New Who Review – “Into the Dalek”
“Demons run when a Good Man goes to war,” went the ancient line. But the problem is, The Doctor is no longer sure he’s a good man. Further problem is, neither is Clara. So The Doctor’s not quite sure what he’s going to do when he’s invited to go…
INTO THE DALEK
By Phil Ford and Steven Moffat
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Human rebel fighter Journey Blue is about to have her ship destroyed by a Dalek saucer when The Doctor saves her by materializing the ship around her, a move for which he expects and demands a thank you. Returning her back to her command ship, he’s quickly arrested, until Journey tells them he’s a Doctor…which is lucky because they have a patient. The patient is a Dalek, who is malfunctioning. As in, it has become good – it is raving that the Daleks must be defeated.
The Doctor retrieves Clara, who is on Earth, having just met Danny Pink, new teacher at Coal Hill School. The Doctor and his companion are miniaturized so they can physically enter the wounded Dalek and fix it. The Dalek is suffering from a radiation leak in its power source that was causing its mind to open to new ideas. Witnessing the birth of a star, it recognized it as beautiful and had a epiphany. Life will win – no matter how many stars the Daleks have destroyed, new ones are born, in greater number. The Doctor has a fleeting hope that if he could heal this Dalek and still keep it “good,” he could turn the tide of the future.
Alas, once the radiation leak is fixed, the Dalek’s systems come back on line and it reverts to form. But Clara insists there more they can do, and with the help of a couple of clever things, they attempt to awaken the goodness this Dalek experienced for just a moment of its horrific life.
All told, and episode that came close to some great moments, but mostly. only close. It was a story that served to illuminate the relationship between The Doctor and The Daleks in a new way, a connection that deserved a few more lines than it got. It opened up a possibility for a couple of returning characters, and showed us more of The Doctor’s new, cold demeanor. I enjoyed it, but it could have been so much more.
THE MONSTER FILES – It’s the Daleks. You could walk up to any drunken Sterno bum in the UK and they could tell you who they are. At this point, a fair amount of American bums could. Bork on Skaro as the end result of a war of attrition between the Kaleds and the Thals, battle-scarred scientist Davros mutated sample of his people’s DNA into what he declared was their final, perfect form (a tentacled blob of flesh that hates everybody) and put them into wee, almost indestructible tanks.
The Doctor met the Daleks in his second televised adventure, and there’s little argument that Terry nation’s creation was what sent the popularity of the show into orbit. They’ve been back too many times to try to calculate. The show tried to stop using them twice, once in a story that somewhat paralleled this one, but the allure of such a perfect enemy (not to mention the requisite ratings) is ever too tempting.
WELL EXCUUUUUSE ME – The Daleks almost didn’t make it into the new series, and it’s all comedian Steve Martin’s fault. He was to appear in Looney Tunes: Back in Action as the head of the Acme Corporation. There’s a scene in a secret government base where a bunch of aliens escape and wreak havoc. Being a big Doctor Who fan, Steve thought it would be funny if one of them was a Dalek. Warner Bros contacted the BBC for permission, and someone at the BBC gave it. Problem: the BBC don’t own the Daleks, the Terry Nation estate does (Insert long tirade about how much better creators’ rights are handled in other countries here).
The estate was very put out that this was done, and a couple years later when the new series was in pre-production, they considered refusing permission to use the iconic monsters. Steve Martin wrote a letter to the executors of the estate, personally apologizing for the mess-up. The estate relented, and The Doctor got to face his greatest enemy again. And again.
The Dalek antibodies are technically the new monster for the episode, and they serve the same purpose as ones in a human body do – stopping invading organisms from damaging anything. We saw antibody machines in the Teselecta in Let’s Kill Hitler, serving largely the same purpose they did here – to provide an additional threat. The City of the Exxilons created antibodies to protect itself in the Pertwee adventure Death to the Daleks.
GUEST STAR REPORT – Phil Ford (Co-writer) has a long history with the new series. He wrote the animated adventure Dreamland, as well as the Tennant adventure Waters of Mars. When Russell T Davies began The Sarah Jane Adventures, Phil worked with him, moving up to head writer for series 2. He’s most recently worked with RTD on Wizards vs Aliens. He was also the main writer for the recent CGI remake of classic Supermarionation series Captain Scarlet.
Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink) like most British actors (remember, there’s only 47 of them) has an interesting Venn diagram with other Doctor Who stars. He was on Emmerdale which also featured Jenna Coleman, and Gavin and Stacey which starred James Corden, a.k.a. Craig Owens from The Lodger and Closing Time.
Michael Smiley (Colonel Morgan Blue) has appeared in several of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s collaborations, including Spaced and two third of the Cornetto Trilogy. He was Benny Deadhead on Luther, and was in BBC America’s series Ripper Street.
