While getting coffee for Clara, The Doctor uses the TARDIS to rescue Journey Blue, a soldier fighting the Daleks, from her exploding spaceship. Returning her to command ship Aristotle, he avoids being executed as a Dalek spy by agreeing to treat a Dalek that has malfunctioned and ‘turned good’. The Doctor retrieves Clara from Coal Hill School, where she has just set a date with maths teacher and former soldier Danny Pink, and they set off in the TARDIS for the Aristotle. On the way, The Doctor asks Clara if he is ‘a good man’ but she does not know.

The Doctor, Clara, Journey and soldiers Ross and Gretchen are miniaturised to go inside the Dalek whom The Doctor has nicknamed ‘Rusty’. They are attacked by Dalek antibodies and Ross is killed. The Doctor seals the radiation leak causing the Dalek’s damage, which provokes Rusty to lead an attack on the Aristotle. Gretchen sacrifices herself so The Doctor and Clara can recover the memories that made Rusty ‘good’. Linked in to The Doctor’s mind, Rusty destroys all his fellow Daleks. The Doctor refuses Journey as a companion because she is a soldier. Clara tells Danny she is not so prejudiced.

The script for ‘Into the Dalek’ is much tighter and more coherent than ‘Deep Breath’ though there is far too much time wasted on talking about The Twelfth Doctor’s moral ambiguity. The sparse storyline and reduced number of characters helps enormously, and even the extraneous cut-away to Missy in the ‘Promised Land’ season arc is kept to an absolute minimum. The miniaturisation idea, liberally borrowed from the movie Fantastic Voyage and previously used in the Tom Baker serial ‘The Invisible Enemy’, works well although the unique jeopardy of the situation is occasionally forgotten about and it becomes just another labyrinth.

As with other Dalek episodes in the Moffat era, the use of The Doctor’s most iconic adversaries is fairly incidental. There’s no longer any continuity between the Dalek stories and often it feels like they are metal MacGuffins moving the plot along on castors. Though The Doctor talks about his first run-in with The Daleks, there’s a very fractured sense of the Dalek mythology. They seem more like abstract philosophical concepts of good and evil than fully-realised antagonists. The captured and conflicted Dalek storyline is perhaps a little too close to 2005’s Dalek and was arguably done far better then.

The Radio Times for 30 April–6 May 2005 covere...
The Radio Times for 30 April–6 May 2005 covered both the return of the Daleks to Doctor Who and the forthcoming general election. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Deep Breath’ was a bridge between the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi eras but ‘Into the Dalek’ gives us a much better idea of how the series will progress. We see that The Doctor will be dropping by Coal Hill School to whisk Clara away to the universe rather than her being a permanent resident of the TARDIS. With the introduction of Danny Pink, we get a link with contemporary earth and possibly a new companion. It looks like we’re only going to get glimpses of Missy and ‘The Promised Land’ in each episode, until at least the season finale.

This is also the first time we’ve seen The Twelfth Doctor outside of his post-regeneration haze, and he shapes up to be a deeply pessimistic and cynical incarnation of the character. The Doctor seems terribly fatalistic about the inevitability of Ross’s death and the impossibility of a ‘good’ Dalek, also notably less certain of his own moral authority. Consequently, Clara has to become more confrontational with The Doctor, which hits the viewer hard when she roughly slaps him across the face in a moment of callous disinterest. She also starts to function as the antidote to The Doctor’s increasingly judgmental attitudes.

The second story featuring a new Doctor is usually where we see what we’re going to get from the character but Peter Capaldi came in so strongly with his abrasive and strange portrayal that there’s not much work left to do, and The Doctor’s sinister side seems to have peaked in this episode. Rather ‘Into the Dalek’ is a chance to get back to more rugged storytelling and pure action after a ponderous and arty season opener. I’m not angling for a return of the Russell T Davies-era where Daleks were overused and all-consuming, but I do think that the stories they feature in could be more quintessential to the Daleks and their history in the series, rather than having them as a piece of metal to hang a premise on. Overall, ‘Into the Dalek’ is very satisfying sci-fi but doesn’t do much for The Doctor or The Daleks.

The End of Time – Part I

A Christmas two-part’er for the final episodes of the 10th Doctors incarnation sees The Master & The Timelords return!!!

Summary of Part 1

When The Doctor goes to visit the Ood, he is informed that The Master is returning and also that “something” else from the Darkness is returning also. Rushing off to Earth to stop the Master’s return, the Doctor arrives too late and a new – more monstrous – version of The Master has returned. His rejuvenation attempt not fully completed due to the intervention of Lucy Saxon – The Master is now voracious for Life Force and is feeding of humans to get it!!

