Saturday, 30 August 2014

Review: Doctor Who 8.2: Into The Dalek

http://www.doctorwhotv.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/into-the-dalek-next-time.jpg
The Doctor and co go inside a Dalek using Fantastic
Voyage
technology. From Doctorwhotv
When I first read the script for Into The Dalek (then titled Into The Darkness, which received some ridicule from the Star Trek fanbase), I likened it to a cross between 1977's The Invisible Enemy, 2005's Dalek and 2011's Let's Kill Hitler. While the onscreen result contained a mixture of all three visually, the result was very different thematically - a melting pot of thoughts, not sure whether it wants to push the old chestnut of a "darker" Doctor or whether to appeal to the series' age-old optimism. The execution of a lot of the scripts ideas failed to live up to its potential, but I liked the script on its own merits and that gave the episode most of its appeal to me.
     In a bizarre return to Series Seven's habit of The Doctor having to pick up his companion from a dull(ish) daily life, The Doctor happens upon an ailing ship escaping from some Daleks, and is called upon by committed soldier Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton) to help repair a Dalek who wishes to exterminate his own kind. Picking up Clara (who is currently having a Meet Cute with new regular Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson)), he and a group of soldiers use shrinking technology to become microscopic and enter the Dalek's body. Along the way, a soldier called Ross (Ben Crompton, Pramface) gets executed by the Dalek's internal antibodies and The Doctor coldly uses his death to hack into the Dalek's security. Once they've fixed the Dalek (now known as Rusty), he reverts to being a genocidal maniac and The Doctor and Clara have to show Rusty the meaning of beauty once more. Rusty kills all the bad Daleks and hurrah the day is saved, minus a few lives.
     The episode felt a little rushed - probably because of last week's more palatable slower pace, which was unusually good for NuWho despite the content surrounding it. This mainly came from the protrusion of Danny Pink's introduction into the story - instead of us getting time to know our guest cast, we got character development for him, and the result was a set of characters whose personalities, initially, were very bare boned. Ashton's acting more than made up for that with her character, but it didn't help the other three guest characters any, or the story's concept, which seemed to hit its big twist barely ten minutes into its execution. Instead of getting a chance to soak into this otherwise fascinating world the story was kicking up, we were forced to sit and watch the introduction of a character who really deserved his own episode to develop instead of being tacked onto this one.
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"Rusty" - a name which I can't help thinking is a stab at
Russell T Davies' fan nickname.
From the BBC
     Luckily there was no real moment of misogyny, which is rare for a script with Moffat's name on it - luckily, this script was mainly written by Phil Ford, the Sarah Jane Adventures writer who co-wrote the fantastic The Waters of Mars. That story's big idea (at the end of the day) was the figure of The Doctor as a great cosmic God, with a wicked vengeance streak. Twelve's dialogue here resembles Eleven's from back in The Time of Angels, except here his obnoxious character is more emphasised and highlighted to the extent that it's a point of the plot. Twelve persuades a hopeless man that he can be saved and then capitalises on his death without a second thought. Rusty looks into his heart and finds such hatred that it inspires him to become turncoat. And, in a bizzare move, he openly rejects Journey from travelling with him because she's a soldier. I think Three would have something to say to that, Twelve. (Not to mention that in the new series alone, Rose, Martha, Jack, Mickey and Rory have all been soliders at one point or another.)
     I don't know what to say, I enjoyed this week. Its flaws came in terms of its tone and its execution - a lot of its darker ideas needed more time to sink in, and the characterisations could have been a bit stronger. As an experience though, as a cohesive episode, it was a remarkable change of pace and one which felt good because the characters (sans Doctor, of course) acted more or less how real people would act. I know it's tragic that that's a selling point in Doctor Who these days, but there it is. Into The Dalek was not as strong a story as some of its major influences - something that was especially notable when Rusty quoted the eponymous character from Dalek at the end of the episode. But all the same, it's a turn up for the books in terms of Moffat's era. And I can only hope that this upturn is consistent.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: It's Robin Hood! WITH ROBOTS! It's Robot of Sherwood.

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