MatthewIt’s week three of The Companion Piece, and week two of this new series of Doctor Who. And already, in just this second week, Peter Capaldi faces the Doctor’s greatest and oldest enemy. Our writing team takes the chair, as we boldly trek Into the Dalek.

We’re also heading Into the Spoilers, so don’t read on unless you’ve seen the episode!

After the new titles (which sadly don’t change each week as we thought they might) and a brief stint with Clara on Earth, our heroes are rushed through both a battlefield-hospital and a lot of exposition. There’s a Dalek with an internal malfunction, and a Fantastic Voyage style shrinking machine – and you can already see where this is going. Into the Dalek has maybe the silliest Doctor Who premise for quite a while, yet the episode itself is pretty serious and gets quite dark in places. Did that combination work for us?

PaulI’m not really sure what to make of it to be honest. There were bits that I liked and some that I disliked. I quite liked the idea of the Doctor being wrong about the Daleks though. It’s just a shame it once again took the assistant to really make a point about it.

CookieExactly, which is something I had real issues with. The assistants have always been there to keep the Doctor grounded so to speak. Yet Clara seemed to be playing the part of Jiminy Cricket last night. I’m sorry but the Doctor would never eve have to be told what they had learnt – or left someone to die with just a throw back comment “he was dead anyway”.

I liked the concept of the episode, not the delivery. I have to admit it really did nothing for me.

PaulDWCP02-03Yeah. And with the Doctor turning around and going “Nope” it seemed like they’re really pushing on this whole “darker Doctor” angle. It seems almost synthetic in the the way they’re pushing him so far.

MatthewHang on, isn’t that the point though? I felt like the Doctor’s callousness about death was a specific character beat for this new Doctor.

I really liked it. It seems like a reaction to Tennant’s constant “I’m so sorry”s and Smith’s frustration whenever anyone died.

EmilyIt’s meant to be. But there are better ways of doing it.

CookieAgreed, the Seventh Doctor was cunning, conniving and had a dark streak but it was handled a lot better IMO. When the Doctor has spent the last two thousand years, trying to save as many people as possible – sorry it just seems too much.

Don’t get me wrong, there were still aspects of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor that worked. It just felt like a mish mash last night.

PaulI definitely feel like “darker Doctor” should mean “morally grey” rather than nihilistic. Hopefully its just that he hasn’t hit his stride yet.

And did anybody else dislike the idea that all it took for a Dalek to be good was a nice view?

CookieYeah, seemed a little simplistic, if it had been some of its original memories coming back – of a life before they were mutants. When they were humanoid Kaleds that would have been better, for me anyways.

EmilyIt seemed implausible that the Dalek could fix its memory banks, but not a fuel leak.

MatthewI was actually confused when they fixed the Dalek and it went evil again. I just figured it had been lying about being good – a repeat of Victory of the Daleks – so when everyone seemed to accept that it had been good but now it was bad so lets make it good again, I had trouble buying it.

PaulAbsolutely. I’m surprised the Doctor even entertained the idea that they could be good.

CookieI would just like to say, I’m getting bored with the Daleks now. I mean it seems like they appear every single season without fail. I’d love to see new enemies or other classic monsters rebooted.

MatthewI am getting a little sick of the way Daleks are usually used. But this episode made me realise something: one single Dalek is a lot scarier than an army. For me, they seem much more formidable when they’re prowling on their own. Just one insane, twisted monster, instead of an ocean of boring drones. And this was the first time I’ve felt that way since the Eccleston era.

PaulDWCP02-04It’s not just that, but a single Dalek is more deadly than a group. Look how easy it was for Rusty to destroy about 7 in a row.

I kinda hope we come across Rusty again. Give him a bit more personality…

MatthewHe’ll be back. An insane, light-side Dalek is too good to waste, surely?

Bit disappointed no-one mentioned Clara’s brief time as a Dalek, though. Felt like a missed opportunity.

CookieThey did seem to skip right on past that. I thought they would have made some reference to it, especially as they were inside the Dalek.

I thought she may have some useful information, she would perhaps know a little more. Unless she simply has no recollection as it happens in the future. Or is it because its a different part of her, wasnt she split into several beings – so she could help all the doctors?

PaulThat’s another example of what we talked about last week – how that episode didn’t really end. Back when she was in his time stream and met the War Doctor, what the hell happened? What happened about Trenzalore? What happened about Richard E Grant?

MatthewI definitely wish we had more clarity on what she does and doesn’t know about herself.

Remember how she got mad computer skills in the first episode last year, and then it never came up again? Does she still have those? We may never know. It’s just another symptom of the inconsistent way she was written.

