“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes.” –Daniel H. Pink*
Seeing things as they truly are is the theme of Into the Dalek. This theme is reinforced by eye symbolism and eye/seeing references throughout the episode. Let’s take a look!
We learn in the very first line that Journey Blue’s ship is called the Aristotle. Now, I’m not into philosophy, but a little research revealed** that Aristotle thought that when an eye sees something, it becomes that thing. If it sees the color red, it literally becomes red itself. This idea, that we become what we see, is reflected several places in this episode.
The first shot once Journey Blue is on the TARDIS is looking up at the console from the floor; we are looking through Journey Blue’s eyes. The next shot is of Journey Blue on the floor, surrounded by little circles of light or little eyes. The Doctor: “Dry your eyes, Journey Blue. Crying is for civilians. It’s how we communicate with you lot.”
As the door opens to reveal the Dalek, we get a great eye shot of the Doctor, and then a corresponding shot of the Dalek’s eyestalk. Thus the idea is established: Can the Doctor and the Dalek come to an understanding of one another; can they see eye to eye?
Danny Pink is introduced, and when his student asks if he has killed anyone who wasn’t a soldier there is a close-up on his eye, where we see a tear trickle. His eyes have given us insight to his emotions.
Clara meets him and she is wearing a shirt covered with eyes. Clara being covered with eyes suggest to us her roll in the episode as the one who sees.
Clara: “You shoot people and then you cry about it afterwards?”
Doctor: “You’re not a young woman anymore.”
Clara: “Yes, I am.”
Doctor: “Well, you don’t look it.”
Clara: “I do look it.”The doctor is not seeing things clearly. This leads us into him asking Clara if he is a good man. He cannot see her clearly and he can’t see himself clearly.
When the nano-scaler reduces the humans, they are inserted into the eyestalk of the Dalek. They are going literally into the eye to learn what has caused the Dalek to become moral. They are trying to find out what’s going on behind its eyes. They moved through some sort of eye goo,and then pass through a visual impulses shaft that remind me very much of the launch tube at Space Mountain, but also looks very much like an eye. Inside the Dalek there are circles on the walls that look like eyes.When the soldier Ross hurts the Dalek he is attacked by antibodies. The antibodies are flying eyes. The Doctor: “Rusty, what changed you?”
Rusty: “I saw beauty”
The Doctor: “You saw what?”
Rusty: “In the silence and the cold, I saw worlds burning.”
Rusty tells us that by seeing a star born he learns that life regenerates and to fight it is futile. Rusty has become what he has seen. Rusty saw beauty and changed. The Doctor: “Do you see? Daleks don’t turn good.”
They have seen that the Dalek has turned back to his exterminating ways. But Clara doesn’t believe it.
The Doctor: “What’s that look for?”
Clara: “It’s the look you get when I’m about to slap you.”Clara is trying to get the Doctor to see things in a new way. He is blinded by his past experiences. He is convinced that Daleks are evil. Clara sees more clearly, thus fulfilling the role suggested by her shirt. Clara tells the Doctor that he has seen a good Dalek; now he must believe what he has seen can be true.
Journey Blue is another character that becomes what she sees. She sees the Doctor choosing a different way. The Doctor shows her new possibilities apart from fighting. Because of what she’s seen, she turns against her military orders and becomes more like the Doctor. The Doctor comes to stand in front of the Dalek’s great big eye. In some of the shots, the Doctors head becomes the pupil of the Dalek’s eye. As they are literally seeing each other, Rusty begins to see as the Doctor sees. He remembers what he saw before and additionally sees the Doctor’s experiences. The Doctor: “You saw the truth, Rusty, remember how you felt. You saw a star being born. The endless rebirth of the universe.”
The Doctor: “You realized the truth about the Daleks.”
Rusty: “What is the truth?”
The Doctor: “Let me show you the truth.” (notice the universe in the shape of an eye behind the Doctor)
Rusty wants to see the whole truth. He does this by “seeing” the mind of the Doctor.
Rusty: “I see beauty… I see endless divine perfection… I see into your soul Doctor. I see beauty. I see divinity. I see hatred… I see your hatred of the Daleks and it is good!”
The Doctor: “No you must see more than that!”Rusty’s change is complete. Rusty now turns against his own people, believing that the Daleks should be exterminated.
The Doctor: “You looked inside me and you saw hatred. That is not victory. Victory would have been a good Dalek.”
Rusty: “I am not a good Dalek. You are a good Dalek.” Rusty is now seeing with the Doctor’s eyes.
The Doctor has seen years and years of fighting in his lifetime. He has seen death and destruction. He has seen hatred. Rusty concludes that the Doctor also has become what he has seen. The Doctor is beauty but also hate.
At the end of the episode we come full circle as Clara asks the Doctor, “how do I look?”The Doctor doesn’t acknowledge that she is stunning, so he still isn’t seeing clearly. Clara tells the Doctor that while she isn’t sure if he’s a good man, that he tries to be. In spite of all that he has seen, the Doctor tries to choose the best of it. The theme of the Doctor wanting to see himself and the things around him will continue in the coming episodes.
*Yes, it’s true. This is a real quote from a real guy whose name is Danny Pink. He writes books about business management.
**http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-psychology/suppl3.html Scholars disagree on exactly how Aristotle’s writings should be interpreted, but this is one accepted theory.
All screen caps from screencapped.net