Once a week, we have an unapologetic Doctor Who geek-out here to discuss the latest episode. I’ve just finished watching the second episode of the 8th season of the rebooted Doctor Who called Into The Dalek. And oh, we have some picking apart of ideas and theories to do, people. This is not a summary and it does contain spoilers. Of course it does – we have to talk about this stuff! So let’s begin, Whovians…
First, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed our last discussion. I had no idea I had so many fellow Whovians here! When I wrote that out, I was convinced it would be a dead post, just my own personal bit of fun. But instead it turned into fantastic conversation in the comment section, just a good old fashioned blog chat of yesteryear without anyone cursing anyone out – great theories, so many connections I had missed, so much goodness there. I’m mixing my British television shows but it must be said: SUCH FUN. So tonight, don’t just read my thoughts here, make sure you weigh in the comments – there will likely be MUCH better stuff there.
(Okay – for the record, I hate the new opening. It is terrible, truly grim. I was hopeful last week that it was a just a lame steampunk homage to the Victorian London setting of Deep Breath but no such luck. Bring back the vortex and the untempered schism!)
Let’s hit the big points, shall we? This episode was packed with throw-backs to Doctor Who history, big themes, weighty questions, and for once very little slapstick silliness.
Am I a good man? This is the central question of the episode and, let’s not kid ourselves, probably for the entire season. For all the mystery surrounding Missy, I think we’re really exploring the true nature and character of the Doctor this season. Which means we’re going to be pushed and poked on our most cherished beliefs about the Doctor, I imagine.
A few people pushed back on me last week for thinking that the Doctor pushed Half-Face Man out of that freaky skin balloon thing – after all, isn’t he non-violent? I don’t think I was wrong there though…. The Doctor has drifted pretty mightily from his old pacifist ways, two-hearts-and-a-screwdriver, and the anti-gun rhetoric, most particularly seen in Ten.
This is an aspect of the Steven Moffat years that I do NOT like – I loved Russell T. Davis era for a few reasons (even the silliness) but one thing that he stayed pretty strong on was the Doctor’s heart(s) for life, his inherent curiosity and respect for alien life, and his abhorrence of murder. When he met a new alien or “threat” his first response was always wonder, curiosity, or respect for life. Yet….those glimmers of the menace were always there under the exterior, right? After all, let’s not forget the regeneration of Ten after the hand-to-hand combat with the Sycorax. After having his hand cut off and (in some spectacularly bad CGI) regrowing it because his regeneration cycle was still so fresh, the Sycorax wonders what kind of man he is. And the Doctor runs through what kind of man he could be in a jocular way – a fighter, a lover (winks at Rose), etc. and then ends the scene by launching that guy off the ship into the air for a murderous fall to earth: “No second chances – I’m that kind of man.”
The Doctor may not like guns but there’s a lot of difference between someone who doesn’t like guns and someone who doesn’t take up the cause of justice in his own hands, too. For all his bouncy energy and hand-flapping, the Eleventh Doctor was remarkably ferocious.
Remember the episode A Good Man Goes to War? “All this, in fear of you, my love,” reproaches River Song. I remember in that same episode how Madame Kovarian sneered that he wouldn’t kill them because he was a good man and good men have too many rules. His response: “Good men don’t need rules. And now isn’t the time to find out why I have so many.” Even when the Great Intelligence confronted him at Trenzalore, he called the Doctor blood-soaked and by the tragic look on the Doctor’s face, you know he believes it. Then there was the glimpse into his consciousness with The Dream Lord – his level of self-hatred and self-loathing is immense.
And in this episode, yet again, the people with him become collateral damage, sacrificing themselves on the hope that he is both mad AND right.
He even states at one point that it was encountering the Daleks for the first time that woke him to the power of the name he had chosen – the Doctor. And that reminded me of the 50th anniversary special when he explained to Clara that his name, his real name, didn’t matter because the name that matters is the one you choose for yourself. So his name, the Doctor, was a promise he made to himself. He made that promise because he was so disgusted by the Daleks.
At the end of the episode, we really do feel conflicted about his character, right along with the Doctor. We don’t know if the Doctor is a good man. And that’s not just because of his Angry Eyebrows. It’s because we begin to realise he was right in Deep Breath – there are 2,000 years of history and a lot of mistakes there, it’s time to start doing something about that.
But Clara’s point – that he tries to be a good man and that is what redeems him really does hit onto the ambiguity of motivation. If his motivation is to be good, does it matter if he does bad things? I think yes but we’ll see where the show goes. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason or the Greater Good can land us in a terrifying place.
Clara as the Doctor’s Care-er – so he doesn’t have to care. This Doctor in these early days does seem more mercurial. Witness his pretense of saving Ross – when really he was just setting himself up to figure out what was going on plus the lack of emotion for the ones who died, even Journey Blue’s brother. Perhaps he’s come so far from the Time War now that he has forgotten how to care again. But remember – that was part of what made Rose so special to Nine, she taught him to care again. Even with the occasional reversals (hello, Racnoss, I’m thinking of you…) we eventually ended up at Eleven who often cared too much, even staying in the town of Christmas for the rest of his life, dying of old age, just to protect the inhabitants, to that Doctor every single life was worth saving.
I can’t see that man in Twelve yet but I hope he’s still there, just needing to be “reactivated” or re-awoken. Or perhaps Clara is there to turn on the memories again for him, saving his soul. I confess that I was seeing ALL THE PARALLELS with the Dalek having his morality and “sense of beauty” and goodness restored by memory.
