Doctor Who: Into the Dalek (EPISODE REVIEW)

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.

29 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Into the Dalek (EPISODE REVIEW)

  1. Glad you like this episode I loved Into the Dalek easily the best story for me of series 8. You may be tired of the Daleks, but I love them they are awesome. They play off of the 12 Doctor the best and I think Rusty has opened up a lot of potential.


  2. I loved the episode and I liked Pnk’s bang head on desk “chat up” scene but I felt the tear scene was horribly contrived and the dialogue with the secretary at the start was just weird. Tiny holes in an otherwise excellent episode.


  3. I agree – it didn’t seem like his second episode. It feels like he has been there a while and is quite at home. He is a welcome relief after Smith. I also like how smooth the TARDIS is now. No running around flicking random knobs and levers, Capaldi works the console like he is in control. Best line of the episode? “He’s the top layer if you want to say a few words” right up there with “Oi, big boy, SHUT IT”…. to a T-Rex….so hilarious.


  4. I liked this episode much more than Deep Breath. Into the Dalek really sold me on Capaldi, whereas Deep Breath left me feeling uneasy and worried that we might have another Colin Baker situation on our hands. I think that might be a function of the fact that Moffat wasn’t writing this one alone. He seems to do much better when there’s someone else there to clean up his ideas.


  5. I’m glad there’s a new doctor and I quite like Capaldi in the role (for the two episodes I’ve seen him in the role); but I liked the idea of his being the Doctor since he was announced. The Doctor’s incarnations have been good, but I think the idea of a Doctor/Carer relationship that really isn’t going to get all soap opera on us is definitely due.

    I’m bummed to hear that Jenna Colman is leaving the show though: I’ve loved Clara since the Rings of Akhatan.


  6. Watching it again tonight to try and consolidate my thoughts. I loved so much of it — you’re right, best Dalek episode in a long time and Capaldi totally owns this show — but a lot of things bothered me. Hopefully Missy signals a different finale (for once in three or four years), but even though Danny is cool, he’s basically the same male companion we’ve had over and over. He’s brought in because he has a crush on the companion. And the treatment of that one cool soldier seemed super racist to me.


    1. Her treatment was definitely harsh. But that’s always been the Doctors stance in so many words. And I think that’s why it’ll make convincing the Doctor to allow Danny into the crew much more difficult. I don’t know if racist is the right word, but he was definitely segregating her for her beliefs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The only reason it slides by is that he’s always had that sort of hostility toward soldiers, and Danny is there to balance it out. It was the very first scene that really seemed awful to me, where she’s forced to act submissive to the Doctor before he’ll take her back to her ship, for no particular reason. This was a better episode for women than many of them, but the white female soldier gets much better narrative treatment than the black female soldier, and since we know he’ll end up taking Danny on, that just makes it seem more unfair to Journey Blue, since the only difference (projected from this point) is that Clara isn’t attracted to her. It could work out differently, of course.


      2. Oh I see what you’re saying. I actually felt the exact opposite way during that scene. I honestly think, with this new Doctor’s personality, he would’ve said the same thing to a white male soldier.


      3. That’s a good point, I don’t mean to imply that HE’s racist at all. I think he would’ve done the same thing to any soldier. It’s just that the show itself is only giving us one thing — the humiliation of a black female soldier. The white female soldier and white male commanding officer aren’t put in that kind of submissive position to begin with. I should reserve judgment about how it compares to Danny since we don’t know how that’ll actually play out. 🙂


      4. Yeah it’s far too early to point fingers at Capaldi’s Doctor for only getting on one persons case.


  7. I just… I am so hungry for more. This is the first time that I’ve been watching a season as the episodes come out and I CAN’T HANDLE NOT BEING ABLE TO PUSH “NEXT EPISODE” IN THE RIGHT CORNER OF MY COMPUTER SCREEN. Seriously, this has been the easiest transition from Doctors for me, though. I think there was a slight bump in the road with the tone and the vibe of the show when Matt Smith was the doctor. I love Matt, and he completely redeemed himself in my eyes when he was paired with Clara, but Capaldi brings back to the show what made me fall in love with it in the first place. I don’t even know if I can quite name it, but he’s got it, and I’m grateful.


    1. Lovely comment. I totally agree. It’s an amazing time to be a fan, and a terrible time. I first caught the series at the tale end of Season 6, so a few years ago and since then the wait has been killing me.


  8. A bit of a relief that you liked this after I had bigged it up. I had my wife ready with pen and paper to count the number of times I tutted (as is my want when I am not impressed) and for the first time since Eccleston it was a big fat zero. An excellent stand alone story and as you say Capaldi has achieved THE DOCTOR status in just 2 stories.
    My latest musing re Missy – could it be his conscience made flesh? A place (in his mind?) where all the people/things that he doesn’t bother to try to save or help or dare I say it even care about go. Maybe to return at some point in the future forcing him to face his inner demons/dark conscience?


  9. Danny Pink had all of about 5 minutes of screen time and in it, I positively fell in love. He seems like he will be a really interesting character, being both highly emotional and awkward, while also being a good soldier. I’m excited for more of him.

    Liked by 1 person

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