Nanoshrinking, Star Trek, and A Good Dalek

I don’t really review TV programs and the such, but sometimes I like to discuss these things. I’m going to be briefly looking at last Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who, Into the Dalek, which does include some plot and arc spoilers, so come back once you’ve watched the episode.

Partly inspired by the Twitter conversations I’ve been having with my friend Emma at time of watching. I’ve included Into the Dalek‘s one as point of reference. I’d also like to give NevilleGirl credit for being a lot more prompt at devising these kinds of things. She rocks!

The concept –

In Dalek, The Doctor and Clara, along with three humanoid soldiers in the midst of a battle against a fleet of Daleks, are shrunk to the size of thumbs so they can investigate what has caused an injured Dalek – whom The Doctor instantly takes to calling Rusty – to claim to want the Daleks stopped.

Firstly, it was nice to have an episode with a Dalek in that we get to see the other side – literally! – of these metallic-cased beings. In some of the final scenes, thumb!Doctor got to be face-to-eye with Rusty’s carbon self, which I also liked. For the casual observer/watcher, it is easy to forget that Daleks are not simply robots. They are conscious and have a flesh-formed brain.

However, as is clear to me a few days after watching the episode is that, as great as the actress was, her character, Journey, was no more memorable than her name. Those soldier characters were purely for the sake of set-up, though it was nice to have a bit of sacrifice from… Uh… That one who ended up in the heaven-garden with Missy.

Speaking of which–

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Not that I have a problem with the idea of a Steampunk Heaven… 😉

The science –

After all, this is sci-fi.

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Don’t be lasagne, guys. It’ll be my new phrase when you’re resisting scientific change.

Nanoshrinking. I love it for fiction premise, as you probably could tell from the section above, Theoretically, this is viable science. Nanotechnology is already helping out in medical science, just think of Nanocameras and the generation (I refuse to use either creation or growth) of cells and organs at a nano level, as well as the beginnings of Nanobots to operate minuscule repairs inside the human body. Think The Doctor Dances, but without the mutating mishaps. Now that was an awesome episode(s).

By the way, since when do the Daleks yell “resistance is futile”?

As soon as I heard that, I thought this :

Let’s also touch on that bit where The Doctor tries to convince Rusty to think of that certain memory of the star being born that first made him question his programming. It was a pretty nifty trick– Actually, it was one of The Doctor’s Pretty Nifty Tricks, but I’ll let that slide for the moment. It was more the dialogue between the two of them that did well to trigger my memory centre. The Doctor was inviting the Dalek to share his mind, after all…

Uh, hello?

Mind meldddd… That’s two Star Trek references in one episode. Dude, you can’t get past Trekkies in Doctor Who. We’re practically the same fandom!

Clara –

I’m – gasp – warming to her. Well, and some might hate me for this, I think she has more chemistry with Twelve than Eleven. I don’t know… *exasperated sigh* Eleven was just too puppy-like, but Twelve has more mystery and magnetism.

In this episode, Clara was a lot more like the typical companion: standing up for morality and the lives of the beings, rather than limply providing a pretty face.

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For the time-being (or rather: for the sake of a mini review), I’m going to ignore the present-day Earth scenes and the presence of Danny Pink. I will say that he is an interesting character, but I haven’t seen enough of him to have a consistent opinion of him yet.

Plot –

Well, Emma and I were not so impressed. I’ll make allowances, in that it is a sci-fi program and predictability is one inescapable trait of the genre.

emmatweet2

I’ll agree – it was pretty obvious that Rusty was going to turn bad once fixed. I’m not sure I entirely followed The Doctor’s plan for – to use Emma’s words – breaking Rusty again, but the plot made for some good sets and cinematography. I can imagine, green-screen or not, it was great fun to film. I also liked the inclusion of Dalek antibodies, that they had the flexible quality of human/carbon antibodies, but also had the metal, laser version of the Dalek’s outer weaponry. It was like being vaporised from the inside! Urg.

Plus, this added the all-important time constraint that authors and readers so value in fiction, particular of non-contemporary stuff. One thing – how exactly did The Doctor and co get out of Rusty? Just a minor, pedantic point – did they call the external team to beam them up, or did they auto-grow back after a certain time? That would’ve added to the time problems too. No pun intended.

And, whilst the ending wasn’t particularly spectacular, it hit a few visual and moral notes, didn’t it?

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Indeed! This is a lovely bit of subtle character development towards Twelve. And I’ll add it, along with the “programmed to function” bit from Deep Breath, to my list of morally ambiguous actions for the new Doctor. (And use of linguistic ambiguity in ‘good’.) It also mirrors the treatment of Rusty Dalek – he is considered an enemy when he is ‘correct’; but when he is ‘good’, The Doctor argues that he is malfunctioning. As a Psychology and Philosophy student, of course I am fascinated by the implied subjectivity behind this episode. For action and plot, the episode was weak, but for questioning the norm, the episode is one of the better of late:

In the end, does The Doctor free Rusty into clarity of understanding that he is beyond the usual conditioning programmed into him at Dalek-birth? Or does Rusty simply act the way he has done because Clara has sent him malfunctioning again? After all, he has to exterminate something in the end. Technically, she rewires him, even though she helps him access the more human[oid] elements of his consciousness.

Verdict?

A strange bit of classic sci-fi Doctor Who Dalek fest. No-nonsense and no fuss.

I liked it, but it was a bit shooty-shooty for my liking. If it had been a book, I wouldn’t have made it past the Amazon sample pages. 3/5

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5 thoughts on “Nanoshrinking, Star Trek, and A Good Dalek

  1. Am I off my rocker, or does cyber heaven resemble some of the scenes from the library? Perhaps they’ve all been saved and we can get River Song back. I still can’t take the sound quality on this series though. I only hear half of what Capaldi says over the background music.

  2. I agree with the audio quality! Either Capaldi is mumbling or they’ve submerged the dialog below the pew-pew and other sound effects. I feel I’m missing all the good lines!

  3. I’m starting to like Clara more, too. 🙂 I agree, I think she and Twelve have more chemistry than she and Eleven did. She’s actually feisty and sarcastic instead of lovesick. I’m also curious to see where they go with Danny Pink (though I hope he’s not just another love interest for Clara).

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