Sunday, October 2, 2016

Aragon Vs. Anderson: Into the Dalek

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved. I don't mean liked. I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time. It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode. I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things. I mean give a bona-fide negative review. Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express). Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night.

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required. I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut. What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying. I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 32 of The Nerdist as Whore: Into the Dalek. My 'translations' are in red.


When is a Dalek not a Dalek?

When it's ajar?

When it’s the Doctor, perhaps? That might not be as exact a notion as the Doctor himself thinks, but it’s very much the central theme of this week’s Doctor Who episode, “Into the Dalek”. It’s all about, in the broadest possible terms, good and evil, and what makes someone one thing and not the other. It also plays with the idea of whether being a soldier is a detriment to a person as a person, if being trained to kill negates someone’s ability to exist in peacetime.

Something about this just doesn’t sit well with me.  I can’t quite place it, as if there’s a vague suggestion that those in the military, once they retire or leave the service, cannot quite function in society. 

There’s some really deep things going on here. Oh, and it’s a Fantastic Voyage pastiche,


Clara gets to slap the Doctor, and we meet Mr. Danny Pink. Quite an episode, and one I think was bloody brilliant.
SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

Apparently, it’s never too soon to be shocked.

Co-written by Steven Moffat and Phil Ford, who hadn’t written for the series since “The Waters of Mars,” but who show-ran The Sarah Jane Adventures, and directed again by feature filmmaker Ben Wheatley, “Into the Dalek” is a complete tonal shift from much of “Deep Breath.”

Deep Breath was intentionally silly. Into the Dalek unintentionally.

There was a lot of establishing that needed to be done in the series opener and as a result it had to also be a bit of a big rompy comedy piece. There’s really good stuff in it, but also a lot of not great stuff.

Time for another trip in the Way-Back Machine to…last week's Andersonian Doctor Who review.

“Overall, I think “Deep Breath” worked incredibly well for introducing a new Doctor, reestablishing his relationship with a companion, setting things up for the future, and giving us questions about what kind of a man the Twelfth Doctor really is. The dinosaur was unnecessary, really, but it did look cool, and ultimately the episode picked up when they got to the restaurant. Still, a really fine opening to a series.”

Now, even I, well-versed in Andersonian, am having a hard time translating these two separate reviews, divided by the span of a week.

For Deep Yawn, he said that minus the dinosaur, it was “a really fine opening to a series”. Now, a week later, he says Deep Yawn had “really good stuff in it, but also a lot of not great stuff” (emphasis mine).  Apart from a side critique of the dinosaur (and even that is couched with some praise: that ‘looking cool’ bit), I don’t know what he means by “a lot of not great stuff”.  He essentially made one criticism of it (the dinosaur) but apart from that, I cannot find where there is “a lot of not great stuff” that he criticized.  Now, he says that he found "a lot of not great stuff" in an episode where he was highly, ebulliently praising.  To my mind, there's a wild inconsistency in these disparate statements.

Let’s put our cards on the table: Anderson highly praised Deep Yawn with one caveat: the dinosaur.  ONE thing to criticize does not constitute “a lot of not great stuff”.  Seriously Kyle, you make your sycophancy so obvious.   

Here, however, we’ve gotten over most of the post-regenerative getting-used-to-people pleasantries and can get into some of what I hope Capaldi’s tenure will include more of.

Oh, Capaldi… he did go on a journey, didn’t he?

It’s been a long strange trip for us too.  Technically, he didn't go INTO Journey, but now I'm getting ahead of myself.

We begin with a ship being chased down and ultimately destroyed by a Dalek saucer. At the last second, the Doctor materializes the TARDIS around the only survivor of the massacre, a soldier named Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton),

whose brother died in the explosion and who immediately holds a gun on the Doctor and demands to be taken back to her main ship, . Being a badass (yes, the Twelfth Doctor

In 14th Form…

is a badass), the Doctor tells her to try again until she finally asks nicely and says please. Politeness as a form of badassery; I love it.

Love is strange.

Anyway, he takes her back to her ship, the Aristotle, where her commanding officer and uncle Morgan (Michael Smiley) says thank you, but that he can’t let the Doctor breach the security of the ship and get away with it and so must be killed. But oh wait! He’s a Doctor and the soldiers have a patient… it turns out to be a Dalek who screams that all Daleks must be destroyed. DUN DUN DUN!

