The second story of the new regeneration we are treated with a Dalek episode which is fitting since the second story in the classic Who’s cycle was the introduction of the Daleks. The Daleks themselves have been slightly abused by RTD and Moffat almost becoming a windmill in the story for the Doctor to rage at and defeat only to pop up again when the breeze sings around. We start the episode Into The Dalek with an amazing fast paced introduction to the character of Journey Blue, a character that the Doctor’s 8th incarnation may well have taken with him. After this brief whirlwind and quite tense introduction to Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton) the Doctor finds himself on a human medical vessel named the Aristotle during an undisclosed conflict between humans and Daleks. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Moffat seldom simply names things. Aristotle is essentially the creator of Virtue Ethics, the branch of ethics which emphasizes how a person’s actions define their character and reflect their personality more than their motivations. More on that later but we are quickly introduced to Colonel Blue , Journey’s uncle, who decides to make use of the Doctor’s talents and leads him to an isolation ward. Here the Doctor finds, much to his shock, a good Dalek.
As soon as we meet Danny we leave him behind as Clara is yanked by the Doctor off to the edges of space in the distant future to help him. Their relationship continues to shift with the Doctor using her as a moral compass, in a moment of utter fragility the Doctor asks Clara if he’s a good man to which she is unable to answer and upon reaching the ship the Aristotle he introduces Clara as his “carer” someone who “cares for him” so he doesn't have to. This line could have easily tumbled out of the 4th Doctor’s mouth and the careless way he just tosses about not caring at first feels pithy and cute but on closer inspection should shake the viewer. This is not Matt Smith or Tennant or even Eccleston this is a Doctor who is more than a bit callous.
Ross accidentally sets off the Dalek’s “immune system” and the antibodies make short work of him. Through the usual contrivances and lucky breaks the remaining party make their way to the source of the “malfunction” and fix it in the hopes it will stabilize the Dalek and they will have a “Good” Dalek who will help them change the course of Dalek history. The problem is, things don’t quite work out that way, with the radiation leak fixed the Dalek’s antibodies repair the systems and he once again becomes evil rampaging across the ship and letting his brethren know right where the Aristotle is. The Doctor is ready to toss it in, clearly still haunted by the legacy of his battles with the Daleks and his casual disregard for life heralds back to the first Doctor at which point Clara having had enough slapped him. This is a dynamic that was not seen since Donna and even then Donna in many ways Donna was still not an equal (she just nagged the Doctor until he caved) Clara is someone the Doctor views as a teacher something as noble as a Doctor and admits that he has lessons that he can learn from her (if not in so many words).
Earlier we were introduced to a memory bank, a backup storage unit and filter the Daleks use to store their memories and cleanse them of anything that would allow for enlightenment. Turning off the filters Clara and Journey are able to once again introduce awareness to Rusty. The Doctor in a moment of well-meaning grand standing that has worked so well for the last three Doctors fills in some back story that we didn't know until now.
The moment that Rusty reflects back the Doctor is a stunning one, Capaldi is able to tell in a simple shift of his face what I feel Smith or Tennant would have needed some bombastic event or some eye watering catch phrase generated moment to convey. The Doctor stutters and stammers but he can’t undo what he has done, he changed Rusty but not in to a good Dalek, no in to a Dalek that hates Daleks. Rusty turns on his fellow Daleks who are attacking the Aristotle and kills them because he must “kill the Daleks”. The Doctor, Journey and Clara return to their normal size and Rusty lies to the Dalek fleet telling them that the humans are self-destructing but before going to rejoin the Daleks with the sole purpose of killing all other Daleks he turns to the Doctor and says “You are a good Dalek” another moment of symmetry this time reflecting the first season of the 2005 Doctor Who’s episode titled Dalek where the malfunctioning veteran of the Time War turned to the Doctor who was raging in hate and said “You would make a good Dalek”. Here we are, the hundreds of years spent on Trenzalore have left him even more broken then when he thought he killed his own people and is in many ways self-loathing to the point he turned away Journey who asked to come along with them because despite the fact that she was the kind of person he would have travelled with in the past he cannot stand to be around her because she was once a soldier (from a man who was once called The War Doctor).
Closing thoughts on this episode I have to say this doesn't feel like “New Who” this feels to me like classic episode, the Doctor is mad as a hatter but not off the rails fish fingers and custard or wibbley wobbley about it. This is a dark madman in a box and it shows, but we also have a character who has finally come in to her own and been fully realized in Clara. She doesn't just tag along nor like Donna or Tegan moan and nag at the Doctor to get her way she will use force and tell him exactly what she thinks not as a companion but as an equal. We get more of Missy, what is she up to and who is she? I doubt she is in heaven because that would be too literal but where is it and what does she want? Also, don’t for a second think we’re done with Rusty. There will be a payoff, people may complain about Moffat and his stories but there is never a thread left hanging and a thread that involves a possible Dalek revolution is just too enticing to pass up.