Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review - "Doctor Who: Into the Dalek"

Warning: This review will contain spoilers. If you wish to remain surprised, watch Into the Dalek before continuing

Following last week's series debut with Deep Breath, we were left wondering just what Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor would be like. Some of that ambiguity was lifted this time around as the new Doctor came face-to-face with the Daleks for the first time. The episode is Into the Dalek written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat, and it is the subject of today's review.

Having just made the acquaintance of fellow school teacher Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), Clara (Jenna Coleman) is whisked away in the TARDIS once more. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) has been called on to heal the patient aboard a vast space hospital. The patient however is a Dalek - yet this Dalek seems to have a conscious and morals. How can the universe's most dangerous creature have gotten this way? The only way that the Doctor will find out is by journeying inside the Dalek, and little does he know that looming close by in space is a great Dalek army waiting to attack...

The Daleks have been a staple of Doctor Who's history, and I'm certain that they shall remain so. The Daleks have appeared so often on the series that it is a wonder that any original story lines can be produced. Yet, Into the Dalek managed to be an original Dalek story, which not only restored some of the menace to the Doctor's most famed foes, but also added new layers to the Doctor's character. Co-written by showrunner Steven Moffat and Phil Ford (writer of fan-favourite episode The Waters of Mars), the script for the episode is perhaps it's greatest achievement. While the idea of traveling inside the Dalek may seem more like The Magic School Bus than Doctor Who, the concept proved to be an interesting one. By shrinking the main characters down and journeying inside the Dalek, Into the Dalek had a great sense of scale, making it feel like a story of epic proportions.

Aside from the original story, Into the Dalek was an excellent character study, especially for Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor. The Doctor's true nature remained rather ambiguous throughout last week's episode, but here the darker, less-forgiving nature of Capaldi's Doctor is showcased front and centre. The episode's most brilliant (an telling moment) comes at the end as the Doctor connects his own mind to the Dalek's and the Dalek sees the full hatred the Doctor feels towards his enemies. Later, the Dalek tells the Doctor that he is "a good Dalek." This is a brilliant piece of characterisation and we really get a glimpse at the darker side to the Doctor which lurks just beneath the surface.

While Capaldi dominated the episode, the supporting cast worked extremely well with him. Jenna Coleman proves to have excellent screen chemistry with Capaldi, and she continues to come into her own. Clara is easily becoming the most free-thinking companion the Doctor has had in some while. Into the Dalek is also the first episode to feature Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink, a fellow school teacher at the Coal Hill School. There has been rampant speculation about Danny's character, but for now he seems to be a romantic interest for Clara, employing Steven Moffat's characteristic vein of humour. All-the-same, Anderson made the most of his part thus far, and managed to garner some laughs. It will be interesting to see what Danny Pink contributes to the series as it progresses.

Into the Dalek was an excellent episode featuring original plotting and fine performances from its central characters. Peter Capaldi continues to shine as the Doctor and I am even more excited for the rest of this series. I give Into the Dalek four out of five stars.

Next Week - Robot of Sherwood by Mark Gatiss

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