So by now, all Whovians have been pleasantly surprised by yet another Dalek episode, “Into The Dalek,” that was unlike any other Dalek (or Doctor Who) episode ever. And to top that off, it’s also the second Peter Capaldi episode and now that the wonky regeneration stuff is out of the way, we’re finally getting a good look at our brand new Doctor. And I’m going to argue right now that this episode is not only one of the best Doctor Who episodes of all time, but it’s also one of the best stories we’ve seen yet since the show was resurrected back in 2005.
So why is “Into The Dalek” one of the best modern episodes of Doctor Who?
1. The Daleks
Granted, the Daleks have been done to death in the revival of the series. TO DEATH. And they’ve been put in situations where they come in rainbow colors and serve tea. They’ve gone from being terrifying to be utterly ridiculous. However, we’ve never actually gone inside their heads.
Until now. “Into The Dalek” was a literal episode title, because the Doctor and Clara go inside a Dalek. They get miniaturized and find themselves wandering through the Dalek’s body, a place we’ve never been before. This is a major achievement, not just because it’s a completely novel way of looking at the Daleks, but we finally get to see inside the Daleks brains. And we discover that there’s a reason they’re bad: their programming erases memories other than those that sustain their hatred for things that aren’t Dalek.
Yes, that’s right. Daleks aren’t inherently bad. Their programming makes them that way. And kudos to Clara for pointing that out to the Doctor.
2. The Doctor
Not only do we see into the mind of a Dalek, though, we also go somewhere else we haven’t been before: into the mind of the Doctor. When the Doctor sort of mind melds with the Dalek to force it to change its programming and see things other than its hatred for non-Dalek things, the Dalek picks up on the Doctors own hatred for Daleks.
This insight is so utterly terrifying, that the Doctor starts fearing himself. And it’s especially creepy when the Dalek tells the Doctor, “You are a good Dalek.”
Freaking ARGHHHHH! The Doctor isn’t a cuddly guy. This is a 2,000+ year-old scary alien.
I’ve commented on social media that I think Clara is so much better with the 12th Doctor than the 11th. She is now no longer the pretend love interest schoolgirl crushing on a cute alien boy. She is now the Doctor’s peer and his conscience. She is coming to her own as that one thing that keeps the Doctor grounded, and in a way, reminds me of how Donna always kept the 10th Doctor in line.
We also see that Clara has a life outside of the Doctor, which is something we haven’t seen before. We see her at work and we see her developing what will potentially be a romantic relationship. Her life doesn’t revolve around the Doctor, at least not like Amy and Rory’s did. And eventually, we know this will lead to her leaving him (prepare the hankies, for that’s how it usually happens).
4. The nature of good and bad
This episode points out that there is no black and white, no real good and evil. Everything is good and evil to some degree. The Doctor tends to take certain stances, though, especially concerning the Daleks, but also concerning soldiers. He’s developed a hatred of things that maybe he fears and we see that in this episode. However, it’s Clara, a human, that reminds us and the Doctor that it’s not that simple.