TV Catch Up // Doctor Who, Series 8, Episode 2: 'Into The Dalek'

Warning: contains spoilers!

Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Zawe Ashton, Michael Smiley, Samuel Anderson, Laura Dos Santos, Ben Crompton

Written by: Phil Ford, Steven Moffat

Directed by: Ben Wheatley

The Story: The Doctor journeys to the most dangerous place in the Universe - inside a Dalek. And we’re introduced to Coal Hill’s new maths teacher, the mysterious Danny Pink.

Here we go. A new Doctor, a new Dalek story. I have to confess that rather than scare me senseless, Skaro’s evil tin pepperpots usually do no more than irritate me. They may be Doctor Who’s most iconic villains, but they’re also the most easily defeated and easily the most annoying.

It’s difficult for any Doctor Who writer to get it right with the tin menaces. Robert Shearman did an absolutely sterling job with Christopher Eccleston episode Dalek and a single menacing Dalek, while Mark Gatiss’s Victory of the Daleks introduced a bunch of fairly ludicrous M&Ms type Daleks that we’d rather not mention again.

Into The Dalek takes a new/old approach and literally injects the Doctor, Clara and some soldiers from a rebel spaceship into a solitary, captured Dalek who the Doctor calls Rusty.

The main theme permeating Into The Dalek is the age old question of good and evil. The Doctor asks Clara if he is a good man and he has to face an inherently evil creature that has apparently become good. But of course, life is not black and white/good or evil. While Rusty waxes lyrical about seeing “endless divine perfection” and the birth of a star, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor continues to demonstrate the moral ambiguity we saw in his debut episode where the viewer was left in some doubt as to whether the Half Face Man jumped or was pushed to his death. This again has echoes of early Doctors and makes for an incredibly unpredictable character, which can only be good for the programme as it moves forward with this new Doctor.

The boyfriend Doctor is most definitely resigned to the annals of Who history as his relationship with Clara becomes less of a hug-fest and more of a joust.  I was never completely sold on Clara as a companion in the Matt Smith days, but it is becoming a joy to watch her relationship with this new Doctor unfold. Clara here is better than she’s ever been and Coleman and Capaldi really work brilliantly together.

Into The Dalek writer Phil Ford’s last Doctor Who episode was David Tennant special The Waters of Mars, which gave us an excellent portrayal of the Doctor as cold and largely unsympathetic. In Into The Dalek we’re treated to a Doctor who is casually callous; one whose hatred of the Daleks succeeds in reanimating Rusty’s hatred, although not with the results you (or indeed the Doctor) would expect. Ford’s dialogue bristles with wit and some malicious and twisted humour. The interplay between the Doctor and Clara is great, but by my reckoning Rusty got the best lines.

Ben Wheatley takes on director duties again here and he gives us a beautifully cinematic episode on a BBC budget. There are some hilariously naff set pieces with the shrinking of the capsule that’s injected into Rusty and the fantastically Adam West/Burt Ward climbing-up-a-wall scene, but there are also some impeccably executed scenes both inside and outside the Dalek. The Doctor emerging from the capsule into the Dalek is particularly breathtaking as are the Dalek/human battle scenes.

Supporting cast members Zawe Ashton and Michael Smiley are great additions to the world of Doctor Who and Zawe’s soldier Journey Blue’s plea to the Doctor to take her with him (and his rejection of her) may be something that plays out further in future episodes. We hope so, anyway.

And so on to Coal Hill school’s new maths teacher and former soldier Danny Pink. Male companions in the new era of Doctor Who have a tendency to be over-shadowed by their more charismatic girlfriends/wives. Think Mickey’s “tin dog” and Rory before he became a kick-ass Roman. So how will Danny Pink fare? Based on his debut here, this delightfully awkward and obviously damaged young man is a mystery to be solved as Clara (who last week told us that her poster boy was Marcus Aurelius) sets off in shameless pursuit of him.

Who will he turn out to be? We’re not ones for speculation or spoilers here at SRCZ, so we’ll watch with interest as the series unfolds.

Did you know? Rusty’s shout of Death To The Daleks! is also the title of a 1974 Jon Pertwee episode.

It’s whatshisname: Michael Smiley played drug-addled raver Tyres O’Flaherty in Channel 4’s cult comedy, Spaced

Definitely not a boyfriend Doctor: “You’re not a young woman any more”, “You’re built like a man” and “I’m his carer”

Music of the Week: Murray Gold’s March of the Stormtroopers-style theme as humans and Daleks go into battle

Best Line: You are a good Dalek

The ‘Call My Agent’ award: goes to Ben Compton, who may not have been told that playing a soldier called Ross in Doctor Who is the equivalent of a new guy in a red shirt in Star Trek.

Words by Andrea McGure. Images (c) BBC Worldwide. 

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