Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks

Doctor Who is back! If you have yet to see Asylum of the Daleks, then don't read this. From the very first shot, there are cool things about the episode, and surprises. It seems as though Doctor Who has managed to really hit the ground running with something spectacular every new season since it started up again in 2005. This seventh season counting from then is no exception. SPOILERS AHEAD!

No seriously, I mean it this time. If you have not seen the episode yet, bookmark this and read it after you've seen it. There are some things I'm glad I didn't know, because the surprise is part of the fun and excitement and enjoyment.

OK, so you've seen the episode. Then as you know, the Doctor is keeping a low profile – but apparently there are those who know of him, and his reputation. As it turns out, it is the Daleks who know of his reputation – but by the end of the episode, that has changed, which could make for some fascinating storytelling in episodes to come.

The shot of a giant Dalek-shaped building on the devastated remains of Skaro is brilliant.

This episode is full of firsts. Amy and Rory have been the first married companions of the Doctor, if I am not mistaken. And so they are also the first to be getting a divorce. The episode does a wonderful job of creating genuine tension, making us wonder how the two people we have seen go through so much together could have reached this point. And by the end, we know, and the Doctor, as always, has found a way to work his magic.

Another first, I think, is the introduction of a character that we know will be the Doctor's new companion, only to have her turn out to have been converted into a Dalek, and then presumably blown up along with the planet. We've had lots of opportunities in recent seasons to ask “How are they possibly going to get out of that one?” and this is another wonderful puzzle. I can't wait to see how they do it. The final words from Oswin remind me of Spock's mind-meld with McCoy, but I am not sure that that is a clue. But everyone was taken by surprise, and kudos to the press and everyone else for keeping this surprise – that the character played by Jenna-Louise Coleman – would be appearing earlier than claimed, in this startling fashion!

The Doctor remarks on the newness of another circumstance – the Daleks asking for him to save them. They are concerned that a crashed ship on the planet the Daleks call the “Asylum” – a place where insane and battle-scarred Daleks are dumped, and where regular Daleks fear to go, and from which the Daleks now fear that escape might be possible unless something is done. In his conversation with the Supreme Dalek, the Doctor expresses his revulsion towards them, discovering that they have a concept of “beauty,” but what they consider beautiful is hatred.

His musing that the Dalek respect for hatred might be why they have never killed the Doctor is also thought-provoking. But even without that mention, the raising of the issue of relativism provides useful fodder for discussion. So too does the reference to life as “that thing that does on when you're [i.e. the Doctor is] not there.” Amy says that she missed the adventures with the Doctor. But real life is not excitement and adventure all the time (and hence a Jedi craves not these things). Seeking constant adventure is not a solution to real life problems. But sometimes adventure can be a catalyst to finding solutions.

I loved when the Dalek seemed to be saying “Eggs” and then turned out to be working itself up to saying something much more expected from a Dalek. That was simply brilliant.

Just as the last season ended with the question “Doctor Who?” so too does this episode, with the additional quip from the Doctor, aimed at the Daleks even though they presumably cannot hear him at that point: “You'll never stop asking.”

A big question fans have is whether that applies only to the Daleks, or to us as well.

What did you think of Asylum of the Daleks? And do you have a theory about how Oswin will become the Doctor's new companion? Will the Doctor actually be accompanied by a Dalek, or would that be way too much? Could it be that he will encounter her earlier in her life, before this happens?

 

  • Virginia Fell

    I am disappointed by the fact that despite her fantastic potential early on, it’s been a long time since Amy did anything but be metaphorically or literally impregnated by plot. Uh oh! Amy’s got a Weeping Angel in her! Uh oh! Plot baby?! Uh oh! Dalek assimilation nano-bots are in… oh wait they’re in Amy. Of course they are.

    She started out so well and has been skidding down the slippery slope of Stephen Moffat’s relationship baggage and resultant Issues With Women ever since. We get it, Moffat. Rory is a virtuous paragon that we all love because he’s a wonderful person, and Amy is a moody, fickle, ungrateful meanieface who doesn’t appreciate how hard men work to give her silly girly life meaning. We get it. Please stop dragging her from plot point to plot point by her wacky wandering uterus.

    More Oswin, please. I liked her.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for these great observations! I wonder whether this episode represents Moffatt resolving those issues on screen, so that now we can have an end to the “Rory loves Amy more than Amy loves Rory” assumption. We’ll have to wait and see.

