Swathes of "Into the Dalek" felt very familiar, as DOCTOR WHO has done many variations of The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion tagging along with gruff soldiers, while the situation with the lone Dalek recalled series 1's "Dalek" (especially during its imprisonment and escape sequences), and the whole concept borrowed from The Fantastic Voyage (or Innerspace if you're younger). There was even a degree of series 7's "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS", in how this story gave the audience a guided tour of the internal workings of an iconic piece of Who design.
The Waters of Mars") and Steven Moffat, managed to weave in some interesting layers and ideas. I liked how an early scene had The Doctor treating Clara (Jenna Coleman) like an unpaid psychiatrist, which is exactly what he became when trying to alter the mindset of a malfunctioning Dalek that temporarily became "good". Better was how the episode ultimately backed away from clear-cut, childish notions of good and evil; there's only perceptions and intentions.
"Into the Dalek" was also a nice introduction for soldier-turned-teacher Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), who appears to have PTSD as a result of a tour in Afghanistan—which does make it seem a little odd he's supposedly started teaching maths, and yet wants to teach kids how to become soldiers. Pink felt like an interesting character from the start, if not an entirely plausible one, and should help develop Clara even more once they become an item. Even his colourful surname was nicely juxtaposed with future-soldier Journey Blue's (Zawe Ashton), and it's going to be fun seeing The Doctor deal with Danny once they're acquainted—given how this episode underlines Twelve's new-found dislike of soldiers. (It's probably a good thing his old friend the Brigadier has passed away, as any reunion there would now be awk-ward.)
Also interesting to see The Doctor again prepared to do bad things for the greater good, like allowing a soldier to die, so they could escape. It gives his character a bit more edge (let's not forget that young fans who began watching in 2005 are now probably in their late-teens), and you're never quite sure what he's going to say or do next. You could never really say that about David Tennant or Matt Smith's Doctors, most of the time, as they were largely committed to saving the day through incredible, heroic means.
Overall, while it wasn't the most original of sci-fi concepts, Doctor Who's take on The Fantastic Voyage was a lot of fun; elevated by the shadings of Capaldi's performance and subtext of the script. The Daleks are still very overexposed on the show (even when Moffat ensures us he'll rectify that), and there are times when the attempts to make this new Doctor "darker" just comes across as pretentious, but so far I'm enjoying the different vibe from Capaldi and the less frantic pacing.
- I was relieved The Doctor and Clara weren't injected into Rusty the Dalek, only to discover a middle-aged man sat on a seat with pedals.
- Any theories yet about Missy (Michelle Gomez), who is definitely collecting people who die during The Doctor's adventures? Um, apart from that first soldier. Maybe she's just choosy? Can anyone fathom why? Is she going to guilt trip The Doctor in the finale, by showing him all the people who have died directly, or indirectly, because of his travels across Time & Space?
- Steven Moffat co-wrote this episode, but I'm assuming he was chiefly responsible for the Danny/Clara stuff and is simply adding those scenes into various episodes this year. He has a lot of co-writer credits this series, compared to previous ones.
- That was Zawe Ashton from Fresh Meat as Lt Journey Blue and Michael Smiley as her uncle—who is something of a talisman for director Ben Wheatley, having appeared in most of his movies.
- The new opening titles. Thoughts? I quite like the clockwork imagery, inspired by this fan-made video with the creator's blessing, but Murray Gold's new arrangement of the theme tune sounds very underwhelming. There's no attack to it. I hope they change it for series 9. They tend to tinker with the opening titles all the time, so it's almost a given they will!