Review by C.J. Bunce
With the historic reboot of Doctor Who in 2006 and all of Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat’s world building since then with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and their five companion voyagers– what if the creators have been holding back? What if we haven’t seen nothin’ yet, if all these great science fiction episodes were all leading up to the real payoff with the 12th Doctor? I got that feeling last night with only the second Doctor Who episode of the season. This new Doctor is here to stay, and the writers are driving full steam ahead, plunging Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Doctor straight into the darkness without giving us a chance to breathe.
We’ve heard it before: Resistance is futile. But this time the phrase is not about Star Trek and the futility isn’t about we humans, as the new Doctor stumbles into his latest encounter with one of his most hated borg nemeses: The Daleks. With “Into the Dalek” Steven Moffat has created what I am sure we’ll look back on as an episode up there with the David Tennant episodes “Waters of Mars” and “Silence in the Library” or Matt Smith’s “Cold War.”In only his second outing as the Doctor, Peter Capaldi is already comfortable in the role he was destined to play since his days sending fan letters to the BBC as a young boy. With last week’s season opener “Deep Breath,” we were introduced to Capaldi’s Doctor in a typical Doctor Who post-regeneration episode–part with the Doctor learning to “love the skin he’s in” while also getting a taste of how his companion is going to adapt, wrapped in a Tanagra/El-Adrel IV story.
The season premiere showed us the Doctor as a disaster, literally left to living on the streets of Glasgow, giving the writers complete freedom to only take him upward from there. It looks like the 12th Doctor has plenty more to do to find himself again, but his decisiveness and certainty with himself as he goes along this new path reflects some pretty high level acting chops from Capaldi. I knew it from his work on The Hour, but I’m reminded again this guy is the real deal.
It’s still so improbable–how could we love (not like) the 11th Doctor and Amy Pond so much, and yet allowed the BBC folks to transition in Clara and this new Doctor, and be so comfortable we’re still in good hands? Just how great can a television writing and production team get? We even met a new major series character and are fine with that, too, with Clara’s new love interest Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). As the Doctor continues to pluck Clara from her world and bring her back, it will be fun seeing what’s ahead for her and Danny.
A new Doctor, a new relationship with the companion, a new TARDIS and sonic screwdriver, and here we have our first big clash with a classic villain, AND the Doctor must face one of his own inner demons in such a great sci-fi way, just as Isaac Asimov took us along for the ride with his Fantastic Voyage and even better Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain and with even a spin on the Star Trek: The Next Generation classic episode “Hugh” starring Major Crimes’ Jonathan Del Arco. Shrink the Doctor & Co. and shoot them into the body of a Dalek to understand the nature of its malfunction? AND they throw a pretty cool pilot at us with Lieutenant Journey Blue.
If only they’d shed some light on the elephant in the room–the fact that we know Clara was once a Dalek from the episode “Asylum of the Daleks.” But that’s just asking too much too soon, isn’t it?
If you’re after great science fiction on TV, you need look no further than BBC America on Saturday nights this Fall.