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Recap / Doctor Who S34 E2 "Into the Dalek"

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A "good" Doctor versus a "good" Dalek.
Click here to see the Radio Times magazine poster for this episode: 

"A Dalek so damaged its turned good. Morality as malfunction. How do I resist?"
The Doctor

The one that's Pink and Blue and angst-ridden all over.

Co-written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat, "Into the Dalek" marks the Twelfth Doctor's first encounter with the Daleks.

Journey Blue's having quite the bad day — and, yes, that may be an understatement — her brother's dead, and her ship's fleeing through an asteroid belt with a Dalek cruiser in hot pursuit. Luckily, as her own ship explodes another instantly materalises around her — it's the TARDIS, with the Doctor at the console, doing what he does best: interfering! He takes her back to the Aristotle, a battleship clinging to the back of an asteroid staffed by rebels against the Daleks' many regimes. They're none too impressed with the intruder, but the Doctor manages to talk himself down from being shot dead with a little help from Journey. Besides, he's a doctor, and the rebels have a patient for him...

It's a Dalek! And a good one at that — broken enough to have developed a conscience, and to reject the Dalek way of life entirely. Apart from that, though, it appears to be physically sick. The Doctor thinks he can help, but first he has to dash back to Coal Hill School and grab Clara. She's having a rather better day, having met dashing ex-soldier and now-teacher Danny Pink, but the Doctor has a job for her. (And coffee, finally).

The Doctor, Clara, Journey and a small platoon of soldiers are shrunk down to minuscule size, and carefully placed inside the belly of the beast. The Doctor'll have to face dangerous machinery, killer antibodies and his own increasingly-murky morality, but if he gets it right, he could change the Daleks forever...


  • Action Prologue: The episode kicks off with an adrenaline-filled sequence where Journey's ship is being chased by a Dalek saucer.
  • Affectionate Nickname: "Rusty" for the good Dalek.
  • Alien Blood: One of the slain Daleks oozes a nasty, syrupy blue fluid from its battered casing after being wasted by Rusty. It's unclear if this is actually blood, slime, or some kind of mechanical fluid leaking out.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The book Dalek: The Astounding Untold History of the Greatest Enemies of the Universe (2017) claims that Rusty was later captured by the Daleks, who, recognising the "beauty of his hatred for them", sent him to the Dalek Asylum planet. As we see later, Rusty must have somehow made it out before the planet was destroyed.
    • Several sources delve into the conflict between the Combined Galactic Resistance and the Daleks. The Secret Lives of Monsters places this episode during the height of the Dalek Wars, supported by Untold History, and names its setting as the Ryzak solar system. Untold History adds that humanity was continuing the fight after the Draconian Empire (c. 26th century) had fallen, and that Rusty's discovering scared Dalek High Command enough to call off their war efforts. The Whoniverse claims that the Resistance fought alongside the Space Security Service (c. 41st century) and operated in the frontier worlds, managing to drive the Daleks out of the Hermenides Cluster. On top of this, it should be noted that Rusty has memories of post-Time War events.
  • All There in the Script: According to Lance Parkin's "Whoniverse: An Unofficial Planet-By-Planet Guide to the Universe of the Doctor, from Gallifrey to Skaro", the script specifies that the story takes place in the 31st century.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The episode revolves around play with this trope about the Daleks. It is possible for one of them to turn good without caveats like "ingesting human DNA" or "going crazy due to breaking a time lock". However, even in the rare occasion that they have a Heel–Face Turn, making them stay good is a different thing entirely because they have hardware installed to prevent such a thing.
  • Armies Are Evil:
    • Like his last three incarnations, the Twelfth Doctor is a firm believer of this, and it is a fact certainly helped by the lousy first impression Journey and her compatriots make. He even rejects Journey as a companion based solely on the fact that she's a soldier. Given the multitude of companions who've served in uniform (Ben, the Brigadier, Benton, Yates, Harry, etc.), this is a definite shift.