      • Marcus

        I feel to an extent that Moffatt has had to sell us on the fact that a guy like Rory could ever get Amy in the first place. That’s why he’s so ‘virtuous.’ They were not a remotely believable couple. It was such a stretch that I’ve never really enjoyed either of them. Amy apart from Rory could have been fun. I’ll be happy when the show moves on. But I must say, I really enjoyed this episode.

        • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

          I dunno. I think they might have tried to pull a trope subversion on that one. In the Hitler episode they were doing the flashbacks and there was the one where Amy pointed out that Rory was really attractive, but mentioned no other qualities to speak of. How many books, movies, and TV shows just have it as a given that the interesting, capable male character should have no reason to fall in love with the female character than her physical attractiveness?

          I don’t think anyone would have questioned this if Rory were the cool, confident character and Amy the emotional window dressing.

  • Ken

    I didn’t realize she was going to be the new companion and couldn’t believe they killed off such an interesting and fun character so quickly. I’m glad to know that she’ll be back! Great episode–I’m eager to rewatch it.

    Some sort of timey-whimey explanation will no doubt be required to save her, but it would be a shame if it meant erasing her history with the Daleks by keeping her from ever going there. Hopefully they wouldn’t do that, apart from the paradox it would create.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I wonder whether she managed to hack into his mind, and so will be the first companion who is only in the Doctor’s mind – making him a little more of a madman with a box.

      Or maybe she hacked into the TARDIS and can use the TARDIS and can project from there as a hologram, like the Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager.

      So intriguing. Whatever it ends up being, well done once again, Stephen Moffatt!

      • Marcus

        I’m interested to see what happens too. Part of me thinks that, just like River, they could be showing us her death first. Maybe the Daleks wiped her mind of her memory of the Doctor upon conversion? Also that crashed ship had been there a long time, it doesn’t make sense for the Daleks to just become concerned now. The whole set-up could have been a trap to torture the Doctor by seeing his companion(s) converted and to kill him at the hands of his former companion (I could see a Dalek finding beauty in that). I could see one of these other scenarios that you mention too.

  • Beau Quilter

    I was expecting an tie-up of the Pond Life web prequels. What happened to the Ood Butler?!

  • http://twitter.com/Browncoat39th Kate

    It’s just the actress that was introduced early. Presumably she will actually play a different character altogether when she returns as the companion. Her character name for the Christmas special is Clara, so unless this is another trick to keep things secret, I’m assuming this is just like all the other companions being in previous episodes as different characters (Like Martha worked for Torchwood and got turned into a cyberman, or how Amy was a soothsayer). Still It does beg questions.

    • Joshua Toulouse

      She mentioned (as Oswin) that it was her mother’s birthday. I’m betting Clara is Oswin’s mother.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ivana.tadin Ivana Tadin

        no. I think I read somewhere that the new character’s name is Clara Oswin, so Oswin is her surname….. and I think that her past is Doc’s future,….. similar as River’s story…. but I wonder how is she connected with Daleks (I’m about to watch the 07×01 ep tomorrow) and how will she die…. but it’s a shame I think she’s cool ^^

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Evan-Hershman/738208284 Evan Hershman

    I mostly loved the episode, but like above commenter Virginia Fell, I was extremely disappointed in the recurring theme of Amy’s ‘baby issues.’ It was especially irritating because the whole theme of Amy and Rory’s divorce could’ve been taken in so many different and interesting directions. I didn’t watch the ‘Pond Life’ web series so I didn’t know the story was taking this direction. But my initial astonishment and excitement at the beginning of the episode were crushed when Amy revealed that she just kicked Rory out because she felt she couldn’t properly please him by having his baby. I mean, heaven forbid that Amy and Rory actually have problems in their relationship and have to go their separate ways and learn to relate to each other on a different level… noooooo, instead we get Amy’s ‘woman baggage’ that gets wrapped up neatly with a big passionate kiss by the end of the episode. What a cheap trick. Repetitive and boring.

    It seems to be part of a pattern in Moffat’s writing that he writes great female characters who then become emotional wrecks whose lives totally revolve around a man (usually the Doctor but sometimes sombody else like Rory). The absolute worst moment of Series 6 for me was when River Song says she wants to be an archaeologist because she’s “looking for a good man,” i.e. only so she can find the Doctor. I mean, wouldn’t it be a bit cooler and less sexist to have her be an archaeologist because she, y’know, finds the subject interesting and exciting and challenging? I’m really disappointed in the direction that the characters of both Amy and River have been taking lately, and I say that as someone who is a huge fan of the show.

