Into the Dalek
Having left Clara Oswald at Coal Hill School to live an ordinary life, the Doctor travels the universe and ends up encountering a Dalek space war. After rescuing a soldier named Journey Blue, the Doctor reunites her with her friends aboard the starship Aristotle, hiding on the dark side of an asteroid. While the crew is suspicious of the Doctor at first, they soon seek his help with a most unusual discovery, a damaged Dalek who acts very un-Dalek. Still unsure of his character, the Doctor recruits Clara to be his conscience as they are miniaturized and travel into the Dalek. She’s reluctant to join in as she is very intrigued by a fellow teacher at Coal Hill School, ex-soldier Danny Pink. Once inside the monster’s outer shell, the Doctor and his friends encounter strange and deadly obstacles on their way to understanding what could change a Dalek so drastically. Meanwhile, the Dalek fleet hunts for the Aristotle, drawing closer with every second.
I pointed this out on my previous review of Deep Breath, but the eighth series of Doctor Who is a big risk taker. Replacing Matt Smith who was incredibly popular with an older Doctor (thus removing the equally popular romance angle) and changing the character from a playful one to a darker grumpier personality is one thing. This story delves into a deeper problem hinted at in Deep Breath. This Doctor is certainly not the noble hero we are used to. Even he is unsure if he is a good man… and that’s troubling.
The Daleks are famous for making Doctor Who an overnight sensation and cemented its place as a national institution. All that said, they have become nearly a joke in the new program. While 2005’s Dalek was a wonderfully intense modern revitalization of a classic monster, the subsequent appearances have been progressively less impressive. This story rights that situation, delivering the most exciting and unusual adventure featuring these time-honored foes. After last week’s story, this is a step in the right direction.
The guest cast is stellar (including Michael Smiley who worked with Ben Wheatley before) and the setting, an intergalactic war with the Daleks, is inspired after the all too familiar Victorian world last week. Also, this is the first story in ages to have unusual trippy imagery as the Doctor travels into the miniaturized world. Along with the revamped signature tune, the special effects in this story is a love letter to the classic psychedelic 60’s era.
Like many Whovians, I am a huge fan of the Daleks. Surprisingly, it has been a very very long time since the dreaded pepper pots made an impression as dynamic as the one seen here. When the assault squad storms the Aristotle, I felt echoes of Resurrection of the Daleks. They finally have teeth again and the body count was high. To add to their menace, the Doctor was struggling with a Dalek from within adding another (more psychological) layer to the tale.
Searching for some guidance on morality, the Doctor is reluctant to accept the Dalek’s insistence that it has changed. But after telling the time lord of an experience in which it witnessed the birth of a star, he is confronted with a new message contrary to the Dalek credo of exterminate, “Life wins.”
The new series of Doctor Who has been attempting to do something new with the Daleks since 2005 with varied results. In this case, the viewers are faked out with the possibility of a ‘good Dalek.’ When the Doctor accepts the Dalek’s statement that it has changed and he saves its life by sealing a radiation leak… he realizes how wrong he was. The Dalek returns to its usual persona and starts killing everyone. In a desperate act to get in touch with what could be a hopeful ounce of something new within the Dalek’s datacore, the Doctor shows the creature the universe as he sees it. The Dalek sees wonder and beauty…. and hatred for Daleks.
Then things go all pear-shaped with the human soldiers stuck between a single kill crazy self-hating Dalek and an entire assault squad hellbent on killing them all with the Doctor rattling around inside trying to fix things.
The 2014 ratings so far (via DrWhoTV):
Deep Breath 6.8m (overnight) 9.17m (final) AI 82
Into the Dalek 5.2m (overnight) 7.29m (final) AI 84
A story of horror, psychological and emotional interest plus adventure, this is exactly what I have wanted from Doctor Who from the beginning (along with trippy visuals). The inclusion of the Daleks and the another sterling performance from Peter Capaldi makes this a stand out episode… and gets me very excited for next week.
Next Time: Robot of Sherwood