TV

REVIEW: Doctor Who 8×02 “Into the Dalek”

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

The 9th Doctor was once told by a solitary warrior of Skaro that he ‘would make a good Dalek’. Now, another solitary warrior of Skaro is telling the 12th Doctor that ‘you are a good Dalek’. Scribbled in partnership between Moffat and the ever-brilliant Phil Ford (Torchwood, New Captain Scarlet), our second adventure with the 12th Doctor continues to intrigue viewers with his new persona while building up a delicate sense of identify for this new series.

‘Into the Dalek’ follows a band of galactic rebels who, on the run from the Daleks, inadvertently manage to capture one that’s damaged to the point where it’s loosing all sense of evil. Meanwhile, Clara is swooning for a new teacher at her school, an ex-soldier who seems to be struggling in adjusting to his post-army surroundings.

And in-between these two worlds, the Doctor does what he does best – meddling. The Doctor, Clara, and two rebel soldiers soon find themselves shrunk and injected inside the Dalek in order to ascertain why it’s in such a dire condition. And why exactly does the Doctor literally dive into the mind of his greatest enemy? ‘How can I resist?’ are the words he utters on hearing the Dalek’s plea for help.

After the non-new-fan-friendly continuity-heavy debut, ‘Into the Dalek’ continues to offer a very warped persona of the Doctor. His growing flippancy for human life is becoming a source for some wonderful comedy, even if the rebels he’s trying to help don’t always appreciate his puns. Clara also displays why she’s the perfect companion for the 12th Doctor, their clash of agendas and morals in this episode crank the drama up to eleven.

Without spoiling the episode too much, the Doctor embarks on a doomed attempt to convert a stray Dalek from being good to bad, and then back again. But this being Doctor Who, its never as simple as that. Outwardly, before this episode even begins, we automatically assume the Doctor to be this episode’s hero and the Dalek to be the enemy. But ‘Into the Dalek’ offers some marvellous subversion with these personas, showing how the Doctor’s attempts at converting the Dalek to good lead the Dalek in question (nicknamed Rusty by the Doctor) to see all to clearly his hatred for the Skaro soldiers.

It’s still nowhere near the intensity of Christopher Eccleston’s encounter with a stray Dalek, but it offers more engaging glimpses into this new devilish Doctor. Strangely though, this has the effect of leaving the story itself to one side, just like it did in ‘Deep Breath’. The intriguing Missy and her picturesque heaven pop up again, lending the episode a Bad Wolf-flavour build up in this series’ story arc, but that’s all she does – pop-up.

‘Into the Dalek’ isn’t a bad episode, not by any stretch. It offers an intriguing scope of agendas for its characters, but there I go again, talking more about the episode’s characters! One blunder is that the episode itself is just about without context. Where did these rebels come from? Why are they fighting the Daleks? How/why exactly did the Doctor manage to save Journey in time? Without these answers, do we really care whether or not the Daleks wipe out this little band of humans? Maybe not.

However, is lowering the importance of the plot really a bad thing? Doctor Who has gone through countless plots that in their scope and ambition stretch further than the Doctor himself has ever travelled, so does this mean its time to push those ambitions into new directions and alter the series into a character drama? Arguably, this is what Doctor Who has been all along, but these two episodes seem far more invested in characters than story. That, after all, is the key to any good story – characters that come into conflict with each other.

And thank the lord we have such engulfing characters. The child-friendly-giddiness of Matt Smith appears to have finally been put to bed, and in its place we’re given a Doctor who is malevolent but not without consequence, aggressive but not without humour, and clueless but not without a plan.

The much-hyped question of this series, almost its tagline, is finally revealed here as well. The Doctor sits beside Clara and asks her ‘Am I a good man?’. If this episode is anything to go by, and for the sake of the remainder of this series, I really hope not. But let’s have a bit of plot as well, please?

What did you make of ‘Into the Dalek’? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the author

Fred McNamara