DOCTOR WHO (2005) series 8, episode 2
"Into the Dalek"
WRITER: STEVEN MOFFAT and PHIL FORD
DIRECTOR: BEN WHEATLEY
AIR DATE: August 30 2014
In deep space, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) saves a rebel fighter pilot called Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton) from destruction at the hands of the Daleks. He returns her to her command ship, the Aristotle, only to find himself facing execution as a suspected spy for the Daleks. Journey intervenes and suggests to her leaders that they use the Doctor to help with a special ‘patient’, a war-damaged Dalek which has somehow developed a conscience and turned good.
Back on Earth, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), an Afghanistan war veteran, is teaching maths at Coal Hill School. In the staff room, Danny meets Clara (Jenna Coleman) who invites him to go with her to another teacher’s leaving do. Danny awkwardly declines the invitation and leaves. Clara finds him admonishing himself in his classroom and asks him out for a drink instead, which he accepts. On returning to her office, Clara finds the Doctor who briefs her about events in space. Appearing troubled, he asks Clara if she thinks he is a good man. Though she cannot say yes to his question, she agrees to help and accompanies him to the Aristotle.
On arrival, the Doctor and Clara are miniaturised - along with Journey and two other rebel soldiers, Ross (Ben Crompton) and Gretchen (Laura dos Santos) - so that they can enter the eyepiece of the broken Dalek to find out why it’s behaving strangely. Inside, Ross shoots a grappling hook onto the floor, causing Dalek antibodies to suddenly appear and incinerate him. The Doctor callously uses his death to access the Dalek's waste disposal area which he correctly predicts is unguarded, providing him with a route to the creature housed within the Dalek’s metal casing. The Doctor finds the creature, addressing it as Rusty. Rusty (Barnaby Edwards) informs him that all Daleks are evil and must be destroyed for laying waste to the galaxy and all of its intrinsic beauty. At Rusty’s power centre, the Doctor discovers radiation leaking through a large crack and realises that this is what has affected the mind of the Dalek. With insufficient thought, he repairs the crack with his sonic screwdriver only for the Dalek to revert to its normal evil self.
in need of a Doctor
Normality restored, the Dalek breaks free of its chains and begins exterminating the rebels. It contacts the Dalek mothership and more Daleks come on board the Aristotle to join the assault. Meanwhile back inside Rusty, Clara persuades the Doctor with a hard slap to rethink his opinion that Daleks are irrevocably evil and restore the Dalek's conscience. Clara, Gretchen and Journey then set off to revive Rusty's suppressed memories, while the Doctor heads off to communicate with the creature. To help Clara and Journey get to a higher level, Gretchen sets up a line with a grappling hook and, in doing so, sacrifices herself to Dalek antibodies. She awakens after death to find herself at a breakfast table in ‘heaven’ with a mysterious woman called Missy.
After a struggle, Clara succeeds in restoring Rusty’s memory of a star’s creation. The Doctor links to Rusty’s mind and shows the creature the beauty of creation, along with the devastation wrought by the Daleks. However, he also unintentionally transfers his hatred of Daleks through the psychic link, causing Rusty to turn on its Dalek associates, destroying them and saving rebel lives in the process. Once outside of the Dalek, the Doctor finds his own morality challenged when Rusty, having peered into the darkness of his mind, declares the Doctor to be a good Dalek. Finally, Rusty betrays the Dalek mothership, sending a false report that the Aristotle has self-destructed. The reformed Dalek then departs vowing to continue its war against other Daleks.
As the Doctor and Clara set off for Earth, Journey asks to come with them. However, the Doctor turns her down, dismissing her as a soldier. The Doctor takes Clara back to the school, moments after she left. Clara tells the Doctor that while she cannot say that he is a good man, she knows that he means well. On leaving, she bumps into Danny, who is glad that his being an ex-soldier hasn't put her off dating him. Remembering the Doctor's dismissal of Journey, Clara tells Danny that she is not so judgemental.
Clara Oswald and Danny Pink
At the time of writing this review, season eight of Doctor Who is now well behind us and I have the benefit of hindsight, the kind that allows me to look back and see that this was one of the truly classic episodes in what was an uneven season overall. Much of the praise lies with script writers Steven Moffat and Phil Ford. In this second episode, the writers continue to push the Doctor’s persona into even darker territory on the back of the first episode which saw a morally dubious Doctor encourage a cyborg to take its own life. Here, the Doctor reveals more of that same austere, unforgiving side. The most striking example of this concerned the brutal death of a man in front of the Doctor’s eyes, after which he confesses to Clara that he gave the doomed man false hope just to achieve his own self-preserving ends. It’s a stone-cold moment, leaving us to wonder if this incarnation of the Doctor is worthy of our admiration and affections. I may not actually like this Doctor, but seriously… I love him!
Some fans have complained about the lack of heroism displayed in these moments. True! But when they go on to protest that it’s out of character, I really have to object. What about John Hurt’s War Doctor? Or Eccleston’s Doctor poised to murder a Dalek and only prevented from doing so after being talked down by Rose? Fans should remember that the Doctor is not a squeaky clean hero and is always at his most interesting when he acts in unpredictable ways. For me, the darkness in Capaldi’s Doctor has brought in a fresh quality to the series that raises it a cut above Matt Smith’s more boyish charms. Much as I loved Smith, I was ready for something new. And that’s what I find in Capaldi – something new and something daring to boot.
"Am I a good man?
Clara and the Doctor
Not that I should be so obsessed with what others say, but another complaint about this episode has been that it was simply a rehash of season one’s Dalek, and an inferior take at that. Again, I have to object. Yes there are undeniable similarities: Daleks behaving strangely (one poisoned by radiation and the other touched by madness), close-ups of gelatinous, squid-like creatures housed within metal casings; and an angry Doctor harbouring a deep-seated hatred of his greatest nemesis. But there the comparisons stop. I mean, when have we ever been inside – as in really inside – a freaking Dalek? The answer is never, until now. And it does not disappoint. I was caught up in this adventure from start to finish. The action inside and outside of Rusty was kept at a fast-moving pace, and I was well entertained. And when Rusty cut loose on its fellow Daleks, it frankly blew me away, reminding me that Daleks are awesome killing machines, a feeling that I haven’t had for a long while. (Victory of the Daleks, you have much to answer for with your multi-coloured metal buckets trembling before a jammy-dodger-wielding Matt Smith.)
Having extoled the script writers, I must also lavish some well-deserved praise on episode director Ben Wheatley. His film-making credentials are on full display here, coming across as a mash-up of The Fantastic Voyage, with its creepy swarms of Dalek antibodies, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, with Rusty’s memories stored in long banks of giant luminous circuit boards (or whatever the heck they were). The set designs were truly impressive, disguising the limited budget and giving the whole venture a blockbuster movie sensibility. More of this please, Mr. Moffat and co.
In summary, then, a classic episode, restoring my faith in the fearsomeness of the Daleks and making me excited for a Doctor who once again feels quirky, edgy and fresh.