Doctor Who 08:02

 

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It’s always a let down, the second major episode. After the excitement of a new Doctor or a new companion has died down, the second episode has always been a bit of slower affair now that the shock has worn off. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but there has always been a bit of a dip in energy between the first and second episodes.

Historically, Doctor Who has countered that by using the second episode to go to the far reaches of space (“The End Of The World” and “New Earth”) or to a heavy period episode (“The Fires of Pompeii” and “The Shakespeare Code”). And while “Into The Dalek” was a fun episode (complete with references to Fantastic Voyage) it still suffered from some of the second episode doldrums.

 

Let’s start with the big feature: Peter Capaldi has returned to the tradition of the Doctor giving zero fucks about anyone else in the room. Though we’ve been used to a kindler, gentler Doctor since the launch of NuWho, this has been a more overt part of the Doctor’s personality ever since the days of William Hartnell at the start of the original series. Far from being “Malcolm Tucker hijacks the TARDIS” as everyone feared, Capaldi is merely taking the Doctor back to his more cantankerous roots. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t have feelings; he is genuinely concerned when he asks Clara if he’s a good man. But that doesn’t mean he won’t stop people from sacrificing themselves for the greater good, and more importantly his greater good.

When Ross is incinerated by the Dalek antibodies, the Doctor has no qualms about using his impending death to save them all. When Gretchen sacrifices herself to buy time for Journey and Clara to get to the memory banks, this Doctor has at least the decency to not lie to her and accepts the sacrifice. Over the course of NuWho, the Doctor has been seen using other people to do his dirty work; be it killing his enemy or sacrificing themselves for the cause. And while he’s not as manipulative as his predecessors, the fact remains that the Doctor still uses people to get things done that his moral code won’t let him.

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Another theme that keeps getting explored is how much the Doctor is like his number one enemies, The Daleks. Unlike his predecessor Russell T. Davies, Stephen Moffat has stayed away from The Daleks, only returning to them when necessary, but aside from their cameo in the 50th Anniversary Episode, Moffat has used their appearances to sharp effect. In “Asylum of the Daleks” he showed that the Daleks have a concept of beauty and that is the hatred that is encapsulated by the mad Daleks. In this episode, as the Doctor and his team work to heal the damaged “Rusty,” the Doctor describes himself as anything that the Daleks aren’t. That said if the Daleks are now good, what does that make the Doctor? If the Daleks are saying that the Doctor is a good Dalek, then something is really wrong here.

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If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that it puts Clara into the position of being the Doctor’s mouthy conscience. It was hard not to cheer when she literally slapped some sense into his head, horrified to see that he was happy about being right and that they might die inside the Dalek. If this is the new take that the show is going to have on Clara – as a mouthy objector and conscience for the Doctor – I am in favor it, especially since (a) it makes Clara more active as a character, and (b) allows Jenna Coleman to actually have something to do.

Random Notes:

* We see Missy again, and it seems that she is gathering the corpses of the Doctor’s “victims.”

* And we finally get to meet Danny Pink, the Afghan war vet who is to be the new Mr. Clara Oswald. So far so good, and I like that as a soldier (albeit former), the Doctor is just going to hate him. Though the harping on whether he’s killed someone is a little too on the nose, don’t you think.

* “I’m sure you’re a kind person. I just wish you weren’t a soldier.”

* “I was getting coffee.” “That was three weeks ago. In Glasgow!”

Next Time: If, as the Doctor likes to claim, there is no such thing as Robin Hood, then who’s the guy in the green hat?

 Photo Credits: BBC

Originally Published on 1 September 2014 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile.

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