Doctor Who: Series 7
“Asylum of the Daleks”
Aired: September 1, 2012
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Nick Hurran
“It’s life. Just life, that thing that goes on when you’re not there.”
– Amy Pond
In interviews, Steven Moffat and the cast have said the intention of this episode was to make the Daleks scary. While I’m not convinced they succeeded on that front, they did do something just as exciting – they made the Daleks interesting.
I know they have always been a fan favorite, but I’ve always had trouble taking the Daleks seriously. They all look like motorized trash cans with plungers hot glued to them and their voices sound like an 80s robot. They are hyped as The Doctor’s greatest adversaries, but having come from a much lower budgeted and simpler version of the show, they’ve never quite done it for me. However, this week I think Moffat finally found a new angle to explore with the creatures. Having the main force of the Daleks reluctantly team up with The Doctor to take out their insane brethren set the stage for a really entertaining and original hour of television.
All of the broken down Daleks were really fun to watch too. I particularly loved the ones who were chained to walls or covered in cobwebs. Also, having The Doctor trick a dilapidated Dalek into blowing itself and all of its friends up was fairly genius. And Rory’s “eggs” conversation with another beaten down Dalek was equally enjoyable.
Then there were the “Dalek puppets,” humans gutted out by nanobots and programmed to be sleeper cell soldiers for the alien race. I like this angle going forward in the show, though in some ways it feels similar to the idea of Cybermen. Moffat used the nanobots angle effectively to explore the two most intriguing aspects of the show – Amy and Rory’s splintered relationship and the introduction of Oswin Oswalt.
This episode finds Amy and Rory in a much darker place than we left them last season. The opening scene has them signing divorce papers. As the episode unfolds and the Ponds believe that Amy is being erased by nanobots, we get Rory pleading with her to put on his magic bracelet to save herself. This leads to Amy’s confession that she left him because she can’t ever have kids again (thanks to the events at Demon’s Run). With only four more episodes left with the Ponds, obviously this will be the final conflict they will have to solve. I think having Amy get “miraculously” pregnant could be a really sweet way to send them off into the sunset. We’ll see if that’s what Moffat is planning or if he has something different (or perhaps darker) up his sleeve.
Then there’s Oswin. Those of you who have been paying attention to the show news during the offseason may have recognized Oswin as Jenna-Louise Coleman, the actress signed on to replace Amy and Rory as The Doctor’s new companion. Her cameo was obviously a big surprise and it adds a fascinating wrinkle to her story. If Oswin is fated to end up as a Dalek who is blown up along with all of her insane compadres in the asylum, how will The Doctor save her? Is it as simple as going to an earlier moment in history and preventing her from going on her ill-fated trip or is this episode now a fixed moment in time that can’t easily be altered?
Speaking of Oswin, I loved all of the foreshadowing that she was a Dalek. The best was her soufflé making, which The Doctor instantly fixated on. But there was also a few other little things, like the fact that the room she was inside looks like the interior of one of the Dalek’s suits and the fact that whenever she looked at anyone else, it was through one of the Dalek’s periscopes. It became clear early on that something wasn’t quite right with Oswin’s story, but the actual reveal was quite heartbreaking and effective.
I’m curious to see how Oswin’s memory wipe effects future Dalek appearances. Last season saw The Doctor wanting to be more underground and this development feels like a continuation of that. If most people think The Doctor is dead and the Daleks don’t even know he exists, how will that effect things going forward? I’m interested to see what Moffat has up his sleeve.
But most of all, I’m just excited to see where this five-episode Pond farewell arc is headed.
And another thing …
- If you’ve been following the site for the past week, you know that I was fortunate enough to be invited to the premiere of this episode in New York City. Seeing this episode on the big screen, surrounded by my fellow nerds, was such an amazing experience. Having everyone cheer and laugh and get excited throughout really made this episode feel special and it’s an experience I won’t soon forget. I want to thank BBC America for inviting me.
- Also, thanks to BBC America for putting me in a room with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and executive producer Caroline Skinner and letting me ask them all some questions. If you missed them, you can find those interviews here.
- I loved the cheeky nod to James Bond in this episode. Watching The Doctor enter Amy and Rory’s holding cell with a Dalek in front of him and saying “Mr. Pond” was a great play on all of those memorable James Bond villain reveals.
- Moffat is usually great with nicknames, including in this episode “Chin Boy” and “Soufflé Girl.” However, I’m not entirely sold on the Daleks calling The Doctor “The Predator,” perhaps because he isn’t a seven-foot-tall killing machine with dreadlocks and heat vision.
- Jenna-Louise Coleman sure has that back-and-forth playfulness with The Doctor down pat, doesn’t she? I’m going to miss Amy and Rory immensely, but I think she clearly showed that she’ll fit perfectly into The Doctor’s strange little world.
- Not counting all of the various specials he was in, David Tennant only actually appeared in three season of Doctor Who. It’s weird to think that Matt Smith will have done as many seasons of him by the time this one wraps up.
Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff
As I mentioned above, the biggest time travel questions raised in this episode is: how can The Doctor alter Oswin’s fate?
Is it as simple as saving her at some point before she’s turned into a Dalek? While that would work in theory, that would also alter the events in this episode. It creates a paradox since saving Oswin would mean she wouldn’t be in the asylum to save The Doctor, Amy and Rory. Not only would her not being there put their lives in jeopardy, it would also mean The Doctor would have never met her, which means he wouldn’t know to go back in time to save her. Like I said, paradox.
Obviously, Steven Moffat has some clever way to resolve this problem. I’ll be interested to see how he handles it. Perhaps there is a way to have a copy of her consciousness end up inside that Dalek casing while the real her escapes with The Doctor.
Gratuitous Amy Pond photo of the week
Only four more of these gratuitous photos left before Amy leaves our lives forever …
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.