    I’m hoping that however Oswin ends up as a companion, she’ll maintain the “genius” aspect of her character… it would be great to have a companion who’s an intellectual match for the Doctor. It would really mess up his world. :-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      It actually struck me that this is fitting, given how indebted the Eleventh Doctor is to the Second. Zoe often outthought the Doctor, much to his annoyance.

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    PLOT HOLES:
    1) Are Daleks really MORE CONCERNED with a bunch of run down relatives than with the Dr. himself? “Save us?” Heck, they could use the mad Daleks as disposable advance troops whenever there’s a big battle, just teleport them to the front lines. Certainly the healthy Daleks outnumber as well as outgun their mad rusting relatives? Perhaps they feared mind-linking with their mad brethren? But there was an extremely insane Dalek in a previous season who was sitting amidst all the rest and their minds didn’t seem particularly affected by his presence.
    2) If every last Dalek was too afraid to teleport down to the prison planet, then who CHAINED UP Oswin in the special room? Or chained up the other Daleks that we saw breaking out of their chains?
    3) If all it takes to kidnap the Dr. is send out a distress signal, then sheesh that’s easy. The Dr. should have been wise enough to remain within the limits of the Tardis’ force field, especially when speaking to a stranger on the very planet where the Daleks were born!
    4) THE FORCE FIELD OF THE DALEK PRISON PLANET CAN ONLY BE TURNED OFF FROM THE INSIDE OF THE PRISON? But they are concerned that the mad Daleks might escape through a “hole” in the forcefield? Shouldn’t they be MORE concerned that the Daleks with FIND THE SWITCH to turn off the force field? I mean who puts someone in prison and also places a key inside the cell with the prisoners?
    5) And the Dr. could teleport in and off the planet. So mad Daleks could likewise use the teleporter, no?
    6) The Daleks could teleport the Dr. and friends past the force field into the prison, and starships could fly through the forcefield. So WHY COULDN’T THE DALEKS TELEPORT A BOMB OR BOMBS into the prison and blow everything up? (Teleport the Dr. riding a bomb into the prison, Slim Pickens fashion. BOOM, end of both problems).
    7) Since the Daleks no longer recall the Dr. then they probably will go about their rampage with less hesitation than usual. So, goodbye cosmos. That is…UNTIL THE DALEKS MEET MARVEL ZOMBIES! Zombie Hulk says, “These things taste good once you peel off the tin foil wrapper!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

    What I didn’t understand was why the “insane” Daleks were just as cruel and life-hating as the “sane” Daleks. If they were by Dalek lights “insane,” wouldn’t they be good and helpful to other species?

    And, if the Daleks could inject the Doctor, et al., through the force field, why not a bunch of bombs?

    Oh, well … willing suspension of disbelief …

    I’ve only recently gotten BBC America on my cable system. I kind of like the latest Doctor … he is a bit like Tom Baker (my personal “gold standard” of Doctors) but [cough] time will tell.

  • Podmore

    I remembered hearing the new companion was to be a fast talker so had strong suspicions after a bit, Oswin is just as doomed as River Song life wise but we’ll see what happens. Gold daleks in the govenment? Thought they were removed by the new paradigm!

  • Podmore

    It has been teased that the next companion (Oswin) may not even be human. If the doctor is so alone that he has her as an imagined companion that’s a good twist or she’s a Tardis hologram…with The Moff all of these are possible!

  • http://twitter.com/goodacre Mark Goodacre

    Nice review, James, and excellent comments — you are becoming your own mini-forum here! For the record, I liked the ep. but adored Jenna Louise-Coleman.

  • http://twitter.com/centmin Paul Walton

    As a Dalek, Oswin also forgot the Doctor with the rest of the Daleks. However she comes to return (hologram?), she’ll have forgotten him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Louis-Fielder/1759195181 Louis Fielder

    ok i just saw this again and it boils down to the nano bots that are in amy and the doctor and they teleported into the tardis we all know what happened to river song and the tardis
    since they rewrite the body they still need to take them out or there might be an off spring that regenerates from the doctor after all oswin is a computer wiz im going with the doctor since there is a female doctor that is supposed to be in one story


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