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Into The Dalek

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Doctor Who Into The Dalek (1)

In a remote corner of the galaxy a Dalek Saucer hunts down a lone spacecraft. The Doctor saves a soldier, Journey Blue, seconds before the vessel is destroyed and returns her to the rebels command ship, the Aristotle. The rebel’s hidden base contains the human forces last hope of survival, a Dalek captive, one afflicted with a bizarre malfunction. The Doctor must travel into darkness, on his most dangerous adventure yet. A miniaturised squad of troops, along with the Doctor and Clara, begin a fantastic voyage into the Dalek. With the Dalek fleet closing in, the Doctor must look to his conscience as he confronts a decision that could alter the Dalek race forever…

Into The Dalek takes the Doctor to one of the most dangerous places in the universe, a place where even he’s weary of visiting, the inside of a Dalek itself! With its exhilarating story by Phil Ford (co-writer on The Waters of Mars (2009), writer of the animated Dreamland (2009), and contributor to the Sarah Jane Adventures) and show-runner Steven Moffat, and Directed by filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List and Sightseers), Into The Dalek sees the new Doctor confronting his old enemies, the Daleks, and the Doctor finds he needs Clara by his side now more than ever.

Returning to Earth to collect Clara from Coal Hill School, the Doctor and Clara are soon back on the Aristotle. The humans last chance rests with their “patient”, a Dalek, one so battle damaged that it has actually become good. The Doctor and Clara are taken to meet the Dalek prisoner. Intrigued by this Dalek’s unusual behaviour, the Doctor agrees to help them and find a way to use this malfunction against the rest of the Daleks. The Doctor, Clara and a special team of soldiers are miniaturised and injected into the damaged Dalek through its eyepiece on a mission to find the cause of this sickly Dalek’s altered moral state. The Dalek seems willing to cooperate, but can it really be trusted?

Doctor Who Into The Dalek (2)

No Doctor ever really seems like the Doctor until they’ve battled the Daleks. Peter Capaldi’s first run in with the Daleks in this second story of series eight is a fittingly action-packed adventure. Capaldi delivers a towering performance as the Doctor. Faced with a chance to strike back at his old adversaries, the Time Lord must soon confront some unpleasant home truths about himself, while also getting miniaturised and sent on a mission inside a Dalek to boot! Of course, this isn’t the first time that Doctor Who has ventured into the realm of The Fantastic Voyage (1966), Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor and his companion Leela (Louise Jamerson) also got miniaturised and injected into the Doctor’s brain to defeat the Nucleus of the Swarm in the 1977 story: The Invisible Enemy. Into the Dalek sees the Doctor placed in the most dangerous situation imaginable. The scenes inside the Dalek are really effective, offering a fascinating new perspective on the universes most feared supreme beings, and Peter Capaldi brings so much gravitas to the role of the Doctor that you are left hanging on his every word after he’s miniaturised and sets about exploring the Dalek’s interior – where he gravely surmises the technology that has refined hatred into an evil beyond all imagining.

Into The Dalek is another good episode for Clara, as she is miniaturised along with the Doctor and the soldiers, and quickly finds she’s right at the heart of the action when their mission becomes a desperate battle for survival. Jenna Coleman is excellent Clara, and she’s involved in many of the stories key moments. The scenes in the TARDIS where the Doctor asks her if her to be a “pal” and tell him if he’s a good man, which featured so prominently in the series eight trailer, is finally put into context here, and there is a nice moment of levity between Capaldi and Coleman as well, when the Doctor later introduces her as his carer! Clara is still getting used to the new Doctor, there’s a really interesting dynamic developing here, and she’s not afraid to stand up to this more argumentative incarnation either. There’s also a hint of romance in the air back on Earth for Clara when new maths teacher, and ex-soldier, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), starts work at Coal Hill School, and despite the awkwardness of their first meeting, she eventually asks him out for a drink.

