As always, DO NOT READ until you've seen the episode and the one before! *spoilers*
Today I'm reviewing 'Into the Dalek', the second episode of series 8, written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat. Much like the premier, this episode got off to a solid start. We begin with the Doctor narrowly saving the life of a doomed soldier, Journey Blue, a second before her ship was exterminated by a dalek ship. She essentially wakes up inside the TARDIS with no explanation of where her ship, with her (already dead) brother still in it, is. Naturally she's confused, terrified, and concerned for her sibling. The Doctor matter-of-factly explains to her where she is, how she got there, and that he saved her life; and refuses to even hear her demands (at gunpoint) to return her to her command ship until she asks him properly: "No. No, come on. Not like that, not like that. Get it right!" His subtle face change the moment she says the words "I demand" spoke volumes. The Doctor is calm, collected, detached, and completely unimpressed by her wielding a gun at him. I thought their interaction was a brilliant way to open the episode and continue to establish this Doctor's personality. Still a bit unsure of who he is, this Doctor seems to be taking a completely pragmatic approach to things, and I quite like the change in direction. He seems to be the only character undergoing any real form of well thought out development, and once again, Capaldi nails the performance.
Now, essentially this episode is the illegitimate love child of the 1966 sci-fi movie 'Fantastic Voyage' and the 'Dalek' episode from series 1 with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. There's a sick dalek begging for help, in a base surrounded by soldiers with big guns and an emotionless guy in charge. The Doctor is the only one who can save this dalek-gone-good, so he and a small team of disposable soldiers and Blue and Clara are shrunk down and sent directly into the dalek where they must travel through his systems, battle antibodies, and eventually heal him. Once healed, the dalek immediately turns bad again and The Doctor and Clara must figure out a way to turn him back while countless soldiers are wantonly killed because for some reason highly trained soldiers are incapable of aiming. The Doctor struggles with his overbearing hatred of the daleks, combined with his hatred of soldiers, while Clara runs around being his clever conscience and pointing out that he's blinded by his hatred. Hell, they even referenced 'Fantastic Voyage' when The Doctor was speaking about the machine they use to miniaturize the medical team so they can work on a patient from the inside: "Fantastic idea for a movie..."
It was a somewhat interesting concept for an episode, but this is now the second episode in a row that shows little to no originality. That is not setting a good precedent for this series. When asked about rehashing the plot for 'The Girl in the Fireplace' for the premier, Moffat dismissed any concerns saying that he wanted to focus the premier on introducing Peter Capaldi's Doctor. That's not unreasonable, but now I'm interested to hear what his excuse is for a second episode of recycled plotlines, and am honestly wondering when we might begin to see some original content again.
This episode also introduced our new companion, Danny Pink. I had high hopes for this character despite the notion that he is being brought on specifically as a love interest for Clara. I should have guessed that they wouldn't stray far from the now formulaic male companion type of an awkward boy with a hint of a soldier underneath his dorky, puppy-like exterior who's destined to be lead around by the nose by his female counterpart with whom he is hopelessly infatuated. As Mickey was to Rose, and Rory was to Amy, it seems, so Danny will be to Clara.
I hate the idea of bringing in a character exclusively to act as a love interest for another, established, character. Why does Clara even need a love interest? If you must bring in a love interest though, could you at least give him more than 30 seconds of screen time to develop as a character before shoving him directly into the love interest role? I understand jumping right into it if the character is designed to be disposed of after an episode or two (a la Rose's two episode flirting spree with Adam Mitchell; who, interestingly, was introduced in 'Dalek'), but Danny has been touted as having a more reoccurring role like Micky or even Rory so it would have been nice if the romantic aspect of his relationship with Clara was allowed to develop more naturally.
There are rumors and theories that perhaps Danny is actually the new Master. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I really do hope that the "something more underneath" that was hinted at in this episode is truly interesting as opposed to just "oh, he's sensitive because he's made a horrible mistake in his past that he's still struggling with." I fear that the best we're going to get, however, is a strained connection to U.N.I.T. and someone to argue with The Doctor about the virtue of soldiers (given the over-the-top, soldiers = bad writing for this episode, it's obvious that The Doctor's unease with the military is going to be a reoccurring theme this series). I really am hoping for more from Mr. Pink though, so, fingers crossed.
I'll leave you with a question that I can't seem to shake: Why the random Star Trek reference??? Using the famous borg line, "Resistance is futile" once would just be a cute reference to another wildly popular sci-fi show. Having that sentence so oddly placed that it literally stops The Doctor in his tracks, and then to have it repeated, is something you do when you really need to draw attention to the line. So, why? I'm open to any explanation you guys might have, because it's a question that I really can't stop pondering.