SPOILER ALERT: Don't read ahead if you haven't watched Doctor Who series 8, episode 2: Into The Dalek
Steven Moffat has never shied away from literal titles, so as many of you probably guessed the second episode thrust Clara and The Doctor quite literally 'Into The Dalek.'
Daleks are Doctor's greatest nemeses. Yet this episode treated us to a narrative that is not entirely new, or original. We've seen morally compromised Dalek's before, a trait that the Doctor never put much stock in. This episode's main purpose was to cement a narrative in which Doctor finally sees a glimmer of hope in the Dalek vs Timelord war that doesn't end in the total annihilation. The 50th anniversary set up a long term goal for the Doctor. His journey going forward was meant to focus on restoring Gallifrey, however in the first two episodes of series 8, his behavior is hardly in line with that.
When the Doctor faced off with the Clockwork Robot in the season premiere, he very clearly stated that there was no such thing as "promised land." In this episode he has a similarly bitter moment after discovering that the only reason that this Dalek was acting good was because of radiation poisoning. I'm not quite sure what to make of this new Doctor yet, right now he just seems like a mean, old man, who is pretty difficult to identify with.
'Into The Dalek' shined an odd light on Doctor's new personality. Long gone are the days of the 11th Doctor charmingly bonding with children, talking down homicidal aliens with empathy or cold logic. The 12th Doctor is kind of a jerk and not at all apologetic about it. The Doctor is supposed to be brilliant, have all the angles figured out, and above all he is never supposed to just give up on anyone. Looks like Moffat is eagerly tossing all the things the Doctor is "supposed" to be out the window. We can only hope that the result is not a repeat of series 7.
In 'Into The Dalek' the companion does pretty much all the work, while the Doctor stands by sulking and criticizing Clara's appearance. Was a dialogue about Clara's hips really necessary?
It seems like Moffat is basically trying to make us dislike the Doctor. The show runner's intent may be to corner his audience into an emotional conflict similar to the Doctor's own identity crisis, but so far all of it comes off forced and manipulative.
There has been an interesting shift in the center of the story. The last two episodes have made the companion feel very much like the protagonist. 'Deep Breath' was all about Clara's acceptance of the Doctor, while 'Into The Dalek' was prominently about her stepping up to great challenges and saving the day. To Moffat's credit, throughout the whole episode I cared a lot about Clara's adventure, in fact I cared about her story so much that the Doctor's narrative conflict felt like a total imposition. I'm not saying I want to see a return to a flat, uninteresting companion, but I think Moffat is struggling to find a balance in having an engaging surrogate for the audience. The show is after all called 'Doctor Who.'
In 'Deep Breath' Strax mentions that Clara is 27 years old. She first met the Doctor in her true incarnation when she was 21, as suggested by 'The Bells Of Saint John'. Having traveled with the Doctor for about 6 years, we can see her evolution from a technologically incompetent nanny to a total badass with sass. She is more confident, incisive about alien tech and is increasingly acting as moral compass for a 2 thousand year old Timelord who is long past all sanity. Yet, when depicting Clara's earth life the only aspect we're focused on is a romance.
You'd think a woman who has traveled the galaxy, saving the Doctor thousands of times, would have something more interesting to do than hackle a guy for a date.
Having an older man step into the Doctor's shoes was supposed to eliminate the forced romantic tensions that dominated so many of Tennant/Smith's story lines. I don't want to be prematurely pessimistic, Clara and Danny Pink's chemistry looks pretty fantastic. I'm simply concerned that in Moffat's hands, Clara may soon shift trajectory from being a cool, relatable, maturing character back into a manic pixie dream girl.
Overall, 'Into The Dalek' was a strong episode. I really enjoyed the old school lo-fi feel of the set design. The season has been keeping it's promise of returning to show's roots. The entire episode was tense, thrilling and quite scary.
We were treated to more of Missy and "Paradise." It appears that she is following the Doctor quite closely, picking up people who have "died" around him as she goes. The most intriguing aspect of that mystery is it's moral ambiguity. It's not yet clear if Missy is a villain. After another viewing of 'Deep Breath' I'm actually wondering if Missy is somehow connected to the Dinosaur that tragically perished in the heart of London. Her wording and odd mannerisms strongly call back to the Doctor's conversation with the Dinosaur at the beginning of the episode.
I'm curious to see how the show goes forward. A lot of ground work is being laid, especially with Doctor's unexplained prejudice against soldiers. That will obviously play into his dynamic with Danny and Clara. In the meantime we can just stare at this gif on repeat.