Moffat has said that the cold opens for this series were some of the best in the show’s history, and I think this one definitely lends credence to that claim.
SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson thought
Moffat did a good job!

From an awesome space battle scene to the Doctor being cool, to a really fabulous twist with the Dalek.

Then we’re introduced to the new recurring character this year, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), a new maths teacher at Coal Hill School, and someone who we’re immediately told is a lady killer,

In more ways than one I’m sure.

but who displays himself to be anything but when he meets Clara and has THREE opportunities to go out with her and blows them all. Luckily for him, our Ms. Oswald is quite persistent.

So, who is chasing whom in this pas de deux d’amour?

He’s also a soldier, who it’s very clear through his reaction to things that he has killed more than one person, and at least one who wasn’t a soldier.


He begins to cry in class about it as well. I think from these scenes we’re meant to glean that there’s a stereotype of bravado and playerness about soldiers but that Danny doesn’t display these qualities the way people expect him to. Very interested to see more of him.

Danny Pink isn’t like most ex-soldiers.  He has humanity.  To me, this is creeping into very dangerous waters…

And we come to the main thrust of the episode. The Doctor goes to get Clara and on their way back to the Aristotle he asks her a very serious question: is he a good man?

Ah, Kyle…WHY does the Doctor HAVE to go to get Clara?  Why couldn’t she just, I don’t know, have been there since the beginning?  I think Fury Road Red has the potential to be a better Companion than our dishwater-dull schoolmarm, which means she probably won’t get to travel on the TARDIS.  She might not even make it to the end of the episode if history is any indication.

That’s a very heavy question as well and Clara admits that she doesn’t know. That’ll have to wait because they’re going “into darkness,” though they didn’t Star Trek there so I don’t think it counts.

Aren’t we witty!

The problem of a “good” Dalek is an interesting one and the Doctor can’t resist wanting to go inside of it thanks to the military ship (which used to be a medical ship) having a shrinking chamber. That’s handy.

That’s a plot contrivance.

The Doctor and Clara are shrunk down along with Journey

and two other security officers (in case the Doctor is a spy) and they end up inside the Dalek’s metallic infrastructure.

Trouble starts when one of the officers (played by Game of Thrones‘ Ben Crompton) fires a cable line into the Dalek and its antibodies appear.

I don’t have an objection to Daleks having antibodies, but why does this make me wonder if in the future, these details will be rather pesky?

The Doctor seems like he’s helping when he gives the soldier a pill, but it’s actually just so he can track the man’s remains in the ship. They follow it down a shaft and end up in a pool of protein goo, made from liquified bodies of the Daleks’ victims. Gross. This is all in order to reach the Dalek’s “problem.” It has seen beauty, a star being born,

Wrong Star Being Born?

and it doesn’t want to destroy things that aren’t Daleks anymore. But the Doctor is distraught when it’s discovered that it’s just a radiation leak that caused the malfunction.

Isn’t that the way of the world: think you found a good Dalek, turns out it’s just a malfunction.

He fixes it, and the Dalek goes back to being a regular Dalek.

The Doctor seems almost relieved by this, because he was right. There’s no such thing as a good Dalek,

And there's no such thing as a bad boy.

but Clara slaps him and tells him there has to be a way of making the Dalek remember the beauty it once saw and made it change.

What a bossy broad Clara is, telling the Doctor what he should do!

The Doctor says they’ll need to get up to the memory banks to do this and the only way is for the other security person shoot cables and sacrifice herself to the antibodies (Holy crap, she ends up in “Heaven” also. Missy is a weeeeeeird character)

It’s at this point that I’m beginning to wonder how this security officer can end up in ‘Heaven’ considering what we know now, in the future, about ‘Heaven’.  Oh, why bother thinking on such things?

so that Clara and Journey can go up,


while the Doctor goes to talk to the Dalek and reason with it. All this while the Dalek ship begins to invade the Aristotle to kill the humans and retrieve its comrade.

Leave no Dalek behind.

Ultimately, the Doctor is able to show the Dalek his own mind and his own reverence for the beauty of the universe, but on top of that, the Dalek sees the Doctor’s own capacity for hate, and specifically the hatred of the Daleks.

Sounds familiar…

He said earlier that he used to just be the Doctor until he met them on Skaro, and then he knew the Doctor was not the Daleks; the opposite of them.

OK, so An Unearthly Child wasn’t all that good apart from the first episode, all that caveman thing, but still, I’m pretty sure he was The Doctor even back then before they landed on Skaro. 

