Doctor Who: “Asylum of the Daleks” Review
Warning: This review contains full spoilers for the episode.
Asylum of the Daleks was an interesting way to begin the new season of Doctor Who. First off, it brought back my favorite enemies of all time! They didn’t show up in last season at all, so it was great to see them return.
The episode begins in a war torn landscape. A woman, dressed in a red hood, stares out a circular window, which happens to be the eye of a Dalek shaped building. The Doctor appears, witty banter ensues, and you learn that they are on Skaro: home planet of the Daleks. For those who don’t know, a Dalek is the Doctor’s oldest, and most dangerous enemy. In a battle, known as the Time War, the Daleks fought against the Doctor and his entire race, known as the Time Lords of Gallifrey. In the end, all the Daleks, and all the people of Gallifray, were wiped out of existence. Only the Doctor survived, the last of the Time Lords.
The woman begins to quiver as a rod, with a circular scope on the end, pushes its way through her forehead: a Dalek eye! Then, lifting her hand, a blaster, which looks similar to a kitchen whisk, protrudes from her palm and blasts the Doctor unconscious. Cut to a beautiful Amy Pond posing for a photographer. She goes into her dressing room, where Rory hands her a handful of divorce papers. Shortly after, she’s attacked by another Dalek Puppet, and Rory suffers a similar fate on a bus.
They awake together, with the Doctor, in a solid white room, that ends up being a battle cruiser known as “The Parliament of the Daleks”. The ceiling opens up and transports them to the floor above, surrounded by hundreds of Daleks. In the midst of certain death, the Doctor leans over and whispers to Amy, “Make them remember you.” This part confused me, only because I don’t remember Amy ever being a threat to the Daleks. I mean, if he said this to Rose, or Donna, it would make sense. But to Amy? I can’t remember what it was she did to warrant the Doctor saying this to her.
The Doctor stands ready, puts his arms up in surrender, ready for the entire parliament to fire and vaporize him where he stands. A lone Dalek rolls forward and timidly asks, “Save us,” and the entire room lights up with, “Save us! Save the Daleks!” Que music and the Doctor Who title screen and theme song begin to play, while the names Matt Smith, Karen Gillen, and Arthur Duvall fluctuate and fade in and out. I miss how the names use to twist through the time vortex. Now they just kind of appear and disappear. Oh well, that’s just me.
When the opening credits end, we are introduced to Oswin. Oswin is an attractive, perky young woman, with a feisty and witty attitude. She’s boarding up a door, listening to classical music, and cooking a souffle. Then, while recording a letter to her mum over a tape recorder, Dalek voices permeate the room nearby, at which she turns up the music to drown them out.
Back on the battle ship, Darla, the first Puppet that took out the Doctor, acts an an ambassador of sorts for the Daleks, and speaks on their behalf. This part bothered me, because Daleks hate humans. They are disgusted by anything that is remotely different from the creatures of Skaro. So much so that they believe that any race, any life form, that does not fit into their twisted world view needs to be cleansed with fire and destruction. I’d assume that the Daleks would look down on a human even setting foot in their presence, let alone having a place of high standing in their ranks.
The Daleks eventually reveal that there’s a planet, known as the Asylum, where all the most vicious Daleks, the battle scarred, the insane, who could not be controlled, are kept. They want the Doctor to exterminate them because even the mighty warriors of Skaro are too afraid to face these rogue soldiers.
The Doctor manages to get in contact with someone on the planet. Oswin Oswald. Her ship crashed into the Asylum, and she’s been marooned for one year. The transmission cuts out.
Darla tells them that the Asylum is covered in an impenetrable force field, that can only be disarmed from the inside. So the Doctor, Rory, and Amy head down to the planet, with the aid of bracelets that are supposed to keep them safe from the killer mist, or “Nano Cloud”, hovering across the whole Asylum.
They crash land on the planet, and the Doctor meets Oswin. The Doctor agrees to help her, and thus they set out to find Oswin and disable the force field. They wage through the Daleks, who don’t really pose a threat. Most of them are run down, dilapidated, missing parts, or just rusted and insane. I expected these fearsome creatures to be bloodthirsty, psychotic, vengeful rogues that spit lighting from their eyes stocks, and made the ground tremble when they moved. I mean, the Daleks feared them enough to ask the Doctor for help!
There’s a part where they learn that the Nano Cloud transforms human beings into Daleks, by rewriting their minds, and removing every emotion, or something. This was an interesting plot device, but I didn’t understand why it was used. Both the Doctor and Amy take off their protective bracelets, but the transformation never occurs. It’s simply used to create some tension, which I’ll admit, it did a great job of doing. I was waiting for it to do something terrible to their bodies, or for some crazy way of reversing the effect to happen, but the whole idea was just forgotten- nothing ever happened.
