Warning: this is a full summary of S8, “Into the Dalek” and contains spoilers and major plot points from that episode!
The episode begins with a full on Dalek attack against what turns out to be the “Combined Galactic Resistance.” Journey and Kai Blue’s ship has been hit, and it appears Kai is already dead in the scene, though he may have just been passed out with extreme injuries Journey tells her brother she is sorry about the upcoming crash, which was a very Doctor thing to say, and she is suddenly on the TARDIS. The Doctor appears exactly one second prior to the ship’s explosion, encapsulating Journey and saving her, though he is unable to save her brother or any other ships. The Doctor talks her through the transmat, which can be both confusing and leave someone feeling a bit sick; and doesn’t even flinch at the gun in his face Journey pulls out. He explains that he materialized his TARDIS around her, exactly one second prior to the explosion as she demands to be taken back to her ship. His response is priceless, telling her that she needs to get her demand right. On her third try, with The Doctor’s prompting, she asks and uses the word please, so he takes her to their “mostly” shielded ship. As they are exiting the TARDIS, The Doctor tells her, “dry your eyes Journey Blue, crying is for civilians, it’s how we communicate with you lot,” laying down the foundation for one of the central plot lines, the difference between soldiers and civilians. How The Doctor knew there was a Dalek attack and that the ship would explode precisely one second later is unseen. He may have visited the battle once before, looking to see if he could save someone, or it may have been as simple as the TARDIS taking him where he needs to be.
Upon materializing on the Aristotle, Journey Blue’s uncle, Uncle Morgan, personally thanks The Doctor for saving Journey, but explains that since The Doctor was able to breech their security system, he will have to be killed. The Doctor begins to respond and Journey stops her uncle, telling him that the man he is thinking of killing is a doctor, and that they have a patient. The Doctor is brought before the patient, which turns out to be a Dalek, and in a scene reminiscent of Christopher Eccelston in the 2005 episode entitled, “Dalek” The Doctor tells the crew, “you don’t understand, you can’t put me in there” knowing what could happen and what danger he is in once the Dalek recognizes him and begins his attempts at extermination. But this Dalek is a bit different, it is sick and it is on the side of the humans, and The Doctor is in no immediate danger.
Meanwhile, back in London, England, Earth, Clara is introduced to her newest co-worker, Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson). He leads a group called the “Coal Hill School Cadets” teaching the students a base level of soldier training. In his classroom, we find out that he is a maths teacher, and one of his students asks if he has ever killed anyone. Danny replies that he was a soldier and he did what he needed to do, he would leave it up to their minds to fill in blanks, but the student presses further asking if Danny Pink has ever killed anyone who wasn’t another soldier. Danny breaks down and allows a single tear to be shed, repeating the student’s assignment as the conversation is ended thanks to the bell. He is referred to as a ladies’ man by two separate people and he denies it, every time saying he stays home reading during the weekends. While Danny rubbed me wrong for some reason I can not quite put my finger on, his introduction and portrayal were wonderful. After telling Clara he has even more reading to do so he cannot go to a going away party for a colleague, he is caught by her, banging his head against the desk in a fairly funny scene where Clara persists and asks if he’ll look “that terrified when [he] take(s) [her] for drinks?” After telling him to take her out for drinks, Danny agrees, though the viewer is left wondering who he has potentially killed, why he killed that person/s, and if it will matter to Clara when she finds out. Clara may not mind soldiers, but I highly doubt gratuitous civilian killing would be something she will approve of when she finds out.
Clara steps inside of her cupboard and sees The Doctor holding two coffees, to which she asks him where he has been since she sent him for the coffees three weeks prior in an entirely different country (Glasgow, Scotland), and had to make her own way home. Interestingly, at the end of the previous episode “Deep Breath,” the pair were walking off to get coffees together, so at some point, they must have separated, leaving Clara to get back to Coal Hill School, and The Doctor to save Journey Blue, coffees in hand. While we do not know what separated them or why The Doctor had become so distracted he did not realize he had abandoned her in Scotland, we know that he had been gone for three weeks, and Clara is annoyed with him. The Doctor notes Clara’s smile stating, “I’d almost think you’re in love, but you’re not a young woman anymore, Clara” which reminded me of William Hartnell’s Doctor’s realization that Susan is no longer a young woman, forcing him to lock her out of the TARDIS and let her live her life with her love, David. Of course, many scenes are reminiscent of old episodes given the show has spanned 51 years, but this particularly stood out to me as it is Clara’s first real love interest we are introduced to and The Doctor suddenly realizing Clara is her own adult.
