At least on paper Into the Dalek looked like a good idea: a fantastic voyage style of story done with a Dalek. Sure why not? Sounds like a great idea! In practise what we got was a story that didn’t quite live up to its potential. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good – very good in places – but not as good as it could’ve been. And the reason for that lies in three main areas.
The main story is about exactly what the title says, as the Doctor, Clara and assorted redshirts go inside of a broken Dalek to heal it. The Doctor can’t quite believe that Rusty (Russ-T Davies? No, must be a coincidence.) is capable of being anything other than pure evil, and that’s fair enough I think, but he has somehow managed to become good anyway, so let's head inside his casing to figure out what did this to him.
One of the issues I have with this story is the Doctor’s opinion of his new personality. Now I’m a big fan of the Twelfth Doctor, he’s actually my second-favourite incarnation of the character, but throughout series eight he’s constantly struggling with self-doubt and Clara doesn’t know whether she can trust him.
Doctor: Clara, be a pal, tell me… Am I a good man?”This is something I think is good that Moffat decided to address but when it goes on for an entire season it slows down the audience’s acceptance of the new guy a little too much. The Doctor’s distrust of soldiers is also a bit pointless and doesn’t really go anywhere but for further distancing himself from Clara’s trust. So much so that she doesn’t even tell him about her new boyfreind, the unbearable non-entity of character that is Danny Pink.
Clara: I don’t know.
I’ve got nothing against him in principal, he seems like a nice enough guy and I’d probably get on with him in real life. Samuel Anderson does a decent job playing the part, but it’s seeing him romantically linked with Clara that doesn’t sit right with me. She needs someone who will keep doing exciting things with her and Danny is not that person. I’ve witnessed relationships where she’s constantly doing stuff going out and he’d rather sit around at home for a nice evening in, so while they get on they aren’t right for each other and the relationship falls apart because of it. That’s what we have here with Danny and Clara. They like each other and get on, no doubt about that, but as anything other than friends and colleagues I just don’t see it going the distance.
The introduction to Danny goes on too long as well. It’s all just there for future episodes to pick up on, which they do to be fair, but it doesn’t need to last for entire first half of the story.
Plus it kicks off Clara’s tendacy to lie. She refuses to even mention him to the Doctor, which seems wrong to me. If the crew of the TARDIS can’t get on then we’re back to the Five/Adric/Nyssa/Tegan years and nobody in his or her right mind would want to go back to that sort of dynamic.
The third and final problem I have with this story is its sense of humour. Take the screengrab above for instance where Generic Redshirt Man (not his real name) is disintegrated by Dalek Antibodies. Then when the Doctor and co. arrive in another part of the Dalek they ask about him and the Doctor shows no remorse about letting the man die. Instead he notes that the goopy substance their standing in is his remains. This of course disgusts everyone except the Doctor who simply says,
Top layer, if you want to say a few words.Just no. This is not how the Doctor should behave.
A much more convincing way to examine the darker aspects of the Twelfth Doctor does come later on and it’s a strong moment in both the story and the season arc. When he finally meets Rusty properly he plugs himself in to see if the Dalek is truly good and when he doesn’t find it he continues to push further and further, harder and harder, until he can find it, but he never does.
And then Rusty turns it back on him. He looks into the Doctor and says…
“I see into your soul, Doctor. I see beauty. I see divinity. I see… hatred!”
That’s nothing new of course. Moffat’s Doctor Who has always been keenly aware of the Doctor’s less-than-good qualities and never more than with the Daleks. Look at Victory of the Daleks, when he literally tries to smash one of them to bits, or Asylum of the Daleks, which established that he’s the only thing that they’re scared of. Even before Moffat we had Russell T Davies introduce the Doctor as “The Oncoming Storm” and of course Rob Shearman’s brilliant-though-poorly-titled Dalek, which included the Doctor being called a good Dalek by the very same Dalek he’d just tortured. Let’s not forget the Time War while we’re at it.
Since the species made its revived series debut in Dalek this is the most effective use of that plot device yet. And I have to praise the episode for this. But of course it's immediately undermined by the way Clara’s mistrust of the Doctor is only intensified by it.
And that’s the thing about Into the Dalek in a nutshell. It has so many good things going for it that you have to admire, but it’s also got a selection of issues dragging it down that it insists on drawing attention to. I want to love this episode… but I can’t quite manage to do anything more than just like it.
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.