The Doctor confronting The Master in this incarnation is unable to stop him and is forced to acknowledge that the drumming that The Master is constantly mentioning is in fact real (I love it when series authors are able to tie back a single plot device to something so much larger … I really have to give them credit for mapping it all out in advance in this way) and that The Master is not insane. Appealing to The Master to help him in dealing with the “something from the darkness” The Master is instead captured and The Doctor left behind.

The Doctor meets Wilfred Mott (Donna’s grandfather) – who acts as The Doctor’s companion in this episode and together they track down The Master who has been captured by Naismith. Naismith is using The Master to rebuild an alien device that he has come across called the Immortality Gate. Unbeknown to Naismith however is the fact that two of his assistants are in fact aliens in disguise – Vinvocci – and are there to salvage the Gate. The Master given access to the Gate by Naismith is able to quickly restore it to working order.

While this has happened, the Doctor has discovered where the Master has been taken and journeys there with Wilf to try and stop him. Once again, discovering too late what the Master is working on, he is unable to stop the Master from entering the Gate and imprinting himself on every Human being on Earth except – Wilf, The Doctor and Donna Noble!

Part One ends revealing that the Narrator, who has appeared throughout the episode warning of the end of humanity on Christmas Day is the Leader of the Time Lords, and he announces that this is the day that the Time Lords will return!!

My Thoughts –

OK, as mentioned … I love the fact that the Sound of the Drums is real and that it could portend something much greater. I love the fact that the Master is able to use his Life Force as a weapon (& a source of propulsion!) and the skull effect is brilliant. On the positive side … The TimeLords have returned! WOW … didn’t see that one coming at all. Throughout this new incarnation of the Doctor, the fact that he is the “last of the TimeLords” is something that has impacted him greatly … with their return … what’s going to happen now???

Now – on the negative side … while The Master taking over the whole human race in such a fashion is cool … the overall effect seemed very “Matrixy” to me – how about you? Didn’t it just seem like Agent Smith assimilating everyone?

The End of Time – Part II

Summary of Episode –

Captured and taunted by The Master, The Doctor and Wilf are saved by the Vinvocci. Escaping from the multiple Masters, they go into hiding in the Vinvocci ship that is orbiting the Earth. Quickly realizing that The Master could easily destroy the ship, The Doctor disables the ship and hides it from the Earth based sensors.

Unable to find The Doctor, the world of Master’s concentrate on the“sound of drums” – this sound amplified a billion times becomes clearer and The TimeLords are able to use it to send a focusing device through the Time Lock. This focus – a fallen Gallifreyan diamond, called a Whitepoint Star is immediately recognizable by The Master and The Doctor. As these diamonds are only available on Gallifrey, The Doctor realizes that The TimeLords have found a loophole and are going to escape from the Time War.

Contrary to expectations, The Doctor is NOT happy that the TimeLords are returning and he indicates in no uncertain way that in the Final Days of the Time War, the TimeLords changed from their more benevolent selves into a fanatical race, willing to do anything and everything to win.
The Doctor quickly rushes to stop The Master, but once again arrives too late as the Time Lord Council appears through the Immortality Gate. The Master plans to use the Gate now to imprint himself on all Time Lords, but the Time Lord President stops him and undoes the previous change by the Gate and restores humanity. The President then reveals that now freed of the Time Lock, the Time Lords will end time and creation itself in order to live eternally as pure consciousness.

The Doctor tells The Master that that is why he had to stop the Time Lords at the end of the Time War, as he knew they were planning that. Gallifrey begins to materialise by the Earth, and the Doctor reveals that it will soon be followed by all the other horrors from the Time War.
The Doctor determines that instead of killing The Master or the President, he can instead use Wilfs gun to destroy the diamond that is maintaining the link.

Doing so and reversing the process so that the TimeLords are sent back into the Time Lock, the Doctor is further threatened by the President, but is instead saved by The Master!! Furious that he had been manipulated since a child by the President, The Master attacks the President in a rage. Gallifrey, The Master and all the Time Lords disappear back into the Time Lock. The fate of the Master, who also vanishes, is unclear.

Surprised to still be alive, The Doctor starts to rejoice only to hear 4 knocks … Wilf has been trapped in the isolation chamber which will soon be flooded with lethal radiation, killing him instantly. The Doctor initially rages about his fate – stating that“I could do so much more” and that Wilfred is “unimportant”. However, realizing that his fate is pre-ordained and that he cannot leave Wilfred to die, The Doctor sacrifices himself to save Wilf, and in the process suffers a massive dose of radiation.

Although he survives initially, the healing of the Doctor’s wounds show that his regeneration has started. He takes Wilfred home and brief scenes show him fleetingly visiting several past companions. Not wishing to change and stating that he doesn’t want to go, the Doctor completes his regeneration in an unusually violent manner with the TARDIS windows shattering and the console room bursting into flames. The newly-regenerated Eleventh Doctor explores his new body before eventually recognising that the TARDIS is hurtling back to Earth, taking the controls and gleefully shouting “Geronimo!”

