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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 AMAnd 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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