Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Doctor Who, "Into the Dalek"

The second episode of the season starts with a bang - a fighter spaceship destroyed by Daleks, as the Doctor rescues one of the two occupants a moment beforehand. Before you know it, the Doctor has agreed to be miniaturized and sent inside a damaged Dalek. Shades of “Fantastic Voyage”! Meanwhile, Clara is introduced to and immediately hits on Danny Pink, a new teacher at the Coal Hill school and a former soldier.

There’s a lot going on in the episode, from the Doctor’s question to Clara: “Am I a good man?” to the efforts of the miniaturized crew first to repair the Dalek and then to convince the Dalek that it need not seek only to exterminate life. Add to that the budding romance between Clara and Danny, a brief reappearance of Missy and “heaven” from the previous episode, the Doctor’s unhappiness with soldiers (and, implicitly, how that will affect his reaction to Danny), and what goodness means in a universe filled with morally gray choices, and one can see that no episode can possibly do justice to everything.

What gives way in “Into the Dalek” is the plot. Doctor Who gets away with a great deal of faux science through appeals to jargon and offhanded witty remarks. That works when the rest of the plot is solid, but here the jargon and witty remarks merely underscore the Ghost in the Machine nature of the story: our tiny heroes climb upward through the Dalek casing, to the cerebral cortex, where Clara pushes some buttons that - presto! - reveal suppressed memories and the Doctor talks to the Dalek as though the latter is an errant schoolboy. Things don’t work out as planned, but work out well enough that there will be an episode next week.

That’s not to say there weren’t some excellent moments in the episode. Danny initially rejects Clara’s offer of a date, and we see his after-the-fact response that he realizes he should have made - only to find that Clara has been listening all along. “How much of that have you heard?” he asks. “More than you would like,” she replies, a grin on her face. At the beginning of the episode, the Doctor carries two coffees - which turn out to be the coffees that he went to fetch in Glasgow at the end of “Deep Breath,” only it’s now three weeks later for Clara. He continues to make rude remarks about Clara’s appearance, but cares enough that he returns her to the school only 30 seconds after she left - in time for Danny to wonder how she changed clothes that quickly.

An interesting, if not entirely successful, sophomore outing for the Twelfth Doctor.

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