Doctor Who – Into the Dalek

It’s nice to see that the second episode of the new season has kept some of the slower and more thoughtful pace from last weeks opener even thought were back to the 45 minute running time.

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In this instalment the Doctor rescues a soldier called Journey Blue from impending Dalek death. She insists the Doctor takes her back to her mothership and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t. Capaldi excels with the offhand way he makes her eventually say please before he complies. He takes her back to her hidden mothership where he discovers something unlikely, a ‘good’ Dalek. The crew of the ship want to shrink the Doctor down Fantastic Voyage style and inject him and a team of soldiers into the Dalek to fix some internal damage and then use the Dalek to help them exterminate the other attacking Daleks.

The Doctor pops pack to Earth to pick up Clara. She introduces herself as the doctors ‘career’. ‘She cares so I don’t have to,’ retorts the Doctor.

There’s a spooky little scene where the shrunken team are injected through the Dalek’s eye stalk and have to get through the blue glow of the eye which might be a fluid or a force field.

In conversation with the Dalek (whom the doctor has named ‘Rusty’) the Doctor discovers why the Dalek turned good: it witnessed the birth of a star amid the destruction caused by the Daleks. Rusty realised that the Daleks can never destroy life completely, that something will come back and that it was beautiful.

Later when the doctor fixes the problem, a radiation leak. Rusty revers to type and promises extermination. Rusty starts attacking the other humans on the ship while the Dalek invasion force arrives. The doctor angryly maintains that there can never be a good Dalek until Clara convinces him that he’s wrong.

The Doctor gets Clara to turn back on the censored memories in the Dalek’s memory core and he tries to get Rusty to remember the star. He also gives the Dalek his own memories but this has the unintended consequence of showing Rusty how much the Doctor hates the Daleks. Rusty is impressed by the Doctors hate but the Doctor is aghast. There must be something more he insists.

Meanwhile the Dalek invasion forces is moving through the ship and exterminating all around them. These sequences were very impressively done and felt very cinematic.

Rusty destroys the other Daleks and transmits a signal to the Dalek ship that the human ship is self destructing so they will break off the attack.

There are obviously some strong similarities with the episode Dalek from 2005 where the Ninth Doctor was forced to confront his own hate for the Daleks. It’s also nice to see some continuity going back to the very first episodes where the Doctor says he was running until he encounter the Daleks on Skaro for the first time.

Capaldi is impressive and we get a look at a slightly less touchy-freely Doctor here, for example his flippant reaction to the death of the soldiers in his miniaturised team. Plus he makes you say ‘please’.

Doctor Who – Deep Breath

Last night Deep Breath, the first episode of Doctor Who featuring the Twelfth Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi, aired on BBC1. Here are my first thoughts on the episode. While I am not going to give a summary of the events of the action be warned that significant spoilers follow.

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The entirety of the episode took place in Victorian London with the new Doctor going through the after affects of regenerating. Madame Vastra’s gang turns up to lend support while Clara wonders what to make of the change to the Doctor. Is he even the same man anymore?

The episode is in the region of 80 minutes long so it is significantly longer than the standard 45 minutes. This means the story had time to breathe (if you excuse the pun on the episode title).

The biggest surprise was how less frenetically paced the episode was. In fact I would even describe the story as having a quite somber tone.

This slower pace allowed some nice character stuff that would probably be excised from a 45 minute episode. For example there’s an early scene where Vastra is trying to get to the bottom of Clara’s reluctance to accept the “new” doctor. Also there is a nice bit of business between a very confused Doctor and a man he encounters in an alley.

The episode’s villain is a clockwork man, a man who was once human and has had bits replaced with clockwork pieces and human spare parts. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Either way it produced the episode’s most important scene where Capaldi’s Doctor exchanges dialog with the clockwork man on the subject of a broom: If you replace the brush and then the handle do you still have the same broom asks the Doctor, telling the clockwork man that there’s nothing left of the original. And the obvious irony is that this applies to the Doctor equally as well as he has been “renewed” a dozen times.

And you know what, the episode was a bit dark. The main plot features the harvesting of people for their body parts, a balloon made of human skin, and some ambiguity about whether or not the Doctor pushed the clockwork man out of the door at the end.

A strong sequence had the Doctor and Clara getting trapped in the villain’s lair. There was a great scene where the Doctor and Clara realise that the other diners in a restaurant are not what they seem. It was a very well executed reveal. Later Clara got separated from the Doctor and had to fend for herself. Going unnoticed involved her holding her breath while the clockwork man was examining her for signs of life. It was a lovely tense little moment.

On the subject of Clara it has taken me a while to warm to her. For most of season 7 I honestly wasn’t a fan but she grew on me in The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor. Now, just between you and me, I’m actually becoming quite fond of her.

I suspect next week with the return of the 45 minute length there will be a return to the frenetic running around with less chance for subtly. But you never know.

At the end of the episode there was a surprise cameo from Matt Smith, on the verge of regenerating. He phoned Clara to basically ask her to stay with the “new” doctor to help him. This was was very nicely done and I’m fairly sure this scene was directed at the audience to say “give the new guy a chance.” I also thought Capladi was surprisingly vulnerable in those scenes, desperate for Clara to accept him as the Doctor.

Other notes…

I loved the little bit where Vastra spoke in a Scottish accent because the actress Neve Macintosh is of course Scottish. I remember her playing nurse Donna Rix in the BBC’s Bodies with her own accent.

Also worth mentioning is Sontaran Strax who continues to be the source of the funniest moments. There’s a great slapstick gag with a newspaper that put a smile on my face.

I think the new opening titles featuring clock face iconography and spinning cogs will take me a little while to get used to because the show has always done something with the time vortex since the early episodes but I am sure it will grow on me. Also the music was very different and that threw me a little bit, ironically since it’s probably the closest the new show has got to the old show’s theme since it returned in 2005.

In summary Deep Breath was a very enjoyable episode. The slower pace was very welcome and I hope they can do something like it again.

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