Well, that was… interesting.
Ok, so before we get into the main review, I have one thing to say. My sister didn't see the first episode of this season, but the first thing she said when the titles started to play was "these are rubbish." Ok, my sister isn't as much of a Whovian as I am, but still...
Anyway. This episode was… interesting. I can't actually think of any other way to phrase it. It set the tone for how I expect this season to work, with the peripheral focus being on Clara's "normal" life at the school (which we will get on to more in a minute) before the Doctor comes along and whisks her away for another adventure. This is fine, helps ground the series in the modern day without having to keep on having random disasters happening in the present (something which I feel was particularly noticeable when you go back and watch previous series, not that it was a bad thing, but it did limit the scope a tad). We also got to meet a new recurring character in Mr Pink, one of Clara's colleagues at the school, and I have to say I find him very interesting. They are obviously going to delve further into his backstory, what with the set up with the tear and everything and he isn't a character type they've used before I don't think, the retired ex-soldier going back to a civilian job. I could see him being a new "secondary companion" in the way Rory or Captain Jack was (though obviously in a different capacity), provided the Doctor can get past the fact he was a soldier.
The next thing that we see in terms of the tone being set for the series is The Doctor's character. The last episode he was mostly dealing with the regeneration trauma, so it wasn't exactly a fair representation of the character. This episode though involved the Daleks, which always brings out a more darker Doctor, whether we are talking Baker, Baker, Tennant or Smith, and we have to assume this would be no exception, so again I'm going to have to hold off on a full judgement until next week's episode. However, I will say this, I'm on the fence. Capaldi doesn't seem to be injecting his Doctor with much charm, which all of his predecessors did (and I'm not just talking Tennant and Smith, though following them can't help as they were the two most charming, but all of the Doctors back to Hartnell). Each of them had a certain quirk that endeared them to the audience and they haven't yet showed that for Capaldi. But it is only his second episode, so I can let this one slide.
Clara once again was notable in the fact I can't actually remember anything she did in the episode after she left the school with the Doctor. Adding Mr. Pink to her normal life is great, gives her something to build on, but even there we have problems. This is just a personal preference, but I really didn't like the directorial decision to do all of those jump cuts during the invitation to the party scene, it completely killed the flow (and this is something they did in the first half of the 50th anniversary special and I noted that I didn't like it then either). Then we get her away from the bits about her and put her with the Doctor and she just becomes anonymous again. I remember her hitting some panels inside the Dalek to make some lights come on and that's about it. They really do need to do something to make her more 'there' and relevant.
Anyway, on to the actual story. We have an anti-Dalek Dalek. Eeyup (read in southern accent for best effect). Okay, once again, nice idea, it's not exactly something they haven't done before (see Clara's debut episode). When the Dalek got fixed not even half way through I thought, okay I can see where this is going, and sure enough we have an almost carbon copy of some of the scenes from the first Dalek episode of the relaunched series, plus the obvious changes in the fact the Doctor is in the Dalek and it's on a space ship rather than an underground bunker, but the point still stands. However, the sequence where the Doctor melds minds with the Dalek was excellent and once again we get a throw back to the aforementioned Eccelstone episode, where a Dalek tells the Doctor he would make a good Dalek. It was nice to hear the Doctor's speech that expounded on the fact that he truly became the Doctor when he first met the Daleks, though it does call into question what John Hurt, David Tennant and Matt Smith's Doctors all said about their name during the 50th, why would he have taken the name if he was just fleeing his home? Dunno, doubt they'll address it properly. Moving on. This episode was most notable for being the most in-depth the series has gone into the Dalek's anatomy, which was fascinating in of it's self. We barely get to see what makes up the monsters and it would be highly unbelievable if the Doctor got an opportunity to look inside one of his worst enemies and didn't take advantage of it. So I like that aspect of the episode very much.
Finally, we have something to address. Boy does Missy creep me out. I'm loving the mystery of who she is and what her connection is with the Doctor. It's like Madame Covarian from the first half of series 6, an obviously intended mystery, rather than the background (read easily missable) hints that Russell T. Davies dropped. It's interesting to see that she's gathering up people killed in the Doctor's adventures this series and that it's not just bad guys, as I had thought at the end of last episode. I can't wait to see where this goes.
So, overall, this episode was good, but not great. The best bit was the concept, taking a look inside a Dalek, and it had some good scenes, but overall it didn't make an impact in the way I wanted it to. Sorry Malfar, I know you're gonna hate me for this, but I'm going C. Completely and utterly average.
So, let's hear your thoughts on the episode. What did you think? Did you like the Dalek anatomy lesson? What do you think of Mr. Pink? And where do you think this season's mystery with Missy is going? Comments below please.