The new Doctor is never really properly the Doctor until he has tested his mettle against the metal of the Daleks, his oldest, deadliest and most reliably-defeated foe. Except this time, as Peter Capaldi goes eyebrow-to-eyestalk with his nemesis, there's a difference...
Let's jump right into that proverbial Dalek and get to the meat of this episode. Firstly, the decision to include a 'good Dalek' was a canny choice as a means to highlight the new Doctor's shifting moral code, an angle that gives the story a philosophical bent amongst the lots of lovely shots of Daleks blowing up. Speaking of which, a word must be given to director Ben Wheatley who has directed these past two episodes with a real flair and certainly delivered here with some superb shots (particularly the 'Dalek explosion porn' as it was christened by writer Clayton Hickman). Both of these elements conspired to give the episode weighty themes and a visual finesse to boot.
On the other hand, despite these pluses what prevents 'Into the Dalek' from being a fantastic episode is the fact that the plot feels a little familiar. Featuring narrative devices reminiscent of 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' and 'Let's Kill Hitler', it also has a similar tone and set-up to 'Dalek' (also, as we're on the subject, the Doctor really should be more open to the notion of a good Dalek by now - he's met quite a few, not least the tragic yet heroic pepper-pot version of his companion).
However, as with 'Deep Breath', this episode's biggest strength is not the plot but the character interaction. Once again, the chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman is sublime, with the audience siding with Clara more and more thanks to the Doctor's morally dubious actions. He's certainly still the same man underneath but he now has a more pragmatic attitude to death and survival. Although that's something he may regret after the Dalek Rusty's damning words.
The Doctor wasn't the only person Clara had on-screen chemistry with this week, though, as new love interest, fellow teacher Danny Pink, was introduced. Though they sat a little disjointedly with the rest of the story, the scenes at the school were some of the most confident of the episode. Overall, the show is still working out the kinks of its new persona (much like the Doctor) but it seemed to handle itself with more assurance while set at Coal Hill School. Well, it is the show's ancestral home, after all.
On the whole, then, 'Into the Dalek' is an enjoyable, lofty adventure if one that lacked that special spark of greatness due to the familiarity of the plot. The new direction of the series and the cast continue to impress, however, so - contrary to the Doctor's claim in this episode - the TARDIS looks set not to travel into darkness but into a bright future for Doctor Who.
|In the Pink - Clara's new love interest Danny is introduced.|
Next Week: Two age-old heroes collide when the Doctor meets Robin Hood in 'Robot of Sherwood'!