PaulI’m also unsure of this “pop-in” “pop-out” that they did with with her both this episode and some of the earlier ones in the last season. Like they’re trying to split the assistants into being with the Doctor and having a life of their own. I’m not convinced it works though.

CookieYeah I’m not sure on that either, it is nice to see them having a life outside the TARDIS, yet I preferred it when they were jumping from one adventure to the next. In the classic series, they actually had their own rooms aboard the TARDIS. To me that worked as it felt like they were a family.

MatthewIt actually worked perfectly for me. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like Clara was a person rather than a plot device. And, weirdly, it’s one of the first times a companion has felt like an actual adult, capable of living her own life, rather than a child tagging along.

Of course, both her lives are bound to come crashing together when Danny Pink gets entangled in the Doctor’s story, so I don’t think it’s just a side-show.

CookieLast week it felt like Clara was becoming her own person and not a plot device. This week however she felt once more like just a plot device, to steer the Doctor in the right direction once more.

But I do agree with Matt, they do seem to be trying to do more with her this season, which is cool.

PaulIt feels to me like it’s leaving a hole as to the assistants purpose though. If they’re not with the Doctor all the time, why does the Doctor need them for this mission? I thought the main purpose (narratively) was to balance the Doctor.

EmilyIt’d be nice to have a companion for once whose ties to Earth had pretty much been destroyed.

CookieExactly or Aliens, some of the previous companions have been people whose worlds had been destroyed.

Heck they’ve even had a shape shifting android as a companion before now.

PaulAgreed. A fellow “lost soul” as it were. There’s definitely room for something.

Although I would love to see a story involving Vastra and Co’s first adventure – tied with the Doctor’s, just to know their origin story.

MatthewDWCP02-05I’m dying for an alien companion – or one from a different time-period for a change.

But I feel like we’ve seen companions with no ties. Rose and Donna had broken home-lives and just wanted to run away. Besides, Clara had absolutely no life outside the TARDIS last series… and that’s why she sucked.

I am so glad they’re trying to fix that!

EmilyRose and Donna just didn’t seem like they knew what they really wanted to do with their lives. They still had strong ties.

CookieClara did too, she was nanny to those kids – and she was a teacher last season.

PaulTrue. I don’t think it was given as much emphasis as it could have been, but to be fair, neither did Amy.

While we’re on the subject of Clara, I think this brings us on to the question as to whether she’s leaving the show at Christmas?

CookieWell I would not be surprised, but Peter has refuted it. Jenna won’t comment. It would be a shame for them to really progress her character, just for her to leave as she’s getting a little more interesting.

MatthewYeah, I’d hate to lose her so early. She’s been treated terribly by the writers until these last few episodes, so it’d suck if that ends up being most of her legacy.

PaulIt’d be like Donna all over again. Part of me still wants some kind of “Doctor-Donna” thing to happen.

EmilyBut I doubt it’ll happen. I just want a character to be able to do something as good or better than the Doctor and it not be ethics.

CookieYeah, that would be nice to see. Again I know I sound like a broken record – but it has been done before. I can’t see why it should not be done again.

Doctor Donna returning would be epic, too!

MatthewSpeaking of broken records, I hate to bring up this particular topic yet again, but after both characters last week made such a huge deal of how there will be no more flirting, this second episode is full of “you’re my hobby”s and “you can’t afford me”s.

PaulWas that flirting to you?

MatthewNot as such, but it’s the same sassy dialogue the Doctor always has with his companions. If that wasn’t what they meant by flirting then I’m kind of confused what they did mean. They keep telling us the relationship is different this time, but this was the same as it’s ever been.

PaulMaybe they shouldn’t have said anything about the new Doctor before hand. I feel like I know how the story between them is progressing a little too much.

CookieThat’s a very valid point, they seem to have made it impossible for you not to look at comments and think about it now. Whereas before it was never really an issue, when no one really talked about it that much.

MatthewExactly. This topic wouldn’t come up every single week if the show’s creators and the show itself hadn’t purposefully decided to bring it to our attention.

Something else that it seemed to be drawing attention to was a weird visual motif. Anyone else notice that?

CookieDWCP02-01Hmmm, which was?

MatthewThere were eyes everywhere. Clara’s clothes were covered in eye patterns, the antibodies looked like eyes, the Dalek architecture had a lot of eyes (especially in the central cavern), they entered Rusty’s shell through his eyestalk and, of course, the Doctor came face-to-face with the mutant’s giant eye.

