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Dalek Gone Good: Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 2 Recap of "Into the Dalek"

Dalek Gone Good: Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 2 Recap of

By Ruby Karp

BBC

In the second episode of Doctor Who this season with the great Peter Capaldi as 12, we open on an epic space battle, with a pilot scared, her eensy spacecraft in distress. The pilot, Journey Blue, apologizes to her co-pilot, and, not a minute into this episode, we know who this enemy is. Hint: EXTERMINATE.

This is a Dalek episode, my Mindhuts.

The aforementioned pilot, Journey Blue—who is a Lieutenant at of the Combined Galactic Resistance—wakes up on the TARDIS, wanting to know where her brother and co-pilot, Kai, is. The Doctor is standing, calmly, with a tray with two coffee cups (what?). Lieutenant Blue has her weapon drawn on the Doctor, it dawning on her that her brother is dead, and now, more scared than defiant, asks to be taken back to her command ship, Aristotle, with an egged-on-by-the-Doctor “please.” Why does she back down? Because our Doctor is not the bouncy nurturing sort of Doctors-Past. No, our Doctor is stern, in control, and not indulgent of his soldier-passenger, who he saved, by the way, as her little spacecraft was blown away by the Daleks.

The Doctor delivers Journey Blue and as she opens the door to the TARDIS, the Doctor reminds her to wipe the tears from her eyes, almost admonishing her for being civilian-like. She notices as she steps onto the Aristotle, that the TARDIS is “smaller on the outside.” I always love a newbie’s reaction to the TARDIS. Still, the Doctor is not exactly warmly received on the Aristotle; while he has saved Journey Blue, he is told thanks very much for your service but Daleks don’t leave any wounded and we don’t we don’t take prisoners; he will be terminated. This time, it is Journey Blue who saves him, explaining that 12 is a Doctor, and there is a patient on board that needs saving.

The problem is that the patient is a Dalek.

Allonz-y the open, mates! What a way to open this episode, by immediately thrusting you into one of the Doctor’s worst case scenarios: facing and dealing with a Dalek. And in this case, having to help one.  (The history of the Doctor and the Daleks pre-dates 12; it’s deep-seated and acrimonious at best. For a concise summary, check out History of the Daleks here or here.)

The show resumes in a London school yard, with a very tight shot of our new best friend, Danny Pink, barking at some students, in form-fitting camouflage; ah, the military wear.  He’s stern, but playful, almost like 12. He dismisses these students, and catches the eye of our companion, Clara Oswald. So, we get it. Danny Pink and Clara Oswald will soon be sitting in a TARDIS, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. Well, now that 12 is definitely not her boyfriend, Danny might well do.

Where were we? Oh yes, Danny, the teacher. Danny checks into the school office, and the administrator flirts with Danny, enough for us to know that Danny is a bit of a player. Once in the classroom, a student asks Danny if he’s ever killed a man. Mr. Pink avoids answering the question by explaining he was a soldier and while there were other soldiers, some were not on their side. (Hint: this is one of those lines that when you re-watch the episode like we did to write this recap, you go ahhhhh, because he was basically telling us what this episode is going to be about! Doh!). OH AND HE’S SENSITIVE! A close-up shot reveals a tear about to roll down his cheek. We know so much about Danny Pink already: he’s fun, he knows how to think on his feet, and he’s a bit dark.

Once class is over, Danny is in the teacher’s lounge and is introduced to Clara, who is teaching English at the school. Clara, always one for playful digs, makes her first impression with a comment about the “soldiery thing” he was doing outside with the students (she did eye-spy him in the yard playing Military man who his gaggle of pre-pubescent soldiers); Danny explains there’s more to modern soldiering than just shooting people. And it’s then that Clara bums him out: she jokes about crying. Danny thinks the kids have been gossiping (I mean, really, if your teacher sheds a lone tear, it’s a score for Twitter!). So it stays awkward. Even after Clara asks him to come to some work thing. He goes to his class room and spazzes out that he didn’t jump at the chance to hang out with this Impossible Girl Teacher and it’s adorable, to see him that way. Still. We know our Clara, don’t we, by now, and she’s a tenacious one. She comes to his classroom, stands there watching him mutter to himself, and asks him out yet again. This time the dummy says yes.