He asks her a very important question. One that is the second main theme of the episode, and more than likely an overall story arch we’ve been seeing since “A Good Man Goes to War” in S6, “Am I a good man?” The Doctor acknowledges he is terrified of her answer, because he does not quite know yet himself, and Clara, being as honest as he requested, tells him she is unsure. She tells him that she has plans and The Doctor says he needs her with him for his next adventure, to which the ever adventurous and curious Clara cannot say no.
The TARDIS rematerializes on the Aristotle where The Doctor introduces Clara to Journey Blue, her Uncle Morgan Blue, and the Dalek. The Dalek calls The Doctor, “Doctor” and he asks the Dalek how it recognizes him. Uncle Morgan responds reassuring Clara and The Doctor that the Dalek was promised medical attention, so it is unaware that this is The Doctor versus a doctor. The entire scene and dialogue is a bit confusing as the Daleks re-learned information regarding The Doctor in “The Time of The Doctor” after extracting it from the cadaver of our old pal, Tasha Lem. But this Dalek is so badly damaged it saw the beauty of the birth of a star, and it now realizes that “resistance is futile” as life will always prevail, so it is malfunctioning, separating it from the shared hindbrain mentioned in “Asylum of the Daleks” that Clara had used to delete The Doctor from the species’ memory banks in the first place. The Doctor dubs it “morality’s malfunction” and asks Clara how he could possibly resist.
The Doctor, Clara, Journey, Gretchen Alison Carlisle, and another soldier named Ross get into a miniaturization tube to be inserted into the Dalek to find out what is wrong with it and help it. They are told to keep breathing throughout the process even if they do not feel like it because they will explode if they do not. This is a stark contrast from the breath holding in “Deep Breath” last week, as the group must continue to breathe despite their instinct not to during the process. It also differs from the shape shifting miniaturization ray the Tessalecta used in series prior which did not even require consent from the person being shrunk, though this is a different type of miniaturization process. The walk through the Dalek lens, taking the team “Into the Dalek” is a bit trippy looking, but they enter, and The Doctor explains what the lights are (visual impulses being sent to the brain), what the memory vault is and how it breeds hate, and asks the Dalek if he can call him “Rusty” for the rest of the examination. Once more, we are reminded of the scene where Eccleston is faced with a Dalek where he tells it to watch out before it gets Rusty. Now, meeting a damaged Dalek, the name is given immediately and The Doctor, despite his prejudice against Daleks, attempts to walk the creature through the process. The Aristotle team shoot into the Dalek, and The Doctor is furious. Yelling, “it’s a Dalek, not a machine” The Doctor is first angry to see a living creature harmed in any way, but quickly remembers that the living creature is full of hate, and becomes fearful as to what will happen next.
The Dalek’s antibodies descend on the group, circling around Ross in particular. The Doctor asks Ross if he trusts him, and Ross says he does, so The Doctor throws him a pill and tells him to swallow it. After the pill is taken the team, as well as the viewer, wait to see what the pill will do to confuse the antibodies, but the antibodies attack and kill Ross. Furious, Journey points out that Ross had trusted The Doctor, and they had expected him to save them. The Doctor retorts that Ross was going to be dead regardless of any action taken, but that by giving Ross the pill, he can trace where the bodies are dumped and save the rest of them.
The sonic leads them away from the antibodies and to a sort of pit looking area, and that is good enough for The Doctor for he would rather enter alive than dead, and he knows the antibodies will not stop until they are in the dumping tube. Everyone jumps down and they land in a watery pile of goo. The Doctor explains that occasionally victims are harvested and that they are in a feeding tube. He cracks a joke about Ross being the top layer if anyone wanted “to say a few words” and Journey once more lambasts him for taking the situation so lightly. The Doctor does not back down, but points out that he has found the least protected area of the Dalek, since no body guards the dead. An interesting observation and comment considering we have met Missy in the capacity of guarding the dead in some sort of promised land. Whether Missy is a good or evil guard is yet to be seen, but we have seen her greet the half faced cyborg man from “Deep Breath” and see her later “Into the Dalek” greeting yet another dead person. Clara steps up and reassures Journey, “he’ll get us out of here, the difficult part is not killing him before he actually can” and they are lead out of the feeding tube further down in the dalekanium shell by The Doctor.
