In the climax to “Into the Dalek”, the Doctor refers to how he gave himself the name the “Doctor”, but it wasn’t until he met the Daleks did he define himself. Many reviewers picked up on this point, such as Charlie Jane Anders in her review of Into the Dalek:
The most moving and fascinating moment in “Into the Dalek” comes when the Doctor is talking to Rusty, trying to connect with him and turn him good once again. The Doctor reminisces about his first encounter with the Daleks, saying that he chose his sobriquet because it sounded cool, but once he met the Daleks he knew what he was — he was not the Daleks. He defined himself in opposition to them.
Ford’s real coup de grâce was in finding an entirely new and yet wholly logical characteristic for his Dalek. The notion that the species mechanically suppress any thoughts that might make them less ruthless fits completely with our previous knowledge of the species, but to turn this around by having a Dalek who has seen that new life always finds a way, and thus extemporises the futility of purposeless destruction, is a brilliant twist of rationale. It sets Into the Dalek above recent stories featuring the creatures that it otherwise bears a superficial resemblance to (like the aforementioned Dalek and Asylum, with which it had a bizarre and perhaps unintentional symmetry), and to make it yet more satisfactory, Moffat’s line about how the Doctor discovered himself through the Daleks all those years ago ties everything together so neatly it almost hurt. The two writers have between them gifted Peter Capaldi with easily the strongest second story (and thus first and establishing post-regenerative adventure) since The Ark in Space back in 1975, and the Daleks with a reason for being again – other than to sell toys, that is.
We don’t need to create an origin story for the Doctor. We have one: “The Daleks”. And each Doctor will have their own origin story.
One of the comments, or perhaps criticisms, of the Doctor is how alien he has become in his twelfth incarnation. Chip Sudderth, the Two-minute Time Lord, in his review of “Into the Dalek”, argues that the twelfth Doctor is the most human.
Certainly, the twelfth Doctor is one of the most self-doubting Doctors. As Sudderth illustrates, the Doctor’s rejection of the soldier Journey Blue is also the Doctor rejecting aspects of his own personality.
So yes, there are large swaths of Shearman here, but any suggestion that this is a remake of Dalek is deeply misguided. Dalek, like any Shearman script, is a theater piece. Into the Dalek is an action movie. In Dalek, the “you would make a good Dalek” line is part of an extended exploration of the Doctor’s psyche intended to show him as, in his own way, a monstrous figure. In Into the Dalek, it’s one last grim little kicker - the line that sends the Doctor grumping away with the knowledge that he’s only had a partial victory. There’s none of the sense of ambition in the line - instead it works as the quote it is - a reminder of the by-now longstanding tradition of the Daleks twisted understanding of the Doctor.
The has been a lot of discussion following “Into the Dalek” about the Doctor’s reaction to soldiers and his reasoning for not letting Journey Blue join him in the TARDIS.1 Kyle Anderson at Nerdist makes this comment in his review of the story:
It’s all about, in the broadest possible terms, good and evil, and what makes someone one thing and not the other. It also plays with the idea of whether being a soldier is a detriment to a person as a person, if being trained to kill negates someone’s ability to exist in peacetime.
More interesting is the theme of soldiers, and, of course, Danny Pink. The Doctor’s “rule against soldiers” is clearly complex and nuanced, as suggested by the fabulous scene of Gretchen’s sacrifice (rewatch it and look at everything Capaldi does once the Doctor realizes what Gretchen is going to do). His objection manifestly isn’t to their killing, but a more subtle one having to do with the nature of military authority. “Soldiers take orders.”
In other words, let Journey Blue join the Doctor in his journeys in a blue box. ↩
And Danny echoes the Brigadier, the Doctor’s soldier friend who became a teacher after retirement. ↩
I sometimes get a bit annoyed with it. I don’t think I’m old. I’m 56. Maybe people think that’s ancient. I’m not an old man. My eyebrows, which I’ve never taken much notice of in my life before, Steven’s decided are the most amazing comic devices. Now in the scripts, as a stage direction, instead of saying, “The Doctor looks peeved” or “The Doctor looks annoyed,” they just write, “Eyebrows.” I’m supposed to do something with my eyebrows.
My daughter found me some more encouraging words when she asked Russell T Davies one of the great questions. How could the handsome immortal Captain Jack (played by John Barrowman) also be the Face of Boe – a massive head in a jar who died by giving his life energy to the plague survivors of a futuristic New York? With typical passion Davies sent her three pages of theorising before going on to say: “But that’s just my take. Everyone owns these stories. Everyone. You own it just as much as I do, and if you think it’s impossible… then it is. And that’s when you start writing your own Doctor Who.”
There’s an old Italian saying – the tale is not beautiful until you add to it. The truth about Doctor Who is that over the years we have all added to it. It belongs to all of us. And now it’s time to add my bit and if I say nothing else I’ll say thank you.
Graham Kibble-White on “City of Death”, from the Doctor Who Magazine First 50 Years poll (issue 474):
But that’s not how the ensemble felt at rehearsals. Guest star Julian Glover (Count Scarlioni/Scaroth) says their initial reaction to the script (exquisitely bodged together at the last minute by Douglas Adams and Graham Williams and put out under a pseudonym) was that it was “slow and pedestrian”. Tom Baker led the company in tweaks and refinements. How profound they were and whether or not they were ever really required, it’s hard to tell, but this process of collaboration is perhaps why he, in particular, appears so committed to the production. That vigour and delight as Tom and Lalla chew over their repartee.
"City of Death" may be Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who masterpiece, but it was born through collaboration.
"Obviously Steven had a lot of influence in that script," Ford says, "because he’s getting the Doctor right at the time… He did warn me that there would be a lot of drafts, but I was fine with that. In the end there was about four drafts. Then Steven came in and did a polish with the Doctor, then I did a small draft after that, and then Steven came back in and put some new scenes in. It was a very collaborative thing, and obviously Steven was really at that point where he knew how the Doctor was going to be. But I was just thrilled to be part of the second episode."
So the interesting question of how this fits into Gaiman’s larger career mostly belongs to that project. Still, a preview of the argument: after American Gods, Gaiman’s career kind of loses momentum, consisting mainly of things that feel safe and like what one would expect from Gaiman. […] Eventually, for a variety of reasons, this changed and he entered a new and largely more interesting phase of his career, and while The Doctor’s Wife can’t reasonably be said to be singlehandedly responsible for that, it is nevertheless a significant transitional moment.
Much of this, one suspects, comes down to the fact that Neil Gaiman found himself with something he’d not really had to deal with since American Gods: someone who could edit him with real authority. This doesn’t happen to major writers late in their careers very often, but in this case Gaiman is working under someone who is every bit as good a writer as he is. […]
It’s worth talking a bit about Moffat and writers. Moffat has generally avoided being terribly open about how he works with the writers he commissions, rejecting Davies’s approach of actively and openly rewriting people. This is, broadly speaking, a good thing, at least in terms of being fair to creators. But equally, it doesn’t mean that there’s no editorial oversight. Gaiman has talked about The Doctor’s Wife going through loads of drafts, including some very specific comments from Moffat. That doesn’t mean that Moffat wrote all or most of The Doctor’s Wife, but it does mean that he shaped it heavily. Many of these edits were matters of budget - Gaiman had a not entirely realistic sense of what could be accomplished on Doctor Who’s budget, and had to be revised downwards several times.
An interesting comment, in light of the number of writing co-credits Steven Moffat has in series 8.