Is Steven Moffat’s latest attempt at a Dalek story worth remembering?
“I am not a good Dalek. You are a good Dalek!”
Dalek stories have suffered for a while now. Steven Moffat has been unsure whether to use them more or less, which is why we have seen fleeting appearances from the pepper pot destroyers of the universe. His last effort, “Asylum of the Daleks,” was a decent sci-fi romp that started series 7 well. For the Twelfth Doctor’s first encounter with his greatest foe, The Moff, co-writing with long term Who writer Phil Ford, gave us the most original Dalek story we have seen for ages.
The Doctor is asked to attend a sick patient on the hospital spaceship Aristotle. His patient is a Dalek, nicknamed “Rusty,” whose malfunction has given it a conscience. To fix Rusty, they have to be shrunk down to venture inside him. The Doctor questions whether he has found the first good Dalek. At the same time, he’s also questioning his own goodness. Meanwhile, a new romance begins to blossom between Clara and companion-in-waiting Danny Pink.
Peter Capaldi was never given the chance to properly explore his Doctor in “Deep Breath,” but here we saw the makings of our new man. Twelve was in a no-nonsense mood for the entire forty-five minutes, starting by telling Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton) that asking for something whilst holding a gun was never a good thing. He also displayed his rather cold side as the poor, quickly forgotten Ross was killed by Dalek antibodies – “Well, he was dead anyway!” There was also a very Malcolm Tucker-esque line when referring to Clara as his carer – “She cares, so I don’t have to” – which was fantastic. With Capaldi on such fine form, you enjoy every moment he’s on screen. His “old school” feel is everything this series needed.
The best scenes of the episode are left for when The Doctor and Rusty meet face-to-face. Despite him being a cold, calculated Time Lord, Twelve is rather saddened to see Rusty find hatred within him, even after his attempts to show the beauty of the universe. No matter which incarnation, when it comes to the Daleks, the feeling is always the same. There were also echoes of 2005’s “Dalek” since our Doc would certainly make a good one. The reveal that his mantra for the Daleks started all the way back on Skaro, in his first incarnation, was a nice addition to the relationship. Although we all assumed this was the case anyway, it was good to see it referred to on-screen. Expect more exploration like this into the “goodness” of The Doctor as this series unfolds.
With everything changing this year, the storytelling also got a nice shake-up. The parallels of modern day and the future were used wonderfully. Along with The Doctor and the Dalek, there was Blue and Pink. Journey asked to join the TARDIS crew but was refused because she was a soldier. It makes you wonder what treatment Mr. Pink will receive when he eventually meets the Time Lord given his military past. Samuel Anderson plays Pink in a nice understated way, and you felt sorry for the character instantly after a certain question from a pupil. Who did he kill that wasn’t a soldier? Knowing Moffat’s style of storytelling, expect that to crop-up again at some point.
Ashton, most famous for starring in the comedy Fresh Meat, gives a strong performance as Journey, although she was the only member of the guest cast that had a real character to work with. The others were killed off or left on the Aristotle (still, it must have been awesome to shoot at Daleks!). Ben Crompton, currently starring in Game of Thrones, did not last long whilst Laura Dos Santos’ Gretchen ends up having tea with Missy because she sacrificed herself for The Doctor. Is sacrifice the clue as to why people are ending up in “heaven”?
Clara’s character took a backseat as The Doctor was the main focus this week. Miss Oswald was the love interest and button-pusher of the episode in her duelling lives. I hope we see more of both storylines on-screen. Her relationship with The Doctor is different to past companions as she happily lives her “normal” life. It’s a good job the TARDIS is working so perfectly these days for that to happen!
As for the action itself, this was Ben Wheatley’s second and final episode this series as director. Again, he did a stellar job creating an epic feel inside the Dalek’s interiors and the Aristotle. Explosions, gun fights, CGI space battles. It was all there and it was all great to watch!
The Honey, I Shrunk the Kids story – “It’s a great plot for a movie…” – was a nice move and the Daleks got their most original outing since 2005. You know they will be back, but let’s hope it isn’t for a while so we can savour this one.
For an episode that was the first to return a usual length – the last being “The Name of The Doctor” – and was not a special of any kind, “Into the Dalek” was a good return to the norm. This is a norm with a new face and a new style, but it is still defiantly Doctor Who.