Monday, 8 September 2014

A slightly late review this time. It's not my fault, I got distracted. You can always find something.

​After his overly long and patchy debut Deep Breath, the Twelfth Doctor's second outing, Into the Dalek, saw him travelling... well, the clue's in the title. But this was a journey that allowed us an insight into the Doctor himself, who, as the Dalek points out, would make a good Dalek. So is the title referring to him? Ooh. Possibly. Probably not.

​Anyway. It's a cracking central concept, brought to life well by director Ben Wheatley and writer Phil Ford (our first non-Moffat script in a while - a refreshing change, even if he did somehow blag himself a co-writer credit). Sure, some elements have been seen before - the miniaturisation and antibodies are reminiscent of Let's Kill Hitler, plus there are similarities to 2005's Dalek - but it's a dynamic and thrilling enough adventure for this not to be too much of a problem. Equally commendable is that, contrary to the previous week's string of set pieces, this is a narrative driven by the Doctor and Clara, his clever ideas and her problem solving linking scenes efficiently - even if his ideas aren't always approved of by the rest of the gang...

​What really makes this episode interesting is its central question. "Am I a good man?" the Doctor asks Clara, still suffering from post-regeneration uncertainty and confused by the possibility of a Dalek turned good. Throughout the episode, we're repeatedly faced with the brutal side of this Doctor, the side only rarely seen in Matt Smith or David Tennant's incarnations - letting a soldier die and joking about it, reprimanding Journey Blue for bad manners immediately after her brother's death - all leading up to the final confrontation with Rusty, who finds true 'beauty' in the Doctor - his hatred of the Daleks. He thinks it was his initial trip to Skaro that shaped him into the noble hateless adventurer, but this actually planted the seeds of hatred inside him. He's fought so strongly on the side of what he sees as good, fair, liberal values that he's become anything but fair and liberal. "Prejudiced", Clara calls him. A hatred of hatred. Deep. It's a fascinating interrogation of the character, and Capaldi inhabits these dark tones magnificently, plus there's a nice link back to Asylum of the Daleks in Rusty's conflation of beauty and hatred. 

​But this Doctor isn't all darkness - he has some very funny lines. Well, darkly funny...

​"Keep breathing normally during the miniaturisation process."
​"Ever microwaved a lasagne without breaking the film on top?"
"It explodes."
"Don't be lasagne."

​"We're not babysitters, we're here to shoot you if you turn out to be a Dalek spy."
​"Oh, that's a relief, I hate babysitters."

​Ooh, that's another link to hatred there. Hadn't noticed it until I finished typing it out. But if there's one group the Doctor takes against more than babysitters, it's soldiers. Despite her coming around to his point of view throughout their adventure, the Doctor refuses to let Zawe Ashton's Journey travel with him. Because she's a soldier. (I do think the fact she wants to travel with him needed to be seeded more - a scene of Clara describing life with the Doctor to her, maybe.) The man who fought in the Time War and has wiped out countless Daleks hates soldiers - another manifestation of the great, dark contradiction at the heart of this character, between the warrior he is and the Doctor he promised to be.

And so it's appropriate that this episode saw the first appearance of another soldier - Danny Pink, aka new Rory, now working alongside Clara in Coal Hill School and fast becoming a love interest for her. There are some great ideas here and I'm looking forward to the inevitable confrontation when our grumpy Doctor doesn't approve. It's nice that Clara finally has a character-focused arc - two episodes in and she's already getting much more interesting material than she ever did last series. However, I did think Danny's scenes could have done with some tightening, as they take too much of a time out from the plot. Yes, we can see he's attractive, we don't need the secretary to joke about that three times...

​Nevertheless, Into the Dalek is a rollercoaster of an episode and one of the more interesting recent appearances from the Doctor's arch-nemesis, not because of the pepperpot itself (as Mark Kermode fans will tell you, Jaws isn't about a shark) but because of what it says about the Doctor. The dark, hilarious Capaldi and the increasingly engaging Coleman are becoming a very watchable TARDIS team, and I can't wait to travel with them some more. Even if that does take me to Nottingham...


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