Within the Doctor Who fanbase, it’s mostly agreed upon that the Doctor’s greatest foes, the Daleks, have started to lose their ability to scare. With the exception of last year’s ‘Asylum of the Daleks,’ these enemies have become redundant as the Doctor constantly emerged (predictably) victorious. So, why integrate the Daleks into the Twelfth Doctor’s first adventure hot off the heels of his introduction?
To prove that science fiction’s longest running series is still capable of reinvention, of course.
‘Into the Dalek’ takes the Doctor and Clara quite literally where the title implies. In an amusing Honey, I Shrunk the Kids fashion, the Doctor and Clara aid soldiers in fixing a Dalek who appears to have turned good. The 2nd episode presents a moral dilemma for the Doctor: Can the Doctor put aside his hatred toward the Dalek race and believe that there is good inside of everyone?
Writers Phil Ford and Steven Moffat present a story far different from the typical Doctor vs. Dalek conflict. It’s a condensed and confined story within the embodiment of a Dalek that, for once, doesn’t involve the enemies attempting to take over the human race. For die-hard fans of the show, many call-backs and quotes to the revived series’ first Dalek episode should be noticeable throughout.
Gone are the days of Matt Smith’s quirky and young interpretation of the Doctor and with it, a change to the format and pacing. Season 8 maintains the blockbuster quality approach to each episode, but manages to slow down the pacing quite a bit. It made sense to have that non-stop momentous feeling of Season 7 pave the path toward last year’s 50th Anniversary Special, but the show was forced to make trade-offs by eliminating some crucial character development. Last year, I wasn’t convinced with the introduction of Clara as the Doctor’s new companion, but that’s because I didn’t get to know her. The show moved too fast to develop and flesh out her role in the show, but ‘Into the Dalek’ fixed that.
Clara’s been established as a teacher, and we finally got to see that side of her life outside the TARDIS. Introduce Danny Pink, a former soldier turned teacher as Clara’s potential love interest, and we’ve got a compelling side story that should span this year’s arc. Danny proves to be an interesting new character with a dark past; the noticeably remorseful look on his face when asked if he killed a man instantly brought him sympathy within his first five minutes on screen. Only halfway through the episode, it’s clear the writers have listened to fans for tighter and more focused storylines. Here’s to hoping it’s consistent throughout the duration of the season.
In two episodes, it’s been established that Peter Capaldi’s interpretation of the Doctor is one of an older, snarly and fierce man. So far, he doesn’t show much remorse, and certainly doesn’t flirt with his companions, unlike the last three incarnations. This Doctor fights for survival and a few deaths along the way doesn’t seem to phase him. Showrunner Steven Moffat played it safe for the most part in terms of major or minor character deaths during Matt Smith’s era. As morbid as it may sound, it’s a bit more exciting when characters aren’t guaranteed safety and suggests there will be dark consequences based on the Doctor’s actions in the episodes to come.
Whenever a new Doctor is cast, the season’s premiere episode serves as an introduction to the new character’s persona. In reality, the actor is just starting to learn the ropes of the show, so it’s hard to judge whether they’re truly capable of helming a timeless role this early on. In a sense, it is the season’s second episode that is pivotal in defining what the new era of Doctor Who stands for. Although Capaldi hasn’t yet delivered his moment on screen where fans across the world can unanimously say, “This man is the Doctor!” it’s safe to say he superbly encapsulates the role.
‘Into the Dalek’ is a refreshing new start for the Daleks and the show as a whole, marking the beginning of the new era of Doctor Who, post-50th Anniversary Special. Throughout 2014, Moffat emphasized Season 8 as the most reinvented since its revival in 2005. If this episode is any indication toward the quality of the rest of the season, it’s going to be a good year for Whovians.
Robert Sperduto is a freshman at the College of Charleston, majoring in English. He loves all things entertainment; movies, T.V., music and reading.