This one didn’t really grab me until the end, but when it did, boy did my eye stalk extend. Scene recap, followed by my take on the soldier theme. Spoilers for the end of episode 2. Onward!
Inside Rusty the Dalek, things are happening as we approach the episode’s climax:
Meanwhile, I hope the Doctor washed his hands after swimming in protein.
That’s the kind of thing that causes MRSA infections.
Rusty the Dalek has had his memories restored, and because he is an egomaniacal game-player, the Doctor thinks he can do Clara one better and mind-melds with him to show him the beauty of the Universe’s creation, thereby giving him a touchstone to keep him good.
And Rusty is taking it really well. What he sees is beautiful. Hopeful. Magical. Divine.
EXCEPT… He sees hatred. Specifically, the Doctor’s hatred for his race. And it is chilling, because sometimes, everyone lives, but sometimes hubris gets the better of you and….
Boom. Rusty sets out on a killing spree that has the equivalent of chunks of Dalek skull and Dalek blue blood splattering all over the set. It’s just overgrown roombas really, but it is still pretty violent and shocking when you remember that these are living beings.
And no one is more shocked than this guy.
Peter Capaldi, Acting. Not a happy scene, but a really, really important one because the Doctor is shaped more by his failures than his successes, and this is a massive failure.
Not only of what he set out to do in this instance with Rusty in particular, but of his faith in innate goodness beyond the scope of the expected. It took Clara to remind him this episode, as it has taken Donna and other in the past, that he needs to keep trying to outdo himself, out-hero himself, even when history says he should not, even when his own experience does. The speech he gave to Rusty could well be one he repeats to himself, bopping through the universe alone with untold power that he is constantly in danger of abusing.
Yes, that’s good. That is good. Hold on to that. Make it a part of you. Remember how you feel right now, put it inside of you right now, and live by it.
The Doctor can be harsh. He can be cruel, and like Clara told him, we are not sure (and neither is he) is he is “good”. But he tries.
In the end, this is why I feel he leaves Journey Blue behind, and why Danny Pink could be the character that changes his mind. The Doctor may not always make the right choice, but he does carry the responsibility of his wrong choices. When Journey wants to blow up Rusty, she says she will follow orders, because she is a soldier. She shows linear thinking that is somewhat rigid.
The Doctor is a runaway from his own people that sealed them up in an alternate timeline so as to save them from himself, yes… but also to save the world from another Time War. He lost his last two great loves in sacrifice for others. This is not a man that blindly follows orders. It took Clara to shake him out of his linear thinking, as it has taken Amy and Donna in the past and so he cannot have a companion like Journey that reinforces his worst tendencies. He has to try to keep being a good man, even if that means that sometimes, he will be a hurtful one.