Doctor Who – Into The Dalek Review (or “Oh Doctor, Not The Daleks Again”)

“Oh Doctor, Not the Daleks Again!”

I believe that was the headline of an article in The Sun newspaper back in 1988 before Remembrance of the Daleks was transmitted for the first time.

The notion behind it was of course that the Daleks had been done to death and really didn’t need brought back again.

You could certainly imagine that headline would be used in 2014. After all, in the nine years since Doctor Who came back to our screens, the Daleks have featured in ten stories before their latest appearance in “Inside The Dalek“. And now that makes three appearances in the last year.

It’s too much, isn’t it? It gets boring and repetitive.

But I suppose part of that comes down to this supposedly scientific formula for introducing a new Doctor. People look back at Tom Baker’s first season and think that the successful way to introduce a new Doctor is to settle him in with some established monsters early on. Personally, I think good stories will do, but what do I know, eh?

And maybe I’m being too judgemental. Maybe in spite of everything, the Daleks will seem fresh and interesting and this will be an exciting story.

Or failing that, maybe Peter Capaldi will continue to impress in spite of the mundane over-reliance on a monster that desperately needs to disappear for a while.

Doctor Who – Into the Dalek Review: What’s This One About?

As someone who seeks to avoid spoilers, I didn’t realise how literal the name of this episode would be until I watched it. But yes, this is a story of the Doctor going into the Dalek.

We’re inching closer to Pudding of the Daleks with each story…

Thoughts – Nothing Groundbreaking

I don’t want to seem like I’m being negative about Inside the Dalek because on the whole it was a decent 45 minutes of Doctor Who.

"See you in a few weeks mate"

“See you in a few weeks mate”

But the reasons for my enjoyment were not really because it was an awesome idea.

Indeed, I thought it came across like the sort of thing you’d listen to in a Big Finish Audio. And not the pre-2005 glory years but rather the post Nu-Who “All Our Best Ideas Will Be Used On TV” style Big Finish.

Decent story though it is, you could certainly imagine it being done with Colin Baker and Nick Briggs shouting at each over the medium of audio.

And maybe that’s me being harsh; after all, it did at least try to do something different with the Daleks, and offer an alternative to the usual format. That at least is worth commending.

But ultimately, the Daleks are not exciting or interesting anymore. All they do is shout, occasionally try to sound profound and sympathetic and exterminate some no-mark extras who you have no emotional attachment to and therefore don’t care if they get shot.

They just have no appeal to me anymore and I believe they need to disappear for a few years. Unfortunately, commercial considerations will outweigh creative ones and they’ll probably be back again before the season is done.

The New Doctor Again

So if the plot didn’t light up my life this evening, what did?

Mostly, I’d say it was Peter Capaldi.

I could be getting ahead of myself, and I probably am, but because he just seems so well suited to the part, I think he has the potential to be my favourite ever Doctor. I want to watch the show for him as much as I want to watch it for the show.

"Oh for fuck's sake. He's probably right"

“Oh for fuck’s sake. He’s probably right”

That never happened with Eccleston, Tennant or especially Smith. Hell, I just found Matt Smith to be annoying after a while.

But Peter Capaldi? He’s fantastic. He is what the Doctor should be. In actual fact, it’s like he’s the Doctor made to appeal to the kids who started watching in 2005 and have now grown up. It’s a bit like the way the Harry Potter movies began to take on a more adult form by the end, or how the WWF Attitude Era grabbed back the fanbase who watched it as kids in the late 1980s/early 90s by presenting a more gritty, adult style.

I don’t know if he’ll appeal much to young kids, but he appeals to me and presumably anyone who has ever seen The Thick of It. Indeed, his style of Doctor is almost Malcolm Tucker without the swearing, and that’s exactly what everyone wanted when it was announced that he was cast in the role.

Is he too harsh? He could be – and his absolute lack of empathy towards the death of Ross would suggest that he might be – but he’s ably assisted by Clara because she works as a yang to his ying. Like last week, Jenna Coleman has shown how much better she is as a companion when she works alongside someone she actually has chemistry with.

