Catherine Tate has said that before she joined the series that she thought the Daleks were in every episode of Doctor Who; viewers who have joined the show since the 50th Anniversary might well think the same, as the Doctor's greatest foe return for their third appearance in four episodes! I've never been a great fan of the ranting exterminators so yet another encounter so early in the series was not on my priority list of things to look forward to; it would need a good 'gimmick' to draw me in, which in this case was the Doctor encountering a lone, 'good' Dalek.
The story already has one good thing going for it, of course, Peter Capaldi. His portrayal of this plain-spoken, focussed but also easily side-tracked Doctor never ceases to be fascinating on screen; his coffee-run has a diversion in saving a life, yet having no other interest until there's something less 'boring' to get involved in; his practical but insensitive solution to escaping the Dalek antibodies (not to mention tasteless comments a little later), but then followed by an impassioned argument to regain Rusty's sense of 'goodness' once more; and of course his final 'dismissal' of Journey as a soldier when he departs. Donna had pointed out to the Doctor that he needed someone to temper him over a thousand years before, and this new 'reset' Doctor certainly needs a moral compass to guide him, the job of which of course falls to Clara. This possibly does weigh on his mind, and as the pre-publicity forewarned us, he asks her if he is a good man, to which she replies that she honestly doesn't know. He is aware that he isn't so "feely" as in previous lives, as the (also heavily publicised) "She's my carer - she cares so I don't have to" comment re-iterates. I'm not entirely sure how long this 'alien' Doctor can continue throughout the twelve episodes before a lack of softening becomes mundane to watch, but I somehow suspect that with someone like Capaldi in command of the character this isn't something we need worry about.
So, that 'good' Dalek, what's that all about? It seems that the captured survivor from a battle can see the Daleks for what they really are, and doesn't like what it sees; however, it has also been badly damaged and thus piques the Doctor's interest to help 'heal' it. It was probably pretty obvious that by doing so the Doctor would also restore the its "Dalek Factor", too, but I was sufficiently drawn into the tale not to think of that, beforehand. For a long-term fan such as myself there are the parallels with The Evil of the Daleks to draw upon, and the memory conditioning sits neatly with that former story's realisation - not that this is important to the casual viewer, and it seems the Doctor had forgotten too as he seems to feel vindicated when Rusty reverts to type once repaired. However, this is his prejudice for the Dalek race coming through, and that ultimately bites him on the bum when Rusty perceives and draws upon that hatred as its emotions are re-enabled by Clara.
It's probably safe to say that Rusty is a balanced individual, unlike our previous Dalek-turning-good that was so excellently realised in Dalek back in 2005. In that story the Dalek saw itself as impure and so sought self-destruction; no such sign from Rusty, and as it heads off to rejoin the Dalek fleet it seems very likely that we will see the repurcusions of this 'infiltration' at a later date. There's also the other hark back to that former episode too: there, the (then) lone survivor from the Time War suggests that the Doctor would make a good Dalek; here, Rusty informs the Doctor that he isn't a good Dalek, the Time Lord is himself - maybe Clara won't be the sole source of guidance to the Doctor as he subconsciously struggles out of darkness...
Being this is modern Doctor Who, as well as the 'sci-fi' excitement there's also the back-on-Earth 'domestic' to consider, too. Where would we be without some form of love interest in Doctor Who (shh!), and in this series this takes the form of new teacher at Clara's school, Danny Pink. Being that we only have a few minutes to set-up a new character, so in moments we know he's an ex-soldier whose had a bad encounter that continues to cast a shadow over him, and it's also pretty obvious that this will be a cause of friction with the Doctor after another not-too-subtle signpost from the Doctor's comment to Journey about her profession. Considering his 'crash-entry' into the series, Samuel Anderson does a good job of introducing the conflicted Danny, and it'll be interesting to see how he develops over the next few weeks.
The big Dalek battle at the end was okay, but the plethora of explosions didn't hide their inability to hit targets (maybe they just feel that overwhelming numbers win out extermination-wise rather than being more accurate). The battle cries were fun to hear, though a little frustrating in not being quite the same as those from the classic era they were mimicking (or is that just the memory cheating again?!!). The spaceship crew were pretty unmemorable though, and main girl Journey was herself a bit bland (but why do I get the feeling we haven't seen the last of her, either?). The internals of Rusty were handled well, though I wasn't too sure of the miniturisation scale at times (not to mention them having a handy minituriser to hand, too, shades of The Invisible Enemy come to mind).
Looking at the story as whole, Into The Dalek was a reasonable tale, and certainly more watch-worthy than the ratings juggernaut on ITV, but I think it safely falls into the "average" category of story. Capaldi, excepted!
Filters: Television Twelfth Doctor Series 8/34