"Into the Dalek" was not only a great nod to past films dealing with the subject of shrinkage, but a fitting look inside the mind of The Doctor and one of his oldest enemies .
Andjust, generally, a whole lot of sci-fi fun.
As always, nothing was an accident in Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 2. The Doctor is still trying to figure out who he is right now and he needs Clara's help to do it. Her assistance is otherwise required when he discovers a Dalek who has gone good -- an aberration The Doctor decides he must fix.
It makes me wonder, has The Doctor regenerated into an older, more callous fellow because he thought his recent compassion and softening went against his grain? His study of the Dalek and what the Dalek saw when their minds were one gives the idea some legs.
Clara and The Doctor are not continual companions. She's living a normal life and meets a new teach named Danny, who will become the companion's companion. Both The Doctor and Clara have toughened up -- The Doctor in his regeneration and Clara in response. She uses her strength to buffer moral weaknesses The Doctor suffers by slapping him, both verbally and physically.
Their sparring has taken on a different tone, with The Doctor unintentionally (or intentionally?) slicing at Clara's ego by refusing to admit she's a woman, let alone a young and pretty one. He pushes her away with one hand and pulls her in with the other. The change in Clara is refreshing. She doesn't look to The Doctor for clarity or purpose, but rather assists and accompanies him while reminding him that all is not darkness.
Thusly, it's a nice touch that Danny Pink is a former soldier, admittedly having killed other soldiers and quite possibly someone outside the scope of war, who is also caring and kind (tearing up at the thought he is a killer in front of his new class gives that away). He and Clara form a quick bond when she steadfastly refuses to allow him his solitude.
Before they can enjoy a bit of a drink together, The Doctor pops round to whisk Clara off to another adventure. The journey to the center of the Dalek!
It was a fantastic voyage, indeed. The Doctor was set upon reversing the goodness of the Dalek to its normal state of aggression and hatred toward humans instead of other Daleks it was trying to exterminate, but after climbing in and out and up and about the innards of the beast machine, Clara wouldn't allow The Doctor to lose sight of what happened.
They didn't learn that radiation made a Dalek sick and The Doctor cured it by returning it to it's original evil state, they learned that Daleks are capable of change. The Doctor had to show the Dalek beauty again to restore its belief in goodness.
The Doctor: You need to get up there, find that moment and reawaken it.
The Doctor: Yes, you. Good idea.
The Doctor: I haven't the foggiest. Do a clever thing and then once you have done it, the Dalek will be suggestible to new ideas. It will be open again and I will show it something that will change it's mind forever!
Journey Blue: What?
The Doctor: Not a clue.
I love that The Doctor remembers everything (You're a very clever girl!), but processes it all differently now. As The Doctor's concern for his own goodness continued to pick away at him, it was perfect that he was given an answer to his question by trying to show the Dalek beauty.
Rusty: I see in to your soul, Doctor. I see beauty. I see divinity. I see hatred!
The Doctor: Hatred?
Rusty: I see your hatred of the Daleks and it is good!
The Doctor: No. You must see more than that. There must be more than that!
Just when The Doctor thought he could change the Daleks' future and their relationship as well, he revealed to the Dalek his own darkness and the two shall live to fight each other another day.
I sense trouble ahead when Clara introduces Danny to The Doctor. Has The Doctor always hated soldiers? Fighting their way through the Dalek with soldiers, albeit good ones, gives us pause about how those two will get on. Are his feelings about soldiers a result of the 12 Doctors altering the fate of Gallifrey?
The new dynamic between The Doctor and Clara excites me. They're a more formidable duo, both at capacity like this. It took a while for Clara to find her edge (and the loss of one Doctor), but it was worth the wait. Eleven would be proud of the woman she's become.