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details
“Good idea for a movie” – Hanging a lampshade on a classic trope takes the curse off it. Aside from the obvious, the Fantastic Voyage (and Innerspace) plot has been done on almost every science fiction show you can think of, not to mention plenty of cartoon series. Heck, it’s been done on the show already: The Doctor was able to shrink clones of himself and Leela into his own brain to fight The Invisible Enemy, and fellow Time Lord Drax shrinks himself and The Doctor in The Armageddon Factor. Just a little way back the Teselecta had a crew of shrunken humans as it caught criminals through time.
“He was dead already” – This is another aspect of the more “alien” feel of the new Doctor. Gone, gone is the “I’m so sorry” mindset of Tennant who would sturm and drang over each being he couldn’t save, this Doctor is pragmatic, to point of being callous.
“I saw beauty” – in the adventure Asylum of the Daleks, we learned that the Daleks see beauty in hatred. “Perhaps that is why we has always had trouble killing you,” the leader Dalek then theorized. This Dalek saw what it recognized as true beauty in the birth of a star, but at the end of the episode, it sees the hatred The Doctor has for the Daleks, and his head is turned again to that which he has recognized as beauty for so long.
“The Doctor is not the Daleks” – This moment, and this scene, really needed a bit more emphasis. As I’ve said before, The Daleks largely defined what kind of show Doctor Who was to be. Sydney Newman had a “No bug-eyed-monsters” ban on the show, initially seeing the series as educational in nature, visiting historical moments to teach history of a sort to kids. Once The Daleks hit as big as they did, the focus of the show shifted, away from the pure historical adventures and on to the fantastic. It’s in this speech that that “definition” of The Doctor is applied to the character as well. It acknowledges that before meeting the Daleks, The Doctor didn’t know what he wanted to do, or what kind of person he wanted to be. He realized if there was an evil this great in the world, there had to be a good that great to combat it.
“You are a good Dalek” – The sheer hatred The Doctor has for the Daleks was made clear in the Eccleston episode Dalek. In it, the lone Dalek in Henry van Statten’s collection listens to The Doctor’s wish that it “just die” and says “You would make a good Dalek.”
The parallels between that episode and this are numerous – a lone Dalek, broken and damaged, repaired by The Doctor (or Rose in the first of the two) and then being forced to combat it. Both point out exactly how powerful a single Dalek is.
“If I can turn one Dalek, I can turn all of them. I can save the future.” –This is not the first time The Doctor has tried something like this. In The Evil of the Daleks, The Doctor is pressed into finding the “Human Factor,” the mysterious brew of ingenuity, creativity and will to succeed that if added to the Dalek mind, would render them able to win any fight. The Doctor, however, injects (infects, if you will) a series of Daleks with the human attributes of freedom, the desire to question authority and a grasp of justice, creating an army of “Human Daleks” which immediately begin fighting with the “real” Daleks, a battle that The Doctor called “The final end.” Indeed, it was supposed to be – that was supposed to be the last Dalek story, and it was for about five years, into the Pertwee years. Genesis of the Daleks was also intended to be a “final” Dalek story, and like Evil, started a multi-year Dalek-free period, ending with Destiny of the Daleks.
“Gretchen Alison Carlisle. Do something good and name it after me.”
“I just wish you hadn’t been a soldier” – The Doctor’s disdain for soldiers and the military mindset was set in stone back in the Pertwee years. He would constantly mock the small-minded literalness of soldiers, most members of UNIT, and The Brigadier in particular. Tennant got a bunch of good digs in during The Sontaran Stratagem. Tying into the cold nature of this new Doctor, his disdain is much more absolute.
BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Missy is back, here meeting brave soldier Gretchen for a splosh of tea. So the initial thought that she’s collecting The Doctor’s enemies is incorrect. It now appears she’s collecting people who have died because of The Doctor. While the jury is still out on whether the clockwork droid died at his own hand in last week’s adventure, Gretchen clearly sacrificed herself to make sure The Doctor’s plan worked.
Near the end of Tennant’s run, The Doctor is thinking about his life while chatting in a cafe with Wilfrid Mott (Bernard Cribbins). “I’ve killed,” he said “But then I got clever – I convinced people to kill themselves.” What we are seeing here are people who are the victims of The Doctor’s cleverness. Depending on which side Missy is on, both of these people so far could be talked into believing they were responsible for saving the lives of countless people by a hero, or that they were callously killed by a madman.
“I thought you might have a rule against soldiers” – Clara clearly doesn’t, but one wonders how much this budding relationship with Danny Pink will be colored and affected by The Doctor and his mindset against soldiers. Danny will be playing a much more active role in the proceedings in the near future; it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll be more of an Ian Chesterton type of fellow on the TARDIS… or a Turlough.
– NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO Don’t you worry, never fear – Robot of Sherwood will soon be here, namely this weekend.