The crew of the Aristotle: Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton), Colonel Morgan Blue (Michael Smiley), Gretchen (Laura dos Santos), and Ross (Ben Compton) are all fairly well developed characters, and you get a real sense of how desperate the situation has become as these human survivors make their last stand against the Daleks. Once miniaturised and inside the damaged Dalek, nicknamed “Rusty” by the Doctor, there are some really tense encounters with the Dalek antibodies along with a heroic act of self-sacrifice as well.

Doctor Who Into The Dalek (5)

Into The Dalek initially conjures up memories of the Robert Shearman episode Dalek (2005), from series one, which also featured a lone Dalek prisoner. Into The Dalek, while not exactly peppered with references to other Dalek stories, certainly embodies aspects from a few episodes that immediately spring to mind: that familiar Dalek heartbeat sound effect, a mainstay of nearly every Dalek story since their first appearance, which begins once the miniaturised team are inside the Dalek, seems even more ominous in this setting, the Doctor also reflects on his first encounter with the Daleks on Skaro, Rusty screeches “Death to the Daleks” at one point, the title of the third Doctor story that featured the Daleks in 1974, and we see moments of destruction from Journey’s End (2008).

The moment that really strikes a cord happens after the Doctor repairs the Dalek, and its original moral setting gets inadvertently restored. Clara gets to see a much darker side to this Doctor, especially after they’ve fallen into the Dalek’s organic refuse disposal, the way she challenges the Doctor when he’s about to give up on Rusty is superb, she also plays a key role in helping reboot Rusty’s memories, enabling the Dalek to once again experience the miracle of seeing the birth of a star and the endless rebirth of the universe. The Doctor manages to link into the Dalek’s mind, helping to open its thoughts to accept the truth of the Daleks, but Rusty is soon overwhelmed by the Time Lord’s ingrained hatred of the Dalek race. Rusty turns against the Daleks attacking the Aristotle and exterminates them, before leaving in the Dalek ship to continue its mission to destroy the Daleks. Though victory may be his, the Doctor is left troubled by the hatred the Dalek saw within him.

The Daleks are back, as hell-bent on universal domination as ever, and exterminating everything in sight. Phil Ford’s and Steven Moffat’s exciting scrip, with its intriguing central premise, engineers some fantastic moments for Capaldi’s Doctor, as he confronts a fascinating moral dilemma. With its disturbing insight into the concept of Dalek purity, unnervingly friendly lone Dalek (Barnaby Edwards), and titanic showdown between the Daleks (Voice of the Daleks by Nicholas Briggs) the Doctor’s old enemies are as menacing and as ruthless as ever.

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Journey Blue endures the loss of her brother and her adventure inside the Dalek is fraught with challenges. Through it all she finds an unwavering trust in the Doctor, she asks to join the Doctor on his adventures, but he sombrely declines because she’s a soldier. With Clara taking a shine to Danny Pink it will be interesting to see what the Doctor makes of his companions blossoming relationship with this former soldier. There is also another brief interlude featuring the mysterious Missy (Michelle Gomez), a bizarre character who seems to be gathering up people that have recently died or sacrificed themselves for the Doctor.

With excellent Direction by Ben Wheatley, Into The Dalek fully embraces the darker tone of series eight, the underlying tension between the Doctor and the captive Dalek is positively electric, and Capaldi’s performance is riveting. The miniaturised crew’s exploration of the Dalek’s interior provides some really tense and claustrophobic scenes; there are moments of dark psychological horror, and some great character development for the Doctor and Clara. The special effects and big action set-pieces are truly spectacular, and by the time the Daleks begin gliding through the airlock you’ll be completely immersed in the spectacle of it all.

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Into the Dalek provides a great second adventure for Peter Caaldi’s new Doctor, with its bold storyline, great dialogue, and impressive visual effects this episode is a sure fire winner. Dalek stories are always something special, the trick is finding new ways to feature them and keep them interesting, and Into The Dalek with its good script and excellent direction provides a fittingly action-packed adventure for the return of the Daleks!

Images Belong To BBC