In amongst all the multi-Doctor, time-travelling fun of this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special Twice Upon a Time, fans were also treated to the return of a VERY surprising character, who hasn’t been seen in the BBC sci-fi series for a few years and who you’d be forgiven for forgetting had appeared at all.
Look away now if you haven’t seen the episode and want to avoid spoilers, because we’re about to explain exactly who this surprising cameo was from, and exactly where viewers might have seen them before.
If you’re still reading this, then you’ll be aware that the episode sees the return of none other than Rusty, the “good” non-murderous Dalek from 2014 episode Into the Dalek whom the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) shrunk down to explore internally and discover what set him apart from his genocidal brethren (as it turned out, a radiation leak that the Doctor fixed turning Rusty “evil” again).
Capaldi’s Doctor alludes to this adventure in dialogue during Twice Upon a Time, telling Rusty it had “been a long time” before adding: “Remember the good old days? When I got miniaturised and climbed around inside you?”
Rusty’s reply “you taught me to hate the Daleks” in turn recalls the latter moments of the earlier episode, when the Doctor’s own hatred for the Daleks became part of Rusty’s worldview, inspiring him to set off on a mission to destroy his race (leaving Rusty an enemy of the Daleks rather than the genuinely good, life-appreciating figure the Doctor and his friends had tried to make him again).
The “you are a good Dalek” retort Rusty makes to the Doctor in Twice Upon a Time also comes from Into the Dalek (in reference to the Doctor’s hatred of and desire to destroy the Daleks), itself based on a similar comment made to Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor in 2005 episode Dalek.
Rusty turns against his own kind in Into the Dalek
Anyway, that’s enough backstory. Since his last appearance, Rusty says that he’s been going around “destroying Daleks,” apparently spending billions of years hunting down members of his species before ending up in the ruins of Villengard, where the Doctor finds him in this episode while attempting to access the Dalek hivemind.
Rusty ends up helping the Doctor out one last time, showing him the truth of the Testimony programme before the Time Lord shoots off again, and all in all it’s a slightly surprising return for a character most Who fans had probably forgotten about altogether.
Then again, Rusty was the very first Dalek Capaldi’s Doctor came in contact with, and was a large part of the Twelfth Doctor’s first real adventure (Into the Dalek was Capaldi’s second proper episode after regeneration recovery story Deep Breath), so in a way bringing him back into the action is a neat way to bring the Time Lord full circle.
Doctor Who will return in autumn 2018