My Thoughts –

Sad that David Tennant is gone … really liked him as The Doctor and he definitely made the role his own … however from what I understand the new Doctor has signed on for at least 3 years which means there are going to be some good stories coming and hopefully further details. Also, despite my previous comments about the Time Lords – quite cool that they were “bad” at the end … however, being the last Time Lord, also means there is no one else with the same amount of power as the Doctor, which also means that he really can’t lose. Also with the Master gone, the Daleks gone and Cybermen gone, this is even more true! Also really good scenes between Wilfred and The Doctor where initially Wilf said he’d be happy if the Doctor was his son and then The Doctor saying he’d be proud if Wilf was his dad. Really good. The tie in of “the sound of drums” from such a long time ago to this point – really well done.

I look forward to seeing what’s coming … it should be interesting!!

Danny dies in a road accident while on the phone to Clara. Struggling with her grief, Clara blackmails The Doctor by drugging him and threatening to throw his 7 remaining TARDIS keys into an active volcano unless he brings Danny back to life. However, The Doctor switches the drugs and allows Clara to hallucinate throwing the keys into the volcano in order to see how far she’ll go. Burned by her betrayal, The Doctor nonetheless offers to help Clara by syncing her mind with the TARDIS telepathic circuits to see if there is any trace of Danny left in existence.

Meanwhile, Danny has been transported to The Nethersphere, which greeter Seb tells him is the afterlife and he meets a child he accidentally killed in Afghanistan. The TARDIS takes The Doctor and Clara to the 3W facility where corpses are suspended in a substance called ‘dark water’ and meet welcome droid Missy. Clara and Danny communicate while The Doctor discovers the dead remain conscious. Seb urges Danny to delete his emotions. It is revealed the corpses are Cybermen uploaded with the dead and break out of the facility, which is actually St. Paul’s Cathedral, and that Missy is The Master.

It’s clear from the cold open that, apart from post-it notes, nothing is going to tie the first episode of this two-part finale to the rest of the season, as in previous years. It doesn’t help that the previous appearances of The Nethersphere were tacked on to each episode like a DVD bonus. As a self-contained episode, it’s just about bearable, with the creepy moving skeleton heads and macabre 3W facility constituting an effective piece of horror. Having waited so long for the truth about Missy’s identity, the double bluff comes off as tedious and the big reveal is underwhelming.

The volcano dream sequence is the worst example yet this season of the programme trying to have its dark cake and eat it. It turns Clara into a sociopath only to deny ever taking the character to such an extreme. It’s dishonest writing, and even a hack like Moffat should know better. It was also totally unnecessary to represent Clara’s grief this way since it had been perfectly well established in a naturalistic scene with her Gran. The Nethersphere scenes are made unwatchable by Chris Addison’s overacting as Seb, and Michelle Gomez’s Missy isn’t far behind with her hammy pouting.

An unwelcome return of the ‘dead lover’ motif that plagued so many of Amy and Rory’s storylines, Danny’s death brings about Clara’s mental breakdown while giving The Doctor and Clara a convenient excuse to encounter Missy. Danny’s meeting with his wartime victim clears up the enigma of the ‘bad day’ we’ve been hearing about since ‘Into the Dalek’ which made him ‘wise’ and, after a few red herrings, we discover that The Nethersphere is nothing more than a simulated reality inside a global hard drive from Gallifrey. The Doctor is really just a pawn in this elaborate conflation of storylines.

The revelation that Missy is a female regeneration of The Master raises more questions than it answers (none of which will be addressed, incidentally!) but while the misogynistic, bigoted corners of the internet freak out about a transgender Timelady, the real misgiving to have about this plot development is Moffat’s inability to write interesting, powerful women. The Doctor’s failure to know Missy relies on an incredible suspension of disbelief, and turning a blind eye to the programme’s existing mythology, but the biggest problem is not finding anything worthwhile to do with Missy as a character, besides the slash-fiction friendly kiss.

Like most of Moffat’s season finales, ‘Dark Water’ is a real mess. However, unlike previous finales, it’s not the culmination of multiple storylines that makes it so. Here the issue is that the episode relinquishes the dramatic power of its major set-piece, the 3W facility, for a few fan-gasps. The strongest story ideas and character moments are undermined by pantomime execution, not least from the supporting cast, and Clara endures the most ill-advised villainizing of a Doctor Who character since The Sixth Doctor tried to throttle Peri. The script relies on twists and turns that are both easily anticipated and not nearly as interesting as they first seem and, apart from piloting the TARDIS, The Doctor’s impact on the episode is virtually non-existent. The ‘dark water’ of the title could have  easily been an intriguing sci-fi concept but, much like the submerged Cybermen, it never has the chance to breathe.