We open in the middle of what I presume to be the Dalek wars, when Earth and Daleks were going at it. A time we haven’t really seen much of and which neatly side steps the call for an explanation for this particular Dalek fleets appearance and also the absence of the chubby Daleks that seem to have been written off as a bad idea outside of tie in toys.
After a fly-by rescue, which goes a lot better than the last time the Doctor tried to rescue someone from a ship fleeing a Dalek attack , we cut to the Aristotle where Tyres is holding onto what could the universes only good Dalek. While being given the grand tour we get what we think is simply a strange shout out to Fantastic Voyage but instead are set up with the plot for the episode. The Doctor will be shrunk down and injected into the Dalek to find out what is wrong with it.
Presumably making the excuse that he just wants to go freshen up first he darts off to his ship takes off and picks up Clara, thankfully after her classes are over. Whilst there we meet the strangely emotional Danny Pink, a new teacher to her school and future plot point, though it what for once seems to be an emotional way instead of just a wibbly wobbly timey wimey dues ex kind of a way. I’m almost interested to see where they will take him. It turns out that it has been three weeks since last weeks episode when the Doctor went to get coffee and apparently got distracted. Which seems a bit much to me but I’ll let it slide, I suppose it beats the excuse that the Tardis is flying wonky again, when he manages to land it perfectly every other week as the script demands it.
Before he under takes the voyage to the bottom of the Dalek he wants to ask if he is a good man, which seems a little odd as he should be over any regen trauma by now and know himself well enough to make up his own mind. But the bit that threw me most was Clara’s lack of an answer. Clara has travelled with the Doctor before, for quite some time now and even met, or at least witnessed each of his other incarnations before sitting down for a chat with the one who was for a while not fit to carry the name Doctor. This seems like a hold over from the rejection she had to Capaldi last week despite seeing Doctors just as old as he and even pointing Hartnell to a Tardis with an open door and I do wish they’d drop it. We finally have the chance to take Clara somewhere instead of her just being “the impossible girl” and I’d hate to think the character she does finally get is judgmental and snooty. Anyway one of the themes they have said they are trying to push this season was the darkness of the Doctor and I don’t mind that but it works far better later on in the episode as part of the story rather than sitting down and talking about it. It’s basic show don’t tell.
So Clara decides to tag along and soon they and a few grunts are shrunk down via rather bad cgi and injected into the eye stalk of the Dalek. Why the eye stalk rather than opening a hatch or something I don’t know. It just seems to be an excuse for a bad 80’s music video effect. From here the team traipse around a few corridors and the like, nicely designed into the Daleks suit to be just big enough for them to fit into whilst leaving room for running, jumping and so forth.
They are soon attacked by Dalek antibodies which force them down into the food unit of the Dalek where dead bodies and the like are kept for nourishment. This was the bit I was talking about earlier, where as Tennant would have given the usual “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” Capaldi instead is a much more practical man taking advantage of the situation to the best of his abilities without the slightest remorse. With a pun about bolt holes and a bit of well written bickering between the Doctor and Clara, which it is difficult to determine how much is intentional and how much is supposed to be the Doctors other worldliness, what is left of the group make their escape and head to the heart of the problem.
It turns out that the Dalek witnessed a star being born, this brings it to the logic of beauty and the ability for life to thrive not matter the odds. It’s a bit better put in the episode itself but it’s still a bit wonky. However we soon find out the Dalek has a serious radiation leak that is affecting its brain, so I suppose we’ll let it off. The doctor whips out his magic wand and has the leak fixed in no time which of course sends the Dalek back to normal and into a killing frenzy as it makes its way through the ship. Thus it is up to the team to try and restore that memory to the Dalek and turn it good again.
In truth the episode feels a bit like a re-tread of Christopher Eccelstons ‘Dalek’ and despite not relying on a happy slap to save the day it doesn’t come across too much better. In the end both fail to live up to the emotion and energy of enterprises like Jubilee and the whole darkness of the Doctor feels a little too heavy handed, especially after the well-handled bit earlier with the pill and the antibodies and the great acting from Eccelstone in ‘Dalek’ which like a fair bit of Davies’ run now that I look back was good at the show don’t tell.
Still next week it’s off too Sherwood and it’s always fun to watch a pair of time travellers wander around there. )