Controversy attended the season premiere of “Doctor Who” last weekend. Our longtime “Who” reviewer “Kelvington” gives this weekend’s episode a whack:
Doctor Who - Into The Dalek Review
Now this episode was not my favorite, not by a long shot, but it was better in my mind than the season opener. And just upfront, can't we give the Daleks a rest for a while? I don't know, maybe one or two decades? That seems kind of reasonable.
The story breaks down like this, the Daleks are out there, in a big way again, and they are the 2005 era Daleks not the rubbish Teletubby ones we saw in Matt's tenure. The episode starts in a very similar way to Paul McGann's mini-episode, a ship in trouble, a young girl trying to save her life, but the Daleks don't really stand for this, and blow her ship out of the sky. As they do, unlike in McGann's outing, the Doctor saves the young girl's life.
Let me digress for a moment, and say. Models are back, since last year, the "Doctor Who" production team has been enhancing their effect shots with actual models, and these models look amazing, the ability to create realistic models has come a long way since we last saw them in "Doctor Who". In the last series, several models were used, the submarine, and the Dalek's flying platforms, and much more have been model shots, it's good to see them again, there is just something about CGI that can almost always be beaten by a good model shot, maybe it's just my "Thunderbirds" brain, but I love me some model shots.
The Doctor has materialized the TARDIS around the girl, and when she realizes she's alive and in a different space ship she start to bark orders at the Doctor. If you want to find a difference between this Doctor and others, this scene shows it in spades. This Doctor doesn't suffer fools gladly. As she starts telling him she will take over his ship, the Doctor laughs and says, you'll starve to death trying to find the light switch. Eventually after the girl understands force isn't going to work on the Doctor he takes her back to her command ship, which is hidden from the Daleks and parked on the side of asteroid.
Once there, the Doctor's reception is less welcoming than you would expect. In fact, they want to kill him, even though he saved this girl's life, they can't take the chance he's a spy for the Daleks. Because it appears the Daleks have duplicates now. Now THIS is an interesting notion. The Daleks, who can't really do much with humans beyond mind controlling them with some rubbish head gear, (see the episode "Flashpoint") have moved on to the point where they can duplicate humans so perfectly you can't tell. How very " Battlestar Galactica " of them. I suspect this might come back later in the series. In a very "trust no one" kind of way.
The Doctor's life is spared when they want him to work on a "patient" who as it turns out is a sick Dalek. One which wants to kill all the other Daleks. How will the Doctor help this Dalek? Well as it turns out, by being miniaturized and shot into the Dalek. Even the Doctor gets that this has been done before, not by him but by Hollywood.
Now everything I've described above, happens BEFORE the opening credits, in less than four and half minutes. So it seems like it's going to be a bang up episode. After the credits, we are at Clara's school, we are given the obligatory introduction to Mr. Pink, who has a dark past, or a dark secret in his past. All of which you won't care less about, it goes on for a bit too. Now comes Clara who meets Mr. Pink and instantly marries him... woops I mean falls in love with him. You have to give Clara credit, when she finds a guy she likes, she goes for it. My complaint here is, it's NOT foreshadowing if you don't actually do any foreshadowing, if you actually just give the game away in the first three minutes. When the Doctor comes to pick up Clara, he knows she's in love and says so. From this point on, you know that in the next ten episodes she's going to fall in love and or get married, and eventually at Christmas... leave the show. Ok, well most of that comes from the fact she's leaving the show... but still.
The Doctor and Clara leave the school and go back to the sick Dalek, where they along with some red shirts are shrunk and injected into the Dalek's eye stalk. This is where the episode pretty much ends for me. This is where, everything wrong with this idea, comes slamming into the forefront. Is it a cute idea to be shot into a Dalek? Yes. Does it fulfill some kid's wildest fantasy? Maybe. Is it necessary and does it look wicked cool? Not at all.
Now mind you, I'm old. Old enough that I watched both "Star Trek TOS" and "Lost In Space" back when they first ran. The moment they were inside the Dalek, I thought, I've seen this before, I've seen roughly the same story before. But where? Sure DS9 did an episode similar to this, but I knew it was even more familiar. And I was right, it was an episode of "Lost In Space" called "Trip Through The Robot". So I've seen this through a kid's eyes, and even back it didn't look good.
So we are going to go wandering around inside a Dalek, and try and find out why it's sick, and or heal it. From the inside, this idea in itself is just plain stupid. Why would you take valuable medical staff and soldiers, and just shoot them into a dangerous situation you know nothing about, nearly defenseless and with no support? (kinda like the Middle East) Instead, the Doctor could have just taken the Dalek apart from the outside. Do they not have scanners? Do they not have Dalek blueprints? Is this the only way to do this? The answers are, yes they have blueprints, and scanners and they could have easily taken the thing apart with some high tech device... say something sonic, which has opened a Dalek up before.
