realises that Amy can hear him and rushes over to her and tells her to think about what she saw in the room. Again, I love how brilliantly logical and previously established everything involved in this resolution is. And it’s certainly a joy to watch the Eleventh Doctor in such an epic, plan performing mode for the first time.

While this undoubtedly isn’t as suspenseful and edge-of-your-seat as others have been, this has the iconic, quirky, intelligent British drama one should expect from Doctor Who. It’s incredibly entertaining, and I honestly can’t find fault in it. However, as I said, it’s not especially thrilling. I’m trying to find the best resolution to a Doctor Who episode, so I’m afraid The Eleventh Hour just won’t do. So what will do?

1. The Big Bang

I’m sure many will disagree, but in my opinion, this is the best. For me, the finale of series 5 is the best finale in New Who so far. Everything about it is just so masterfully done. But naturally, I’ll just focus on the resolution here.

In a finale, the resolution really needs to be good. It’s the finale to the whole series. When it’s the climax to a story arc, like this one was, everything’s been leading up to it. The whole mystery about the cracks, the exploding TARDIS, the Universe getting blown up, etcetera. The Big Bang was the finale to all that, so it needed to have as good a resolution as possible. And it certainly did. The Universe has been almost completely destroyed, and was continuously collapsing as the episode went on. “How on earth is the Doctor going to solve this?!” was probably the thought of all those who watched the episode. And then, the Doctor revealed his brilliant plan.

But later, of course, it’s revealed that the Doctor won’t be there when the Universe restarts. Yet after he’s flown the Pandorica into the exploding Tardis, he’s alive and well! And then we realise that he’s not alive and well. Like in The End of Time, the Doctor is given a false sense of hope and survival.

His talk with little Amelia is very heartbreaking and touching. All his adventures with her and Rory will have never happened, and he’ll be erased from time. He walks through the crack, and is gone. When I watched that for the first time, I really had no idea what was going to happen. Imagine, at the end of my first series watching Doctor Who, he gets erased from time!!!

But of course, “Nothing is ever forgotten. Not really.” With a little help from her daughter (and growing up next to a crack in time and space), Amy Pond manages to remember her Raggedy Doctor which brings him back into existence! This quote really sums up my feelings about it:

“Did I surprise you this time?”“Yes. Completely astonished.”

And then I Am the Doctor starts playing. As in The Eleventh Hour, the plot devices used to save the day were already well established, and used with excellence. Everything about this resolution is so incredibly brilliant, and that’s why it’s my favourite.