Into the Dalek
|(Doctor Who Story No. 248, starring Peter Capaldi)
- written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat
- directed by Ben Wheatley
- produced by Nikki Wilson
- music by Murray Gold
- 1 episode @ 49 minutes
Story: When a malfunctioning Dalek prepared to betray
its own race on ethical grounds asks for medical assistance,
the Doctor agrees to be miniaturized and go into the Dalek
to find the cause. Can a Dalek actually have turned "good"?
How might this inform the Doctor's view of them, or indeed
of himself, moving forward?
DVD Extras for this story include:
- Audio commentary by
writer Phil Ford and
director Ben Wheatley.
- Behind the Scenes featurette (11 min.) with
Peter Capaldi (The Doctor),
Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald),
Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink),
Zawe Ashton (Journey Blue),
Laura Dos Santos (Gretchen),
Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voice),
co-writer Steven Moffat, and
location manager Iwan Roberts.
In-Depth Analysis Review
by Martin Izsak
WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended
for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the
Buyers' Guide to the season instead.
It may look at first as if Peter Capaldi is simply being given
a Dalek story this early on to legitimize his new Doctor and boost his popularity,
but this story examines enough new and/or rarely tackled aspects of Daleks that
its premise earns its keep in fueling a story all on its own, and it turns out to
be one of the better ones of the season. In fact, it almost felt as though
"Deep Breath" (the previous story)
was another insignificant Christmas Special, while "Into the Dalek"
was the proper intriguing season opener. It may still be debated, however,
whether this story managed to execute its premise adequately.
The opening is properly attention grabbing, and we get the unique move of seeing
Daleks in battle as spacecraft pilots instead of ground soldiers for once. Nice touch,
complete with standout optical shots. But understanding the true turning points of
the action requires paying close attention to a lot of dialogue, as director Ben Wheatley
opts to leave out all of the numerous materializations of the TARDIS all through this story
as he has in the last one. Far less than what any Doctor deserves at the beginning of
his era. How many potential brand new viewers are we confusing by doing things this way?
The entire opening sequence appears to be in a bit of a rush, such that they
can reveal the main premise of the episode as quickly as possible, before then restating
the premise with additional emphasis from having it as an episode title during the opening
credit sequence. We then abandon this thread to cram in nearly all of Clara's scenes
at the school for this story, before coming back and rushing through the premise again
quickly to get on with the story.
Many important things are lost in the shuffle from all this rushing about. The tracking
shot of the Doctor breezing through the station as he re-introduces the crew of the Aristotle
to Clara contains a lot of unusual dialogue that needs extra time to be heard properly
and appreciated. It feels important both in terms of getting a handle on
Peter Capaldi's relatively new interpretation of his character and for the set-up of the story,
yet the director seems content to let the actors rattle it off into the corners instead.
The most important of all the casualties of the story's rushed pacing
is surely the statement of motivation for any of these characters to want to
repair this Dalek in one of the most dangerous and complicated ways imaginable BEFORE even
trying or discussing any other methods or lines of investigating the cause. It's especially
bizarre for the crewmembers of the Aristotle and their Captain Morgan. If he would gladly
shoot people who were obviously helping them, why would he go to such trouble to save
the enemy? Additionally, if they intend to hold the Doctor at gunpoint to make him do the job,
how is it that they would let him hop away in the TARDIS by himself to collect Clara?
It might only take a bit of patient dialogue to easily fix these holes, but the writers
and production team failed to make it important enough to get the job done.
Indeed, as fascinating as it is to go inside a Dalek,
I often find myself stopping to wonder "...wwwhy are they going to all this trouble then?"
The question crops up on repeat viewing as well as on the first go, and remains the story's
largest hole during its first 2/3.