It was really strange, and impossible to unsee once I noticed it. It definitely seemed intentional.

EmilyIf eyes and sight are a thing again I will be disappointed.

It’s been a continuing theme with the Silence and the frelling Angels.

MatthewI guess we’ll have to see if it crops up again, or if there’s any other similar patterns. Maybe it’s part of some bigger plot this year, along with Missy.

And I have to say, I liked the way they dropped Missy’s moment right into the middle of the action this week. It was as jarring for us as it was for the woman that died, and I kinda loved that.

PaulYeah Missy. Interesting because “heaven” seems to take both robots and humans. It’s an equal-opportunities afterlife!

Did make me feel more like “Is it some sort of trans-mat?” though, as I think the woman was still in roughly the same pose.

MatthewYep, I’m still reckoning it’s a last-moment teleport of some kind. I simply refuse to believe we’re actually seeing life after death.

EmilyI’m already bored with the Missy stuff. The hints to her being involved in a big way are far too obvious after hints being too obscure in previous seasons.

I don’t really care where it goes. I just find it a bit much having it thrust in our faces each week.

PaulMaybe she’s collecting “collateral damage” to use against the Doctor – maybe has something to do with the Timelords? Like a court?

CookieDWCP02-02That actually happened with Colin Baker’s Doctor, who was brought to court by Gallifrey in Trial of a Timelord. Where we got to meet the Valeyard!

Missy has me intrigued. I cant wait to see what or whom she really is.

I think, this will be overall story arc for this season – shame they already seem to have forgotten about finding Gallifrey.

PaulAnything else we liked about the episode?

CookieI did quite like how the Dalek dissed the Doctor after seeing all his rage for them!

Again there were a few nice little bits of dialogue for the Doctor as well.

PaulI think that’s actually beginning to be the strongest part of it at the moment – the dialogue.

I think Capaldi’s version of the Doctor is quite good, I just don’t think he’s really had a chance to shine much. He seems to me almost like he’s waiting for things to really kick off.

EmilyThe dialogue is too exposition led. Not strong.

Part of the problem is that this is a TV show and it’s becoming clear the show’s creators don’t seem to think they can do much with the show-don’t-tell mantra on their limited budget.

MatthewCapaldi was definitely my highlight this week. We got a much better feel for his Doctor (intentionally, because he was confused and unsure of himself last week) and his harsh attitude actually worked really well for me.

I didn’t like his final monologue to Rusty – it felt a little too like the “clap if you believe in fairies” moment from Series 3 – but then the episode turned that on its head by showing the darkness and rage behind it. So I did like all that.

CookieYeah it does normally take a while to see where a new incarnation of the Doctor is heading, its early days yet. To be fair its not Peter’s acting that’s annoyed me – I was looking forward to a darker more mature Doctor yet not in such a callous way as we saw here. And the way he was just going to give up – until Clara slapped him. Just did not feel like the Doctor! If that makes sense.

It was a good concept, yet it felt a little confused. I do hope for a darker Doctor, but a darker Doctor does not mean less ethical.

PaulI think it felt like a more focused and tight episode, which is good. On the whole, I feel it showed some promise, although it does annoy me how much they’re pushing certain angles. I hope it either does the darker experience better or goes back to the lighter show that it has been previously.
I suppose I’m just glad it wasn’t a usual Dalek story really.

EmilyThe whole episode was a mix for me. I liked it more than last week’s episode, but I’m finding both the Doctor and Clara frustrating to watch at the moment. I’m finding the more orbital characters to be of more interest.

However, I felt that the military types they had to deal with were just a bit too over the top. And everything went a bit too Michael Bay during the showdown scene.

MatthewThis was a hard episode to be positive about, because I feel like we already saw the same episode, done better, by Christopher Eccleston. I don’t think we learnt anything about the Doctor, or the Daleks, that we didn’t already learn from the episode Dalek back in 2005.

But I loved the stuff outside the Dalek. I like Clara’s expanded life, I like Danny Pink and whatever PTSD story is going on there, I seem to be the only one of us who likes Capaldi’s attitude. I even liked Rusty sensing the hatred inside the Doctor! I liked a lot here but, weirdly, I can’t say I actually liked the episode all that much.

Let us know what you thought about Rusty the friendly Dalek, Clara the schoolteacher, and whatever the heck Missy is, by dropping us a comment below, on social media, or by calling us with any universal-roaming-enabled phone. Next week, possibly for Paul B’s sake, the series does seem to be going lighter again, with an episode about Robin Hood. The Companion Piece will be back next Monday for Robot of Sherwood!