Why not vivisect the Dalek? Take it apart piece by piece, how cool, and fitting for the Daleks would that have been? Every kid would be glued to the screen as you took it apart bit by bit. Instead we take our most valuable characters and some red shirts through a long trip into something that looks rubbish. There is no mention of exactly how small they get, but it appears the interior of a Dalek is made up of former TARDIS corridors, tubing from the "Satellite of Love's" umbilicus, and round things. Oh and the Hal 9000's brain, because obviously Dalek's love "2001". Also inside the Dalek, for no reason is lots and lots of air and space. Because they aren't wearing breathing apparatus, so it must be filled with air, and lots of space to walk and run around in.
This is really why I don't like this episodes, in the forty-five years since "Lost In Space" it appears we have learned nothing about being inside of creatures. "Fantastic Voyage" at least tried to demonstrate there was gunk everywhere inside a body. Here, just lots of free space and parts of "Gypsy". Oh and the occasional slimy bit.
So first things first, we do something inside the Dalek that causes anti-bodies to appear. We lose a red shirt, and jump for the upper part of the Dalek, to the middle of, which is like falling for five stories and not get hurt or splattered when you hit. Then we discover that the Dalek has a radiation leak, and it remembered something lovely, the birth of a stare, which causes it to realize how terrible the Daleks are. The Doctor fixes the leak, and the Dalek reverts back to being evil. Then it goes on a killing spree, and summons the other Daleks to attack. Oops!
The rest of the story is about getting back to the brain of the Dalek, to convince it that it can still appreciate beauty and love and not be evil. This by far is the best concept of the story, that even a being of pure evil, can be redeemed by beauty. This I liked, of course I would have liked it a lot more had they been outside the Dalek, in sets that looked at least somewhat real.
Another red shirt gives up her life to let Clara get back to the top of the Dalek where they started. Question, how do Dalek anti-bodies KNOW who hurt the Dalek? Wouldn't they just want to kill everyone? And if that's true, then why didn't the red shirt go with Clara (and the original female soldier) back to the top? Did she have to lure the anti-bodies away? When this red shirt dies, she, unlike the first red shirt, goes to Missy's heaven. (maybe the first one did as well and they just didn't show it) Remember the promise we got, no more long arcs, more stand alone episodes? We'll that's what you call a lie, Missy is going to play out a lot I suspect over the coming weeks. So rule one is now... Moffat lies.
The Doctor splits off and manages to get to meet the Dalek face to face as it were, in this scene the Doctor appears about the size of a small mouse standing on it's legs. So that means there is a copious amount of space inside a Dalek for the Doctor (and the rest) to move around in. Which is odd, because I never thought of the Daleks as having "first class" room inside of them.
Clara now starts to work inside the "Hal 9000" chamber and tries to get the Dalek to sing "Daisy"... OK not really, but she spends time trying to find the beautiful memory, of a star's birth, the Dalek has forgotten. She pushes what appears to be the only button inside the memory core, and that seems to work to reset the Dalek, so the Doctor can try to get the Dalek to be good again. In the mean time, the rest of the Daleks have shown up to, "kill all humans"! They are doing a really good job at it too.
The Doctor spends time trying to convince the Dalek that beauty is important, he does this in sort of a Spock meets V'ger kind of way, by projecting himself into the mind of the Dalek. Which might have been possible say... from the outside? It back fires a bit when the Dalek sees how much the Doctor hates them, and the "good" Dalek kills all the other ones inside the ship.
Now that there's a Dalek that hates the other Daleks there's only one thing to do... let it go and kill itself, to blow up the Dalek ship. There's no way to capture another Dalek or say a whole lot of them, and teach them to go kill all the Daleks throughout the universe. By letting this Dalek go and commit suicide, you are hitting a huge reset button. It's as if nothing happened at all in this episode of any importance, beyond killing another Dalek ship. Which the Doctor does pretty well if memory serves. Even "Star Trek TNG" knew the advantage of "Hugh" and thought he could be turned into a weapon, even though in the end they let him go.
The episode ends with Clara getting ready to go out on her date with Mr. Pink. These last two episodes in particular don't have real endings they just peter out. People walking off screen, The End. Not sure why this is happening this year, but we are two for two now.
I know I bitch a lot about these first two episodes, the first mostly because it was too god damn long, and this one from a concept and production side. I know the show is mutating, and it's becoming something other than it was in the RTD era. The new Doctor (Doctor #1 as Moffat calls him) is very different, more stern, less frivolous. He has a bit of a bite to him, and I enjoy that. But I'm not sure I enjoy what the show is becoming. Not that it matters or I have any say in it. But for my money, and it is at least partially my money (I pay the £149.50 license fee) I'm starting to enjoy the RTD era a little more than the Moffat one. I wonder what "Doctor Who" will look like in another twenty years? Perhaps it will go back to wobbly sets, and tubing strung around everywhere, and silly stories... oh wait... that's where we were today. Never mind.