Into the Dalek: Initial Reactions

Doctor Who Series 8

Insane Daleks, imaginative Daleks, Cybermen vs Daleks, human Daleks, Power Ranger Daleks, the inside of a Dalek…whatever will the new series writers think of next?

There’s a rumour, one that’s probably true, that in order to keep the Dalek licence the BBC has to use them in a story every year. This is because back in 1963 there was a rule that any original characters created by a writer became said writer’s intellectual property – so, because he came up with and wrote The Daleks, Terry Nation made a mint in royalties every time his iconic monsters appeared in a story. It’s well known that in 2005 Russell T Davies had a hard time convincing the owners of the late Nation’s Estate to let him use the Daleks in the new series, to the point where Dalek writer Robert Shearman had to write a script without the Dalek as a back-up. According to legend, if a year goes by without the Daleks making an appearance the licence will be revoked by it’s rightful owners, and it’ll be the end of the Doctor’s most famous foes as we know it. It would definitely explain the almost random cameo in the series six finale The Wedding of River Song (the one year Moffat said he was “giving the Daleks a rest”), Adelaide Brooke’s Dalek invasion flashback sequence in The Waters of Mars, their perhaps unnecessary involvement in The Time of the Doctor, and the very existence of Into the Dalek. Basically, it strikes me that the production team wanted to get this year’s Dalek dilemma out of the way.

But apart from featuring the Daleks, Into the Dalek was very much a character piece that taught us a lot about our favourite heroes. And so, in honor of Clara Oswald, let’s take moment to examine what we just learned…

A Few Initial Reactions

Danny Pink: resident solider.

Danny Pink: Coal Hill’s resident solider.

  • Danny Pink is a soldier. Let’s just stop and think about that for a second. Danny Pink is a soldier. Of all the things I thought he’d be, I did not expect it him to be a solider (well, okay, technically an ex-soldier-turned-maths-teacher). Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it was so far from what I was expecting. I even, at times, felt hints of my third-favourite companion, Steven Taylor, in his character. I could go on talking about this for hours, but basically I’ve always argued that Steven was basically a young, human version of the first Doctor, and I almost started to feel that Danny is, to Clara, a young, human version of her Doctor.
  • Putting that development aside, my reaction to Danny was exactly like my initial reaction to Victorian Clara in The Snowmen – I liked him the second I saw him. He’s sort of a cross between Mickey and Rory, but way more adorably awkward – the office scene was one of my favourites (by the way, what is it with the names of New Series male companions always ending with a ‘y’?). I love that he has an untold story, it gave him that instant depth. You see, my favourite thing about storytelling is characterisation, and I prefer a character with an established past that we get to discover, or spend the rest of our lives trying to guess (*cough* Romana and Steven *cough*), as opposed to a character with a clean slate in which we watch them create their past.
"I wasn't going but...I am now because you're going to be there and it seems like the best idea ever" Oh Danny, I already love you.

“I wasn’t going but…I am now because you’re going to be there and it seems like the best idea ever.”
Oh Danny, I already love you. I can see why Clara does too.

  • Onto the plot: this episode was a clear mashup of Dalek and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, with some Planet of Giants (1964), The End of the World and The Beast Below influences thrown in. While I don’t really like explicit ‘rip-offs’ I also saw so many of those good old ‘parallels’ I mentioned last week, I couldn’t help but smile (more on them in a second).
  • I enjoyed the way the beginning of the episode kept flicking back and forth between scenes. I thought the idea of cutting between Danny talking to Clara and banging his head on the desk was so clever, and the suspense with the Doctor and the Dalek was great. The writing perhaps let itself down a bit in the middle of the episode, but I enjoyed the climax and ending.
  • I, of course, have to mention the fact that this was a Dalek story. I like the Daleks and I like what they represent, but after Asylum of the Daleks I decided I was officially over them (not that that was a bad story, it was just a bit exhausting). I liked, however, that this one was a bit more intimate (no pun intended), and didn’t feel like a massive THE DOC-TOR HAS BEEN LO-CAT-ED EX-TER-MIN-ATE EX-TER-MIN-ATE EX-TER-MIN-ATE story we’ve been bombarded with in the last few years. Also, we’ve gotten the annual appearance out the way, so hopefully they’ll stay out of the series finale.
  • It was great how this episode exploited the fact that the Doctor chooses to call himself “the Doctor”. It fitted in nicely with the ‘dark Doctor’ thing, and I love stories that force him to look into his origins.
  • “I am not a good Da-lek. You are good Da-lek.” Heard that somewhere before? It’s the ‘parallel references’ singing again – that line is almost identical to the moment where Nine was informed that he “would make a good Dalek”. Furthermore, the Doctor’s reaction was almost exactly the same. This, combined with the similarity to the scenes in Deep Breath and The End of the World, is making me think that Twelve is very much the post-war Nine we met in Rose. He’s old, he’s been fighting his whole life, he just came out of a war, and he’s over it. Kind of like, as I was pointing out before, Danny Pink. And, of course, it’s up to his companion to make him better.
The Doctor: the only good dalek

