Into the Dalek, dual-written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat, was up to this point the episode I was looking forward to the least. I’ve mentioned several times on Geekritique that the Daleks need a rest, that they’re a tired monster. I wrote this episode off simply on that basis alone – “it’s another Dalek episode. Yawn. Wonder how many times they’ll get Nick Briggs to yell exterminate this time around.” And then something brilliant happened. Something beautiful, and new. I saw a star being born. What I expected to be just another Dalek-encumbered episode turned out to be perhaps the best of its kin in recent memory. This is easily the best outing the pepperpots have had since 2005’s Dalek, and a strong case can be made that it’s even better than that.
Into the Dalek does exactly what it says it would. The Doctor, Clara, and stand-in friends actually miniaturize themselves to go into a Dalek – a Dalek who’s so damaged it’s actually turned good. They go in search of the damage so as to repair it – and thus the humans can use it as a weapon against the burgeoning Dalek fleet, a Trojan horse. This “good” Dalek is affectionately called Rusty. The issue is that once inside the Dalek, it’s a very dangerous place – antibodies are everywhere attempting to save the wounded Dalek. And once they actually fix the damaged bits, they realize all too late that the Dalek just reverts to its hateful exterminating ways.
The episode then twists into a moral dilemma: how to convince a damaged Dalek that it can actually be good. The Doctor reasons with it, Clara opens up its memory suppressors, allowing entry of past memories – the most poignant of which is the birth of a star, something the Dalek admits is beautiful and humbling. But it’s not until the Doctor actually channels his fourth incarnation and pulls out the two veins/wires inside of the Dalek, and actually touches them together that he merges his mind and memories into the Dalek, and it starts to change. It sees beauty, divinity, and most prominently hatred – the one emotion Daleks feed most upon, and it latched onto it. Odd enough the Doctor is actually hurt that it latched so tightly onto his hatred.
How strange it is to think that in just two episodes Capaldi has already firmly planted himself in the shoes of the Doctor. Watching Into the Dalek last night didn’t feel like I was watching a new Doctor at all. It was as if I were just watching another Doctor Who episode with Capaldi in it, as if he were always the Doctor. His casting is perfect, and I really wish him a long tenure. This is the first season in a while that the focus is almost entirely on him, not the story arc of the resident companions (or carers as he calls them). His fast tempo, no punctuation, no pleasantries attitude is a first, at least to be delivered as he does it. As an American not accustomed to fast-speaking Scots I just had to laugh and use context clues to figure out what he was getting at during certain instances.
This is the Capaldi show now, and unfortunately that means he steals the attention away from almost everyone. The soldiers in this episode are no exception to the rule and only get passing glances from us the audience as we try and keep up with the new mad man. There was one scene that surprised us all though. Remember Ross, the soldier surrounded by the Dalek antibodies? Who else expected the Doctor to have some crazy scheme to save him? Well he didn’t. He gave him a consolation prize in the form of a sweet, and let the antibodies take him so as to save the rest of them. My mouth dropped. I knew this Doctor was dark, but wow. That slap Clara gave him too. Ouch.
This episode introduces us to ex-soldier, first time teacher Danny Pink, played by Samuel Anderson. Within a minute of screentime he has a tear in his eye and a place in our Whovian hearts. I cannot wait to see more of him. Another show stealer. And here I was expecting another Mickey. Couldn’t have been more wrong.
What else is great about this episode? The production quality. Doctor Who has FINALLY reached a level standard quality that looks clean cut and we don’t have to suspend disbelief. Actually, speaking of suspended disbelief, I couldn’t believe I was watching Doctor Who when the episode first started and the small fighter was fleeing from the Dalek ship. Excellent CGI. I want more of that please.
The only moment I’d rather they’d have done just a tad better was when Clara was making her way through the Dalek’s memories. It’s clear all they had were air ducts and wire tubes for Clara to sift through. If only they’d have filled the tubes with some milky off-white substance it would have actually seemed somewhat organic. Also when the team first fell down the chute into the human remains/protein goo it was clear they were just laying back on a cart and being filmed. In fact, you can clearly see the cart when Journey Blue is on it. They don’t even make an effort to hide the contraption is there.
Missy’s appearance is, once again, brilliant, disturbing, and the most intriguing thing we’ve seen in Doctor Who for literal years. Is she the Rani, the Master, Black Guardian, Kandyman, Romana, etc., etc.? I really haven’t the faintest idea! I really hope Moffat has a solid plan of resolution for her presence. Otherwise I foresee this could well be the greatest plothole-ridden device used yet.
I’m enjoying this season a lot guys, I don’t know about you. Capaldi has already sold it for me, Coleman continues to stun with her performance, the stories have been great, and there is so much intrigue! It’s a great time to be a fan of Who. Into the Dalek, although not perfect, was one of the best episodes in recent memory, particularly when it came to the use of the Daleks. Although it wasn’t a rushed ending, the 45-minute tight story did need some room to breathe. Alright, I’m gonna go watch it again now – be right back.