Critiquing Capaldi: “Into the Dalek”

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Welcome to the Capaldi era.

After the last episode, which was essentially a transitioning piece between the Matt Smith era and the Peter Capaldi one, Into the Dalek is more or less the proper start of the Twelfth Doctor’s run. While Deep Breath certainly teased at what was to follow in its excellent second half, it also paid (though a weak) homage to the previous three series, both directly and indirectly. Here, it’s clear the show has moved on from the Matt Smith days, and it’s now Capaldi’s time to shine in the role. And the story does a decent job.

After a really cinematic, gripping, pre-title sequence which really grabs the audience’s attention, due to the superb pacing and Wheatley’s phenomenal direction, it’s time to make a couple more introductions to prominent features in this era.

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The first introduction is physical. It’s our introduction to Danny Pink and the relationship that he will eventually blossom with Clara. In all honesty, I’m not a massive fan of these seems. In some ways, they almost feel anticlimactic. If you remove the title sequence, the episode jumps from Twelve’s really exciting introduction to the Dalek to a man standing in a playground shouting at a group of cadets. The use of the title sequence does make this transition seem less rough, yes, but, I do find it a tad jarring. Personal taste really, and I admittedly can’t think of a better way to introduce him, but I would rather be seeing more stuff with The Doctor and the Dalek than at Coal Hill School.

Danny Pink himself, he’s okay. He’s not very interesting, I still think Danny and Clara’s relationship sort of springs out of nowhere, and Coleman and Anderson have no romantic chemistry, but, I will say Anderson himself is very likeable and suited in the role and the way Wheatley decided to shoot him definitely suggests there is more to him than meets the eye, which is a good thing.

The other thing this episode introduces is the “Am I a Good Man?” arc. It was touched upon in Deep Breath, and Twelve’s bewilderment on who he really is was definitely present towards the end, but here it is mentioned explicitly and is a prominent theme throughout the episode. I have read criticisms of the story that the line does come out of nowhere, and I don’t really think it is. I think it’s clear as day that this Doctor hasn’t a clue who he is at the end of Deep Breath, and who better to ask who you are than your best friend, who is on her way to becoming your equal?

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Twelve’s characterisation is easily this story’s greatest strength. In a lot of ways, it’s very similar to Dalek, being that the Doctor and his greatest foe aren’t too different after all. While Dalek is easily the superior story, the similarities in their characters where explored, are really interesting to watch and are very well written. Twelve is highly enjoyable in this one, with Capaldi already proving himself to be the man born to paly the role. Twelve is brilliantly blunt, having some superb pieces of dialogue, one’s which are so outrageous and well delivered that I can’t help but burst out laughing (the dryly delivered “top layer if you want to say a few words” is my favourite), and he continues to show the brilliant relationship he has with Clara. I’m not overly keen on his speech to Rusty myself, however, personally finding the writing kinda clumsy and a bit too “Eleven” in terms of meeting the resolution.

The Dalek, while maybe not as the focus of the story like the title suggests, “Into the Dalek” being as much about getting inside the new Doctor’s head as much as the titular monster, is used well. I have read comments that the Daleks are actually scarier when the story focuses on a particular one, and in some ways, I agree, as the story is better because of it. It’s also nice to seeing them killing people again, something which the Doctor actually does here as well, furthering the parallels between The Dalek and The Doctor. Design wise they look great, and I also find the concept of Dalek antibodies to be an interesting one.

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Another thing this story does introduce us, or more specifically myself to, (as this is a very subjective thing) is annoying guest casts, something which I do admittedly find to be a feature of some parts of the Capaldi era. While Zawe Ashton isn’t a bad actress, she’s not a great one either, and I do find the character of Journey Blue honestly quite bland and downright insufferable at times. I’m not also keen on the woman who ends up in Heaven. I can’t remember her name, and this time I’m not going to google it because considering she asks the Doctor to “name something good after her” and her sacrifice, I would expect to remember her name. The uncle’s alright, a tad annoying at times, but he’s not too bad. He’s also the spitting image of Dan Auerbach from blues rock band The Black Keys.

Pacing wise, the story is pretty good, and Wheatley’s direction is phenomenal, and the story is a visual Christmas.

Overall: Into the Dalek is a lot better than I remembered. The characterisation of Twelve is great, and the explored parallels between the Doctor and the Dalek are really interesting. It’s nothing particularly new or original, but it’s a decent 45 minutes of Doctor Who. Not a story I’m going to come back to very often, however, but if I was asked if this was “a good episode”, I think I’d say yes.

Previous Score: 4

New Score: 7

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