The Doctor: the only good Dalek

  • On that note, I’m loving this ‘dark Doctor’ thread running through the series. I was thinking yesterday about the half-faced man and the “pushed or fell” speculation from last week, and I think I know what Moffat is trying to do. He wants us to start to the doubt the Doctor, in the same way the Doctor has begun to doubt himself. Think about it – did the clockwork man fall? Did he? Is the Doctor really a good man? But think about what you’re asking yourself – of course he didn’t push him! It’s the Doctor! I feel Moffat is going to teach us a valuable lesson; that yes, he has a new face, but it’s the Doctor. It will always be the Doctor. We can’t imagine Eleven or anyone else being that brutal (okay, maybe the Sixth Doctor’s acid bath incident in Vengeance on Varos is exception…and then there’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship…) so why are we entertaining the idea that Twelve will be? Pull yourselves together people!
  • However, despite him doing his best to be a good man, Twelve is still very blunt. I love it, I think it’s funny (those jokes about paying Clara made me giggle, and I loved her witty responses). Once again, he reminded me so much of both One and Nine, especially in the scenes where his companion wasn’t there to pull him into line. Clara slapping the Doctor into shape was very similar to Rose challenging Nine for standing back and watching Earth’s destruction in The End of the World, and in some ways Amy saving the star whale in The Beast Below.
Clara, like any good post-regenerative companion, knows how to slap her Doctor into shape.

Clara, like any good post-regenerative companion, knows how to slap her Doctor into shape.

  • Speaking of The Beast Below, any Eleven fan would have spotted the similarity between the scene in which Twelve and his crew land in the Dalek stomach, and the moments where Eleven and Amy find themselves on the Beast’s tongue.
  • People are going to tell me I’m imagining things, but there was something about Clara in this one, something that made me feel uneasy. She knows the Doctor well…too well. Too well to continue as a companion. Too well for everything not to fall to bits at any second. I’ve seen it all before, I know the pattern – right when they understand, right when they become properly comfortable companions who know the Doctor (dark Twelve didn’t even freak Clara out too much), that’s when they either leave, get left behind, or die. It was almost like a hint of foreshadowing, which really upset me because I love Clara so much. Although I really don’t want her to go, I think all the speculation is correct – she’s either going sometime during the series, or at Christmas. Perhaps she’ll decide to settle down with Danny?
  • Missy is back! And it’s looking like she’s a proper arc and not just another Madame Kovarian! She’s that little moment in every episode that we wait for! Yes!!! The first proper, subtle arc since the ‘cracks in time’ of series five. I don’t want to speak too soon, but it appears the Moff is doing some better things this year.
  • And, lastly, Clara and Danny. Clara and Danny. Clara and Danny are adorable. Awkwardly adorable. There is nothing I love more then an awkwardly adorable ship that works out. I just can’t wait for the moment he discovers his girlfriend’s ‘hobby’ of running off with a 2000 year old time travelling alien. I’ve been imagining the ultimate scene for a while now – Danny, suspecting Clara is having an affair, follows her home from work one day. He spots her with another man, dressed in black, and follows them into an old-fashioned police box. Except it’s not a police box. Talk about more awkward giggle-worthy moments.
"I think you're probably nice. Underneath it all I think you're kind - you're definitely brave. I just wish you hadn't been a solider."

“I think you’re probably nice. Underneath it all I think you’re kind, and definitely brave. I just wish you hadn’t been a solider.”

Next Week: Robot of Sherwood

Ah, we’ve reached the traditional historical Mark Gatiss episode three. “What traditional historical Mark Gatiss episode three?” I hear you ask. Do you not remember The Unquiet Dead and Victory of the Daleks? While I’m sure this episode will be fine, I’m not expecting really really great things – the only Gatiss story I love is The Crimison Horror. Also, I don’t really care about Robin Hood, it’s just not a fable or part of history that interests me. The ‘robot’ thing does sound really cool though.

Read my reaction to Deep Breath.

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Posted in Doctors, New Series Reactions, New Series Tele-Stories, Other Post Types, Projects, Reviews, Series 8, Story Media, Twelfth Doctor
2 comments on “Into the Dalek: Initial Reactions
  1. Good review. I too am glad the requisite Dalek episode is out of the way. I wasn’t a huge fan of this episode to be honest, although I am glad the pacing of the first two episodes has been slower. I also like the wise choice of drier humour with Twelve. It suits his age and persona.

    While Twelve is being set up to be ‘darker’ – though to be honest, he doesn’t seem any darker than 9 (I’ll let Cassandra explode right in front of me’), 10 (‘I’ll just drown the Racnoss kids’) or 11 (‘Sorry about those missiles, Solomon’) – he also showed more honestly and vulnerability when he asked if he was a good man.

    I too instantly liked Danny Pink. I like the instant set-up for tension here: Pink’s a soldier and Twelve has a no-soldier rule.

    • Thanks for your comment! You make a good point about Twelve being honest and vulnerable – I guess it sort of fits with the “no frills, no messing” Moffat was talking about. Unlike just about every other Doctor he’s not trying to be anything that he’s not, and the dry humour definitely helps to offset that a little and still make him feel doctor-y.

      And I’m also interested to see how ‘Twelve and the solider’ will pan out, I wonder if they’ll learn something about themselves – with the help of Clara, of course. They both need to come to terms with everything they have done, I’m hoping for a bit of a morality tale later down the track that addresses this – Danny implied that he killed a civilian, and there’s definitely a tale to be told there (in episode 5, perhaps?).

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