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Doctor Who: 802 “Into the Dalek” Review

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Reviewed by John Hussey.

It appears Steven Moffat has got a little trend going with his new Doctors and that is to get the Daleks in as early as possible. And why not? The Daleks are without a doubt the Doctor’s greatest enemy and his enemies define him. ‘Into the Dalek’ served as a retelling of the oldest story of Good vs. Evil in a twisting tale that could potentially reshape the course of Doctor Who history forever.

Firstly, let us discuss the Doctor. As established within ‘Deep Breath’ we were strongly hinted at a non-caring, somewhat inhuman and dark incarnation. ‘Into the Dalek’ took things a step further and really showcased the now fully functional Twelfth Doctor.

We experienced at first hand that the Twelfth Doctor’s curiosity is deadly. Not only was it implied that the Twelfth Doctor left Clara in Glasgow shortly after their final scene in ‘Deep Breath’ to find better things but also without hesitation took on the dangerous task of trying to cure the hatred of his greatest enemy.

This in itself is an extraordinary idea. Not exactly an original one as we’ve already seen Dalek Sec and Caan, respectively, took on a similar storyline in two separate stories during Tennant’s tenure. This time the circumstances were different. The Dalek in question, nicknamed Rusty, sees life in a new light on its own grounds. There were no experiments or connections with time, just a simple witness of a new beginning through an eternity of destruction. The kick start of the whole process was a damaged Mark III Travel machine that caused the mutant to establish a link with suppressed memories.

This built upon Series 8s underlining theme of ‘am I a good man?’ and within ‘Into the Dalek’ we saw many layers of the theme incorporated in a way that makes you think carefully about our beloved character and his enemy. Who truly is worse in the long run?

The Doctor’s speech towards the end of ‘Deep Breath’, possibly caused by his actions revolving around the Half-Face Man’s death, spoke about his long life, the things he had done and most importantly his confession of it not all being good. He thought it was time to do something about it. So perhaps this could be a reason behind him wanting to change a Dalek so badly. If he could make a Dalek good then anything could be possible. But then again looking into it even further the story itself parallels back to the Doctor and his own mentality.

We have seen this running idea all the way since the beginning of the New Series, and most importantly during the 50th period. Introduced to the War Doctor, the Doctor has been seen within a new light and his shadowy interior came forward which caused darkness to shroud over the light we have come to love over the years. The Doctor isn’t everything he could be as a hero and that’s the important issue. He’s not the hero we necessarily want or need. He’s simply the man who will get the job done by whatever means he sees fit and doesn’t want our approval. The Twelfth Doctor is a reminder that he is an alien.

Madame Vastra during ‘Deep Breath’ said it perfectly with the description of Matt Smith’s Doctor being a means of being accepted, which explained his childish ways and young enthusiasm. Now that time is over. The vale is lifted and the inner workings of the man have come out again.

The ongoing ‘good man’ theme rolls over to new character Danny Pink with the simple implication of his back story. Within a few subtle words we saw what we needed to know about him and had a glimpse at his soul. Added with the imagery of tears after the comments about if he’d killed none soldiers (which I took as the innocent) gave across the idea of regret. He’s clearly done something that can make a grown man weep. This shows great promise of character development and most importantly emotion. Danny isn’t a one sided character that will be misused within a petty story to give Clara’s story dilemma. I believe he will show progress and unfold his multiple layers.

Something that comes to mind is Danny’s and the Doctor’s common grounds. They are both soldiers looking for redemption. This gives the idea that the two of them can bounce off of each other and give them both development. They can both relate to one another and also Danny can challenge the Doctor better having been a solider himself. Clara doesn’t understand the implications of war and the shocking tales that go with them. They have both no doubt suffered losers on the battlefield and of course made wrong decisions that have cost the lives of the innocent. This story will progress quite nicely I reckon and I think we’ll be in for some treats.

Danny’s introduction as a whole was fresh. He didn’t see the Doctor within his first story and appeared more as a background element for future reference. What we have seen of his character though is, again, promising. He has flaws and emotion. Danny isn’t one-dimensional and appears to be somewhat awkward around Clara which developed a nice little meeting for them. It felt real and you could relate to it.

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Back to the Daleks. The story of ‘Into the Dalek’ resembled (at least to me) the Tom Baker story ‘The Invisible Enemy’ and I’d go as far as to say Smith’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’. It seemed a blockbuster idea, which ‘Deep Breath’ held somewhat as well, showcasing the Series 7 formula hasn’t been totally lost but reformatted into a new direction. Big epic stories told within a controlling and classic way. Slower paced and filled with more character development and heavy dialogue moments. It takes some getting used to but in a good way. As I said last week, you feel the full grasp of the changed tone and direction Moffat has employed within Peter Capaldi’s era.

