Daleks in general, appear to have run their course. I get why they were an appealing villain early on in the series, but the new series of Doctor Who has essentially done nothing interesting or new with these baddies. The closest they came was “Dalek,” but even that was just a retread of a superior audio story from Big Finish. “Into the Dalek” tries hard to do something new, and occasionally succeeds. It is strong not because of the Daleks themselves, however, but because of the way the Dalek is used to examine the Doctor’s own morality.
Peter Capaldi finally gets to be “his” Doctor for an entire episode in “Into the Dalek,” but Jenna Coleman once again steals the show as she continues to kill it as Clara. Capaldi has flashes of the unfeeling alien-ness of Tom Baker and the pretension of Pertwee, but still feels a bit clumsy and like he is missing the pivotal whimsy that makes the Doctor such an interesting character. Even Colin Baker, who was often criticized because his Doctor was such an asshole, at least had that flair and oddness that made the Doctor who he is. Capaldi, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have grabbed a hold of that yet, and the end result feels a bit flat.
The episode on the whole, however, is pretty good. There are a few great moments, including some funnier bits with the introduction of future companion Danny Pink. The whole idea of the episode, a “good” Dalek, has been done before in “Dalek,” but it takes a different route here. The Doctor, Clara, and a few redshirts have to be shrunk down with a special machine so they can actually enter the Dalek and see where the malfunction is that is making him appear to have all of that pesky morality. Whereas “Dalek” was a moral quandry brought on by Rose accidentally rebooting its system, Rusty (the name given to the Dalek by the Doctor) is not altered in any way other than a serious malfunction, which makes the conflict feel more like a logic puzzle.
The episode is fun and full of action, with the interesting revelation being that the Doctor’s singular hatred of the Daleks ultimately leads to part of his problem. Without actually spoiling it, I appreciated the ending and thought that it was good enough to justify the rest of the episode, which ultimately feels a little too much like a retread in parts to be really special. Once again, Jenna Coleman is holding things together while Capaldi is finding his feet as the Doctor, but in a series that is only 12 episodes long, he’s going to have to find ’em soon.
Final Grade: B-