    • Averted with the soldiers themselves who, despite being justifiably paranoid and attempting to execute the Doctor for suspected espionage when they first meet, seem to be decent people under intolerable stress. There seems to be a good deal of prejudice and misunderstanding on all sides.
  • Armour-Piercing Question:
    • When one of Danny's students just can't leave well enough alone and asks him if he's ever killed someone who's not a soldier, the question quietly but very obviously hits him hard, as he sheds a Single Tear.
    • The Doctor asks one of Clara, but it's a rare self-aimed one: whether she thinks he's a good man. She stammers and isn't certain, but, after the adventure in Rusty, decides that he's at least trying to be one, and that's good enough for her.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: When Gretchen is killed, she wakes up in the Promised Land having tea with Missy, just like the Half-Face Man from the previous episode.
  • Ascended Meme: The Doctor refers to the broken Dalek as "Rusty", which was the Fan Nickname for the Last Dalek in "Dalek".
  • Asteroid Thicket: The Aristotle is hiding in a cloud of asteroids from the Dalek fleet.
  • Big Bad: The Daleks.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Having started in the TARDIS, Journey Blue doesn't recognize this trope until she leaves it.
    Blue: It's smaller on the outside?
    The Doctor: It's a bit more exciting when you go the other way.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Dalek fleet is stopped and the possibility that they could all Heel–Face Turn is confirmed, but at the cost of many lives on the Aristotle and, while Rusty is now fighting the rest of the Daleks, it's clear that he's doing so not out of the genuine kindness he was developing in the first half of the story, but simply from having his hatred directed toward the other Daleks instead of all other life.
  • Black Comedy: The Doctor is in top form, though the soldiers don't appreciate it.
    Journey: Is Ross here?
    The Doctor: [points to liquefied flesh] He's somewhere on the top layer if you want to say a few words.
  • Book Ends: Clara responding twice to the Doctor's question: "I don't know." Note Rusty's opinion on the matter: the Doctor is not a good man, but rather a fellow monster who is aligned with good.
  • Brick Joke: The Doctor brings that coffee Clara asked for in "Deep Breath". Only it's three weeks late and Clara has returned to her school teaching job in London.
  • Call-Back: The Doctor says he wasn't really the Doctor until he went to Skaro, lampshading his Characterization Marches On in "An Unearthly Child" before his character became established as a fighter against evil.
  • Character Development: Discussed between Clara and the Doctor. While Clara is not sure if the Doctor is a good man, she's sure that he's trying, which is the point.
  • Colourful Theme Naming: Lampshaded by Clara: having just met Danny Pink, she's then introduced to Journey Blue.
  • The Conscience: Discussed when the Doctor is doing the introductions.
    The Doctor: This is Clara. She's not my assistant, some other word.
    Clara: I'm his carer.
    The Doctor: Yeah, my carer. She cares so I don't have to.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Covered in Gunge: The Doctor and his party escape from antibodies by diving into what turns out to be the Dalek's supply of protein (i.e., the liquefied corpses of its victims). A quick crawl through a heating duct quickly dries them all off.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Fleming decides to ask if he killed anyone as a soldier. When he asks Danny if he killed anyone who wasn't a soldier... Cue Single Tear. Fleming promptly puts a cork in it, knowing he went too far.
  • Dirt Forcefield: As soon as everyone's left the pool of protein, they become completely dry with not so much as a hair out of place. It's justified in that they went through the Dalek's decontamination tubes off-screen.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Danny Pink light-heartedly takes on this role on the playground.
  • Endearingly Dorky: Danny Pink is really awkward when it comes to interacting with his fellow teachers, especially when it comes to romantic interactions with said teachers, such as Clara. Fortunately, she finds it endearing.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Twelve's Good Is Not Nice personality is established, when he purposefully lets someone die in order to evade capture by Dalek antibodies.
    Journey Blue: I thought you were saving him!
