The Rundown: The Doctor goes where he’s never been before, and tries to learn something about himself along the way. This episode is not as much about transitions, but about settling into change. The Doctor is trying to find out what kind of man he is, and a young soldier gives him a chance to find out with a unique opportunity.
In the latest episode of the new Doctor Who, The Doctor goes where he has never been before. The episode title is not metaphorical, as this place is inside an active Dalek soldier. The Doctor is out exploring the galaxy, trying to figure out what kind of person he is. Along the way he rescues a young soldier who is fighting a war against the Daleks. When brought aboard her ship, he is pressured into helping them repair a Dalek who seems to be malfunctioning, and declares that he will Exterminate all the Daleks. A good Dalek is too much of an opportunity to pass up, and so the Doctor grabs Clara Oswald and sets out to repair the Dalek from the inside out.
Firstly, I love this episode. It’s a wonderful transition from “Deep Breath,” and further explores what kind of person The Doctor has become with his newest regeneration. That seems to be a bit of a grump, and somewhat oblivious, but that’s what is so great about him. It’s almost like he took the best parts of Eccleston’s performance, but also a little bit of earlier Doctors. All of whom were a bit older, a bit more esoteric, and without any of the sexual tension we’ve come to expect from our modern Doctor Who.
The relationship between the Doctor and the Daleks is also explored, albeit briefly, but in an extremely compelling way. Since the first Doctor, the Daleks have pretty much been The Doctor’s sworn enemy, and any episode which forces him to see them in a new light is bound to be interesting. Episodes like “Victory of the Daleks” and “Asylum of the Daleks” give us a small peek under the hood of the most ruthless villains in The Doctor’s long history. This episode literally gives us a peek under the hood and it’s quite fascinating
Another thing to love about this episode is the old-school feel of it. Parts of it are surreal in nature, or simply low-tech, such as the inner working of a Dalek brain looking like old vent tubing you’d see in some show during the 70s. Considering the Daleks have been around since before then, it’s not super surprising, but still really awesome. The other thing about this episode that really got to me was the fact that it really hinged on “what kind of man is The Doctor.” He is tasked with helping a creature he considers his worst enemy, and yet when its capacity for good is in question, The Doctor leaps right in to help. Whether or not the Daleks can change is something thought written in stone, and this episode helps make those waters a little murkier.
Last but not least there’s Clara Oswald as the companion and teammate throughout this latest adventure. I think I liked her best in “The Time of the Doctor” because it was one of the few episodes that I really exemplified an emotional connection between her and the Doctor. This was established none too soon, as their evolving relationship after he has changed is proving to be more fascinating than I expected. Her run this far has been somewhat lackluster, but I’m excited to see what kind of unique story opportunities this new dynamic represents.
Overall, “Into the Dalek“ delivers exactly what I’ve come to expect from Doctor Who, and a bit more besides. There’s witty writing, space adventures, and the Doctor being amazing. Another thing of note is that people actually die in this one, and if you look at Moffat’s run previously he’s had a notorious problem killing off even minor characters, making each previous threat somewhat neutered. The threat is back, and Capaldi is proving he has what it takes to make the Doctor his own. Can’t wait for Episode Three, “Robot of Sherwood”!