The Doctor stepped inside of his greatest enemy and for the first time managed to reach out to the lost creatures of hate. The concepts used were very exciting and fresh and I have to give credit to the direction and all the hard work in general done by the production team. They really put a lot of elbow grease into this to make the Daleks threatening and intriguing again. Also we can’t forget about Moffat and the much welcomed return of Phil Ford. Their team effort really went about to give new chemistry between the Doctor and the Daleks. It made him slightly blind, just for a few moments at least, when he actually thought he could change a Dalek. He was so adamant that they couldn’t be any less than the creatures of destruction throughout the entire story and then suddenly there was hope.

This all faded when Rusty returned to its old ways and unleashed pure carnage upon the Aristotle. If the chained up Dalek didn’t give off a ‘Dalek’ vibe then its lonesome onslaught certainly did. Sometimes a lone Dalek killing a platoon of armed soldiers is all that is needed to showcase the brutality and strength of the Daleks. It also conveys a strong sense of terror and can somewhat enhance the fear-factor surrounding the Daleks knowing that just one of them can cause so much death and destruction. The added bonus was then seeing a horde of Daleks unleash carnage as well, giving off the best of both worlds. These scenes in particular really gave off an explosive and action packed epic which glamorised the Daleks in a beautiful way. They really did look both stunning and terrifying. It’s scenes like these that are needed more within a Dalek story to really give off the impression of their true power. The end result was of course Rusty was finally made to see good in the universe and turned on his kind in the most breathtaking of scenes. I’ve never seen such a more better Dalek death scene. The Production Team are without a doubt getting better over the last couple of years with how to destroy a Dalek.

What made the resolution great was that Rusty became good through the Doctor’s hatred. The simple idea that hatred, the emotion that fuels the dreaded creatures, was actually the thing that won the day. All it took was the right kind. But then it leaves you wondering how the Doctor is any better by having all that hatred firing through his very being, craving the destruction of an entire race. It all links back to the question of whether or not he is a good man. He asked Clara this in a desperate attempt to discover the truth to which at the time came to same conclusion as he himself thought, “I don’t know”.

The Doctor’s actions throughout the story were truly debatable and really captured the sense that he was now dark to the core. His alien nature was the dominate factor now and also his self-indulgent and lack of understanding the human-ways takes the Twelfth Doctor into a different ball game compared to his last couple of predecessors. Twice he allowed someone to die and didn’t care. Their deaths were meaningless to him. Journey Blue lost her brother right at the start of the adventure and the only comforting notion he could bring was that at least she’s alive. Then Ross suffered a terrible fate by the Twelfth Doctor’s hands through him supposedly rescuing him only for us to discover he was handing him to Rusty’s antibodies so the heroes could escape. Cold and calculative. If this was the Twelfth Doctor’s way of demonstrating his good nature, then he was going about it the wrong way. Deep down perhaps he knew his new regeneration cycle had taken a turn for the worst and his original traits were kicking back in and this little fear is what’s making him ask this question of morality.

Clara now took on the job of being the Doctor’s ‘carer,’ a sort of John Watson role. The Doctor now needs someone to be his translator and to reassure the characters around him that he means well. His own dialogue and actions throughout the story conveyed everything but trust, heroics and morality. Clara had to keep reassuring everyone and at one point slap some sense into the Doctor due to his new persona being unable to see past his own intellect. Above all though despite her little doubts here and there she has really come a long way in accepting the Twelfth Doctor and in the end even told him that she could at least see his efforts in trying to be a good man.

Of course there is the question of who is Missy and what does her so-called Heaven entail. From the word go I found myself uneasy with her strange characteristics and familiarity with the Doctor. Since she keeps cropping up and collecting these different characters upon death it makes you wonder what it all means, what she will gain from this. Is she an ally, or is she a foe? It’s too early to really tell but I have high suspicions of her and that Heaven isn’t the Paradise which it is made out to be. I get the vibe that Heaven may well turn out to be a very corrupted and twisted world, shrouded by a false pretence.

Overall ‘Into the Dalek’ was a great story filled with many wonderful concepts and ideas. It was a fresh story for the Daleks and continued their portrayal of being powerful and dominating. Long since the day they were survivors, now they’re back where they belong. Capaldi played well against Barnaby Edwards and Nicholas Briggs and as usual gave off a great performance.

Doctor Who and its new era continues to shape up nicely and leaves intrigue and questions lingering in the air, particularly over the Doctor and the continued questioning over his characteristics.

Verdict: 8.5/10

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  • Mark M

    Great review John, very well written. I agree with most of what you have said on the episode.

  • notsosmartguy

    Awesome Review John. Like last week I gave this episode a 9/10 mainly because I didn’t expect it to be this good. Also I love this new dynamic developing between 12 and Clara with her having to basically be his handler and knocking some sense into him when he goes too far.

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