They finally make their way to where Oswin is hiding, and before the Doctor can bust in the door, he’s faced by four Daleks that managed to survive the horrors of the Doctor and the Time War. Epic! I was ready to see these Daleks unleash carnage and devastation. They corner the Doctor, slowly engage him, and just as they are about to plunge his face into oblivion, Oswin hacks into the Dalek Hive Mind, which controls their collective minds, and deletes their memories of the Doctor.
She had the capability to wipe the entire Dalek Hive Mind, thereby deleting every memory of the Doctor. Why? Seriously, why?! Steven Moffat essentially just wiped out fifty years of continuity! Everything that ever happened with the Daleks, from the Time War, to Rose and Bad Wolf, to the Void Ship, the Stolen Earth, and not to mention the entire history with the previous ten incarnations of the Doctor, was ripped out of existence! All gone, forever, by one person. I feel like that was a big middle finger to every Whovian there ever was. The epic canon surrounding the Doctor and his arch nemesis doesn’t exist anymore.
So, as the four deadly Daleks, that survived the Doctor and the Time War, slowly backed away, he was free to enter the door and save Oswin. They just stopped, turned around, and rolled out the corridor. Just turned and left. A Dalek is pure hatred and evil, bred for nothing but chaos and destruction. Right? They hate everything that isn’t Dalek. Even in the first introduction of these metal monsters, during the 9th Doctor’s Episode “Dalek”, a lone survivor decided to destroy itself instead of living with emotions like a human. So, even if their memories of the Doctor were wiped, they still would have seen him as a filthy, lowly creature that needed to be exterminated.
Back to Oswin’s rescue. As the Doctor steps into the room, you learn that she’s actually not a person, but in truth just a Dalek. She’d been captured when her spaceship crash landed, and her mind was transferred into the hull of Dalek battle armor. The vision of herself sitting in a spaceship, waiting to be rescued, was all in her head. I have to admit, that was a pretty good twist! I honestly didn’t see that happening, and I love being surprised. It was also sad, cause I was really looking forward to him meeting Oswin. I mean, meeting the girl, not the tank.
There’s a touching moment between the Doctor and Oswin as they discuss her conversion into a Dalek, how she is still human, and how the Daleks have grown to fear the Doctor even more. Oswin decides to raise the force field, and tells the Doctor to run while she stays behind and dies in the explosion. But, not before saying, “Run you clever boy, and remember.” Oswin is played by actress Jenna-Louise Coleman who is slated to become the Doctor’s new companion, during the Christmas episode. I’m interested to see if she returns as Oswin Oswald, or a whole new character.
There’s an emotional, slow motion escape, and a very nice scene with Rory and Amy as they wait for the Doctor. The Asylum is destroyed, the Doctor, Rory and Amy escape into the Parliament of the Daleks, and The Doctor once again stands ready to face his oldest enemies. Yet, they don’t remember and ask him to, “Identify yourself!” The Doctor, of course, replies, “Well, it’s me? You know me, I’m the Doctor? The oncoming storm. The Predator,” to which every Dalek asks, “Doctor Who?”
Yeah. The ending to last season left off on a cliffhanger. It said that the silence will fall (or something like that) when the question is asked: “Doctor Who? Doctor…Who?” And they accomplished the “question” by wiping the mind of the Daleks? I didn’t like that at all.
Okay, now I know it may sound like I just absolutely hated this episode, but that isn’t true. Most of what I didn’t agree with, aside from the question, is the fact that the Daleks felt like they were acting out of character. Aside from that, I really enjoyed this episode. Oswin was amazing! I can’t wait for Jenna Coleman to return as the full time companion. Her dialogue was genius, she was funny, interesting, and is simply adorable. Rory and Amy have begun to grow on me, and I felt some emotion during their interactions about the divorce, and the baby. Amy seems to be less of a jerk and Rory is finally developing a backbone. I liked how they actually felt like real characters in this episode. Then, of course, Matt Smith as the Doctor is always fun and zany! I love the Eleventh Doctor, and I’m glad to finally have an episode where the events surrounding him aren’t boring and trite.
All in all, this was a good beginning. I felt satisfied, if a bit annoyed, by The Asylum of the Daleks. If you’ve never taken a trip in the Tardis, this season is shaping up to be a good introduction to the series; you should check it out for yourself.