The Doctor hears a beeping noise and asks if anyone is wearing a Geiger counter. Unsurprisingly, they have them on as part of their standard military uniform; The Doctor realizes and explains that they are being poisoned along with the Dalek thanks to the high levels of radiation that are being released down there. He asks Rusty what happened, and through an internal visual system, the Dalek can see them on a screen and answers that he saw the “silence and the cold” of a star’s birth, and learned something, that life will prevail regardless of the actions of the Daleks. The Doctor tells Rusty he best not be lying about his new mission, proclaiming “don’t you lie to me, Dalek” rather than use his pet nickname for this particular patient.
The Doctor finds the crack in the Dalek’s power cell, releasing the radiation in the structure of the Dalek, and repairs the crack. Suddenly, the Dalek has full power and announces “the malfunction has been corrected” as it moves out of its medical cell and starts to exterminate the humans. At first, The Doctor looks desperate, calling out “no no no no no” and begging Rusty to not choose that path, as if to show that The Doctor had truly hoped Rusty was capable of doing good. Journey upset once again, asks how it is that the Dalek is fixed by switching from good to bad, and The Doctor becomes a bit more authoritative and smug. He tells her that there never was a good Dalek, only a sick and damaged one, and now that it is no longer sick, it is back to its primary purpose of extermination. He turns to Clara who is giving him a look, and he asks why. Clara says “it’s the look I have when I’m about to slap you” and slaps The Doctor so hard, my mind had no choice but to think back to the River Song smacks he (amongst others) used to receive. Clara then explains she is furious with The Doctor for showing smugness in being correct that the Dalek was not good, and that they will die because he wanted to prove himself right. The Doctor says no one should have expected better because it is a Dalek and they are only evil. Clara awakens him telling him that he has taken the wrong lesson from the situation and that is *not* what they have learned from it. The Doctor, reminded of his own primary purpose, decides the team must un-suppress the memory of the star being born so that he can make it open to new ideas and turn it good again. Clara standing up to The Doctor when he is being too extreme is something we have seen before between Doctor and companion (Amy and The Doctor in “Mercy”, River and The Doctor in “A Good Man Goes to War”, Donna and The Doctor in “The Christmas Invasion”, and Rose and The Doctor in “Dalek”) and Clara played the part of his conscious brilliantly, getting him back on track.
While trying to figure out how to save the Dalek and themselves before the anti-bodies can destroy the team, Gretchen asks Clara if [The Doctor] is “mad or is (he) right?” Clara tells her that most days he’s both, leading Gretchen to tell The Doctor to do something good in her name (to which he replies he will do something “amazing”) right before sacrificing herself so the rest of the team can save Rusty and themselves. She is screaming as she is exterminated, but suddenly stops when she realizes she is in a large dining room, and sitting in front of Missy who welcomes her to “Heaven” and asks her if she would like a spot of tea.
The Doctor uses the opportunity to go confront Rusty, while Clara and Journey fly up to the cortex vault again. Clara notices that several of the bulbs are out, and believes them to be the suppressed memories keeping the Dalek from learning or changing. Journey stay s outside to guard against anti-bodies and as they are coming, Clara is able to figure out the way that the Dalek’s brain works as well as how she can save them all. Right before the antibodies attack Journey, she gets the last memory working. The Dalek resets and the antibodies disappear, but The Doctor is still speaking with Rusty face to face. He tells Rusty, “When I began I was just running. I called myself The Doctor, but it was just a name. Until I went to Skaro, and I met you lot. Then I knew who I was. The Doctor is not the Daleks.” Despite his extreme prejudice, and the fact that he defines himself by what he is not, rather than what he is, The Doctor still believes that Rusty can be saved, and it is his job to make it happen.