    The Doctor: He was dead already, I was saving us!
  • Failure Is the Only Option:
    • The Doctor speculates that if he can turn one Dalek, he can neutralise them all, and possibly even retire from adventuring, since his moniker is defined by being the Daleks' opposite. Unsurprisingly, this plan fails: the "reformed" Dalek merely shifts his crosshairs from humans to Daleks.
    • Rusty's conversion was triggered by this trope: the Dalek's ultimate goal is doomed to failure because no matter how much life they destroy, it will always come back.
  • False Reassurance: When Ross first sets off the antibodies and finds himself surrounded and about to be vaporised, the Doctor tosses him a pill, neglecting to explain its purpose. Ross dutifully swallows it and is vaporized anyway, at which point the Doctor reveals it was a spare power cell for his sonic screwdriver (so that he could track the residual radiation) and that he used Ross's inevitable death to find a way to save everyone else.
  • Fantastic Racism: When the Doctor states there are no good Daleks, Clara calls him out on this.
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: The Doctor, Clara and a small platoon are shrunk and inserted into a Dalek's eyestalk. The Doctor lampshades this, exclaiming that it would make a "fantastic idea" for a movie, but wouldn't be so fun for a proctologist.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Nobody guards the dead."
    • Danny's reaction when asked if he'd ever killed anyone who wasn't a soldier.
    • Also for "Dark Water". An Action Girl abruptly finding herself rescued by a Time Lord foreshadows The Reveal on Missy's identity, when she does the same stunt with Gretchen.
    • The conflict between Danny and the Doctor is set up with the latter showing an anti-soldier prejudice at the same time Clara meets a former soldier that she takes a fancy too.
  • Good Counterpart: Rusty becomes a "good Dalek" in that he isn't an Omnicidal Maniac anymore. He doesn't think so, and instead calls the Doctor a "good Dalek". In other words, a heroic monster.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Doctor manages to pacify Rusty again when he links his mind with the Dalek, but it gains the Doctor's hatred for the Daleks in the process. In the end, the Doctor creates a Dalek that wants to kill other Daleks.
  • He Knows Too Much: When the Doctor arrives on the Aristotle, Colonel Blue wants him killed to keep the base secret, justifying the extreme by pointing out he could be a Dalek duplicate.
  • Headdesk: Danny does this after thinking he's spoilt his chances with Clara. The actor ended up sporting a noticeable bump on his forehead because he had to actually bang his head quite hard against the desk for multiple takesnote .
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Rusty starts out as a standard Omnicidal Maniac Dalek, then has an epiphany about the beauty of life after the inhibitors inside the Dalekanium transport shell are damaged, and becoming in the process the first "good Dalek". Then it's revealed that his "good" side was just due to its faulty wiring, and it reverts back to a standard Dalek after the Doctor fixes it. However, at the end of the episode, the Doctor and Clara restore the suppressed memories, which changes him to an entity equally as violent as before, only exterminating Daleks now.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Rusty makes a permanent turn after his second Heel Realization. He saves the Aristotle by convincing the other Daleks that the ship will self-destruct, and leaves peacefully.
  • Heel Realization: Rusty realises that life persists, even after Daleks have destroyed so many worlds and stars. He returns to normal after the malfunction was repaired, and then has the same reaction after Clara and the Doctor reboot him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gretchen sacrifices herself so Journey and Clara will have a way to reach Rusty's Cortex Vault.
  • How About a Smile?: The Doctor waits till Journey puts away the gun and uses the word "please" before taking her to the rebel base.
  • How Much Did You Hear?: As Danny Pink laments his poor decisions with Clara, Clara reveals she's been listening to most of it.
  • Human Resources: Anyone vaporised by the antibodies is converted into protein to feed the Dalek. The Doctor explains that they sometimes do this to the humans they kill outside their bodies, too.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: Rusty is so horrified by his race's evilness that he singlehandedly wipes out the ones that boarded Aristotle and then leaves because he feels compelled to wipe out the rest.
