With introductions out of the way, “Doctor Who” Season 8, episode 2, “Into the Dalek,” is the first adventure for fans and the Doctor. “Into the Dalek” is not burdened by the need to convince fans to embrace Peter Capaldi and serves a quick, and fun, trip inside the guts and brain of a Dalek.
“Into the Dalek” is as traditional as “Doctor Who” gets. Inspired by “Fantastic Voyage,” the Doctor and Clara get miniaturized, enter inside a Dalek and fight for their survival. There is a bit of a twist as the Doctor continues to struggle with his identity. When the broken Dalek shares the same brain as the Doctor, it sees beauty and hatred. That moment dooms the Dalek to not just vengeance, but good. The parting words of Rusty, that the Doctor is a good Dalek, leads to plenty of discussion of just who the Doctor is and if he is really, truly a good person.
“Doctor Who” has spent plenty of time examining the distinction between a Dalek and the Doctor. Both are single-minded in their mission but the Doctor remembers all of his triumphs and failures while Daleks suppress those good memories.
While Clara cannot answer if the Doctor is a good person, he is trying to be one and that's what is important, to her. Of course, having your heart in the right place can lead to its fair share of setbacks, as evidenced by the 11th Doctor's good intentions going awry.
“Into the Dalek” continues to develop Clara, perhaps the best early trend of the “Doctor Who” Season 8. Clara is the one leading the Doctor to the solution in this episode, a reversal to what we saw in the premiere. With the Doctor ready to abandon any hope of rescuing the Dalek, Clara reminds him that they have seen a good Dalek and that means the concept exists.
Clara has moved beyond being the impossible girl, something that's a mystery that needs to be solved by the Doctor and the audience. We are getting the first look at a fully realized Clara and while she is not as brave or fearless as Amy Pond, she is willing to try something new and take the lead.
Clara continues to assert herself to the Doctor and is the one to ask Danny Pink out for drinks. Pink is a bit of a mystery, an ex-soldier and new teacher at Coal Hill, with a bit of a tragic past. Whether or not Pink will serve only as a love interest for Clara, or if he’s part of a larger scheme, remains to be seen but his introduction was done well. I’m glad we are getting to see Clara as a teacher while Pink can serve as a foil to the Doctor’s dislike for soldiers.
In the first two episodes of “Doctor Who” Season 8, the show is not afraid to be a bit introspective and analyze the moral character of the Doctor. The Doctor is way more honest, to the point of being callous. Two soldiers died for the Doctor and his mission and there was barely any pause to mourn. The Doctor is also aloof to human emotion, instead relying on Clara to be the one who cares about such things. That’s not to say the Doctor is any less of an enjoyable character, just more complicated. Capaldi delivers great one-liners and sharp quips and excels as the Doctor.