Doctor Who series 8: Into The Dalek spoiler-free review

Review Simon Brew 27 Aug 2014 - 06:45

Witty, exciting, and with no shortage of ideas, Into The Dalek is a real treat of a Doctor Who episode...

Now this one's really, really good.

It can be something of poisoned chalice to take on a Dalek episode in Doctor Who, given that - as has been pointed out by Steven Moffat before - they're regularly beaten. For all their deadly intentions, the Daleks tend to take a few casualties, then fall victim to a plot device worked cunningly in somewhere along the line.

Also, how do you find fresh angles on creatures that have infested the show since the 1960s? What's new to say about them and do with them that doesn't leave you feeling they've popped back to help out Toys R Us at Christmas?

Into The Dalek has some answers.

Building on their last full appearance in the impressive Asylum Of The Daleks, it's the pens of Phil Ford and Steven Moffat who have come up with something really rather special here. At one point, it feels a little like we're getting a sort of re-run of Robert Shearman's wonderful Dalek. Yet it emerges as quite a different beast.

For Ford and Moffat have concocted an idea that we won't spoil, but could, in different hands, have gone wrong. Here, it goes very right. We get a fresh perspective on the Daleks, and we also get some justification for the constant promise that the Doctor and Clara are being taken to the most dangerous place in the universe. What's more, Phil Ford's teasing of the word "lasagne" last year suddenly makes sense.

Also, Into The Dalek is about far more than fighting a foe. In fact, the early stages of the episode take us to a familiar place for those who follow Doctor Who's heritage. It takes us away from the Doctor for periods of the episode as well, and as with Deep Breath, it makes Peter Capaldi, and his coffee, all the more special.

We do get more of Peter Capaldi as a slightly more settled Doctor too, and it's surprising just how cold and quite brutal his take on the Time Lord is here. Existing more on logic than emotion, it would be fair to say that if you loved Capadi in Deep Breath, you're not walking away from Into The Dalek shortchanged.

Given the ambition of what the story is trying to do, it's extremely well realised too. The Doctor Who budget used to stretch to one special set per episode, and occasionally, you could tell. So strong is the production design and lighting in particular here - and we sorely hope that director Ben Wheatley is lured back to Who soon as well - that you can't help but applaud. The execution really is excellent.

Very witty, exciting, and with no shortage of ideas, Into The Dalek is a real treat. It could, perhaps, be argued that another couple of minutes wouldn't have hurt it, and there are one or two itsy bitsy quibbles that we'll explore in the fuller review post-episode. But it's a piece of work that does the Daleks proud.

It's only Phil Ford's second Doctor Who episode, but off the back of this and The Waters Of Mars, let's hope he's snapped up for series nine. Into The Dalek is going straight on the rewatch pile...

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