  • Hypocrite: The Doctor is disgusted that Rusty immediately seeks to wipe out the Daleks as evil when he grows a conscience, even though he himself has made several attempts to do so and freely admits he defines himself entirely by his opposition towards them. There is an element of Hypocrisy Nod, since the Doctor's questioning of himself implies that he is turning plenty of this disgust inwards.
  • Idiot Ball: Everyone on the mission to fix Rusty's malfunction is seemingly under the impression that fixing the malfunction that turned Rusty good would not have a chance of restoring him to the standard Dalek mindset, even after discovering that the casing is designed to normally prevent non-Dalek thoughts. Journey even accuses the Doctor of betrayal for fixing Rusty, when that was the entire point of the mission, as he points out to her.
  • Instant Costume Change: Danny is surprised that Clara has somehow changed her clothes right after leaving him a few moments ago. According to the Doctor, it's only been 30 seconds after she had left with him.
  • Insult Backfire: Danny Pink is playing Drill Sergeant Nasty, asking if his audience are a bunch of children. The camera then pans out to reveal that they are in fact a bunch of children, and one of them answers "Yes". Danny admits he walked into it when he sends them off.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The Doctor's reasoning throughout the episode that a good Dalek matching the resistance's expected criteria cannot exist under normal circumstances. Rusty is initially seemingly good due to the casing malfunctioning and the resulting radiation sickness, and the Doctor's attempts to make Rusty good again result in a Dalek that merely targets other Daleks instead of humans.
  • Kerb-Stomp Battle: The Daleks easily blast their way through the rebel soldiers, losing only a single Dalek (on screen anyway) during the attack. When Rusty enters the fray, set against his fellow Daleks, they get to be on the receiving end as he single-handedly wipes them out.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Played with. While Fleming, already established as a Class Clown, callously asks Danny if he's ever killed anyone, the whole class groans in disapproval.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: One of the invading Daleks can barely utter an EXT- before Rusty blasts him into oblivion.
  • La Résistance: The human-dominated Combined Galactic Resistance fights against the Daleks.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Clara points out that the Doctor, regardless of his incarnation, makes puns every now and then.
    The Doctor: Aha! A bolt-hole!
    Clara: [to Journey] He'll get us out of here, the problem is not killing him before he can.
    The Doctor: A bolt-hole. Actually a hole for a bolt. Does nobody get that?
    Clara: There's also the puns.
  • Leave No Man Behind: The Daleks, funnily enough. Even after their boarding party finds the rebel ship, the Dalek commander seems as focused on "finding their Comrade Dalek" as he is on exterminations.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Clara asks what to do with a moral Dalek, the Doctor says he needs to "get into its head." Cue the "Fantastic Voyage" Plot...
  • Literal-Minded: Clara is dressed up for her date with Danny Pink, and asks the Doctort his opinion.
    Clara: How do I look?
    The Doctor: Sort of short and round-ish, but with a good personality, which is the main thing.
  • Manly Tears: Danny Pink cries a Single Tear when asked if he ever killed anyone other than in battle.
  • Mathematician's Answer: When will Clara see the Doctor again? "Soon. Or later. One of the two."
  • Meet Cute: When Clara's introduced to Danny, the awkwardness of the conversation is mortifying (not least to Danny).
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: The Doctor attempts to kickstart Rusty's conscience by having Clara reboot the memory of the star being born then linking Rusty's mind to his own to demonstrate beauty. While this has the intended effect at first, Rusty soon sees the Doctor's memories of the Daleks and feels his hatred for them, instead causing Rusty to become as virulently anti-Dalek as he once was of everything else.
  • Mood Whiplash: Gretchen is suffering a horrible screaming death, then she's suddenly having tea with Missy in Heaven. Then we cut straight back to the action.
  • Morality Chain: Clara cares so the Doctor doesn't have to, and then tells him when he should.