And now the episode is afoot.

Clara skips-to-her-loo down the school corridor and enters what we thought was going to be a classroom. But nope. It’s a closet and the Doctor is there with his tray of coffee cups, which by the way, say TEA on them. Apparently, this time around they’ve been apart for three weeks. Anyway, the TARDIS happens to be in the closet, and so they enter the Doctor’s spacecraft. He immediately senses she is glowing. But. This Doctor has other things on his mind. Heavy things. He asks Clara to be his pal and then poses the deepest question we’ve heard thus far from 12: Am I a good man?

That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? Clara tells him she doesn’t know. That’s fair. We don’t know either.

But 12 doesn’t have time to dwell on the unknown; he’s being forced to face and help his enemy, the Dalek. And he has such disdain, as we know, for the Daleks. He knows thy enemy. Still, he’s reminded by the Aristotle soldiers that he must tend to his patient, this patient he hates with every fiber of his regenerated being. “Are you my Doctor?” The prisoner-Dalek asks. And the Doctor is confused. The Dalek called him Doctor, but he’s also called him “my Doctor.” What is happening, he’s wondering. And finally 15 minutes into the episode, we see that this Dalek is not like all the others when he says the words that stops the Doctor in his tracks: “Daleks must be destroyed!”

Yep. This Dalek is a rebel with a cause.

The Doctor introduces Clara to the Aristotle crew as his “carer,” (Her words, not his, although his follow up to her title was, “Yeah, she cares so I don’t have to.” And it’s official:  we GET 12.) as they enter the Dalek’s cell. Journey Blue gives Clara shade, telling Clara how dangerous this mission is blah blah blah and by the way, Clara looks like a school teacher. Ha, Journey Blue, you certainly don’t know a thing about the Clara Oswald; okay, yes she’s a schoolteacher, but she’s also the Impossible Girl. Journey Blue, the Doctor, Clara and some other soldiers go into some contraption that shrinks them to miniscule size, hurtling them in psychedelic motion to the most dangerous place in the universe: the Dalek’s brain. Their mission: to figure out what is up with this “good” Dalek.

The Doctor plays tour guide, reminding his mission-mates that they are in the midst of evil. He gives the Dalek a nickname, “Rusty” and reminds his team over and over again about the true nature of the Dalek’s. The random soldiers get all shoot-y, and all heck breaks loose and one of the random soldiers ends up getting exterminated by the Dalek’s antibodies that were triggered by the bullets (they hurt! The Dalek looks like a hunk of metal but it’s a living organism).  Daleks are not pretty on the inside.

The Doctor gets his mission mates to safety by jumping down some vat where they land in a pool of ick. It’s gross. But Journey Blue doesn’t wallow in it, she’s more upset about losing a crew member. She gets that the Dalek has an internal defense mechanism, and she’s leaning towards the Doctor’s skepticism about the Dalek’s going good. It turns out that Rusty has a radiation leak, which is what’s making it all I wanna run through a field of poppies and eat ice cream.

The Doctor, Clara, Journey Blue and the remaining soldiers locate the damage inside the Dalek and repair the rupture. The Doctor tells Rusty he’s all fixed now, concerned in a caring way, and then, in the bone-chilling way. Rusty is back to being a true Dalek, and starts exterminating every thing in sight back on the Aristotle, going on and on about how the Daleks will be victorious in his monotonous Exterminate-Exterminate way. We understand now why the Aristotle has a staunch policy about no-prisoners on board.

