TV REVIEW: Doctor Who, S8, E2: Into the Dalek

It is an inevitability that an incarnation of the wandering Time Lord known only as The Doctor will come up against his oldest foes. It was with a sigh that I saw how soon they would appear opposite Peter Capaldi, mainly because they had featured so heavily (arguably rightly so) in Day of the Doctor and then Time of the Doctor. I am possibly suffering from Dalek fatigue. That said, the amoral killers can prove to be an excellent barometer for a new incarnation. They were used as such to introduce Patrick Troughton and it was really Rob Shearman’s Dalek that showcased where the Ninth Doctor was psychologically. With a new, older Doctor who seems to have a shorter fuse and a grim resolve it is probably only right that a bronze mirror be held up to him. How does the Twelfth Doctor reflect? And what of the episode itself? Read on for my thoughts.

A Dalek fleet surrounds a lone rebel ship, and only the Doctor can help them now… with the Doctor facing his greatest enemy, he needs Clara by his side.

Confronted with a decision that could change the Daleks forever he is forced to examine his conscience. Will he find the answer to the question, am I a good man?

I think the main trouble with the Daleks for writers must be finding something new for them to do or new ways of approaching or looking at the Kaled mutants. In this episode, Phil Ford and Steven Moffat certainly offer an alternative perspective. As the title suggests, this episode is very much in the vein of the film, Inner Space. Finding himself on board a star ship hiding from a Dalek fleet, the Time Lord is faced with a moral dilemma that has him questioning his own morality as he, Clara and a small band of soldiers must venture inside a Dalek’s armoured shell. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen the episode yet so suffice it to say this is not your standard Dalek.

The plot progresses at a nice pace. The action with the TARDIS crew and their allies is off-set and given some urgency as the Dalek fleet hunts for the human vessel. The dialogue is sharp from the outset and our new Doctor is portrayed with a quick wit but also a sharp tongue. He is a more alien Doctor in this script. His motivations and morals may not align with our own and at times he can seem callous. But at his heart, he is still “The Doctor”, even if he doesn’t know whether that means he is a good man or not.

The effects and design of the episode were really good this week. From the action packed CGI space chase of the opening scene through to some strange vistas within the Dalek itself, there was as much a sense of realism as could be obtained, in my opinion. I have to say that while I really liked the set design within the Dalek, I’m not quite sure whether what we saw tallied up with what the Dalek insides would actually look like. There were some neat features, however. The memory banks, protein store and the Dalek antibodies were the three standouts for me.

Although there were three soldiers with The Doctor and Clara and a squad or more back on the ship, it was only really Zawe Ashton’s Journey Blue who stood out. Ashton presented a believable, hard-nosed soldier but one with a soft centre. As with many who encounter him, the Doctor brought out a side of Journey that perhaps she didn’t know was there. Her interactions with Clara, more than the Doctor allowed her to really shine. It is a shame that the other guest characters (notably Michael Smiley as Journey’s uncle and superior officer, Morgan  Blue) were not given the chance to become much more than cut out soldiers.

I’ve been impressed with Jenna Coleman since her first appearance, though I have felt that the Clara character was a little too perfect at times and her initial arc suffered by being compressed into half a season of episodes. Since Day of the Doctor, though I really think Clara has begun to shine and I love the fact that she is shown to be an independent girl with a career of her own. Looking after the renegade Time Lord is, as she puts it, a hobby. In this episode, Clara shows why she is necessary for this new Doctor. As well as being feisty, intelligent and sharp – she is a teacher. It is a testament to her and to the Doctor’s faith in her that he will listen to her advice rather than, as he seems to with most other people he has met so far, dismissing them out of hand.

Peter Capaldi presents the stern, almost short tempered Doctor very well. While I have enjoyed him in these first two episodes – particularly with regard the growing camaraderie with Clara, I do think that too much effort is being spent giving him wise-cracks and witty retorts. Often it seems as if the Doctor only speaks in order that he can shoot off a snarky remark to someone. Of course, this episode sees him up against his least favourite people: soldiers and Daleks. Given that, I imagine a little extra snark may be warranted! I look forward to seeing this Doctor develop. To me, The Doctor should always be slightly dangerous and off-centre to our own sensibilities and Capaldi manages to bring these qualities – lacking in the previous two incarnations for the most part – bubbling to the surface with a huge splash of charisma on the side.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode but did get the feeling that perhaps the writers were trying too hard to give us such a different kind of Time Lord. I like the portrayal immensely and am looking forward to seeing the different relationship with Clara. The two are now acting as guides and teachers to each other and that is something unique that we haven’t seen before. Dalek fatigue I may have, but Phil Ford and Steven Moffat have certainly managed to present a fresh take on the foes this time around. The episode serves its purpose, giving us a different insight into the Time Lord. A worthy second episode that offered some insight into the new Doctor and a unique Dalek story. Not perfect but solid.

Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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One comment

  1. Michael Hall /

    Doctor Who as Doctor House. Capaldi’s done a great interpretation of the Doctor as written but we so far have basically gotten House in space, except that he’s dealing with his existential issues by treating himself through Clara and not pills. Don’t get me wrong, though, I am learning to enjoy the yin of this Doctor to the yang of the last two and getting back to some classic basics. But I do miss those two Hardy Boys and never really cared for Doctor House (who is basically a modern take on the personality of Sherlock Holmes, who 11 dressed up as…hmmm, foreshadowing?). But I’m excited to see where the season takes us in any case.

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