“Am I a good man?”
– The Doctor
It was only a matter of time until the Daleks resurfaced again. And, being a Steven Moffat episode, it was also only a matter of time until we once again questioned whether or not the Doctor is a good man.
The Daleks are the Doctor’s ultimate foe. But they are one-dimensional, unyielding killing machines with whiny voices that look like trashcans. It’s not easy finding new and exciting ways to involve them in the show.
Having a companion convince the Doctor to have compassion for a Dalek isn’t entirely new ground. (Rose took pity on a captured, weakened Dalek in the first season episode “Dalek,” revitalizing it by inadvertently passing on her DNA.) But the idea of a good Dalek, capable of compassion, was an intriguing new twist.
Of course, the Doctor links the Dalek’s mind with his own and instead of compassion, he passes on a hatred of the Daleks. Before Rusty goes off to commit genocide on his people though, he claims that they have found a “good” Dalek – the Doctor himself.
I suppose that sums up the way Moffat sees the character – like the Daleks, he believes he is the right person to control the universe and is comfortable killing anyone who stands in his way. (In this episode, we see him sacrifice one of the soldiers without a second thought in order to save everyone else. Last week, he left Clara trapped in a room with the android while he went off to find a disguise.) But, unlike the Daleks, he is doing it to make the world a better place and he is capable of compassion.
In the press conference with Moffat, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman that I attended in New York, Moffat did answer the question of whether or not the Doctor is a good man:
“I think there’s an element that runs throughout Doctor Who, and which was why Doctor Who is so much better than everything else in the world, is that the Doctor doesn’t know he’s a hero. He doesn’t really. He doesn’t really know he’s in that shell. He knows that some other people think he is and he knows that sometimes he seems like a legendary warrior, but he knows and we know because we’re watching him, he’s just a man who can’t drive a time machine properly.”
This, of course, makes the Doctor’s position on soldiers a rather murky one. Moffat often portrays the Doctor as a warrior. The Doctor also seems to let guns be used far more in the Moffat era than he ever did when Russell T. Davies was in charge. (River Song, in particular, openly uses handguns in front of the Doctor. And we saw plenty of gunfire this week as the soldiers tried to hold off the Dalek fleet.) He used to be firmly against them, but now he seems to mostly look the other way.
So the fact that he dislikes soldiers so much seems a bit hypocritical. Of course, I’m guessing his anti-soldier rhetoric is setting up a conflict between the Doctor and the newly-introduced Danny Pink.
Speaking of the Doctor, I’m still not sure what to make of Capaldi in the role. I imagine the goal is to have him be a more reserved, thoughtful Doctor, but so far it is coming across as bland. I really want him to find his footing, but so far I feel like he hasn’t really clicked in the role.
And another thing …
- Gretchen the soldier joins the cyborg from last week in “Heaven.” I’m really not sure what to make of that whole subplot. Right now it seems completely disconnected from everything else that is happening.
- I went back and forth on the show deciding to go with the old sci-fi trope of a shrink ray. The anti-bodies thing seemed a bit corny and Clara reinstating the memories seemed way too easy, but for the most part it was fun. Honestly, I’m surprised it took them this long to do it.
- Anyone have any theories on why Danny’s last name is Pink and Journey’s is Blue, outside of the fact that they were clearly designed as mirrors of one another?
- A few interesting cameos this week: Michael Smiley, who plays Benny Deadhead on Luther, played Col. Morgan Blue. And Ben Crompton, who plays the Night’s Watch’s Eddison Tollett on Game of Thrones, was the sacrificial solider Ross.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.