Check out my review of Gotham – Pilot
The new Doctor’s second episode and he’s already facing a Dalek? It’s a Dalek, Jim, but not as we know it.
The Daleks are an interesting conundrum. They’re renowned as one of the scariest villains in British TV history but they are little more than a metal cylinder and with a whisk and plunger attached to the front. When used correctly, they bring a real sense of awe to any Doctor Who episode but when used too frequently, like I feel they have been recently, they lose some of their pizzazz. Into The Dalek was an attempt on a unique take on the classic Who enemy and it took its title more literally than most viewers were expecting. Unfortunately, originality wasn’t particularly present this week and much of the main plot trod on very familiar ground of recent episodes.
The “Honey, I shrunk The Doctor” set up for the rest of the episode is something we’ve seen before with the shape-changing Teselecta from the previous series. The antibodies in the Dalek’s body are also nearly identical to the antibodies from the Teselecta. Of course, the main influence on Into The Dalek is the fantastic 2005 episode Dalek. Even the line “You would make a good Dalek” is rephrased this week. The main positive from all of this is the moral dilemma that The Doctor has to deal with when confronted with the concept of a “good Dalek”.
It was clear from last week’s Deep Breath that Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is something we haven’t seen since the series was revived in 2005. While he simultaneously wields the tortured soul of the Ninth Doctor and the know-it-all arrogance of the Tenth, the internal struggle with his morality and identity is a fantastic way to explore a new side of the ancient character. Even more than the recent Doctors, Twelve is haunted and dark. This influences Capaldi’s dynamic with Jenna Coleman’s chirpy Clara, making for one of the more interesting companion relationship we’ve seen so far.
Peter Capaldi’s performance and screen presence is just as compelling as it was last week (or ever has been, for that matter). The two main actors are nicely accompanied by Samuel Anderson‘s introduction as the appropriately handsome Danny Pink, a new love interest for Clara. This added together for even more fantastic character work for Clara and I’m excited to see Danny return and become a full time companion.
This week’s main supporting character, Journey Blue (played by the talented Zawe Ashton) was a nice nearly-companion but every other side character was barely noticeable (Gretchen just showed up and disappeared when it was convenient, apparently). This also meant that great actors such as Ben Crompton (who played Ross and who you may recognise from Game of Thrones) and the wonderful Michael Smiley (who played Colonel Blue and who you may recognise from Spaced) get almost no screen time and go completely under-utilised. A great supporting cast can make a great Who episode a true classic but unfortunately, this episode’s focus was elsewhere.
Thankfully, much like last week, strong performances from the lead actors helped to elevate a less than stellar episode. The lack of originality this week, however, made Into The Dalek a bit of a sophomore slump for Series 8. I do still believe that Capaldi has the capacity to be an all-time great Doctor but, after only two episodes, I really hope this series starts picking up soon.
Rating – 7.0/10
This is a version of a short story I wrote when I was around 14-15 years old.
As you can probably tell, it is heavily influenced by things like the Devil May Cry games and Warhammer, two things I loved when I was a teen.
Anjellus stormed through the gates, his scarlet cloak flapping in the wind.
“Hello?” he called out. A road echoed through the hall of the Iron Tower.
A black creature lunged from the shadows but Anjellus nimbly deflected its claws, his sword bouncing off its scaly skin.
“Grr…beast” he growled as he thrust his gun to its belly, firing.
It screamed out and fell limp to the floor.
“Job done.” Anjellus said, striding out of the tower and into the cold night.
The demon-hunter travelled through the night and finally arrived at his home of Terek. He stood atop the hill East of Terek, his black boots frozen in fear. Terek was burning to the ground!
He could just make out small figures amongst the flames. There were much larger beings also, killing Terek’s natives.
Anjellus sprinted down the hill and slew many evil creatures, an enormous shadow lurked still, engulfed in fire.
“Anjellus, you are a fool.” the beast’s voice pounded in the demon-hunter’s head.