Of course, the story's premise is pulled from easily identifiable sources. Most
obvious is a previous Doctor Who story:
"The Invisible Enemy" (story no. 93, which introduced K9),
and even then, that one itself was obviously also drawing from the sci-fi feature film
"Fantastic Voyage". Both of those had much clearer motivation to shrink people
to go inside a patient. In fact, "Into the Dalek" doesn't stop at drawing imagery from
the miniaturization-into-the-patient concept in "The Invisible Enemy".
We also repeat the idea of all of this
happening on an outer space structure located in an asteroid field. Our rushed dialogue
fails to identify exactly where this is, and indeed the script may have had in mind
that it should be the same
Maldek asteroid field from our very own solar system
that featured in "The Invisible Enemy", but the visual effects people inserted a very
close-by reddish planet or brown dwarf into many of the optical shots, which effectively
rules out our solar system.
Curiously though, because the inside of the Dalek is so mechanical, as this story plays out,
it doesn't resemble "Invisible Enemy"/"Fantastic Voyage" as much as it does the old
"Lost in Space" episode "Trip Inside the Robot" - classic imagery burned into my brain
as a youngster from a clunky old series. Then along come the anti-bodies, and one is also
reminded of the Tesselecta from the Matt Smith Doctor Who story
the one where Vultures Circle (no. 224).
"How do we get Inside its Head?"
So this premise has been kicking around sci-fi circles for some time, yet this story
manages to pursue an obvious second layer at the same time as well, because we are getting
into the Dalek both physically and metaphorically, tackling the fascinating question
of whether or not there can be other aspects to their characters like "goodness",
and whether the meaning of "goodness" has decayed into hollow propaganda about
battling evil. Excellent territory that allows us to see something of Daleks
beyond their usual one-note characterizations.
"That was Not a Metaphor."
If the first 2/3 of this story had some motivational holes, the final leg
brings character motivations into strong crystal clarity, and features many of the story's
strongest scenes, most exciting action, and most beautiful visuals. Some of the
questions are all about Capaldi's Doctor, which is fair, but a bit weird since it would
seem that he should be aware of all these issues already, if not on top of them.
Of greater interest to me were the character implications to the Dalek race as a whole.
Firstly, I like that physical factors such as brain chemistry and programmable memory
interfaces were shown to have impact on the shifts in character, making it far more believable
than stories like
Star Trek TNG's "I, Borg" which seemed to want
to rely almost exclusively on intangible mental/spiritual changes of heart.
Most interesting of all might be what this potentially means for the entire Dalek race.
In that respect, perhaps we are exploring avenues with some similarity to what we witnessed
in "Asylum of the Daleks" (story no. 231) which opened the
previous season. Indeed, both stories hint at certain possibilities, yet don't quite go
far enough into the ramifications to truly satisfy.
"Into the Dalek" felt like it could be the beginning of something much bigger,
far more grand-scale and interesting. It was off to a decent start, and seemed ready to
escalate with great excitement. But then it seems to be over a bit too quickly and neatly,
as though we should be satisfied with just following the impact on the Doctor, which didn't
feel like anything near as interesting a breakthrough. As a stand-alone Dalek story,
this episode didn't quite rise above decent. However, if the developments here were to pay off
later in the season, or in the next, it might just earn "Into the Dalek" a bit of retroactive
credit and elevate its status overall.
This story also marks the beginnings of Clara's season-long story arc at the school,
most specifically how she meets fellow teacher Danny Pink. I suspect these portions are
by and large Steven-Moffat-penned contributions to the script. The scenes are fairly
entertaining, and work in terms of both a humorous sideline to the main plot, as well as
further comment to the soldiering character theme that runs throughout the story and
the season. Nice enough.
"Into the Dalek" was decent, but fell a bit short of great. Still, I was now
much more hopeful for the rest of the season. More decent stories followed, but
none seemed to really pull themselves together better than this one for a long time....
This story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:
Season 34 Box Set
11 stories in 12 episodes
Dec. 9, 2014.
Dec. 9, 2014.
Nov. 17, 2014.
Dec. 9, 2014.
Dec. 9, 2014.
Nov. 17, 2014.
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