Have you ever thought to yourself, “Gee, I really want Doctor Who to be more like Innerspace!”? Yeah… me neither. Following a somewhat lackluster premiere, Peter Capaldi‘s run as the Twelfth Doctor begins in earnest here as The Doctor and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) find themselves shrunk down by soldiers and surgically implanted inside a damaged Dalek. Nicknaming him Rusty, The Doctor escorts the soldiers (who might as well be wearing red shirts) and Clara through the creature’s innards in an attempt to do something he knows is impossible: create a good Dalek.
Although the episode attempts to tease us that The Doctor may be successful, those familiar with any Who history should see through the premise early on (as The Doctor does before being admonished, wrongly, by Clara). Nor does Rusty’s final line have as much impact as writer Phil Ford expects as those themes (and even the Dalek’s exact words) were already played out the superior “Dalek” with Christopher Eccleston back in 2006.
In terms of showcasing who exactly the new Doctor is, “Into the Dalek” presents him as a capable pragmatist in need of redemption for the blood he sees on his hands over the course of his several regenerations. Allowing himself to be talked out of what he knows is right by both soldiers and Clara, the episode also presents him as a bit befuddled and still unsure of his own instincts. The odd nature of the episode, and Capaldi’s Doctor becoming a tad more fleshed out, makes it slightly better than the premiere, but it’s still a far cry from the show’s best.