In particular, the continual criticism of her appearance by the Doctor works to great comic effect, and brings out the best in both of them. Lines like “Ach your hips are fine; you’re built like a man” and  – in response to her asking him how she looks – “Sort of short and roundish, but with a good personality, and that’s the main thing” are genuinely funny and really add to events.

When it comes to the main cast, Doctor Who is currently in top form.

Random Observations

  • Now I know that there are only 45 minutes for the writers to work with, and that any ending would have to be a little bit contrived, but I still thought that Clara’s ability to work out exactly how to bring back the Dalek’s memory seemed too
    I was going to make this a caption about the obvious blue-screen, but instead I just want to say Capaldi looks like a mouldy potato here.

    I was going to make this a caption about the obvious blue-screen, but instead I just want to say Capaldi looks like a mouldy potato here. Or Frank Skinner.

    convenient and rushed. She might have travelled with the Doctor for a while, but that doesn’t make her a genius.

  • I did like the way that they’ve finally begun to give her a character and a proper life outside of her time with the Doctor
  • And speaking of that, the story did a good job of introducing her new – I would assume – love interest,
  • I don’t know what’s going on with Missy, beyond a hope that it’s not a female Master. Oh please don’t be.
  • While the direction of the story was of a more than acceptable standard, this is the second week in a row where I’ve felt it’s been too obvious that Capaldi is standing in front of blue-screen.
  • It would be really churlish of me to say “It’s a bit too much like the Invisible Enemy for my liking”, as I really doubt that similarities to that story are uppermost in the minds of the people making the show in 2014.
  • What isn’t churlish though, is to say that the line about the Doctor being a “Good Dalek” is too similar to the exchange between Eccleston and the Dalek in Dalek.
  • I don’t think I commented on the new theme tune last week. Do I like it? Not that much, but then nothing other than bringing back the Peter Howell version would please me.
  • Another gripe: How come the Dalek was able to shoot the other Daleks without taking a hit itself?
  • Oh yeah, and one more thing…how come they were all dry again when they moved into the next room after being soaked in that pool of animal remains?
  • At least the writers are being honest about the Daleks reappearing again, with the Doctor saying “Until next time” to it. That makes a change from “OMG, the entire Dalek race has been destroyed forever again”.
  • Next week’s episode looks like it might be good, but seeing as it’s a Mark Gatiss story, I’d say the prognosis isn’t all that great. I’m a glass half full kinda guy though so I’ll approach it with a positive outlook.

Doctor Who – Into the Dalek Review: Final Thoughts

So it has its good and bad sides to it.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve come away from watching it tonight believing the Daleks need to go away and stay away, and that Peter Capaldi is an amazing Doctor.

Those were my expectations, so they’ve been fulfilled.

And I enjoyed it on a general level, so on the whole I can’t complain.

Enjoyed reading this Doctor Who review? Why not check out my book on Amazon. Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book One – The Classic Era. It’s available for a great price and can be read on any mobile or tablet device. Plus, you get a free preview of it so you can try before you buy. Get it here

 

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14 Responses to Doctor Who – Into The Dalek Review (or “Oh Doctor, Not The Daleks Again”)

  1. drwhonovels says:

    Capaldi reminds me much of the early, harsh, callous, alternating with comical, Tom Baker portrayal — anything from “Ark in Space” through “Seeds of Doom”. And that’s a GOOD way to go. His dealing with Ross definitely makes the episode stand out for me. I agree with you that it definitely seemed to cling to the groove already worn by Rob Shearman’s “Dalek” 9 years ago.. that’s a good groove to follow, though.

    • Perry Armstrong says:

      Agreed. ‘Invisible Enemy’ parallels aside, they were very clearly attempting to recreate the ‘Eccleston v Dalek’ mojo, albeit not quite succeeding. There was also a fair bit of ‘Earthshock’ in the troopers, I thought. I’m starting to wonder whether the whole ‘Missy’ thing is a bit of a missy-direction (pardon me), and that the – real – theme this season might be about what it is to be a soldier; what with Danny Pink’s emotional baggage as an ex-soldier, coupled with the Doctor’s rather callous dismissal of a would-be companion simply on the basis of her being a soldier. I have a feeling Danny Pink’s ‘journey’ might become the most interesting thing about this season.

