Doctor Who 2005 Season 8 Ep 2 (TV Show Review)

Peter Capaldi’s much-anticipated turn as the Twelfth Doctor began last week with the start of the 8th series of Doctor Who‘s 2005 reboot. It was an interesting episode, certainly, with a lot of intensity to Capaldi’s performance and that of his co-actor Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara. But, it was all still a bit silly in the end, with a rather lackluster villain thrown into the bargain, and that didn’t help matters. If, like me, this was your first proper introduction to a Doctor, then it wasn’t a very good one but the thing is that it showed promise and that’s why I came back this week for the second episode.

This week’s episode, “Into The Dalek” sees Capaldi’s Doctor and Coleman’s Clara take a space-jaunt to meet a “good” Dalek, a Dalek who wants to kill all the other Daleks. Answering the question of why and how this happened is what the protagonists deal with, aside from their usual conundrums which, in the Doctor’s case involve recreating his identity, and in Clara’s case involve her normal life at the school where she teaches. Overall, this was a much better episode than last week’s, though I felt that some of the negatives were still in effect. Not as bad as before, showing there is some improvement, but still there.

DWLogo

As the introduction of the new doctor and the new actor, last week’s episode was fairly good, but it was lacking in certain areas because of the sexism on show, with Clara getting the worst of it. And this was one of the things where I wanted the show to improve upon this week, which it did, but not entirely. We moved from outright sexist criticism to more… veiled criticism. Progress of sorts, but not enough of a step in the right direction. I love Clara as a character and after last week’s episode I was rather disheartened. Fortunately, this week’s episode did give her a lot to do, as much as the previous one, and she came out of it much better than before.

So I’ll take what I’ve got and continue hoping for the best. After all, there is only so much sexist snark that can be tolerable on a show, especially when you have got characters like the Doctor and Clara in the context.

Still, to focus on the positives. Capaldi’s acting was much better this time. He isn’t Matt Smith, with all his flamboyance and flashiness, he is more restrained and… aristocratic I guess you’d call it. That works really well for Capaldi in this episode and actually takes me back to Christopher’s Eccleston’s first and only season on the show, the first series of the 2005 reboot. In the sixth episode, Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor runs into a Dalek in the 21st century and there is a lot of mayhem that results after that meeting, for the Doctor’s pain for his lost world is still fresh enough and so on and so forth. The premise of this episode, “Into The Dalek” is different from that episode of course, but the thrust is similar: to allow the viewer to gain an understanding of the Dalek mind and maybe even sympathize with one.

The episode raises a lot of interesting questions, especially once the heroes and their allies take a literal trip into the Dalek, reminiscent of the (I think) fantastic 1966 classic “Fantastic Voyage“. The heroes are shrunken down and injected into the Dalek, to repair it in the hopes that whatever the tin-can picked up that subverted its moral programming, it could be spread to other Daleks as well. The performances by both Capaldi and Coleman are at their best in the second half of the episode, when their character interactions really kick in.

And as happened in the last episode, it is Clara who comes out on top because she understands what is happening with the Dalek better than the Doctor does. He is too caught up in his hatred of all Daleks, whereas she is able to offer more objective opinions on the situation. To be honest, I would have expected it to fall in reverse, but the way that writers Phil Ford and Steven Moffat play this out works just as well, even better in fact. Clara being the voice of reason and understanding at the cost of the Doctor, yeah, that’s a good one I’d say.

Playing off the identity crisis of the new Doctor with the moral ambiguity of the Dalek is, I think, a brilliant move. I’m not familiar with Daleks all that much, other than what I’ve seen in the recent specials last year and the first few episodes of Eccleston’s run, so I don’t identify with them as the ultimate evil of the Whoverse, but regardless, you have here the “ultimate” force of good in the Doctor and the “ultimate” force of evil in the Dalek (referred to as Rusty by the Doctor here). The two clash, and it isn’t a good sight.

The episode perhaps doesn’t commit fully to the idea of the a “good” Dalek, but that can work to its advantage as well when you consider that we are in only the second outing of the new Doctor, and there is an entire season left to go yet, not to mention the fact that there will undoubtedly by a special at the end of the year. The themes that were introduced here could well be addressed in the future because right now, while the Doctor is questioning himself, his most classic villain is as well, even if that only happens on a small scale.

Doctor Who Series 8 Stills 0002

What I didn’t like so much however was the fact that the Doctor was quite crass in his approach to his allies. Uncaring even, ruthless perhaps. That doesn’t jive at all with Matt Smith’s Doctor or Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. Those were much more upbeat. If this approach with Capaldi’s Doctor is here to stay, then I foresee a very dark time for the Doctor ahead, because there is indeed a darkness here. Rebooting the Doctor seems to have made him care much more about the bottom-line than about the people. Interesting certainly, but can’t say that I like it all that much yet. I’m waiting for a bit more nuance on that front.

Still, when all is said and done, this was a much more enjoyable episode than the last, especially since the supporting cast, led by Zawe Ashton’s Journey Blue, was much better than the dysfunctional Paternoster Gang. And Clara got some supporting cast of her own with Samuel Anderson’s Danny Pink, who is perhaps being set up as a potential love interest for Clara. The interactions between the two of them were great and Danny Pink has the right amount of hilarity in his character to make his scenes fun and easy-going.

Right now, can’t wait to see what next week brings.

More Doctor Who: (12th Doctor) Season 8: Ep 1; (11th Doctor) 50th Anniversary Special, 2013 Christmas Special.

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Posted on September 1, 2014, in Doctor Who, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. That doesn’t jive at all with Matt Smith’s Doctor or Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. Those were much more upbeat.

    No, this is a very different Doctor. But then, you’ve seen the War Doctor and how different he could be.

    Like

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