I wonder if Steven Moffat hates the Daleks as much as the Doctor does by now? They’re expected to make an appearance at least once a series, but finding new ways to present the psychopathic pepperpots must be something of a challenge.
Into the Dalek does find a new way to look at the old enemy – albeit one that combines elements of several previous stories, most notably the best Dalek story (in modern Who at least) – Robert Shearman’s stunning s1 episode Dalek and s6’s Let’s Kill Hitler.
It also questions, not for the first time, the Doctor’s morality. We’ve been here many times (for example, Davros goading Ten in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End about how he turns his companions into soldiers and the numerous bodies he’s left in his wake), and we didn’t learn anything new in this outing. (I suspect we’re heading for a similar reckoning with the mysterious Missy further down the line though, so I’m not complaining. Yet.)
[Spoilers below the line…]
The story sees the Doctor, Clara and three human soldiers from the Combined Galactic Resistance miniaturised and sent Innerspace-style into a broken Dalek (one that appears to be ‘good’, if you call wanting to exterminate all the other Daleks ‘good’ – and that is a question we’re asked in this episode) to ‘fix’ it. If the story has one flaw, it is this: Why would you fix it? Isn’t it obvious that if you fix a broken/good Dalek you’ll end up with a functioning/evil Dalek? Aaanyway, our five tiny explorers get inside the Dalek casing with disastrous results, and then inside its head – with morally questionable results.
I liked this a lot more than Deep Breath. Post-regeneration wobbles cast aside, Twelve’s personality is looking like a winner. For me that’s because he’s now reminding me of one of my all-time favourite fictional characters (though with the sweariness turned down to zero). No, not him. I mean Jack Parlabane, the Glaswegian journalist who, to quote his creator, Christopher Brookmyre, cheerfully wanders into enormously dangerous situations and effortlessly makes them much worse. Sound familiar?
There’s a sharper edge to this Doctor too: “Dry your eyes, Journey Blue. Crying’s for civilians. It’s how we communicate with you lot.” (I imagine from our introduction to ex-soldier Danny Pink, that this is a theme we will also be examining this series.) And he’s my-kind-of-funny too: (in response to Clara’s ‘how do I look?’) “Sort of short and round-ish, but with a good personality which is the main thing.”
It’s a dangerous decision to remind us so much of Dalek though. Christopher Eccleston’s electrifying performance when confronted with the single Dalek was one of the most memorable of the first series. It was powerful stuff. There have been several instances when the Dalek’s line “You would make a good Dalek” have echoed in my head as I’ve watched Ten and Eleven make questionable decisions. And not even Peter Capaldi can stop this being a watered-down version of that. Once again, I suspect none of the adults watching this were surprised to find the Dalek mining the darker regions of the Doctor’s soul for inspiration.
I can’t speak for other people’s children, but unlike last week Hat Jr’s attention only waned when Danny and Clara were getting to know each other. (Incidentally, he must be smitten to overlook her Dalek antibody-themed shirt – you don’t need to know about the existence of Daleks to find that shirt off-putting.) Added to which, she went to bed asking if I’d be climbing inside her memory core. All in all, a thumbs up from her then and an approving nod from me.
See you in Sherwood next week…
Posted by Jo the Hat