If you liked “Deep Breath” last week (and I did), then you probably also liked this week’s “Into the Dalek” episode of Doctor Who (and I did). Steven Moffat and Phil Ford have found an astounding new way to tell a Dalek story while letting us get to know the Twelfth Doctor a little better. So, to paraphrase Clara, what have we learned?
- We’ve learned that this Doctor is definitely not Clara’s boyfriend, just as he said in “Deep Breath,” but that they’re finding their way back into being best friends. They can joke with each other and take the piss out of each other: the Doctor tells her at one point that she’s “built like a man” and she tells him that he’s her “hobby.” Their evolving relationship is something I really loved about this episode, particularly that Clara has found her feet around him again. In addition to providing him with absolute honesty when he asks for it, she also questions him and makes him think. Twelve berated the Paternoster gang for not asking the “right” questions in the first episode, and “Into the Dalek” shows Clara is now asking them. Combined with a slap that would make Jackie Tyler proud, she is able to knock some sense into the Doctor in a way that few other Companions could. Lesson learned again: don’t mess with Clara Oswald.
- We’ve learned that this Doctor is very worried about his morality. “Am I a good man?” he asks Clara, and she, still getting to know this version of him, has to admit that she doesn’t know. The answer to this question becomes a main focus of the episode (I believe it will continue as the focus for the rest of the season as we learn more about Twelve). Capaldi said that his Doctor would be more alien, but a large part of the journey in the first two episodes has been finding the Doctor’s humanity.
- We learned that knowing Peter Capaldi has some serious acting chops is nothing like seeing them in action. The minute or so when he is acting straight to camera while the Doctor is in Rusty’s mind was brilliant. In the span of sixty seconds, he managed to show hope, shock, desperation, self-loathing, and resignation, along with the deep sadness we’ve come to expect from the Doctor. The tears swimming in his eyes at the end of the scene made me cry.
- We’ve met the mysterious Danny Pink, and I learned that I actually liked him! Rumor has it that Jenna Coleman will be leaving the show, and my current theory is that Clara will leave the Doctor to stay with Danny. This would effectively break up my Whouffaldi daydreams, so I wanted to dislike Mr. Pink on first sight. And yet Samuel Anderson did such a fantastic job with his five minutes or so of screen time that I just couldn’t. Danny is a good-looking guy who doesn’t know how to talk to women, and who has some serious baggage that makes me want to know more about him. Thankfully he doesn’t appear another Rickey the Idiot (my legit fear about the character of Danny), so I’ll be interested to see how he plays into the storyline, particularly given the Doctor’s apparent prejudice against soldiers.
- We’ve learned that Missy (The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere, as billed in “Deep Breath”) apparently collects those who die while with the Doctor. But does she collect everyone who does? And did she just start when Twelve regenerated, or does she have the Ponds and River, too? Who is she???
- Finally, we’ve learned that heat from decontamination tubes can apparently take the place of a good dry cleaner. This was the sole piece of weak writing for me: one minute everyone’s coated with slime from where the Dalek was storing its protein snacks and the next they’re picture perfect again with no stains on anything including Clara’s silk blouse. The only difference between one scene and the next was a trip through the decontamination tubes the Doctor warned us were hot, but in my all too logical mind heat would have baked the human remains into the clothes and not acted like a giant Tide stick. To be fair, though, that didn’t occur to me until the second time I watched it, and if that was the only flaw I could find? Pretty damned good job by all. I’m giving “Into the Dalek” 4.8 out of 5 Lightning Bolts.
Parting thought: did anyone else find it ironic that in the last episode breathing caused death and in this episode not breathing does (“Don’t be lasagna.”)?