Sunday, August 31, 2014

Doctor Who Is NEW: Into the Dalek

Hello again! 

Dave-El here and welcome to my blog, I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, shrink wrapped to seal in freshness and flavor.

Once again I'm posting a double shot of Doctor Who Weekend. Yesterday I looked at the first episodes of newly regenerated Doctors including last week's episode, Deep Breath featuring the debut of Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor.  

Well, that was last week. OK, the Doctor has regenerated, different face, different quirks, etc. It's time now to get down to work. 

So coming up I'm going to document my impression of this week's new episode, Into the Dalek

But first....


That spoiler warning still scares me! Brrrr! 

All righty, then. 

What do we have this week?

The episode starts off with an epic space battle between humans and Daleks that classic series producer John Nathan-Turner could only dream about. In the middle of the conflagration, the Doctor rescues a soldier named Journey from an exploding ship. The Doctor take Journey back to her base where the Doctor is presented with a most unusual patient: a Dalek. A Dalek that thinks Daleks should be destroyed.

Is this a good Dalek?

Back on Earth at the Coal Hill School, we meet new teacher Danny Pink, a nice guy who is a former soldier with a tragic past. All the women it seems are really into him but it turns out he has absolutely no clue how to talk to women. It takes Clara very much directing Danny towards having a drink with her. 

But then the Doctor pops back into her life with the coffee she sent him to fetch. Three weeks ago. In Glasgow. So the Doctor says he needs Clara to accompany him. She says she has other plans. And of course off they go. 

Back at the base, the Doctor, Clara, Journey and two other soldiers get shrunk (yes, they have a shrink ray thingy, as all army bases do) to go into the Dalek (hey, that's the title of the episode) and find out what's making this Dalek good. 

After a battle with some Dalek antibodies where the Doctor takes a very cold calculated action to save their lives, the mission team winds up in, well, gloop. Disposed of biomatter. Well, you work it out. It's gross. 

From here the Doctor fixes a radiation leak that's killing the Dalek and not doing the Doctor's team a lot of good either. Unfortunate one fix undoes another and our good Dalek is off on a rampage to exterminate humans. And he's called in his Dalek buddies as well.

After another valiant sacrifice from the mission team, Clara and Journey begin searching for the Dalek's suppressed memories, one that may trigger its earlier good behavior. Meanwhile the Doctor meets the Dalek's organic center head on. Literally. The Doctor lets the Dalek enter his mind to show him the beauty of the universe. The Dalek sees that but also sees hatred: the Doctor's hatred of the Daleks. 

The good news is that this Dalek stops attacking the humans and repels the other Daleks invading the base. The bad news, at least for the Doctor, is the realization that the Dalek was never good. It was and still is an entity of hatred and destruction. It just has, thanks to the Doctor, a new target for hatred and destruction. The Doctor does not see that as a victory. 

A few things of note: 

Call outs to other science fiction, specifically Star Trek ("Into darkness" and "Resistance is futile) and Fantastic Voyage (The Doctor on the shrinking device: ”Fantastic idea for a movie, terrible idea for a proctologist”.)  

Danny Pink is going to be OK. I think. I know I was concerned that Danny was just going to be there to give Clara someone to moon over now that the Doctor was no longer... moonable. But Danny is endearingly awkward but with a soldier's training, he may have certain skills that will come in handy when his path inevitably crosses the Doctor's.

That darker Doctor we've been promised shows up this episode. There's one scene where we think the Doctor is trying to save someone but instead is using the fact of the person's inevitable demise to his advantage. There was indeed nothing that could be done to save this person but the Doctor's assessment of the matter still a bit shocking.

But no matter the face, the Doctor is a being of hope which drives him in this mission to find the secret of a good Dalek, even as he knows there can be no such thing. That hope gets dashed when the Dalek reverts to form and begins killing everything. But thankfully Clara is there to slap some sense into him. (That's NOT a metaphor.)  The Doctor does find another way but its costs another life and in the end, the Doctor doesn't make the Dalek good. He can only give the Dalek a different target for its hatred.  

Like last week's episode, there's a bit at the end that I consider yet another misstep. At the end, Journey asks the Doctor is she can come with him. Its an earnest plea from a woman who has lost much and endured much during the previous hour. We know that Journey is not coming with the Doctor; we know how these things work. But instead of telling Journey something like, "Your place is here. These people need someone of leadership and more importantly, of compassion", the Doctor says this:

"You seem nice. Too bad you are a soldier." 


Now this is not an entirely out of left field sentiment of the Doctor. For example, the 10th Doctor is clearly disdainful of the soldiers he encounters in The Doctor's Daughter and refuses to accept his "daughter" Jenny because of it. But he's won over as he sees Jenny try to exceed her life's definition as an agent of war. 

Here, the 12th Doctor has watched Journey go from an extremely distrustful person when he first rescued her to a person who realizes there are other weapons besides guns and bombs. There is nothing in her character arc that warrants the Doctor's dismissal at the end. Maybe we're just setting up this "soldier prejudice" to lay the groundwork for any future conflicts with ex-soldier Danny Pink. But still, this strikes me as a very discordant note, even for this darker, edgier Doctor. 

Despite that misstep, I still enjoyed the episode overall. Once you've been through the excitement of a post regeneration episode, the follow up tends to be a bit underwhelming. (The Beast Below, anybody?). But this episode had a nice mixture of action, adventure, tragedy, comedy and humanity, all of which makes a good Doctor Who story. 

Oh and we see Missy again. One of the dead soldiers pops up in her "heaven". The nature of the soldier's death may shed some light on what happened to Half Face Man last week. We'll see if the pattern holds as further episodes develop. 


Next Saturday and Sunday is another double shot of Doctor Who Weekend

Saturday: I probably should've done this back in December but last week's look at the first episodes of new Doctors made me want to look at their last stories. Who got the best send off? And who really got shafted before getting the shaft? 

Sunday: Another new episode so another review as we look at Robot of Sherwood

Until then, remember to be good to one another.  

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