The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) do their best ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’ impression as they go inside a dalek to help save the world. What’s the outcome?
Let’s bitch it out.
‘Into the Dalek’ marks the return of the iconic villains, but sadly, this week’s adventure ended up feeling tiresome as it fails to live up to its potential. The premise has promise – a dalek that has actually turned good calling for the extinction of its race? And one cheerfully named Rusty no less? Unfortunately, like so many Doctor Who episodes of late, the journey into the dalek falls completely flat
Returning to its 60-minute run-time, it’s surprising that the episode drags as much as it does. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that the central plight feels like something we’ve already gone through. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels like this episode was a bit of a retread of ‘Dalek’ from back in S1. Admittedly there are differences, but the overall themes feel very familiar (and done better the first time ‘round).
As I mentioned, The Doctor, Clara, a potentially new reoccurring character, Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton) and a couple of red shirts, shrink down to ‘nano-sized’ (which feels incredibly scientifically inaccurate) to ‘enter’ the aforementioned Rusty, in order to ‘heal’ him. Let’s face it, the mission doesn’t make much sense, but we’ll go with it because it’s a dalek, and there’s clearly a need to reinvent them in order to keep them relevant. The writing feels sloppy as the Doctor quickly ‘fixes’ Rusty by waving around his sonic screwdriver and patching up a crack deep within him. Predictably, this means that Rusty is no longer ‘good’, instead, he’s hell-bent on exposing the rebel ship Aristotle, and leading the awaiting fleet of daleks to exterminate away.
After ‘fixing’ Rusty, the Doctor merely shrugs at Clara stating that daleks are inherently evil and he tried to tell everyone that – and shrinking down was ultimately a way of proving that he was right. Clara is understandably peeved, but what I found infuriating was the lack of panic in both the Doctor and Clara regarding their imminent fate because of the exercise. They’re both supposedly going to die because of this predicament, yet both seem to brush it off as a minor annoyance. Perhaps they’re just as aware as we are that there’s no way they’re going to die inside the dalek. And thus, we have one of the cardinal sins of bad narrative – absolutely no investment in the central conflict.
Ultimately, the entire journey is just an exercise to show us how Twelve initially relishes being a smug bastard but that’s not who he really is. After being guilt-tripped by Clara’s puppy dog eyes, we witness his inner struggle as he tries to reconcile the evils of his past with his desires to be ‘good’ going forward. Cue eye-roll. Haven’t we already seen this played out in many episodes prior?
The Doctor eventually finds a way to turn Rusty ‘good’ again by ‘entering’ Rusty’s mind and showing him what it means to be good by giving him the Doctor’s memories. Again, there’s promise in this plotline, especially when we see it backfire as Rusty instead latches on to the Doctor’s hatred of the daleks in order to save the day. Unfortunately, the poignancy of the moment is lost on the fact that we simply haven’t spent enough time with Twelve to feel the complexity of his emotions. Sure, it’s slightly disheartening to witness the Rusty take on The Doctor’s hatred rather than his good will, but Twelve doesn’t have a personality to give us a point of reference. There’s no nuance of emotion to give us that bittersweet pull of the heartstrings that the scene was clearly trying to evoke. I hate to draw comparisons, but I couldn’t help but think of Matt Smith at this moment, and what it would feel like if Eleven, with his range of emotions, were alter this scene if he were still the Doctor.
Ultimately, a dalek mind-meld is too premature at this juncture. We simply don’t know enough about Twelve to latch onto him and invest in his emotional journey. At present, Twelve appears to be a crusty old man, callous and unfeeling (his treatment of Ben Crompton’s Ross is indicative of that).
I want to like Doctor Who, I really do. I have long since considered myself a fan of the show. But if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s starting to feel like a chore to watch the show. I feel like the all the excitement I had for the series with regard to its originality and imagination has slowly been fading away to the point where I feel completely disconnected.
- The meet-cute/flirtation between Clara and Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) is decidedly well executed and authentic. Unfortunately, it feels completely out of place on Doctor Who and instead should be on another show entirely.
- When the Doctor asks Clara if he’s a good man, the moment feels like a great moment to further flesh out Twelve as he struggles with who he has been and who he wants to be. Although both Capaldi and Coleman deliver good performances, the scene just feels like a missed opportunity because the episode fails to deliver on that central question.
- Again, we get the slow-motion histrionics as the awaiting dalek attack the rebels. Honestly, the slow motion needs to go and instead the emotional resonance should come from the performances and/or the writing.
- I will admit the show looks amazing. The increased budget in terms of cinematography, musicality and special FX shows as the episode plays out stunningly in HD. Unfortunately, the content doesn’t live up to the packaging.
- Was I the only one confused as to why The Doctor refused Blue’s request to be his companion because she’s a solider?
- Missy (Michelle Gomez) makes another cameo this episode as Gretchen (Laura Dos Santos) sacrifices herself and ends up in ‘heaven’. Missy has been the single most interesting thing for me in the past two episodes, emulating a Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) vibe. I find her intriguing and I’m putting all of my hopes on her for saving S8 from being a complete dud.
What did you think viewers? Are you loving our new Doctor and think I’m completely out to lunch? Do you think Danny Pink will take over as The Doctor’s new companion once Coleman exits the show? Sound off in the comments below.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9:00pm EST on BBC America and 8:00pm EST on Space Network in Canada.