“You are the fool, Borion, I’ll slay you like I do every demon.”
“Don’t count on it!”
With those words, Borion struck Anjellus to the floor, knocking him unconscious.
When he regained his senses, he noticed a face peering down at him.
“Anjellus, you’re awake.”
“Dante, how…did…you…survive?” Anjellus murmured.
“I hid in my cellar.” his old friend smirked.
“We must kill Borion before he destroys Caradrha” (the country’s capital) Anjellus said as he stood up.
“You are right, we must follow him through the Forest of Silence.”
“Where has he gone?” Dante said, puzzled.
“West, to the Onyx Tower, his lair.” Anjellus answered.
“I need to feed soon, Anjellus.” Dante gasped for blood.
With a rustling in the bushes, a boar launched itself, attempting to tackle Dante’s leg. With his lightning-quick reaction and superhuman strength, Dante swiped at it and began to drink.
“Satisfied, friend?” chuckled Anjellus.
A few hours late, they reached the edge of the forest and prepared to cross the bridge.
The bridge was more rotted and worn than ever before.
“Where’s Pyret?” Dante asked.
“I do not know.” Anjellus replied.
Pyret was an old friend, a troll that guarded the bridge from intruders intending to attack the more populated areas.
“I fear the worst.” Anjellus said, reluctantly.
The bridge could only support one person so Dante flew while Anjellus trod cautiously across. On the other side lay the corpse of Pyrey.
“Borion shall pay for this.” Anjellus cursed. “We must move swiftly.”
The unusual duo trekked across a barren wasteland. A roaring motor sounded in the distance.
“Oh no, the Attack Squads. The natives of this area are very technologically advanced, they have motor driven chariots they call Speeders, prepare for a fight.” Anjellus informed Dante as they drew their weapons.
The Speeders approached at unbelievable speeds, a trail of dust following them as they tore across the dry and cracking ground. Anjellus responded, unloading his Colt .45s, trying to disable the vehicle.
A tyre popped, causing the Speeder to tumble and spin out of control, smashing in to the ground.
Another three vehicles appeared behind the first, in V formation.
“Take to the sky.” Anjellus instructed.
Dante did as he was told. Anjellus fired constantly at the lead Speeder. The engine began to smoke. The passengers suddenly realised what was happening, scrambling furiously as they tried to escape their doom. The explosion that followed destroyed the last three Speeders and the burnt bodies tumbling over Anjellus’ head.
“Incredible gun work, my friend.” Dante thanked him, impressed by his friend’s skill. “I owe my life to you and your pistols.”
“Quickly, we must travel South. Through the marsh.”
The demon-hunter and vampire trudged through the thick, sludgy mire.
“Disgusting.” muttered Dante.
“Indeed.” Anjellus replied. “Hurry, we must get out of her before nightfall.”
“Why?” the vampire asked.
“Terrible beasts roam these parts.” He said, staring all around him.
A scream echoed in their ears, coming from deep in the marsh.
“Come.” Anjellus sprinted towards the source.
A woman’s body lay in the bog. “We’re too late…”
The murderer erupted from the depths and struck Dante squarely in the sternum, claws ripping at his clothes and skin.
“A Malrok!” Anjellus exclaimed.
“Leave this to me, brother.” Dante smiled.
One hand wrapping around the creature’s neck, while his other sharp, powerful fingers thrust into the creature’s chest. He sank his teeth in to its throat, the beast gurgled as it’s heart was ripped from its body.
“Let’s get going then.” Dante said as he threw the heart into the marsh.
“The final stage of the journey, the Onyx Tower awaits.”
Anjellus stormed through the doors of Borion’s lair, killing anything that moved.
“Borion! We are here to slay you!” Anjellus called out to the demon.
“If you want me, come and get me, hunter.” The demon’s voice echoed back.
“Go Anjellus, you take care of him. I’ll eliminate any creatures down here.”
“Very well, I’ll do our home proud my friend.” Anjellus ran up the stairs to greet his foe.
