Is any new Doctor truly THE Doctor until a Dalek identifies him as such? After an absolutely fantastic premier the Twelfth Doctor truly begins his journey with Into the Dalek. Once again The Doctor’s oldest foe is back, but something is a bit off this time around.
A Star Wars-esque space pursuit opens the episode. The Daleks are chasing, and blasting someone. Rather than dying at the…suckers and whisks of the Daleks, a soldier materializes on the TARDIS. A fascinating scene shows us the soldier pointing a gun at the Doctor, demanding she be returned to her ship. The Doctor, rather sarcastically, uses his words to make her ask nicely.
Meanwhile Clara is back at work schooling young minds. Almost imminently we’re interested in Danny Pink, also a teacher at Clara’s school. I was surprised to see that Danny is an ex-soldier who carries with him some darkness of his own. Even without his brief, vague back story he’s instantly sympathetic, real, and interesting. If this is to be our new full time companion, I’m intrigued.
When the Doctor and Clara meet up again it’s after the Doctor having left her in Glasgow three weeks prior. The Doctor, it seems, is developing a habit of abandoning his companions, no matter how lightheartedly it is addressed here. The Doctor asks Clara flat out if he’s a good man. Her unsure response is slightly unsettling, especially since imminently following he takes her off into the face of danger.
In a sort of flashback to where the episode began, the Doctor confronts a lone ‘sick’ Dalek. This Dalek has something wrong with it. A desire to destroy the Daleks! Going back to the present, we see that the Doctor has fetched Clara in order to help figure out what is wrong with this damaged Dalek.
It’s at this point that the episode gets wonderfully wonky. The Doctor, Clara, and a small contingent of soldiers get miniaturized in order to travel into the sick Dalek to see what’s going on from the inside out. The whole tone of the episode up to this point has been darker, more brooding, and surprisingly mature. This miniaturization just ratchets up the hard SciFi element of the show. And so the little band walk down a smoke filled tunnel that happens to be the Dalek’s eye stalk in a scene with wobbly camera work hat just feels like something I’ve seen in a Classic Doctor Who episode. Very cool!
Early on in their exploration we learn a little something about the Daleks we’ve never known. The Doctor points out a sort of emotional limiter that ensures a Dalek only ever feels hate. It also blocks memories that may become a ‘problem’. Quickly the soldiers muck up the adventure, and in a scene borrowing from the episode Let’s Kill Hitler, the Dalek’s antibodies move in for the kill. And kill they do.
The Doctor falls back on his long-standing emergency plan, running away, and the episode’s action ensues. The group finds themselves moving through the Dalek, from the ‘stomach’, through various internal systems. At one point the Dalek addresses the Doctor, striking up a conversation where the Dalek explains its unusual philosophies. The Doctor uses his sonic to fix the issue once he’s found it, and the Dalek starts breaking free from its confines, killing soldiers, and carrying its visitors along for the ride. It is here we are reintroduced to a much more evil and menacing race of Daleks than we’ve seen in far too long. These Daleks are actually scary again!
Clara confronts the Doctor as he appears to take some pleasure from having fixed the broken Dalek after having been asked to by the Soldiers. She is not in love with his attitude towards this threat, and his flippant acceptance of danger. Here we see why the Eleventh Doctor asked Clara to stick with Twelve. She basically convinces him to do what he can to stop the Daleks once again. But this time the Doctor’s plan isn’t the destruction of his mortal enemy, but possibly ‘fixing’ them all to be good, since it was obviously possible with the ‘broken’ one they’re still inside.
As Clara and the Doctor are escaping the Dalek’s antibodies kill one of the soldiers. And as she dies, she materializes somewhere… at a table having tea with Missy, the mysterious woman from the end of the last episode. The caretaker of Heaven, or something or other… I do hope this mystery is worth the wait, however, I also hope it’s not crammed down our throats with a scene in every episode.
I really enjoyed seeing more of how the nature of the Doctor and Clara’s relationship has changed. We previously saw Eleven running into trouble during he and his companion’s adventures. But here the Doctor chose to bring Clara into a dangerous situation. Knowing his hate of the Daleks, and intimate understanding of them, to see him willingly place a companion’s life in such danger speaks more loudly about his personality change than any dialogue ever could.
But Clara isn’t helpless, not by a long shot. It is her ingenuity and determination that lead to overcoming their foe. She is able to trigger the Daleks memories, those images and emotions that had ‘broken’ it in the first place. It gives the Doctor a chance to link his mind with the Dalek, to make him see the beauty of the universe as the Doctor sees it. And through this link we see the Doctor’s mind, and his true, deeply held hatred for the Daleks. This turns the Dalek from seeing the good in the universe to once again hating its own race. Burdened with the weight of this turn of events, we feel the Doctor’s pain as the Dalek exterminates his own kind, and sends a retreat signal that shoos away the rest of the fleet.
I was surprised that Danny Pink doesn’t officially join the TARDIS team, but the intrigue of his character leaves questions hanging at the end of the episode. How will he come to join the Doctor and Clara? And will it be a pleasant experience? I can’t wait to find out!
As for Into the Dalek itself, I think it was a big success. If you set side the fact that the episode was pieced together from a handful of other episodes, at times, almost too obviously, it’s a great new Dalek story. And in the proud tradition of ‘Inner Space’ and ‘The Fantastic Voyage’, Into the Dalek visits one of SciFi’s stranger concepts in a way only Doctor Who can: grand, mad, heartfelt, and fantastic. Next week, the Doctor and Clara meet Robin Hood… Have I ever mentioned how much I love this show?
image source: [doctorwhotv]