Dalek. Boom. I’m never a fan of just blowing things up. Yes, yes, you have a lovely special effects budget now, but blergh. More story, less explosions would be just fine with me.
Clara just keeps improving this series. Loving her new back story and the glimpses of her personality – even her flirting with the new teacher, Danny Pink is so much more endearing instead of off-putting like when she used to try to flirt with Eleven. I admit, I do love how she’s taking on the role of the “care-er” – it reminds me of Donna and her role as Ten’s conscience particularly after he had been on his own. She’s fiesty, too – slapping some sense into the Doctor and helping him to learn the truth of what they just learned. Perhaps that’s the responsibility of the Companion-Not-Love-Interest. They see the Doctor more clearly because they aren’t blinded by love. Even Amy Pond was blinded by her childlike love for the Doctor, she couldn’t see who he really was and he loved how she saw him. He wanted to be the man she thought he was. We saw that terrible dynamic of how much he needs a “Care-er” again when Ten was on his own for too long after Donna had to leave and he morphed into this Time Lord Victorious that was the worst parts of himself, he was devastated by what he had become even before his time ended.
Danny Pink, Soldier, Teacher, Love Interest? I like him. There, that’s my first reaction. I like him, he’s complicated, he’s got a story, and I’m ready for a new face in the TARDIS, too. I am interested to see how the connection between him as a Soldier plays out with the Doctor since this Doctor seems to be revisiting his distrust of soldiers. That’s a bit of the past I’m happy to see return. With the exception of the classic Who bout with U.N.I.T. the Doctor has always been suspicious of soldiers because they lack imagination. If someone shoots, you shoot back, period. But as we see with the Daleks, that’s pretty useless so we need imagination, eh? But Danny seems genuinely haunted by his stint in Afghanistan and so I’m interested to see if he will reawaken or recharge the Doctor’s anti-violence side again.
Either way, he’ll hold his own. He’s coming into the TARDIS as a fully formed character so the whole character arc of Mickey Smith or Rory Williams as “back up” or “pet” just won’t work here, I think.
But the Daleks though! What do we think of Daleks overall, folks? For me, I’ve never found them that terrifying. In fact, I have a tiny Dalek right by my kitchen sink next to the teapot. (“WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TEA?” in that horrible Dalek voice from the episode “Victory of the Daleks” never fails to make me laugh.) I have been way more scared of the Cybermen and the Weeping Angels, the Silence and the clockwork droids for instance. The first time I heard the footsteps of the Cybermen, my blood froze. But Daleks – meh. I always know they will be defeated.
Okay, wait – the only Dalek episode that ever gave me actual shivers was the Asylum of the Daleks. Truly terrifying and creepy. And that twist ending STILL freaks me out. Never saw that coming. And the eye-stalk coming out of the forehead? SHIVERS.
Along comes Rusty. A “damaged” Dalek who now thinks Daleks are evil and must be destroyed because he was seen that “resistence is futile and life will win.” Rusty looks into an exploding star (which damages him and causes the radiation? was that what happened?). But then at the end, after Clara reawakens his memories of beauty and the star, even his regrets it seems, the Doctor then gives Rusty a glimpse into his own soul, trying to give him a gift to see goodness again. But Rusty then sees the beauty and divinity – and the hatred in the Doctor’s heart, too.
This made me wonder – what other times have we seen the inside of the doctor’s mind? The first one that sprang to mind was The Girl in the Fireplace (which had big parallels last week, of course) when he walked through Madame de Pompadour’s mind and she returned the favour. But she identified him more as being terribly alone, even calling him her Lonely Angel. She didn’t see hatred in him, just loneliness. Any other times we’ve gotten a glimpse into the Doctor?
Anyone else hoping that Rusty crops back up again? I don’t think we’re done with the moral Dalek.
But here’s my question: even before Rusty peered into the Doctor’s soul, he was raving that the Daleks were evil and must be exterminated. So that wasn’t “from” the Doctor, that was his actual moral centre. So perhaps the Doctor is right – there aren’t any good Daleks – as Rose discovered with the Ninth Doctor. Which brings me to….
“You are a good Dalek.” Hello, connection to our first glimpse of the Daleks with the rebooted series. When the Ninth Doctor met his first Dalek – after thinking they were all destroyed in the Time War – we see his first crack in the mask. He is haunted, terrified, furious, helpless at the sight of that Dalek. And what does that Dalek say? “You would make a good Dalek.” What do we think about THIS?
Once again, we see Missy. Gretchen died for the Doctor’s plan but awakens in “Heaven” with a tea-pouring mad Mary Poppins. I didn’t see a connection to the TARDIS, so I’ll be honest that I’m still leaning towards the theory that she is harbouring all of the Doctors “mistakes” or casualties somehow. But I know a lot of you think she is an incarnation of the Master.
Here’s my other thought: Is she connected to the data core of The Library with River Song? I want to go back and rewatch those episodes again but perhaps she is connected to CAL, the data core? And she is “saving” all these people? But then why does she call the Doctor her boyfriend? Gah. Either way WEIRD.
Next week, we head to medieval England for a romp with Robin Hood. I’m looking forward to it….
Now let’s get to the good part – your responses! I’ve gotten us started, but let’s talk it out.