Rusty gets in touch with his Dalek buddies, and well, they’re Daleks. They’re going to… wait for it… EXTERMINATE. Journey Blue yells at the Doctor, “Wait, let me get this straight: we had a good Dalek and we made it bad again?” To which the Doctor is all like, dude he was never good, he was just broken. He’s all, hey I told you so. And he’s a bit smug about it. Clara is annoyed by the Doctor’s holier-than-thou attitude and she SLAPS THE DOCTOR. We almost fell off the couch when she did that. Has this ever happened to any of the Doctors? A companion slapping the Doctor.

The slap rattles something inside the Doctor, to see that there could be good even in a Dalek. He is determined to help Rusty see the shining star of goodness again. Lesson here? A slap from the Impossible Girl can do a Doctor good. The Doctor now believes he can save the world by turning the Dalek back to being a good Dalek. And then the do-good-ing mission ensues, with soldier Gretchen Allison Carlisle sacrificing herself so Clara and Journey Blue save the world. (Love the fierceness of the women in this episode).

Okay, here is where it gets freaky. The soldier who falls on the sword is Gretchen, and as she dies screaming, we dissolve into the light and when our eyes and hers open, we see Gretchen sitting with Missy, having tea. In Heaven.

So Missy is collecting the Doctor’s dead cast-offs? Is she creating a gratefully dead army?

There’s a battle happening outside the body of Rusty onboard the Aristotle all the while Clare and Journey Blue are doing what they have been instructed to do, inside Rusty’s cortex, looking to flip a switch and turn Rusty back to being good. The Doctor distracts Rusty by doing a badinage jig, reminding Rusty when he first met the Daleks on Skaro, and while he’s jabbering on and on, the Doctor enables a mindmeld with Rusty; Rusty enters the Doctors mind, in order for Rusty to be on the side of good. And it works at first, until Rusty digs deeper into the Doctor’s mind and Rusty starts to see the hatred that lives inside the Doctor for the Daleks. Rusty starts to spazz and turns on his fellow Daleks, exterminating, exterminating, exterminating. He is annihilating the Doctor’s enemy, which was not the Doctor’s intention. So the Doctor’s plan—to turn the Dalek back to good—backfires on him, because what is inside the Doctor, when it comes to the Dalek, is dark matter.

Whoa.

Rusty saves the remaining crew on the Aristotle. And when all the fireworks are over, the Doctor, Clara, Journey Blue, and the other Artistotle crew members say goodbye to Rusty. The Doctor is humbled before his frenemy, as Rusty in his blissful naivete, calls the Doctor a “good Dalek.” OUCH. Journey Blue asks the Doctor to take her with him, but he’s not into soldiers. Who knew the Doctor really did love his civilians? We're just kidding. We all knew that.

And so, the Doctor delivers Clara back to that supply closet. (She’s changed her outfit, it was soaked in ick after all). By the way, only 30 seconds have passed in London. And Clara’s parting comment isn’t a dig at his Doc Martins, but a callback to his question as to whether he is a good man. She tells him, “I don’t know. I think you try to be.” Is that a nod to her leaving? The seeds of doubt planted? She would never have been that vague with 11, never. But then again, that was her first Doctor.

As Clara steps out of the closet, she bumps into Danny, who notices her new ensemble. So Danny is observant too. What else, Danny Pink, what else? Oh, he is into her. “Still up for that drink?” He asks, worried she might have a thing about soldiers. And as she walks away, she mutters to us, “No, not me.” Because she is most definitely a good person, that she knows.

What did you think of the episode?

Tags: tv, doctor who, recaps, bbc, peter capaldi

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About the Author
Ruby Karp

Ruby Karp is a young feminist, comedian and journalist. At the age of 7 years old, Ruby was on Amy Poehler's Smart Girls At the Party, talking about feminism, a strong belief of Ruby's. At the age of 10 years old, she started writing weekly articles for Hellogiggles.com. When Ruby was 11, she started hosting a monthly comedy-story-telling-show at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. At age 12, she won the Moth story slam. At 13, she wrote an OP-ED on Mashable.com (13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook) about how none of her friends are on Facebook. At 13, she gave a TEDX Redmond Talk. Currently, Ruby is going into high school in New York City.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.