For lovers of Sci-Fi tropes everywhere, this week’s Doctor Who episode ‘Into the Dalek’ is going to be like a love letter. From a Dalek throwing out “resistance is futile” to traveling through the body in a shrunken minature form ala Innerspace ( yet again in the series, mind you), ‘Into the Dalek’ is designed to both embrace the beauty of Sci-fi and repeat it ad-nauseum.
A space ship is hit en route back to it’s home base. Lt. Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton) struggles to keep her brother alive in the passenger seat, but just as her ship is about to explode she is taken up by the Doctor into the TARDIS. He convinces her to put down her weapons and say please, before taking her back to her home ship. As she exits he reminds her “crying is for civilians.” They are confronted by her uncle, played by Michael Smiley (Luther), who insists that the Doctor must die as the ship is off the radar. Instead, the Doctor is enlisted to help heal another passenger. This passenger just so happens to be a Dalek. Inexpicably, the Doctor ends up at Coal Hill to pick up Clara. Clara has just asked out the new teacher, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), and is clearly smiling. The Doctor chides her looks and then asks for honesty in the question whether or not he is a good man. The two return to the spaceship housing the Dalek and using a machine are shrunken down like nanotech with a few other to enter the Dalek’s body and repair it. Of course, the repairs return the Dalek to an unstoppable killing machine connected to the Dalek hivemind. All hell breaks loose as the Daleks find the formerly well hidden ship and start and all out war. The Doctor must toy with “Rusty” (as he calls the Dalek) to reprogram its mind and turn it onto the other Daleks, all before getting Clara back in time for her date.
The episode introduces Danny Pink, a solider turned school teacher at Coal Hill. He teaches a small group of cadets discipline, but also seems deeply troubled when his students ask if he has ever killed someone, soldier or civilian. He is attractive, smart, and incredibly scared to talk to Clara, whom he clearly fancies. Clara decides to flirt and ask him for drinks. While Danny is not as emasculated as Rory Williams or Mickey Smith were during their introductions, he still comes across as weak and insecure. Can we stop with this already? Women on the show are strong; we got it. Aliens on the show, including the Doctor are strong; awesome. If you’re a man in Doctor Who, at this point you’re either a raging a**hole bent on world domination or a pretty boy hiding under the shadow of a woman. In addition, at this point I am tired of female companions slapping the Doctor. It isn’t cute, it isn’t strong; it’s a form of abuse. For a while, I was willing to let it go, but now it feels like whenever a female companion is offended she slaps the Doctor. After 50 years, I’d hoped we could have found a better method for expressing frustration. If the Doctor struck a companion, the whole English speaking world would be up in arms.
In addition, much of the episode focuses on Clara’s looks. I’m not sure if you’ve been watching but Jenna Coleman is a very beautiful woman. The Doctor accuses her of getting too old, but cheers on the fact that she still attempts to care for her appearance. He barely notices her change her clothes, but still comments on her desire to put on a face. At one point he is following behind her and comments she has hips like a man. After ‘Deep Breath’ I find myself disappointed that Clara’s character seems to be taking such a step back into the Series 7 mentality. She was finally standing up for herself, and then…this. At one point, the Doctor comments “do I really not pay you?” She responds, “You can’t afford me.” While these comments are meant to come off as a joking exchange of boss and assistant, it seems much more sinister in the opening stages of their new roles.
‘Into the Dalek’ is a disappointing episode so soon into the season. Capaldi wades through the material with his best swagger, but still gets caught up in the debris of concepts we have seen 100 times before. Though my excitement from ‘Deep Breath’ encourages me to continue this series, I doubt this second episode of the season, much like last season’s ‘Cold War’, will be back in my watching rotation.