This review contains spoilers.
After the news that ABC Australia has decided to simulcast all of season 8, I was so excited to bound out of bed even earlier this week (4.33am) to watch Into the Dalek.
The Doctor and Clara, along with a small military team from the ship Aristotle, are miniaturised to literally get inside a Dalek’s head and see why it has turned good.
It’s the mandatory DALEK EPISODE and, since we’ve seen almost every other possibility, it’s time to experiment with a good Dalek. Well, sort of. I guess Dalek Clara from Asylum of the Daleks could be classified as good since she did help the Doctor, Amy, and Rory escape. And for a moment I actually thought that this might have been Dalek Clara.
It wasn’t. It was just a regular salt and pepper shaker with a radiation leak. But we did get to travel Into the Dalek and that was an interesting and exciting setting.
Clara is back at home and at work as an English teacher at Coal Hill School. We get our first glimpse of Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) in this episode, and he has a very nice face indeed. Danny is an ex-soldier who is now teaching Maths at Coal Hill. Danny challenges gender roles wonderfully: he showed deep remorse over his actions in combat, shedding a solitary tear when asked by a student if he killed anyone other than soldiers; and, although he’s dubbed a ‘lady killer’, he’s adorably awkward and shy when Clara invites him out, forcing her to take the reins.
It looks like Danny is going to end up as Clara’s love interest, and I’m all for it. I already like his character and his face so I’m happy to see more of him. I’m also happy because this means that we may be getting what I hoped for this season, and what last episode kind of promised: a friendship between the Doctor and his companion not clouded with romantic feelings.
Before Clara can go out on her maybe-date with Danny, the Doctor shows up three weeks late with Starbucks coffee that should surely be cold given he’s been holding it for the last few scenes and who knows how long before that. When they were in the TARDIS, Clara told the Doctor, ‘You’re not my boss. You’re one of my hobbies.’ That remark came off as a little harsh, and I worried that Clara would still be in her regeneration funk for this episode. My fears turned out to be unfounded: Clara seems to be very comfortable with the Doctor now, even though he left her stranded in Glasgow and disappeared for three weeks.
The Doctor is still finding his feet and this episode is all about ascertaining whether he’s a good man. At first, he thinks agreeing to try and fix the Dalek (nicknamed Rusty, which helps humanise the Dalek’s otherwise impassive façade) might make him good. Then he goes so far as to link minds with Rusty to show him a different perspective on the universe. The Doctor’s desperation to make Rusty stay ‘good’ passes on to the audience and I spent most of the episode rooting for Rusty to end up rolling through a field of daisies, happily spinning his whisk in a non-lethal way.
I’m not totally sure whether Rusty was referring to the universe itself or the Doctor’s soul when it saw beauty and ‘endless divine perfection’. I hope it was the universe; while I love him, I don’t like the idea of the Doctor being hailed as some Godlike being. Part of his appeal lies in his flaws and humanity and the term ‘divinity’ doesn’t allow room for that.
Rusty also saw hatred in the Doctor’s mind: specifically, hatred of the Daleks, and that turned the tables. We were left not with a ‘good Dalek’ like the Doctor had hoped but simply one that hated different things.
RUSTY: Victory is yours but it does not please you.
DOCTOR: You looked inside me and you saw hatred. That’s not victory. Victory would have been a good Dalek.
RUSTY: I am not a good Dalek. You are a good Dalek.
Personally, while Rusty was capable of recognising beauty, I don’t think that he would ever have been able to understand the complex emotions of hatred and regret that the Doctor has about Daleks. Instead, Rusty found something easy to understand and took hold of it. I’m not sure if ‘You are a good Dalek’ was the highest compliment Rusty could give or a way for him to throw some serious shade.
The character of Journey, a female soldier on the Aristotle, also challenged gender roles this episode by being a ruthless and intent soldier. Despite having lost her brother at the beginning of the episode, Journey managed to keep it together all through the Dalek mission. It was only at the end, when she saw a chance to get away from her grief and loss that she asked to go with the Doctor. Too bad the Doctor can’t stand guns, or soldiers, or war because otherwise we might have gotten to see more of Journey in the future.
As Clara left the TARDIS, she paused to say, ‘You asked me if you’re a good man and the answer is I don’t know. But I think you try to be and I think that’s probably the point.’ The Doctor seemed happy with that answer and so he should be. Also, let’s all congratulate him on getting Clara back to Coal Hill 30 seconds after she left. I was waiting for her to walk out of the supply cupboard and find out she’d been gone for 30 years or something.
Into the Dalek was highly reminiscent of season 1’s Dalek, in which we were first given the opportunity to empathise with the undisputed villain of the show. I feel like Twelve, in general, is becoming the same sort of Doctor as Nine. He’s sporting the same sort of dark humour and a very black and white view of the world, though his temperament is already being softened by his companion.
DOCTOR: This is Clara. Not my assistant. She’s … some other word.
CLARA: I’m his carer.
DOCTOR: Yeah, my carer. She cares so I don’t have to.
That was such a Nine thing to say that it made me giddy with joy. I hope this is a permanent fixture because it’s fantastic. I loved Nine and Christopher Eccleston doesn’t get nearly as much credit as he deserves.
We had another brief glimpse of Missy this week. This time she was pouring tea for Gretchen Allison Carlisle, one of the soldiers from the Aristotle who went out in a blaze of glory while fighting off Rusty’s antibodies. I’m starting to wonder whether Missy is being honest when she says that these people are in Heaven. I really hope it is Heaven and Missy isn’t just hijacking people’s deaths for some unknown reason. Either way, we can all take comfort in the fact that the afterlife has tea and biscuits.
This episode thankfully had none of Deep Breath’s awkward slapstick and Clara is continuing her development into a regular human being. Although it must be said that Danny, in his few short scenes, was more developed than Clara has been in her entire run as a companion.
I enjoyed Into the Dalek. Hopefully this episode was more indicative of how we’ll be spending this season. It easily passed the Bechdel test, which has not been a common feature in a lot of Moffat’s episodes. Phil Ford co-wrote this episode. Who is he? Did he help rein Moffat in? If so, someone start a presidential campaign.
We’re heading back in time to meet Robin Hood and see Clara dress in some very pretty period clothing. According to Doctor Who TV, the Doctor discovers an evil plan from beyond the stars and must decide who is real and who is fake in Sherwood Forest.