  2. Buncheman says:

    Hey-

    An American Who fan weighing in. I’ve been on board since a local NY channel began broadcasting the Baker run back in 1978 and I have since seen most of the extant stories, so reading a blog on the subject that is as excellent as yours is a distinct pleasure. You are one of the few Doctor Who fans who calls bullshit on when particular stories are either vastly over-rated or unfairly maligned, and I was both shocked and pleased by your assessment of “Genesis of the Daleks.” I freely admit to years of being caught up in the prevailing opinion that it was the “best ever,” but then I saw it again for the first time since 1978 a few years ago and I was confronted with the concrete evidence that there are a good number of stories that are far, far better. (The Ark in Space,” “Pyramids of Mars,” “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” and “Inferno” immediately spring to mind.) Anyway, I will be buying your book soon and I’ve already recommend it (and this blog) to my fellow U.S. Who fans. Well, done, man. Well done.

    One small note, in the interest of keeping it all tight: In your review of “Into the Dalek” you state that “he’s ably assisted by Clara because she works as a yang to his ying.” When discussing the yin (not “ying”) and yang, yin is feminine while yang is masculine, so it should read “he’s ably assisted by Clara because she works as the yin to his yang.”

    That said, please keep it coming!

    • sgmilne says:

      Thanks very much Buncheman; I appreciate it.

      And cheers for educating me on the Yin and Yang; I genuinely did not know that. You learn something new every day! 🙂

  3. Buncheman says:

    You are most welcome. And, for the record, if I had to publicly state my pick for “best eve,” it would be “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” hands down. Superb across the board, it reads as a BBC historical drama/mystery that just happens to have the Doctor and a few other fantastical elements in it. I’m very much a staunch Pertwee supporter when it comes to a favorite Doctor but there is no denying the balls-out excellence of several of the stories from the Hinchcliffe era. The record speaks for itself.

    And I refuse to believe that the creators of Alien were not heavily influenced by “The Ark in Space.” I mean, really…

    • some j-off says:

      pffft, yeah like some piddly, over-lit, low budget children’s show was such a great influence over an iconic cinematic masterpiece. get real, dude.

      • drwhonovels says:

        “Ark in Space” would not have influenced “Alien”‘s screenwriter, Dan O’Bannon, who was homeless & living on a friend’s couch in LA when he wrote the thing; there seems no possibly way that he’d ever have heard of the story. It might have influenced Ridley Scott after he was hired to direct, however, with Scott being from the UK and with “Alien” being filmed in England. If anyone ever asked Ridley Scott about the connection, I’m unaware of it, though.

        “Alien” did influence “Terminus”, which was videotaped on sets incorporated leftover pieces of the Nostromo. If memory servces me right.

  4. Had the dumbest plot hole in the history of fiction. So, you have a Dalek prisoner. You lock it up. But at some point doesn’t it, you know, contemplate TAKING THE GUN OFF IF IT?!
    Sure this circumsices the story as you can’t have a Dalek nudging people in the corridor but it makes the humans look incredibly stupid. As it was that part was just a retread of “Dalek” but with a better director.

  5. Steve Freestone says:

    Funny thing is, as a kid, I never thought of Tom Baker being old or Peter Davison being young. Just that they were the Doctor. End of. I wonder if kids these days feel the same?

  6. Eugne says:

    ‘how come they were all dry again when they moved into the next room after being soaked in that pool of animal remains?’. They go through a decontamination area, the Doctor warns them about the heat.
    Good review by the way. I may not always agree but they’re always a pleasure to read.

  7. Eugene says:

    ‘…how come they were all dry again when they moved into the next room after being soaked in that pool of animal remains?’ They go through a decontamination chamber, the Doctor warns them about the heat.

    Good review by the way. I may not always agree, but always a pleasure to read.

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