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Doctor Who Review: S08E02 Into The Dalek

I was really looking forward to this episode. We’re now free of the encumbrance of regeneration and able to see the 12th Doctor in his own environment. Plus a return of the Daleks. Granted Dalek stories have always been hit and miss affairs, but when they work they can be really good.
The episode opened strong with CGI that seemed noticeably better than the giant dinosaur from last week and I loved Peter Capaldi’s delivery of the Doctor’s lines as he insisted on a “please” from the person he rescued. Its that sort of detail that makes this Doctor feel different to what we’ve seen for years now.

Screen shot 2014 08 25 at 7.21.21 AM 1024x576 Doctor Who Review: S08E02 Into The DalekAnd that was just the beginning of the snark and cynicism with the high (low) point being his casual use of someone he knew was about to die in order to gain information to save the rest of his party.

Phil Ford, who previously wrote The Waters of Mars (a favorite of mine) delivered an episode that emphasised this Doctor’s moral ambiguity while at the same time highlighted the lack of ambiguity in Dalek morals. They believe one thing and they believe it absolutely and openly.

The idea of a good Dalek is an interesting one and something that the script explored well particularly in contrasting the Doctor and his nemesis. It also touched on a theme that has been recurring in recent Dalek episodes. That the Doctor himself hates. That he would make a good Dalek. A statement that clearly shook him.

It would be interesting to watch S01E06 – Dalek back to back with Into The Dalek because they share a lot of thematic elements while approaching the situation very differently and also ending up in a very different place.

I really liked the use of Clara in this episode too. Not only is she central to resolving the crisis with the damaged Dalek, but she also firmly (and physically) puts the Doctor back in his place when he becomes too alien and removed from the situation around him. It is a great moment and not something I can see happening with previous companions or Doctors.

Director Ben Wheatley takes advantage of the miniaturization conceit to come up with some unusual and imaginative shots and angles to tell the story as well as trying to minimize the obvious budget limitations of shooting a full scale Dalek attack on the spaceship.

Hello Danny Pink

Unusually for Doctor Who there’s actually a B-story in this episode. The episode is credited to both Steven Moffat and Phil Ford and it felt like Moffat was basically writing the B-story here which was the introduction of Danny Pink.

It’s obviously intended to be a gradual introduction of the character since he has yet to meet the Doctor. But what that does is give him far more character build up than companions normally get. We’ve seen him flirt (awkwardly) with Clara. We know he was a soldier. And we know he had to kill people. I think he’s going to add an interesting dimension as things go forward.

The New Era Begins

While Deep Breath had a lot of elements in it that were common in the Matt Smith era, Into The Dalek felt new. There were no slapstick moments here. Peter Capaldi wasn’t goofy or silly. His humor was sharp and biting. Clearly the first episode of this season was intended as a transition from what has come before. Now the new era has begun and I’m loving it.

I spent so much time just loving Peter Capaldi’s performance. Clara felt like a more rounded character. The tonal change has really freshened things up. Oh… and this is probably the best Dalek story since… Dalek.

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