On the D/L – Doctor Who
Season 8 Episode 2 – “Into the Dalek”
Peter Capaldi’s incarnation of The Doctor has his first encounter with his signature enemy, The Daleks. Every Doctor has to face against them sooner or later so Capaldi is getting his introduction to them out of the way early.
At the beginning of the episode, The Doctor saves a soldier named Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton) piloting a ship that is being pursued by a Dalek ship and is under heavy fire. After this he returns her to the Aristotle, a space station hidden in an asteroid field. Journey’s uncle, Colonel Morgan Blue (Michael Smiley) wants to kill The Doctor in case he is a Dalek spy but Journey insists that he can help their patient that turns out to be a damaged Dalek that appears to have turned good. The Doctor, Clara and a group of soldiers are miniturised so that they can enter the damaged Dalek to see if they can determine what has caused this morality shift.
This episode was a massive improvement on the uneven and disgracefully silly first episode. I feel like Capaldi really comes into his own in a way that he didn’t in his debut, he seems eccentric and distant yet still with enough compassion to keep him inspired to have these adventures. I find it interesting that he can pilot the TARDIS without it rattling around uncontrollably, something that none of the modern era Doctors have been able to do. Maybe this won’t be a permanent fixture but if it is then it suggests a Doctor more in control of himself and his surroundings. I was really impressed by how he interacts with others, he regards the soldiers he encounters with a massive sense of disinterest, he clearly doesn’t really care about them or what happens to them which clearly bothers him. He brings Clara along because he needs her to help him forge an emotional connection with the situation and the people involved otherwise he might make decisions that are morally repugnant. Even saving Journey is something he seems to do out of habit rather than having a desire to help. He also shows no compassion when a man is killed inside the Dalek, even making jokes at the expense of the dead afterwards. I’m still waiting for the more mature character we were promised since he still seems to enjoy one too many childish jokes but I am starting to get a sense of what this character is about, I’m actually interested to see more.
Jenna Coleman absolutely nails it as Clara in this episode, she keeps The Doctor on his toes at every turn and snaps -or slaps- him out of his arrogance when he seems to be pleased that he has his opinion of the Dalek validated. She forces him to look at it a different way which encourages him to have the enthusiasm he needs to make a difference. There’s a nice thematic connection between her interaction with Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) at her school and the rest of the soldiers during the adventure that really highlights her compassion for anyone she comes across. She cares without exception and that’s an example The Doctor needs to have set for him at this point.
Similarities to the Eccleston era episode, Dalek are numerous here; in both cases there is a damaged Dalek that is questioning its purpose and had its mind opened to new ideas and new ways of looking at things. This isn’t a bad thing since this episode takes it in a new direction. I really liked the idea of shrinking down and exploring the inside of the Dalek Fantastic Voyage style, it literally gives a new perspective on The Doctor’s old enemy. Some of it was a bit silly like the magic memory bank that manifests as simple light bulbs with no security but in general it was an interesting setting that brought a lot of unique dangers. Seeing a very small Doctor looking a Dalek right in the eye as it dwarfs him is a great image as well. The Daleks are vastly overused in modern Doctor Who but I actually think that this episode needed to be a Dalek episode, much of the drama is informed by The Doctor’s history with this particular foe and there’s a definite sense that he -at least partially- defines himself by his ongoing battle with them.
In this episode The Doctor questions whether he’s a good man and Clara, being unfamiliar with this incarnation doesn’t have an answer for him. The fact that he’s keeping Clara around shows that he’s trying to be a good person and is aware that he needs help, it’s a really interesting direction to take The Doctor in and I wonder where this detached attitude will take him over the series, hopefully they’ll explore this in an episode where Clara isn’t around to remind him that he should care about others. His dealing with the Dalek only expands on this when he teaches it a different kind of hatred rather than showing it compassion and beauty like he intended, it turns out that he doesn’t really have that inside himself at this point and it’s reflecting negatively on others.
In conclusion, this episode was actually pretty good. The characters feel more defined and the story was well paced, thought provoking and exciting. There were some silly contrivances but nothing that upset the episode too much. Capaldi gives a fantastic performance as The Doctor and seems like he’ll be worth watching with a nicely different take on the character, the humour is still annoyingly juvenile but in general it’s slowly inching towards something I want to see. I even forgave the fact that the show is using the criminally overused Daleks given how necessary their usage was in this instance, let’s hope there are more episodes like this one.