“You see all those years ago, when I began. I was just running. I called myself the Doctor, but it was just a name… And then I went to Skaro.
And then I met you lot and I understood… WHO I was: The Doctor was not the Daleks!”
Phill Ford and Steven Moffat evokes memories of past Dalek stories in an attempt to make the Daleks menacing again, and it works – for the most part. It’s understandable that after 50 years, the Daleks have become stale enemies despite each episode promising they’re the most ‘deadliest’ creatures the Doctor ever encounters. However this is the first Dalek episode in a long while (perhaps since the Army of Ghosts / Doomsday) which has actually managed to enrapture my viewing of a full Dalek episode.
First, let’s point out the obvious sequence such as the introduction to Danny Pink played by Samuel Anderson who wasn’t able to last 5 seconds before the two female characters he encountered both become infatuated with his character, but that’s beside the point. Moffat ensured that these introductory scenes of Danny Pink would question the viewers mind as to what to think of him – at one point he’s portrayed to be a man who’s too shy to date Clara, yet at the same time we’re thrown hints of his dark past as a soldier.
It’s not just Danny who’s the soldier who appears in this episode, there’s three main poignant soldiers explored: Danny Pink, ‘Rusty’ The Dalek and The Doctor. So we know Danny is a soldier who has also killed non soldiers and seems to regret that, but what of the other characters? We have a Dalek who cares for life after its memory of witnessing a Star being born and recognising the beauty of life, it then is regretful of all those ‘exterminated’ by the Dalek kind; then there’s the Doctor who we all know has also caused the death of innocents too. But there’s one particular theme explored with Capaldi’s darker toned Doctor, which the Dalek explains as ‘beauty, divinity and hatred’. This is why this episode is successful, whilst it performs in a different system than how Dalek episodes are usually handled to try make us fear the Daleks again, the episode isn’t as Dalek-centric, but rather establishes how these three specific characters deal with their regretful memories.
Clara also stands out from this episode, just as she did in ‘Deep Breath’ by having friction with the Doctor. As she slaps the Doctor, she symbolises her retaliation from the Doctor she used to know. Yes, she’s accepted that he’s still the same person, yet she’s disgusted at how evident this ‘hatred’ is shown by the Doctor as he is pleasured more from him being right opposed to actually surviving from ‘Inside the Dalek’. The Doctor recalls the first time he went to Skaro with Susan, Ian and Barbra and met the Daleks; just as ‘Rusty’ used its memory of the star being born to justify its views as to why life is beautiful, The Doctor holds his memory of his first occurrence of the Daleks (and surely all his memories afterwards) as his reasoning that all Daleks are evil, which is why he had this sense of glee just before Clara slaps him.
Also, it goes without saying how exciting it is to actually watch the Daleks exterminating people again and seeing death on Doctor Who which definitely intensified the whole situation. What remains a standout scene is when The Doctor tricks the male soldier appearing to aiding him to escape, only to end up causing the soldier to die faster. Of course it’s controversial, immediately I’ve seen debates whether the Doctor had done the right thing because “he was dead already” or whether his lack of attempt to come to the rescue was unjustified. That’s the beauty of Capaldi’s Doctor, we seriously cannot tell at which angle the Doctor is coming from which just keeps us on our toes in anticipation!
Perhaps my only genuine complaint was how ‘Missy’ was brought in to this episode. I understand that ‘Missy’ and this ‘Heaven’ setting will be a reoccurring and significant plot point later on, but the transition from the soldier’s death to ‘Heaven’ practically destroyed the momentum the scene was building towards. I still look forward in finding out who Missy actually is and what she entails for the Doctor, but the scene felt more out-of-place than an Slitheen in a nude beach.
However the overall episode managed to come to a brilliant conclusion, with Clara finally responding to the Doctor as to whether he’s a “good man” and then returning back to her normal routine life. The actual resolution of the destruction of the Daleks felt slightly rushed compared to how fantastically paced ‘Deep Breath’ was, but I can’t really complain every episode that episodes are only at 45 minute length and not at its much-needed hour length.
+ The script is eerie and unsettling as much as it could be for a family programme, and it feels magnificent to watch.
+ Was this really Doctor Who? The special effects appeared more spectacular than ever!
+ Honestly, I can’t thank the BBC enough times for allowing Capaldi to being the new Doctor, I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job after Matt Smith other than Peter Capaldi!
– It felt slightly rushed, with a few sequences which feel like an overkill to the rest of the fast-paced and exciting episode!