Doctor Who Review & Spoilers: Season 8 – Episode 2 – “Into the Dalek”

Doctor Who, Season 8, Episode 2

Into the Dalek

Written by Phil Ford & Steven Moffat
Directed by Ben Wheatley

Peter Capaldi – The Doctor
Jenna Coleman – Clara Oswald
Zawe Ashton – Journey Blue
Michael Smiley – Colonel Morgan Blue
Samuel Anderson – Danny Pink
Laura dos Santos – Gretchen
Ben Crompton – Ross
Bradley Ford – Fleming
Barnaby Edwards – Dalek
Nicholas Briggs – Voice of the Daleks
Michelle Gomez – Missy

Summary (CONTAINS SPOILERS): Into the Dalek starts with a small craft racing through space dodging fire from a Dalek ship. The pilot is a soldier named Journey Blue. She is radioing for help from a rebel command ship called the Aristotle. Her craft is blown up, but she is rescued last minute by the Doctor materializing the TARDIS around her.

She pulls a gun and orders him to take her back to the Aristotle. He seems amused by her anger and threats. She even threatens to kill him and take the TARDIS, which further amuses him, “You’d starve to death trying to find the light switch.” He refuses to take her back until she lowers her tone and says please.  She finally relents and does so.

The captain of the Aristotle wants to kill the Doctor as a potential Dalek spy, even though he saved his niece’s life. The security of this base is more important than anything else. Journey stops him, by pointing out that “he is a doctor, and we have a patient!” On his way to see this patient, the Doctor sees a machine designed to shrink living matter and jokes that it must be used to shrink down the surgeon so they can save patients from the inside….but he finds out that is exactly what the machine is intended for and exactly what they need him to do for the patient.

The patient is revealed to be a heavily damaged Dalek they found floating in space. The damage is so extensive, this Dalek seems to have found morality, and wants to destroy other Daleks.

Back on Earth, we meet the new ROTC and math teacher at Clara’s school, a former soldier named Danny Pink, who seems to have some dark trauma in his past. Clara is introduced to Danny and teases him about being a modern soldier, “Shoot someone and then cry about it later.” This further darkens Danny’s mood, so Clara tries to cheer him up, asking if he’s going to a farewell party for another teacher. Danny pretty much does the same thing I did when I first asked my wife out and runs off like a coward. Clara follows him, saying “You will need to be more brave when you take me out for a drink.” Danny finally agrees to go out with her.

Clara walks into a supply closet to find the TARDIS and the Doctor. The Doctor is holding coffee…he went to get it three weeks ago when they were in Glasgow (where the first episode of the season ended), and is just getting back now. He insists she follow him onto the TARDIS. He notices that she seems happy and teases that she must be in love.

He asks her a question, “Am I a good man?”

Clara admits, “I don’t know.”

The Doctor admits, “Neither do I.”

He takes her back to the Aristotle after explaining the situation. The Doctor is inflexible about the idea of a “good Dalek” existing, but Clara convinces him to try and help the Dalek anyway.

The Doctor, Clara, Journey, and some soldiers shrink down and head into the Dalek. Inside, the Doctor points out the memory banks. They are designed to extinguish kindness and keep the Daleks in a perpetual state of hated. The Doctor starts to refer to the Dalek as Rusty. The Doctor realizes they need to go down a level. A soldier uses a grappling gun, which activates the Dalek’s antibodies. The Soldier is vaporized, but the Doctor slips him a radioactive tracer, and they are able to follow his gooey remains into a waste chute to hide from the antibodies.

They continue the mission, and end up finding a massive radiation leak from a damaged power source. The radiation seems to have damaged Rusty’s brain and made him able to appreciate the birth of a star. He realized at that moment that resistance to life is futile; life always wins in the end.

The Doctor repairs the broken power cell to get rid of the radiation leak…but this makes Rusty revert back into being a regular, evil Dalek. The Dalek starts to rampage through the Aristotle, killing most of the crew in seconds. It then calls for help from the Dalek fleet, revealing the Aristotle’s location.

At first, the Doctor thinks that this proved his point…Daleks can never be good. Clara slaps him because he was pleased about being right, even if it kills them. She also points out that it is possible to teach the Dalek something new. The Doctor realizes she is right. He prevents the soldiers from destroying the Dalek, and decides to try and turn Rusty good again.

The Doctor needs to reactivate the memory of the star being born, so he sends Clara up to do that in the memory bank. Once she does that, Rusty will be open to suggestion again, and the Doctor can expand its mind. While the Doctor carries out his plan, the Daleks have arrived and are on the verge of wiping out the crew.

A soldier named Gretchen sacrifices herself to antibodies to get Clara and Journey to the memory bank. Gretchen asks the Doctor to do something good and name it after her. He promises to do something amazing…I really hope they follow up with that. Instead of being disintegrated, she ends up in Missy’s heaven (again, see the first episode).

