Doctor Who: Into the Dalek
(1 episode, s08e02, 2014)
A fantastic innerspace voyage.
A pilot and her wounded co-pilot desperately fly away from an attacking Dalek ship. The pilot, Journey Blue, calls for help but her ship explodes around her. She awakens in the TARDIS console room and pulls a gun on the Doctor. He tries to explain that he saved her life by materializing the TARDIS around her at the moment of her death, and he waits for her to ask nicely before taking her back to her command ship.
The vessel was once a hospital ship, but the Doctor does not receive a warm welcome when he emerges on the hangar deck. Journey Blue saves his life when she tells her shipmates that the visitor is a doctor. The crew takes the Doctor to his new patient. Unfortunately, it is a Dalek.
Back on Earth, Danny Pink trains the Coal Hill Cadet Squad before returning to his duties as a mathematics instructor. He’s quite the bit of eye-candy for the women at the school and an object of intrigue for the students since he served as a soldier in the army. The kids are curious if he’s ever killed anyone and if he’s ever killed someone who was not a soldier.
Danny eventually meets Clara, but he turns down an opportunity to join her for a drink. When he later verbally berates himself (supposedly in private), Clara offers again and he accepts. Clara leaves Danny and enters a supply closet to find the Doctor and the TARDIS. The Doctor offers some coffee, which he was supposed to fetch three weeks ago, and asks her for advice.
The Doctor wants to know if he is a good man.
Since Clara isn’t familiar with this Doctor, she replies that she doesn’t know the answer. Sadly, neither does he, and he sets a course for Aristotle. It turns out that the Dalek has asked for help and has offered to destroy its own kind, and the Doctor cannot quite wrap his head around the concept. Once they return to the command ship, they realize that they have to get into the Dalek’s head. Luckily, Aristotle has a gizmo that will shrink people.
The Doctor, Clara, Journey, and soldiers Ross and Gretchen are miniaturized and injected into the Dalek’s eyestalk. The soldiers are there to kill the travelers if they turn out to be Dalek spies. The team encounters the Dalek’s artificial memory drive which filters out good memories and reinforces bad ones, essentially refining evil. They are also attacked by antibodies when the soldiers attach grappling hooks to the Dalek’s internals. Ross is killed, but the Doctor is able to track his remains to a place of relevant safety. Unfortunately, that’s a pool of protein that feeds the Dalek, which the Doctor has named Rusty.
The team escapes through a hot tunnel to an irradiated battery room. The radiation is affecting Rusty’s memory core and allowing his morality to leak through. The damage is related to Rusty watching a star being born, an event that spoke of beauty and divine perfection. It also reinforced that life prevails and resistance to that is futile.
The Doctor fixes the battery leak, but that causes Rusty to revert to his murderous ways. He then breaks free of his restraints and begins exterminating the ship’s crew. Rusty opens a communication channel to the Dalek ship and reveals Aristotle‘s secret location.
The Doctor uses this as evidence that there is no such thing as a good Dalek, but Clara is not satisfied with the result and slaps him back into sense. Following Clara’s inspiration, the Doctor instructs her, Gretchen, and Journey to make their way back to the memory drive and try to restore Rusty’s memories of the star while he reasons with Rusty.
Gretchen sacrifices herself to get Clara and Journey to the memory core. When the antibodies kill Gretchen, she ends up meeting Missy in the garden called Heaven. Meanwhile, Rusty continues his rampage as the Daleks reach Aristotle.
The Doctor meets Rusty eye to eye, facing off against the organic creature at the heart of the Dalekanium shell. As the Doctor forms a psychic link with the Dalek, Clara crawls through its core and restores the hidden memories. The plan is mostly successful but falters when Rusty finds the Doctor’s intense hatred of the Daleks. Despite the Doctor pleading with Rusty to look beyond that hatred, the Dalek uses it to fuel a mission of destruction against his own kind.
Rusty destroys the rest of the Daleks on the ship and the team is restored to their proper size. Rusty leaves to join his own kind, promising to work against them from within. He also shakes the Doctor to his core by proclaiming that the Time Lord is the good Dalek that he was searching for. As the travelers prepare to leave, Journey asks to travel with the Doctor but he refuses because she was a soldier.
Clara changes clothes for her date as he takes her home. She tells him that she doesn’t know if he is a good man, but she does give him credit for trying to be one. She then leaves for her date with Danny, trying not to adopt the Time Lord’s policy against soldiers.
Welcome to the origin of the “Don’t be lasagna” meme. It’s such a funny example of this Doctor’s quest to find his bearings, reflecting the whimsy of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. His ruthlessness also reflects the Ninth and Tenth Doctors – note that he’s not bloodthirsty, but he is direct – and his views on the military reach back to the Third and Fourth Doctor eras.
Importantly, the military stereotypes get subverted with the reinforcement that people can evolve beyond their roles and/or training.
The Doctor’s hatred of the Daleks is generally universal, but it is amplified by the events of The Day of the Doctor. This level of hatred reminds me of the Ninth Doctor in Dalek – another time when the Doctor would make a good Dalek – though I do appreciate the attempt at defusing the hatred while persuading Rusty. The imagery used in that persuasion comes from The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.
There are obviously elements of the classic “go inside the body” films Innerspace and Fantastic Voyage. We also have a callback to another shrunken Doctor adventure in Planet of Giants. I also love the breaking out of a morgue callback to the TV movie.
But it is the exploration of the Doctor at this point after his regeneration in the face of his greatest enemy that intrigues me, followed closely by Clara using the Doctor’s lessons learned in her own life outside the TARDIS. It’s a good journey into his personality during an otherwise straightforward narrative.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.