If you haven’t seen Into the Dalek, then, to misquote the Spice Girls, stop right now, thank you very much. This blog post is about what it means to have a human touch.
Some good hard SF concepts and special effects in Into The Dalek, in addition to some nice insights into Clara’s world and how it works with The Doctor plus the Doctor and Clara continue their conversation about who The Doctor is, and how Clara sees herself…as predicted. However, all that is not what I’m going to write about.
I was going to say it started In Let’s Kill Hitler with the Teselecta – miniaturised people inside a shape shifting robot – and then I was going to say it started with The Girl in the Fireplace with the disguised clockwork robots at Versailles, or Silence in the Library with Donna trapped inside a computer with fake kids, but I’m wrong. Doctor Who has always explored what it means to be who we are – even from the first episode.
More recently though, the theme Steven Moffat has overtly pursued with Clara has been interiors, inner worlds and insides. This is both literal and metaphorical. She is the Impossible Girl who jumped inside The Doctor’s timeline; who was put inside a Dalek, and locked deep inside a prison planet; who wandered around the innermost bits of the TARDIS, not once, but twice; and most recently was miniaturised and injected into a Dalek. Again, Clara was present when the Doctor battled the Cyber Controller inside his own mind.
As you do.
Metaphorically speaking, one can posit Clara’s goodness, ‘caring’ and common sense insights are the antibodies to The Doctor’s mostly repressed hate. We’ve been exposed to it before with the Dream Lord, which was an exterior representation of an interior infection with psychological symptoms. But Rusty the Good Dalek sees it too from his unique perspective.
It does kinda go back to my previous thoughts on identity and what people are for and mean to each other.
But there are other instances of the importance of the interior:
- The robots value us for utilitarian purposes, literally for what is inside us – optic nerves and spleens etc. The robots too, hide in plain sight, a space ship inside a restaurant, which is really a trap + larder. There is thus, not one inside, but layers.
- The robots in the larder, Rusty, even the Doctor in the cupboard – present secrets and memories we lock away inside us. The same may go for this new teacher Danny Pink – he, like The Doctor has (mostly) concealed trauma.
- Madame Vastra directly, but The Doctor too, are meditations on public and private faces and who we let see us as we really are.
All these things are well and good, and do not often bog down the plot or story – action does happen, even while The Doctor and everyone else argue over what it means to be Dalek. But I do want at some point, some answers or indications about what it may mean.
Perhaps memories are significant. In the first episode The Doctor believes his face is a reminder, and Clara is remembering Matt Smith’s Doctor so much that she can’t see Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. In the very next episode Clara literally fires off Dalek (awesome old-fashioned plastic pipe prop) neurones to reboot Rusty’s memory, even as The Doctor uses his own memories to enable Rusty to see with a new perspective.
Meanwhile, the new story arc continues.
Is this new Missy character the woman who gave Clara The Doctor’s number? Is Missy dead? Or does she somehow relate to Clara’s statement that ‘we are all dead’ to The Doctor? Is Missy recruiting an army of those who died for, or somehow at the behest of, The Doctor, (because that would be a big army)?
Missy feels completely new, but also familiar – like a River Song/Madame Kovarian hybrid – flirty, over-informed, dangerous and trapped somewhere with a plan. Is this deliberate writing, or an unconscious Moffat trope or am I reading too much into a couple of scenes?
In a return to earlier comments, this Heaven/Paradise, feels like another interior wherein yet another character – Missy – dwells, a bit like The Library or Appalappachia. It feels disturbing because it seems ideal.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough.