Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 2 Review: “Into the Dalek”

by William Hohmeister

The Doctor, Clara, and a group of soldiers in the future, try to repair a Dalek with a conscience in the second episode of series 8 Doctor Who, “Into the Dalek.”

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is not a nice man, and he’s not sympathetic. He rescues a ship pilot, Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton), from a pursuing Dalek warship just as her ship explodes with her dying brother inside. Journey, upset and confused, pulls a gun on the Doctor. He shows no concern, and mocks her. Journey screams that her brother just died, but the Doctor responds: “His sister [Journey] didn’t. You’re welcome.”

Journey is part of the Combined Galactic Resistance, on board a hidden hospital ship, the Aristotle. Her commander and uncle, Morgan Blue (Michael Smiley), shows the Doctor a captured, injured Dalek. The Doctor is disgusted by it, but becomes intrigued when the Dalek says “All Daleks must be destroyed!”

DannyPinkOn earth, Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) meets Daniel Pink (Samuel Anderson), a new teacher and former soldier. She makes plans with him, but leaves when the Doctor arrives to collect her. Gene’O has some interesting ideas about Mr. Pink over at Part Time Monster.

Clara and the Doctor discuss the possibility of a “good” Dalek. This is my first problem with the episode. The Dalek shows no morality. It wants to kill the Daleks, but that doesn’t make it “good.” The possibility of a moral Dalek is the only thing that interests the Doctor, however. The Doctor shows no empathy, and when he introduces Clara to the soldiers, we get this:

Clara: I’m his carer.

The Doctor: Yeah, my carer. She cares so I don’t have to.

The Doctor has no reason to help with the Dalek other than the false assumption that wanting to kill its own kind makes it “good.” It bogged the episode down for me until the midpoint.

The Doctor, Clara, and a group of soldiers led by Journey shrink themselves and physically enter the Dalek. The Doctor names it Rusty, and talks about the memory drive that keeps all Daleks pure hatred. Antibodies attack the group. The Doctor shows what a bastard he is.

The Doctor sacrifices one soldier to escape with the others into the people-slurry that feeds the Dalek. The Doctor jokes that the top layer of the slurry is probably the dead soldier. At this point, the Companion should confront the Doctor about his actions. This generates sympathy and interest for the Companion, allows the audience to understand the alien Doctor’s actions, and humanizes his character. For a great example, watch “Daleks in Manhattan” in series 3. Martha Jones acts as a foil to the Doctor’s decision to help the Daleks.

Instead, Clara makes excuses for the Doctor. At this point, the only character I like and empathize with is Journey, who I think takes up the Companion’s role. The Doctor is supposed to be unsympathetic, but this makes Clara seem heartless, which I think is a mistake. Clara and Journey probably should have been combined into a likeable Clara.

They find and repair the radiation leak that was poisoning Rusty. Unfortunately, the leak was also the source of Rusty’s change of heart. It breaks free, kills most of the soldiers not miniaturized, and contacts the Dalek warship, which boards the Aristotle.

Clara comes up with a solution after finally getting fed up with the Doctor and slapping him. This moment did make me like Clara briefly. She climbs up to Rusty’s memory drive and gives it access to all its memories, as the Doctor mind-melds with it. He expects the Dalek to be overcome with goodness; Rusty sees only hatred of the Daleks.

Rusty betrays the invading Daleks and saves the ship. It leaves, but as the Doctor prepares to go, Journey asks to go with him. The Doctor refuses because she is a soldier. Again, Clara does not object, although I think this is more selfish and cowardly than leaving the soldier to die in Rusty. Even the Doctor’s disgust in Rusty feels selfish; the Dalek begins and ends the episode by saying the Daleks must be destroyed. The only change is that, in between, it hurt the Doctor’s feelings.

Missy (Michelle Gomez) rescues one of the soldiers and introduces them to heaven as the episode ends. missyShe seems to be the plot arc, but I’m more interested in the Daleks. The Dalek duplicates (Daleks disguised as other species) are still around, and the Combined Galactic Resistance indicates the Daleks of the future are not a local problem. The argument against returning the Time Lords is the possibility of a new Time War. But Time Lords or no, the Daleks will eventually destroy the universe if they’re unopposed – and the Doctor seems uninterested.

Other things of interest: Journey Blue and Danny Pink share a soldier background and color surnames. The Daleks call the Resistance “rebels”, though we’re told the Daleks don’t leave wounded. I think these may be related (again, thanks to Gene’O for pointing it out).

Let me know what you think of the episode and speculate for the future in the comments, or on Twitter.