“Welcome to where you will die.” Borion boomed as Anjellus burst in to the room.
Both warriors launched at each other, exchanging blows at incredible speeds. Anjellus fired and slashed at Borion but the demon dodged, ducked and struck back, smashing Anjellus into the wall at the other side of the room. Anjellus stood up and waited for his foe. As Borion flew at him, the demon-hunter somersaulted, spinning and shooting constantly as he did so. He landed with a thud, embedding his sword in to the beast’s back. He wailed in pain, releasing an enormous powerful ball of energy that completely swallowed his prey.
“It’s over.” Borion chuckled.
“For you, demon!” Anjellus jumped down from the ceiling and stabbed his blade through his opponent’s head. Borion’s death howl echoed through the tower, disintegrating in a blinding light.
My first thought after watching Deep Breath was “I’m really looking forward to Capaldi’s Doctor.”
My second thought was “That was a pretty average episode.”
The villain was fine (more on that in a minute) and I love really Madame Vastra & Jenny but the first half of the episode with the t-rex felt completely unnecessary and way too long. In fact, most scenes felt particularly long. I’m not sure this episode needed the extra long run time and would’ve worked much more smoothly with the standard ~58 minutes.
I understand that the dinosaur is there to reflect The Doctor’s sense of feeling alone in an unknown world (there was a lot of mirroring, both literal and figurative, wasn’t there?) but I thought the t-rex herself was underused (she literally does nothing but roar a few times). Apparently, she’s in the Thames (no splashing around sound effects?) and just not eating people or smashing stuff. If you have a GIANT dinosaur, have it do something visually impressive. I would have loved to have seen it go full Godzilla and smash Big Ben.
Side note: talking of sound effects, what the hell was that noise when Vastra knocked out The Doctor?! Did she hit him with an ACME mallet or something?
So, the villain. The time travelling organ stealing clockwork cyborgs.
When The Doctor says that he’s seen 51st century clockwork androids before, he’s not wrong.
The 4th Doctor serial The Talons of Weng Chiang featured a 51st century clockwork android and so did the fantastic 10th Doctor episode The Girl In The Fireplace (the SS Madame de Pompadour is actually directly mentioned by Capaldi in this episode). Also, there was a secret message in the credits of the Sherlock episode The Empty Hearse, there were red letters that spelt out “Weng Chiang”. Could this be implying that these steampunk automatons are going to be very significant for the near-future or was that just Moffat & Co just having some fun? Time will tell, I suppose.
Also, talking of Moffat, he’s been quoted as saying that there will be no “big bad” for this series. But, at the end, we get a glimpse at the mysterious Missy and “Heaven”. The wonderfully unnerving (and appropriately Scottish) Michelle Gomez has been confirmed to be appearing in the 2-part series finale Dark Water and Death In Heaven so this is far from the last we’ve seen of Missy. From her first appearance, it very much feels like the whole Madame Kovarian thing all over again so I really hope they go in a different direction this year.
I thought Deep Breath’s dialogue, in general, was very clunky and tried too hard to explain every little detail. I understand that there will be new viewers for this series premier but it really felt heavy handed throughout. I think I’ve finally gotten tired of Strax and his little moments too.
Perhaps the thing that most pleasantly surprised me is where the Clara & The Doctor relationship seems to be headed. It looks like we’re past flirty Doctor (thank god) and can move on to some actual character development for Clara! I feel they spent so much time with her as this “puzzle to solve” in the last series that they forgot to actually give her any depth. The scene between her and Vastra (the also wonderful and also Scottish Neve McIntosh) was easily one of my favourites and I’m looking forward to seeing the Capaldi & Coleman chemistry develop during their time together.
Overall, Deep Breath was a decent episode that was elevated by a stellar performance by Jenna Coleman, a “just as good as I was hoping for” debut from Peter Capaldi and a refreshing tonal shift for the series as a whole.
Rating – 7.5/10