Clara climbs inside the memory bank and manages to reactivate the suppressed memories, including the star being born. The Doctor links his mind Rusty. Rusty sees the universe in all its beauty…its divine perfection….and then it sees the Doctor’s hatred of the Daleks. Rusty focuses on that, and goes on a Dalek killing spree. The Aristotle is saved, though the Doctor is concerned about the terrible price this cost.

The Doctor and company are restored to normal size. Rusty plans to continue his extermination of the Daleks. The Doctor is dismayed that his hatred made it so there couldn’t be a good Dalek. Rusty points out that the Doctor himself is a good Dalek. DAMN!

Journey wants to join the Doctor on his travels, but he refuses because she is a soldier. Her first instinct is to shoot first, which is not what he needs.

Clara and the Doctor get back on the TARDIS. She tells him, “I don’t know if you are a good man, but I think you try to be, and that is probably the point.”

He returns her to Earth thirty seconds after she left. Danny asks her is she is sure that she wants to date a soldier. Clara seems to reflect on the Doctor’s treatment of Journey and says that she has no rule against soldiers…not her.

Review: I actually have a lot of positive to say about this episode, BUT, I wanted to start with my biggest “complaint” about this episode. HOW COULD ANYONE HAVE THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO REPAIR THAT BROKEN DALEK? It was clear that everyone understood the only reason Rusty was acting good was because he was damaged. I immediately knew that once they repaired them, he was going to go back to being a badass killing machine. Sure, they were able to sort of find a happy medium in the end, but in the process, a lot of soldiers had to die.

Once again, the best part about this episode was Peter Capaldi’s performance. I love his uncertainty. This is the first time I can think of that we have really seen a Doctor this torn up about his own morality. Like the first episode, there are a lot of questions about morality in this one, both with the possibility of a “good” Dalek and the Doctor himself. I was sort of reminded of the episode “Dalek,” but I thought this was a much tighter episode over all.

I was also very surprised that Rusty survived to the end of the episode. I kept waiting for him to be killed by Daleks or turn full evil back in the end. That was a real pleasant surprise to see him make it all the way through. I am hoping we get to see a team-up between Rusty and Handles (the Cyberman head the Doctor befriended during Time of the Doctor).

I also love this Doctor’s sense of humor, especially when it comes to the many putdowns of poor Clara. He really does seem to treat her as his closest friend…I tease my friends exactly the same way. I also loved when he introduced her as “not my assistant” and Clara said, “I’m his carer.” The Doctor replies “Yes, she cares, so I don’t have to!” Later on, when asked, Clara points out, “Is he mad or is he right? Most days, he’s both.” Their changed relationship really is developing into something new and fresh, but at the same time, it still feels like the Doctor and Clara.

One complaint I have heard a lot about Capaldi is that some viewers say they have a lot of trouble understanding his accent. I definitely don’t have that trouble. I do think that his voice is soft at times, and the music and effects are often louder than they need to be, but I never needed subtitles to follow what he was saying. That is not me being sarcastic; I actually use the subtitles a lot when watching Doctor Who, but haven’t needed to for Capaldi so far.

I definitely thought Clara was far more in character this episode. The scenes with her being a teacher to the Doctor were pretty well done. I also liked that we got to see more of what her life is like when she’s not traveling with the Doctor. That has been a huge contribution to the lore under Moffat. The companions going home after each adventure and not just staying on the TARDIS until they leave or die. These characters are a lot more than “the Doctor’s companion,” and I think it serves the series real well, even if it’s a huge departure from what came before.

That said, I did think the scene with Danny and Clara in the beginning went on a little too long, and was what I liked least about the episode. There were weird, unnecessary time jumps in how the scene plays out, and to me, that was a bad choice stylistically. I also thought the episode was a little heavy handed about Danny being a soldier and his past traumas. The tear running down his face during class was a bit much for me.

After seeing Missy again in this episode, I am pretty certain she is a Time Lord or at least has access to a TARDIS. She saved Gretchen in seemingly the exact same way that the Doctor saved Journey earlier in the episode. Granted, she didn’t seem to save the cyborg the same way in the first episode, but I am sure we will see more answers as the season continues.

One trend that Moffat has continued from the Eleventh Doctor is the fairy tale aspect of Doctor Who. Especially with characters with names like Journey Blue and Danny Pink. Ordinarily, I would just assume those characters have a connection, but it is really just possible that Moffat used these names just because both characters sound like they could be from a fairy tale…much like Amy Pond.

Next week, we get Robin Hood and robots! I am so in for that!! See you then!

Final Score: 8.5/10:  A much more solid episode of Doctor Who than last week. Clara is back to “normal” and that definitely went a long way towards fixing the problems I had with the season opener.

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