The Doctor tells Rusty that he had saved his physical form, but that he wanted to go one step further, he wants to save the Dalek’s soul. The Doctor demands that the Dalek look into his soul and hold onto what he sees tightly. Now The Doctor has gone “Into the Dalek” and the Dalek is going into The Doctor’s mind. He asks Rusty to incorporate what he sees into himself. As Rusty sees beauty and infinite wonders of the brilliant universe, The Doctor eggs him on, to keep those feelings and thoughts. Suddenly, the Dalek says he has seen into The Doctor’s soul and it was filled with hatred, hatred for the Daleks and Skaro, and Rusty incorporates this too. Believing the hatred for the Daleks to be a good thing, Rusty turns on the other Daleks, destroying them mere seconds before they can finish exterminating the humans on the Aristotle, Uncle Morgan amongst them.
The Doctor is shaken by this response, but is just as unsurprised that regardless of what it has seen, the Dalek will exterminate in one way or another. Had The Doctor not plugged himself into Rusty’s mind, the Dalek would not have seen all of that hate, but rather remember the birth of the star, and potentially turn good again; but through the prejudice The Doctor holds in his hearts, the Dalek is able to access the hatred as much as the beauty. The Doctor pleas with Rusty that there must be more that he can see, that there must be more than the hatred for the Daleks, but Rusty has already seen into The Doctor’s soul and finds this hatred to be so deep it fits into the Dalek’s primary purpose of extermination.
The remaining members of the team revert themselves to normal size. Journey hugs her uncle as Rusty tells The Doctor, “Victory is yours, but it does not please you.” Upset, The Doctor responds, “You looked inside of me and saw hatred, that’s not victory. Victory would have been a good Dalek.” Rusty then tells The Doctor that he is not a good Dalek, but that The Doctor is, viewing good as efficient and well executed versus a moral state. The Doctor realizes there is no way for him to turn Rusty into “a good man” if you will, and allows him to join the Dalek fleet, destroying the attacking forces and saving the humans.
The Doctor quietly says, “til the next time” and leaves the room, while Journey asks if he was coming back to say good bye. Clara looks toward where The Doctor is headed and says she believed that was his good bye. While it sounded like The Doctor was saying “til the next time” to the Dalek, he may have been talking to the Blues. If so, when will we see them again and what importance does their Combined Galactic Federation have to do with The Doctor? Only time will tell, but Journey has no intention of being left behind and catches The Doctor and Clara as they are about to leave, asking to come on board as a companion. The Doctor tells Journey that she is kind, but she is a soldier, and leaves her at the base, bringing Clara back to Coal Hill School 30 seconds after she left. Because of her adventure and the amount of time she has spent going “into the Dalek” Clara changes her clothes and asks The Doctor what he thinks. He tells her she has a good personality, and “that is the main thing” showing that this incarnation cares much more about substance than form. For the first time we see Clara asking The Doctor when she will see him again instead of telling him when to come back, demonstrating she still feels some instability with him as it’s the first time we see her unsure as to when he will return. On her way out of the TARDIS, Clara stops and turns to The Doctor; “I don’t know” she says simply. When he asks her what she is on about, she explains, “you asked me before if you are a good man and I don’t know. But I think you tried to be. And I think that’s probably the point.” The pair exchange a friendly smile, and The Doctor acknowledges once more that Clara is probably an amazing teacher. Clara exits, and The Doctor is off, until Clara and the viewer see him “sooner or later, definitely one of those.”
Danny catches Clara in the hallway and notes that she has changed in the two minutes since they had talked about going for a drink. Clara, unable to come up with a quick reason, tells him he has passed her test by noticing, and agrees to go for a drink with Danny. Danny indicates that he is relieved because he feared Clara may have had “a rule against soldiers” and Clara assures him she does not, but seems to be thinking about The Doctor’s dis-trust of them. This will inevitably come up when The Doctor and Danny meet, as the entire episode was spent showing us that The Doctor dislikes soldiers, as well as create a unique dynamic between UNIT soldiers and The Doctor in the future.
Overall, this episode was well paced, and showed Capaldi to excel in the role of The Doctor. It was one of the few episodes that can stand on its own without a complex explanation of the back story, and allowed for us to continue exploring whether or not The Doctor is a good man as well as set up his dis-like of soldiers. Next week will bring us to Sherwood Forrest and on a new adventure as we continue learning more about our newest incarnation of The Doctor. Will he be a good man? I like to think so.