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Into the Dalek

“IMAGINE THE WORST POSSIBLE THING IN THE UNIVERSE AND THEN DON’T BOTHER, BECAUSE YOU’RE LOOKING AT IT RIGHT NOW.”
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) introduces Clara (Jenna Coleman) to his patient in the 2014 episode Into the Dalek.

Story synopsis

Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton) finds herself in the TARDIS.
The eye of the Dalek mutant.
The Aristotle hides from the Daleks in an asteroid belt.

The spaceship Wasp Delta is under attack from a Dalek saucer. The spaceship explodes but its pilot, Journey, is saved as the Doctor materialises the TARDIS around her. She demands to be taken to the Aristotle, the command ship of the Combined Galactic Resistance, hidden nearby in the asteroid belt.

The TARDIS lands on the Aristotle. The Doctor and Journey are confronted by Colonel Morgan Blue. Journey suggests that the Doctor should examine their patient. The Doctor is led to a laboratory equipped with a device that can miniaturise living matter. He is then shown the patient: a Dalek!

On present-day Earth, Danny Pink has recently joined the teaching staff of Coal Hill School. He’s introduced to Clara and they get off on the wrong foot. Clara asks if he’s going to Cathy’s leaving do; Danny says he isn’t. She later finds him banging his head on his desk.

Entering a store cupboard, Clara discovers the TARDIS and the Doctor. After he was shown the Dalek, the Dalek told him that it wanted to destroy the Daleks. Somehow it has become ‘good’. They return to the Aristotle and agree to investigate the Dalek. They are miniaturised with Journey and two soldiers, Gretchen and Ross, and enter the Dalek through its eye stalk. They find themselves in its cranial ledge, looking down on the mutant. The Doctor identifies the section of its electronic brain that forces it to hate; the cortex vault. He names the Dalek ‘Rusty’.

Ross fires a cable into the structure supporting the mutant. This activates the Dalek’s antibodies. They disintegrate Ross while the Doctor, Clara and the others escape by sliding down a shaft into the Dalek’s protein tube. Journey asks if Ross is part of the gloop. “Top layer, if you want to say a few words,” the Doctor replies. Then they climb through a decontamination tube and approach the mutant.

One of the Dalek’s power cells is leaking radiation, poisoning the mutant. Rusty explains that it became ‘good’ after witnessing the birth of a star. The Doctor repairs the power cell and Rusty announces, “The malfunction is corrected.” It is evil once more. It breaks free from the laboratory and goes on an extermination spree. It also contacts the Dalek fleet and provides them with the Aristotle’s position.

Journey starts planting charges, but the Doctor has a better idea. The Dalek can be made good again by using its cortex vault to recreate the moment that changed its mind.

The Dalek saucer docks with the Aristotle and the Daleks board.

Gretchen fires a cable up to the cranial ledge and Clara and Journey ascend. The antibodies attack Gretchen and kill her. However, after her death, she is surprised to find herself in Missy’s tea room.

Clara squeezes into the cortex vault and reactivates an unlit memory bank. The Doctor informs the mutant that he is about to give it some of its memories back. But even when it remembers the star being born it is unaffected, so the Doctor links his own mind to it. Rusty sees into the Doctor’s soul: “I see your hatred of the Daleks. And it is good.”

At the same moment, in the normalsized world, Rusty turns against the attacking Daleks, exterminating them. Later, the Doctor, Clara and Journey are returned to their normal size. Rusty departs to join the other Daleks in their saucer; it has sent a retreat signal so they will leave the humans alone.

Journey asks the Doctor to take her with him, but he refuses because she is a soldier. The Doctor returns Clara to Coal Hill School a few seconds after she left, just in time for her to go for a drink with Danny Pink.

Pre-production

The Daleks attack!
Phil Ford, the co-writer of Into the Dalek.
‘Rusty’ the Dalek.
Concept art, by Chris Lees, showing the Dalek’s digestive system.

Where is the most dangerous place you could possibly put the Doctor? This story puts the Doctor in the most dangerous place it is possible for that Time Lord to be. And it’s called Into the Dalek,” commented co-writer Steven Moffat to the BBC website of the second episode of the 2014 series, which would pit the Doctor against the first alien enemy he had encountered way back in 1963.

In fact, the notion of a miniaturised Doctor entering the casing of one of his arch-enemies was one which fi rst occurred in early 2009, when Steven had been involved in early discussions for what became Doctor Who: The Adventure Games; these were a series of ‘interactive episodes’ for home computers which would allow viewers to determine the actions in a self-contained adventure as part of the BBC’s public service remit. “We were discussing computer games for Doctor Who,” recalled Steven on Doctor Who Extra. “They were saying to me: ‘Do you have any ideas?’ I said: ‘How about you get miniaturised and you go inside a Dalek?’ And they all looked very happy and I said: ‘No no no… stop. I’m having that for an episode. You’re not getting that one.’”

Originally, Steven had been inspired by Fantastic Voyage, a 1966 fantasy movie in which a specialist team and a special submarine were miniaturised and injected into a defecting scientist to deal with a blood clot in his brain; the team were not only up against a time limit, but were also attacked by the scientist’s immune system. This had already been the inspiration for the 1977 serial The Invisible Enemy in which the Doctor and his companion Leela had been cloned, with the clones then injected into the Doctor’s own infected body. What Steven wanted for the new series was a ‘blockbuster’ episode in which the nastiness of the Daleks was re-established at the start of the new Doctor’s era, and he felt that it was now a good time to use his earlier idea from the Adventure Games discussions.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who Magazine continues its in-depth chronicle of the show’s production with a volume dedicated to the first four episodes of Series 8: Deep Breath, Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood and Listen. Andrew Pixley’s unparalleled behind-the-scenes coverage – reproduced in magazine format for the first time – examines every aspect of the stories’ development, from scripting through to transmission and beyond. Richly illustrated with rare and previously unseen images, this is the essential guide to the series that took Doctor Who in a remarkable new direction…