So… I’m back blogging again, and this is my feature on Asylum of the Daleks. I’ve decided to call my new series of posts I’m doing on Series 7 “The Brilliant Blogs”, because a) I really, really liked the “Brilliant Books” the BBC published and the style they were done in and b) because these posts are going to be more than just reviews. In fact, the reviews are just one part. I want this series to be fluid in its structure – they wont always be the same – but also to be like a current-era version of the blueshift posts I was doing before I went travelling in March. Enjoy! (and I hope you find this interesting – I certainly had fun putting it together.) – Matt
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Nick Hurran
Main cast: Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvil (Rory Williams), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Oswin Oswald), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks), Anamaria Marinca (Darla; the human Dalek-puppet who contacts the Doctor), David Gyasi (Harvey; crew member of Starship Alaska and the first person Amy meets on the surface of the Asylum) and Barnaby Edwards and Nicholas Pegg (both as Dalek operators).
Initial Broadcast date: 01/09/2012 (UK)
Other: The famous song from opera Carmen, featured in this episode, was Habanera.
Asylum of the Daleks is a story that wastes no time in drawing out its premise, beginning in true Moffat style: Straight away, the Doctor, Amy and Rory are plucked out of time and – as the Doctor so excellently puts it – “[fired] at a planet”.
“You’re going to fire me at a planet? That’s your plan? I get fired at a planet and expected to fix it?”
Tasked by the Prime Minister of his mortal enemies, The Daleks, with bringing down the impenetrable force field of the Dalek Asylum – a planet that has had its insides gutted and filled with a structure housing all the most insane of everyone’s favourite killer-pepperpots – from within (so they can blow the whole thing up), The Doctor must navigate the hellish “dumping ground” whilst trying to save his friends’ marriage and figure out a soufflé-related mystery that involves the most ingenious use of “ex-ster-minate” you’ll ever hear.
But what has got the Daleks so riled?
“What is the noise? Explain! Explain!”
Carmen, apparently. Or rather; somebody is playing Carmen, from the heart of the Asylum, which can only mean one thing… Somebody got inside, meaning it’s also possible to escape!
Enter Jenna-Louise Coleman, in what has got to be one of the best-kept secrets in modern television.
“Long story. Is there a word for total screaming genius that sounds modest and a tiny bit sexy?”
Playing Oswin Oswald, a survivor of the ship that crashed into the Asylum (and apparently breached its defenses, though this is never explicitly stated), Coleman immediately shines on-screen, her performance easily standing up next to Smith, Gillan and Darvil’s, despite the fact they are all seasoned juggernauts these days. Her performance gels effortlessly with the rest of the episode thanks to some ace writing by the Moff – despite the fact they must have had to shoot them separately some time after the original shooting bloc (with the rest of the cast) – and should wave away any lingering doubts that Coleman wasn’t the right choice for the role of next companion.
“It’s not one of those things you can fix like you fix your bow tie. Don’t give me those big wet eyes, Raggedy Man. It’s life. Just life, that thing that goes on when you’re not there.”
Asylum of the Daleks is an impressive spectacle, dramatically and visually. Particularly, the relationship between Amy and Rory has been taken to another more fascinating and mature level and we are shown that Amy can make heroic sacrifices for Rory as well, nicely shifting things from the usual focus on his all-enduring faithfulness. For a romance subplot involving the Ponds, the episode’s darker take on things is actually a refreshing (and in some moments shocking) change, and it’s welcome too.
New and old viewers alike will love this one: The story contains a good mix of tragedy and reconciliation, the whole cast is on top form, there are plenty of continuity throwbacks and, to top it off, the Daleks are (in this reviewer’s opinion) scary again.
After calling them “the most reliably defeatable enemies in the universe”, it looks like Steven Moffat just saved the Daleks after all.
Questions hidden in plain sight…
If it’s so easy for the Daleks to “acquire” the Doctor, why haven’t they just killed him before?
Why doesn’t Rory pay for his bus ticket?
Why do the Daleks have a parliament and a Prime Minister? (Did the “new paradigm” of Daleks from Victory of the Daleks decide to remove the Emperor Dalek and push forward democratic reform?)
Why are Daleks, in the intensive care section of the asylum, chained when they can (apparently) break free from the bonds so easily?
How is Oswin linked to future companion Clara? (Besides being portrayed by the same person.)
Spot all of these continuity references?
- In the opening narrative, it is implied that the events of The Wedding of River Song did indeed make most of the universe believe The Doctor had been killed, but the Daleks appear to know better.
- Skaro, the home planet of the Daleks, makes its first television appearance since Seventh Doctor story Remembrance of the Daleks – in which it was destroyed when the star it was orbiting went supernova, due to The Doctor’s trap involving the Hand of Omega (a Timelord device). It had, however, recently appeared in the Adventure Game story City of the Daleks before Asylum of the Daleks was broadcast.
- Nanogenes, a creation of Moffat’s from two-part story The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, are used once again as a tool for rewriting biology – in this case, to turn humans (dead or alive) into Dalek puppets.
- Daleks from multiple Who eras can be seen throughout the episode. In order of appearance: RTD-era Bronze Daleks (featured heavily throughout, first seen in Dalek), New Paradigm Daleks (White/Supreme, Red/Drone and Blue/Strategist, first seen in Victory of the Daleks), Special Weapons Dalek (first seen in Remembrance of the Daleks), Hartnell/Troughton-era Silver Daleks (first seen in The Daleks), Renegade Daleks (first seen in Resurrection of the Daleks), Grey Daleks (first seen in Day of the Daleks), Black RTD-era Dalek (first seen in Daleks in Manhattan). While I’ve done my best to make this as accurate as possible, if you think there is a mistake here, please let me know!
- Rory recalls guarding the Pandorica (with Amy inside) for 2000 years, in 2010 episode The Big Bang.
- Amy states that she is now infertile and believes it is because of what her captors (Madame Kavorian and The Silence) did to her while she was imprisoned in Demon’s Run, before the events of A Good Man Goes to War.
- Oswin informs the Doctor that the Daleks in intensive care are survivors of the wars on the planets Spiridon (from Third Doctor story Planet of the Daleks), Kembel (from Second Doctor story The Daleks’ Master Plan), Aridius (from First Doctor story The Chase), Vulcan (from Second Doctor story The Power of the Daleks) and Exxilon (from Third Doctor story Death to the Daleks). The Doctor comments that they are “the Daleks that survived [him]”, when she asks if any of the names ring a bell.
- The Doctor once again demonstrates his skill with teleporters, mentioned in Ninth Doctor stories The End of the World and Boom Town, at the end of the episode when he manages to teleport himself, Amy and Rory into the TARDIS onboard the Dalek ship with “pin-point” accuracy.
If there’s something you think I missed, something you thought I could have done better, or would even just like to say you enjoyed it, please let me know in the comments section below!