I knew this story was going to involve a crazy plot where the Doctor is shrunk and goes inside a Dalek. I did not expect it to be spliced with a mixed-up and brilliantly acted romantic comedy plot. This alone reminded me of the freshness in Russell T Davies’ first season, where everything was crazy, and Who was doing things you never really thought it would do before. Clara and Danny’s scenes are hilarious, touching, and felt embarrassingly real.
The opening of the story positively crackles with great dialogue, from the Doctor’s saving of Journey Blue, to his exchange with Clara about her role in his life: “She cares so that I don’t have to.” Once the story has to actually deal with story, things aren’t quite as good, but there’s still so many excellent lines hanging around that you wouldn’t believe you were watching the same show that thought “we’re naked but we don’t look naked” was funny enough to sustain minutes of screen time last year.
Even if the denouement relies somewhat heavily on call-backs to ‘Dalek’ from Eccleston’s season, it still hits home pretty well, and arguably adds an extra interpretation to the original Dalek’s “you would make a good Dalek” accusation.
In many ways, and much more so in retrospect, 'Into the Dalek’ feels like the real episode one of this season. It’s here that a bunch of the themes really get laid down properly, where you realise Clara’s actually going to have a personal life this year, and see the Doctor’s problems with soldiers come to the fore. For the first time in a good long while, Who seems like it’s about something. This makes me happy.