Doctor Who 'Into The Dalek' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

Peter Capaldi's opening season continued with the second episode were we return yet again to a Dalek story. This time however it is quite a unique premise that could possibly lead to one of the best Dalek episodes of the new series, but how does it actually fare?

'Into The Dalek' has a premise that I have wanted to see for a while on the show, maybe not necessarily with Daleks in particular but it turns out they were the perfect monsters for a storyline like this. The only problem is that we are beginning to run into yet another case of overusing the Daleks, last time they appeared was in Matt Smith's swansong 'The Time of the Doctor' and also in the 50th anniversary 'The Day of the Doctor' right before that. The only thing that makes this okay is those two episodes were not completely Dalek-centric like 'Into the Dalek' and we do have a new Doctor right now so having them appear early makes for a smoother transition for some fans. It also of course is not your typical Dalek story so at least it is something new that we have not seen before and they do not just come across like complete fools by the end. This does not mean all is well and good about this episode though as it of course does take a couple of missteps along the way.

Just like 'Deep Breath', this episode is directed by Ben Wheatley and yet again he knocks it out of the park. This episode looks absolutely stunning and definitely one of the better looking ones in the whole season. It is a shame he is not returning to the show (at least right now) as he definitely ranks up there with some of the very best like Nick Hurran and Graeme Harper. Since the show returned the visual effects has gone through major improvements and with series 8 you could just imagine seeing something like this on big budgeted feature films. Now they have also gotten so good at showing the TARDIS interior in the background when the doors are open, in the episode 'The Snowmen' they made a big deal of the fact that we see the Doctor and Clara walk into the TARDIS and the camera follows them in one continous shot (they did it as well in 'The Day of the Doctor' with Clara on her motorbike) and they do the same thing here except it is not as show-off'y, in fact the camera is very clearly handheld here so I do not even think it is an effect, they probably just built they were in right next to the actual TARDIS set. Nevertheless it looks so good now that they are not even showing off anymore. 

In terms of characters this is the introduction to Danny Pink who serves as the romantic interest for Clara Oswald this season. While he definitely did not get a whole lot to do here he delivered a great performance and all the scenes with him in the school showed a great contrast to the double life that Clara lives (something that will be delved into further later in the season). If you did not know what 'Doctor Who' was and you saw the scenes set at Coal Hill you would not have a clue that there exist monsters, time travel and that on several occasions the whole world has been taken over by some weird alien race. I can definitely imagine several viewers being slightly annoyed at the episode focusing like 7-8 minutes on the school but to that I say... in Series 7 the same people very clearly complained that we did not get enough character to Clara outside of her being the impossible girl so... what the hell? I was one of the people who made the argument that Clara needed more things to her in series 7 as she was a bit two-dimensional. I thoroughly enjoyed were they took series 8 with these scenes in the school showing a more variety of characters that sticks around for a couple of episodes (not every recurring human character needed to be family members).

Peter Capaldi is on top form here as he very easily slipped into the shoes of the Doctor and his interaction with practically every character apart from Clara made it perfectly clear just who this Doctor is and how he acts in conversations. He is definitely one of the best actors to have played the role (although I think I say that about every actor who has played the Doctor) and he might even be a contender for best Doctor overall once his time comes to an end. While the twelfth Doctor was definitely not like the others in the new series in 'Deep Breath', here he distances himself even further by just straight up sacrificing a person to further the mission.

I thought you were saving him!

He was dead already I was saving us!

If I had not fallen in love with this Doctor by the time he said "kidneys" in 'The Time of the Doctor' then I would definitely have done it after this scene. He has the best lines of the whole episode and is without a doubt 'Into The Dalek's MVP.

Now the story though, this is an episode written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat (although I am pretty sure Moffat came up with the premise and probably only actually wrote the scenes taking place at Coal Hill). Ford himself previously wrote the magnificent episode 'The Waters of Mars' with Russell T Davies. 'Into The Dalek' definitely does not top it but it is one of the better Dalek episodes of the new series and it is good to see they are still coming up with new ideas instead of just bogging down to the same old plot were they take over the world or something. This does not mean everything is new with this story though, the idea of a good Dalek (and of course the interpretation of what that means) has definitely been done before - and better in the series 1 episode 'Dalek'. We really did not need to have Rusty (the "good" Dalek) look directly into the camera and blatantly explain the moral of the story to the audience as it does lessen the momentum it had going for it. It does however fit very well with the themes of Series 8 and begins building up the Doctor's arc perfectly - however it probably should not have been the second episode of the season. 

This episode also began another theme of Series 8 which is soldiers and military service while also continuing a little bit with the idea of an afterlife - but very little. Missy showing up was to be expected and it continues the religious ideas this season builds quite heavily on. Of course this is really early on so there is not much to say about this yet so I will spend more time on that in the eventual review of the whole season.

Overall though, 'Into The Dalek' is a fantastic episode. It is right up there with 'Day of the Moon', 'The Shakespeare Code' and 'The Fires of Pompeii' for the best second episode of the new series ('Day of the Moon' being the best). Peter Capaldi shines as the Doctor here as he has completely made the role his own and become one of the best actors to have had the role. Jenna Coleman delivers yet another great performance and Clara is continuing to get very much needed character development to take her out of just being "The Impossible Girl". The visual effects are stunning, this is one of the best looking episodes of the season and probably even the whole show and if the morals just had not been too similar to the Series 1 episode 'Dalek' then this could easily have been the best standalone Dalek episode ever made (note the word "episode", meaning a single parter). But for now though, 'Dalek' still owns that position and 'Into The Dalek' is sitting at a rather comfortable second place.


- Lucas


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