Capaldi settles into his version of The Doctor and Clara sets her sights elsewhere as an old enemy returns in Into the Dalek.
Things start with a bang, as we see yet another large scale cold open which shows off the special effects budget. This one worked considerably better than the dinosaur at the start of Deep Breath though, in that it was better integrated into the overall story. We pick up where we left off (sort of) as The Doctor has picked up the coffee Clara demanded at the end of Deep Breath.
From there things are set up solidly as we are introduced to a magic shrink ray and The Doctor gives a nod to the obvious inspiration for this episode, Fantastic Voyage (or was it Inner Space?). Of course I’m seeing a few things in this episode that I’ve seen before. The Doctor’s initial encounter with the titular creature is very reminiscent of Nine’s meeting in the Season 1 episode Dalek. Once we get inside the Dalek, we see robotic antibodies again, much like in Season 7’s Let’s Kill Hitler. The sets were nice though. They seemed somehow realistic and delightfully cheap at the same time.
Things play out as you would expect with miniature people running around inside a cybernetic alien killing machine, culminating in a fairly predictable result once their goal is achieved. The Doctor’s little mind-meld took a wonderful turn, playing nicely into the “am I a good man?” theme they seem to be setting up for this season, and was hammered home with one line from Rusty.
One thing I didn’t really appreciate was being taken out of the story so abruptly just to wave the whole Missy season arc in my face again. It seems they are going to handle it in a similar way to the Madame Kovarian tease from Season 6. I don’t recall the Kovarian tease being quite so jarring though. Generally she peered through the hatch during slower parts of the story. Throwing from a tense climax to the “heaven” just felt wrong. Perhaps that was the point. Either way, I think I like my season arc hints a bit more subtle than this.
We see more of a shift in dynamic between The Doctor and Clara this episode too, which is summed up neatly when she refers to herself as his “carer”. That was actually pretty funny, but very telling at the same time. Is she bitter about his apparent aging? And now that The Doctor is off the table, they are setting up some kind of clumsy relationship with Clara’s co-worker Danny Pink. And what was with all the sexual innuendo around Danny? It made no sense to me.
But why does The Doctor have a hatred of soldiers now? The Brigadier was a soldier, and The Doctor was all set to call on him in A Good Man Goes to War. I sincerely hope they are not setting up some reason why The Doctor can dislike Danny just so he can appear jealous of Clara. If it plays out more paternally, it would be okay, but even paternal feelings for Clara would feel a bit out of place in the face of the detached alien coldness we’ve had the past two episodes.
Overall it was a thoroughly entertaining episode, and I think it tops most of what we’ve had for the past few seasons. I wouldn’t call it exactly perfect, but certainly close.