But he’s heartbroken to learn that he has just the same amount of hate as a Dalek does, facing the other way.

Moral relativism to its rotten core.  It’s like saying ISIS and the U.S. Armed Forces are equal (and no doubt there are many who do think this).  The Daleks originated as Nazi allegory, so I doubt that when they were created that this moral equivalency was in vogue. Something about this just doesn’t sit right with me either.

The newly-Dalek-hating-Dalek then kills all his brethren and tells the ship to turn away. The Doctor said he thought he’d found a “Good Dalek,” but the Dalek replies that he, the Doctor, is a GOOD Dalek.

“You would make a good Dalek”.  Now, where have I heard that line before?  Let me think now.  Oh yes, Dalek, back in Season One.  Is it me, or are we now covering same thematic territory?  Anyone willing to wager that the fact we have essentially the same themes running all the way back from Season One will get a mention in this 'review'?

Clara, as always, says the right thing when the Doctor needs it. Not only the slap and making him see he was being an idiot,

Because nowadays the Companion is always smarter than The Doctor…

but at the end when she tells him she doesn’t know if he’s a good man but he tries to be and that makes all the difference.

That’s what separates him, an ancient world-destroying entity, from the Daleks, a race of world-destroying entities. Intent is everything.

Then again, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

And the Doctor turns Journey away from wanting to join the TARDIS, because she’s a soldier. Surely this will not be a good thing when he inevitably meets Danny.

Let’s use the Way-Back Machine to look over those who have either traveled in the TARDIS or worked alongside The Doctor.

Sara Kingdom, Able Seaman Ben Jackson, Jamie McCrimmon, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Captain Yates, Sergeant Benton, Liz Shaw and Jo Grant (working for UNIT), Harry Sullivan. 

Each of them was a soldier in some form or worked for a military-style agency.  If anything, Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart can be called the closest to being The Doctor’s best friend.  Yes, they butted heads repeatedly and The Doctor was quite unhappy with some of his decisions, but in The Daemons it was The Doctor who passionately defended The Brigadier when The Doctor’s Companion Jo Grant criticized him.

Serving in the military has never stopped anyone from serving as a Companion in the TARDIS, but now, all of a sudden, The Doctor has some sort of antipathy towards soldiers.  The mind simply boggles at how after nearly a half-century where a SOLDIER (The Brig) has ranked among the Greatest and Most Beloved Companions in Doctor Who history, we, the fanbase, are told that The Doctor now finds them unsuitable Companions. 
Why then did he not object to having Able Seaman Ben Jackson or Harry Sullivan aboard?  Maybe he likes sailors...or will that be a 'very special episode' of Doctor Who?
Again, we have another case of 'sure, I'll go along with it, even if it appears to contradict long-established Canon'. 

“Into the Dalek” has so many great ideas and themes to ponder that I’ve completely glossed over some very sparky and delightful dialogue from the main characters.
This IS the episode that I wanted it to be, and definitely feels like the Twelfth Doctor
In 14th Form...
hitting his stride, finding his “The Ark in Space.”
BLASPHEMER!  IDOLATOR!  FOR THIS KYLE ANDERSON SHALL DRINK BITTER WATERS!  Comparing Into the Dalek with The Ark in Space is unforgivable! 
I can only hope it continues in this vein. If “Deep Breath” was a 7, I think “Into the Dalek” has to be a 9 for me.
SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson gave a
Doctor Who episode a 9/10!
Next week, surely a big ol’ romp with the Mark Gatiss-penned “Robot of Sherwood,” a sci-fi pastiche of the Robin Hood story. Cannot wait!

So, The Doctor does not like soldiers as Companions, eh?  Well, whatever Moffat says...


  1. I am an older fanatic of Doctor Who, so I can empathize with your disdain for the spastic eras of Tennant and Smith, but I cannot comprehend your disdain for Capaldi whose acerbic wit and grumpiness remind me of William Hartnell. i do wish however that Clara Who had been dumped along with the 11th Doctor.

    1. I think Capaldi would be a great Doctor. He has such lousy scripts that even someone of his abilities struggles to make them watchable. It's more about his stories than him personally.

  2. I agree however about the whole soldier thing... it baffled me completely.

    1. I think it was for two reasons: to set up a 'conflict' between the Doctor and Clara's new boy-toy, Dan the Soldier Man (to coin a phrase), and to show a generally anti-military strain among the writing staff. Both were, to be kind, misguided.


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