With a great kick-off for the 8th season under their belt, the producers of Doctor Who bring back the Daleks after a mere 1 episode break. This time there is a Dalek who does not want to destroy anything but Daleks. The soldiers fighting against the Daleks try to take advantage of this situation and send the Doctor into the Dalek to save it's life. How is this not going to end well?
The Story – the idea is a bit far-fetched and fairly surreal to say the least but by no means very original for Doctor Who. We have already experienced the TARDIS crew being 'shrunk down' on numerous occasions including “Planet of the Giants” and “The Invisible Enemy.” We have also dealt with the good in Daleks or at least the Dalek's potential of not being all evil in “Dalek” and “The Evil of the Daleks.” So with these familiar elements, was “Into the Dalek” any good?
This is much tougher to answer in my opinion than the series debut last week. I would argue that the presence of the Daleks in the story was very much in the realm of the classic series. Apart from the 'good' Dalek, the rest of the Daleks are sparsely used but used well. The story is not about the Daleks and thankfully we are spared the usual Dalek plot and speeches. They are just there to exterminate and nothing more. The star Dalek, Rusty, is the center of this story and it is his self that the viewers get inside of. HAHAHA. Get it?
But that is not entirely true, is it. It is the Doctor that we learn more about and as in “Dalek” we see a not very good side of the Doctor with his companions (Rose and Clara) showing him this ugliness.
The idea of shrinking down to repair the Dalek is a Fantastic idea for a Voyage for the Doctor but it seems a bit stretched for motive to get those characters there. The Doctor states that they are really going to get into the Dalek's mind but it is still a metaphor for the story. We see the Doctor's flaws as he tries to share his perception of beauty of the Universe but ends up sharing his hatred of the Daleks instead. We also see the hypocritical actions of the Doctor as he rejects Journey Blue's appeal to travel with the Doctor when he himself is more a soldier than she is. He even proves this within the episode as he uses one of the soldier's death's as an advantage and seems callous later on. His hatred of the Daleks and soldiers might be adding to this new darker side of the Doctor and he himself states that they would be traveling into darkness earlier on.
The only two negatives that were higher on my annoying list was the introduction to Danny Pink. Another mystery to solve and his character comes off as a bit blah but at least he had a slow intro that didn't instantly be part of the main story line. The other negative is Missy but thankfully it was short. I still argue that things like this - the little easter eggs that fans lap up, are ultimately damaging to the story pacing and are shallow attempts to keep stories link together. Not sure what Missy and all mean to the story yet so I can't comment on that but hopefully it was worth jarring viewers out of every episode.
The Doctor - This is the second time we see Capaldi's Doctor in action and certainly we see all of these faults and inabilities to see answers that were right in front of him. He admits even that he doesn't care and while we know he does, this new regeneration is having trouble showing it. The Doctor does have some great moments to shine throughout the story but he is a bit darker in this story. I am all for this as I hated the silliness of the previous two Doctors. Still, Capaldi had plenty of 'funny' lines and moments that were subtle and more effective than what Smith or Tennant might have given us. We are still learning about this Doctor and I love the idea that we don't really get him yet. Give it time.
Clara – Not sure where the Danny Pink moments are leading to. Obviously this is Doctor Who and so his character has to mean more than just a regular person. There is a story that will eventually be told but I hope his presence does not take away from the interaction between Clara and the Doctor.
Her part in this story is as a teacher and she has done this a few times since “The Day of the Doctor.” Coleman handles the role well. In a way this episode really magnifies the entire Doctor – Companion relationship. The companion is usually the 'Carer' and the Doctor's conscious, something the new series has relished since the start.
The Doctor and Clara – While I think they had some good moments together, the shortness of the story was an obvious injury to their development. There was less time to really have character moments and in addition to the two of them, more moments between Journey and the Doctor and Journey and Clara would have really helped. Instead we have a few bookends that give us a glimpse of their chemistry as it seems to be unfolding and hopefully it won't always be about Clara being upset or shocked at what the Doctor has become. It is still great to see the Doctor as a flawed person and throughout the history of the series we have seen these character flaws. Still, any flaws have all but vanished and the Doctor has become more of a superhero. They attempted to give 10 and 11 some more depth in “The Day of the Doctor” as they became haunted by their War Doctor past and even the War Doctor was shocked at what he had become.
This Doctor is not the dashing hero and this may upset some people but in the end, his hearts are in the right place and he does the right thing.
Conclusion – So what did I think of this story? We see just a bit more of the Doctor and Clara but not enough to cement him as the best Doctor ever. Certainly I have accepted him as the Doctor but Capaldi has yet to have that moment where I nod my head and smile. The story will probably be seen by some as silly and implausible and ultimately a weak one and it is possible that the same people had trouble with the last one but both of these stories have layers of character study and development. “Into the Dalek” sort of retreads much of this darkness that we have already seen hints of throughout the series and there was not enough time in this story to give Journey, Clara and the Doctor that extra boost of character to make this story along the same level as “Deep Breath” but it is still very good.
I felt at times that this could have easily fit into the first four Doctor story eras. Just the idea and how it all unfolds I could easily see Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee or Tom Baker as the Doctor with their companions running around inside a Dalek. This is a good thing for me as anything classic like gets a check mark for me. The added comparisons between the Doctor and the Dalek are a nice touch and would have been better if not handled in the same manner a few years back.
Sources - http://thewarlockthatwaited.tumblr.com/