  • Morality Dial: Although the Dalek itself is born to hate, its internal CPU is designed to continually reinforce that, regulating the Dalek's thoughts to purge even the slightest trace of compassion or empathy.
    "Imagine the worst possible thing in the universe, then don't bother, because you're looking at it right now! This is evil refined as engineering."
  • Moral Myopia: The Doctor spends the whole episode accusing the resistance (and soldiers in general) of being nothing more than mindless or bloodthirsty, and even writes off their newest Dalek recruit (who willingly threw in his lot with the rebels) as a failure. This is nothing new as the Doctor hasn't approved of soldiers (or guns) for a long time, but Twelve takes it a step further by outwrite denying Journey as companion material due to her being a soldier.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Rusty is a "good Dalek" who finds beauty in the birth of stars and the persistence of life instead of just hatred and destruction.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In repairing Rusty's damaged power cell, the Doctor inadvertently reboots Rusty's Morality Dial, causing it to turn evil once again and go on a rampage, ultimately causing the deaths of dozens before the Doctor can set Rusty back to anti-Dalek, but Rusty had already summoned the Dalek fleet by then.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: This is what saddens the Doctor. Rusty switches sides and fights the Daleks, but not out of kindness or desire to do good, instead for the usual Dalek reasons, except applied to his own race rather than everyone else.
  • Oblivious Mockery: Journey Blue says that Clara doesn't look ready to go on this mission because "you look like a schoolteacher." Clara responds that she is one.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the Doctor is coaxing Rusty to be good again, and the Dalek is beholding the universe the way the Doctor sees it... until Rusty sees the Doctor's hatred for the Daleks.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The Doctor refuses to take Journey Blue as a companion solely because she's a soldier.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Previously, Rusty revealed that his Heel–Face Turn resulted from seeing the birth of a new star, whereupon he realised that the Daleks will never manage to eradicate all life. When it comes time to rewire the Dalek's CPU, the Doctor dons his best Carl Sagan impression and forms a psychic link with it, allowing Rusty to experience the grandness of the universe. This doesn't go quite as well when Rusty reaches the Doctor's own memories of the Daleks.
  • The Power of Hate: The Doctor's hatred for Daleks empowers him to switch sides.
  • Pure Is Not Good: Gretchen asks how a Dalek can be pure. The Doctor replies that Daleks are pure hatred.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The day is won, but one Dalek switching over to the human side doesn't fill the Doctor with confidence. Worse, he had hoped that psychic-linking with Rusty would render it peaceful, but the Doctor's mind only made it angrier.
    The Doctor: You looked inside me and saw hatred. That's no victory.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: This is said of the radiation readings from Rusty's damaged core by the time they reach it.
  • Redemption Promotion: Smaller-scale, because it's not like Daleks aren't a threat, but the "good" Rusty demolishes the rest of the evil Dalek attack squad once he turns on them, damaged or not.
  • Resistance Is Futile: Said word-for-word by Rusty, in regards to resisting life itself. No matter how much the Daleks destroy, life will always return since life finds a way.
  • Reveal Shot: After The Teaser where the Doctor is captured by soldiers, we return to one of them chewing out his squad... only it turns out to be Mr. Pink and the Coal Hill School cadet squad.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    The Doctor: This is Gun Girl. She's got a gun, and she's a girl.
  • Sheathe Your Sword:
    The Doctor: A soldier takes orders.
    Journey: I am a soldier.
    The Doctor: A Dalek's a better soldier than you will ever be. You can't win this way!
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Danny is strongly implied to have the death of a non-combatant on his conscience.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Single Tear:
    • Danny has one when his student Fleming accidentally unearths a terrible memory from his days as a soldier without having any way of knowing what Danny went through.
    • After Rusty turns on the other Daleks, one of them is shown leaking fluid in a Rule of Symbolism version.
