Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Doctor Who 8.02 - Into the Dalek

Usually the season opener and second episode of a new season of Doctor Who are among my favourites. Traditionally, a lot of the time we have a new companion or Doctor to contend with and sometimes even a new villain. After last week’s lacklustre Deep Breath, this week we had Into the Dalek, an episode that for all intents and purposes should have been riveting. It was pretty good, certainly something new compared to where we have been with Daleks before, but it still lacked punch.

Follow me under the cut for more.

Into the Dalek sees the return of the Doctor’s old adversary the Daleks, with the discovery of perhaps a good one. I am really glad that they have abandoned the bubble gum looking Daleks of Matt Smith’s run and returned to the gold of Eccleston and Tennant. They are just scarier and colder when they look like that.

Clara strikes up a conversation with a new teacher at work, Danny Pink, who used to be a soldier and happily this was a high point for the episode. The chemistry seems genuine and he seems like he has some space to grow and develop with some interesting challenges for both the Doctor and Clara moving forward. What kind of ruined the little detour into Clara’s normal world was the revelation that after the emotional moment at the end of the season opener, Clara was left in Glasgow when the Doctor went for coffee and got distracted. It soured the connection and the moment for me.

Materialising in a cupboard to pick her up, the Doctor asks Clara if she thinks he is a good man. Clara responds that she doesn’t know and we get a glimpse of where this relationship is going and some honest connection between the two. The Doctor takes her to a space station where the Dalek is being held, ready to receive treatment for its damage.

A group of soldiers including Journey Blue, who the Doctor has saved earlier in the episode, are miniaturised and sent into the Dalek itself to repair the problems. A good Dalek can be a game changer for the universe and they cannot afford to pass up the opportunity. Inside they face some questionable decisions, some seemingly heartless acts by the Doctor and the Dalek’s own antibodies. They discover that the Dalek saw the birth of a star and realised that life always wins, and that there is beauty in life. Unfortunately, when the Doctor repairs the radiation leak that is making the Dalek sick, he also reverts the Dalek to its original state and the Dalek begins to destroy the base.

Here is where the Doctor’s human companions get to step up. Clara tries to show the Doctor what he actually learned, to keep him on the positive path and not fall into despair and jaded resignation to the evil inherent in the Daleks. For a moment, the Doctor sees the opportunities and tries to make a difference and Clara proves the importance of the human influence in his life and how clever she is. I really like that the companion in this season is getting to stretch and show the Doctor new possibilities but also is left to her own devices to affect change. Another human … sacrifices herself to allow Clara and Journey access to the Dalek’s memory banks. Jarringly, she arrives in heaven soon after and is greeted by Missy. I cannot tell if this is going to be a recurring annoyance or whether this is going to get better.

Journey pushes herself to question orders and to think outside of her training and help Clara, and it’s a great little progression to see. The two of them helping by themselves, in their own way and using their own skills. They are successful in accessing the Dalek’s suppressed memory of the star being born so that the Doctor can capitalise on this.

The Doctor links his own mind with the Dalek, seeking to expand on the beauty that the Dalek saw in the birth of one star with millions of other magical things. The Dalek however, accesses and exposes all of the Doctor’s hate of the Dalek’s and self-loathing. It seeks instead to destroy the Daleks and continue this mission off the base. Although this point of darkness is actually quite nice, it is hardly new. All of the Doctor’s in New!Who have had a darkness in them and mentioning that again hardly progresses the story, hopefully it’s a set up for more.

With the Doctor, Clara and Journey rematerialized in their full size and the Dalek departed to fight against its kind, Journey asks the Doctor if she can come with him and travel the stars. The Doctor rejects her on the grounds that she is a soldier. This is interesting and disappointing at the same time. We don’t often get to see the Doctor reject someone who wants to get in the TARDIS, but when we do, it’s scathing. It’ll be interesting to see this further explored if it is with the new character Danny. Also, given that we had McGann with Night of the Doctor recently almost take on a solider and have her actually reject him, it’ll be interesting to see if links are drawn on that basis rather than a mistrust of those who take orders.

Clara departs the TARDIS for her date with Danny and tells the Doctor that while she doesn’t know if he is a good man, she knows he tries to be and that is what really matters.

All up, the episode was fairly good, pretty entertaining, but really just left me longing for Eccleston’s Doctor and his version of Rose Tyler. What I loved so much about the return of Who with the Ninth Doctor was the underlying darkness and the dependence of the companion to bring her own skills and humanity to the Doctor. Eccleston slipped into the Doctor’s skin effortlessly and unfortunately, in a way I haven’t experienced with the other lead changeovers, Capaldi just isn’t the Doctor yet. He seems like a less likeable version of the Ninth Doctor and Clara a less capable version of that season’s Rose.

The episode itself almost exactly mirrored the first season of New!Who’s episode Dalek. In that episode the Dalek utters the same words that this Dalek tells the twelfth Doctor “you would make a good Dalek”. It is also Rose who stops the Doctor annihilating the Dalek and trying to see what makes it function and pity the creature. She is more successful than Clara in this attempt. This is also the episode where Rose requests another person, Adam, be brought on the TARDIS. Adam is inadequate and his booted after a single other adventure with the Doctor having far more clout than a simple ‘if only you weren’t a solider’ excuse for ditching him. It illustrated just how special the companion had to be to travel with the Doctor, rather than the Doctor seeming like a bit of a douche for not taking a chance on a smart and capable woman whose life he might have been able to guide in a different way. The Doctor is about chances, not about writing people off.

Here’s hoping they take all of the elements that work for Capaldi and Coleman, and there are many, and capitalise on them to make the twelfth Doctor everything his potential promised he could be in the sweet casting choice and let’s give Clara some room to breathe and grow and become something like the woman we saw in those early alternate iterations.

1 comment:

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