“Dalek” was an early classic for the new Doctor Who, ranking among my favorite stories of all-time. So a story that features callbacks to that classic Christopher Eccleston era story was already going to be right in my wheelhouse. Add in another superb performance by Peter Capaldi and some interesting bits about just who this new Doctor is and you’ve got another winner for this new era.
I know I’m probably in the minority on fully embracing and loving this one, but then again, I was quick to embrace and love “Victory of the Daleks” at the start of the Matt Smith era. And while that episode hasn’t held up as well as my initial reaction, I still think it’s a lot better than most fans give it credit for.
“Into the Dalek” finds the Doctor brought in to heal a malfunctioning Dalek — one that has become “good” instead of wanting to exterminate everything it encounters. Conflicted about what he should do, the Doctor brings Clara onto the scene because she’s a “carer” and does his caring for him. Not sure if there really can be a “good” Dalek, the Doctor and Clara agree to be miniaturized and head inside the Dalek to fix what’s gone wrong and hopefully find some redemption for the Daleks as well as the Doctor.
In a story that calls to mind not only “Dalek,” but also “The Invisible Enemy,” the Doctor and Clara’s journey inside of a Dalek proves to be a fascinating one, not only because we have to contend with Dalek antibodies but we also get a look around inside the internal portions of the blobs of hate in bonded poly-caribide armor. Much of the episode centers on just how alien and distant this new Doctor is, including his disdain for soldiers (setting up something when the Doctor and Clara’s new love interest Danny Pink cross paths, I’m sure) and the fact that he doesn’t believe there can be anything good in a Dalek. In the end, the Doctor and Clara reconnect the memories that made the Dalek “good” and send it back among the Daleks as a changed Dalek — one that exterminates the fleet invading the ship and then convinces the Dalek fleet that all the humans have been exterminated.
The Dalek gets a look inside the Doctor’s mind and proclaims that he would not longer make a good Dalek as we heard during Eccleston’s era but that he is a good Dalek. His hatred of the Daleks is so all-consuming that he’s become not much better than his mortal foes — the Doctor even references that it was his original visit to Skaro that defines who he is and when he became more than just a name he chose for himself.
It all adds up to some great speeches for Capaldi. Of course, the episode also includes a lot of scenes that we’ve seen referenced in the trailers including the aforementioned “carer” and the “Am I good man?” question. It seems as if the question may be one that the entire series is going to have to address and look into. It may also come into question when and if we find out who Missy is and why she’s choosing certain victims of the Doctor’s influence to bring back. Interestingly, she’s chosen two people so far that the Doctor doesn’t hold in high regard — the clockwork robot and a solider. Is she collecting people the Doctor has dismissed to teach him a lesson or to create some kind of force to go up against him later in the season?
After a solid debut in “Deep Breath,” “Into the Dalek” is a nicely crafted hour that works well on just about every level. I love the new storytelling pace that allows the show time to breath and to allow things to sink in a bit. I also love the work Capaldi is doing and the solid scripts he’s getting. We’re two for two in this new era and this is one Doctor Who fan who is wholly satisfied.