  • Sinister Geometry: Rusty's antibodies are shaped like the standard Dalek "bumps", as well as paying homage to Phantasm.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: All of the Daleks that force their entry into the Aristotle from the Dalek mothership start moving down a dark hallway. The only features that can be clearly made out of their casings are the glow of their cold, unfeeling eyestalk lenses and their flashing headlamps as they chant, "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" and "SEEK! LOCATE! DESTROY!"
  • Sociopathic Hero: Rusy is still a murderous, rampaging Dalek, only now exterminating his former Dalek comrades.
  • The Soulsaver: The Doctor plans to do this metaphorically. After saving Rusty's life by repairing the radiation leak, he says that he will "go one better" and save his soul. In practice, this means curing him of his evil destructiveness.
  • Spiritual Sequel: The structure of this story follows a similar one to "Genesis of the Daleks" and "Dalek": The Doctor is prodded into action by an organisation which seeks to pacify the Daleks, and, in the process, he confronts his prejudices over whether Daleks can be redeemed. Meanwhile, a lone Dalek survivor is recovered by humans who are experimenting on it for their own purposes. Upon being "fixed", the Dalek goes on a rampage through the facility until an encounter with the Doctor's companion triggers an epiphany. The episode also has much in common with the Second Doctor serial "The Evil of the Daleks", wherein the Doctor succeeded in pacifying three Daleks (and more later) by reprogramming them, similarly to what he attempts here.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: The Doctor tells Journey that soldiers don't cry. Civilians do, because that's how they communicate with soldiers.
  • Tempting Fate: Clara comments on how easy it was to fix the Dalek, with the Doctor even calling it an "anti-climax". Cue rampage.
  • Took a Level in Badass: After being given The Worf Effect during the Eleventh Doctor's era, the Daleks are even more dangerous than usual in this episode. They emerge as a very organized killing force in the cover of darkness, menacingly inching forward and easily mowing down both soldiers and even themselves with terrifying ease.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The Doctor starts a Running Gag of insulting Clara's appearance, deliberately or otherwise. More importantly, he shows an overt dislike of soldiers, whereas before he'd been entirely willing to work with them, merely snarking at their authoritarian nature and shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The "Exterminate... Doctor!" line of the teasers is never heard in the episode.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Promotional ads for this series featured Rusty's Wham Line, giving away the reveal that the Doctor's influence only made the Dalek more hateful. However, the circumstances behind the Wham Line and the context is not spoiled, and many fans were convinced that the voice being heard was that of Davros or Dalek Caan, not another Dalek.
  • Uniformity Exception: Rusty has blue wires attached to him that make him easy to distinguish from the other Daleks.
  • Wham Line:
    • "I see into your soul, Doctor. I see beauty, I see divinity, I see... hatred."
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Gretchen gets on the Doctor's case for making light of Ross's death, though the Doctor just takes it in stride.
    • Journey and Clara chew out the Doctor for repairing Rusty, and Clara is ultimately left unsure of the Doctor's morality. He's thankful for this, because it gets him out of his funk.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Watching the birth of a star is what started Rusty's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: When the Doctor returns to Clara with the coffee he said he'd get last episode, she reveals he has been gone for three weeks. She then returns from this week's adventure in around 30 seconds, to the confusion of Danny Pink. Also Journey Blue says, "That was quick" after the Doctor goes to fetch Clara, implying a very short time has passed for her.
  • You Are What You Hate: Again, the Doctor's hatred of all things Dalek is compared to the Daleks' hatred of everything else.
    Rusty: I am not a good Dalek. You are a good Dalek.
  • You Know Too Much: The commander of the Aristotle is grateful to the Doctor for saving Journey, but then orders him shot in case he's a Dalek spy. Fortunately, Journey talks them out of it because they need a doctor.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Rusty sees the Doctor's hatred, and thinks it beautiful. Its last statement is that while it isn't a good Dalek, the Doctor is.

"You asked me if you were a good man. And the answer is, I don't know. But I think you try to be. And I think that's probably the point."