Asylum of the Daleks – episode review & analysis

guardian.co.uk

Ah, ah, ah… SPOILERS: Episode Summary

The Doctor has received a message from a mysterious redhead with a quasi-Australian and Eastern European accent. She claims to have a daughter who is the prisoner of the Daleks but promptly teleports him, then Amy and finally Rory (whose marriage is now on the rocks) onto a ship full of the tin dictators. We see a mix of the iDaleks and the brass coloured clan in a giant chamber and far from wanting to kill the trio, they ask for The Doctor’s assistance.

Dalek Parliament: SAVE THE DALEKS! SAVE THE DALEKS! SAVE THE DALEKS! SAVE THE DALEKS!

The Doctor: Well, this is new!

After the credits we cut to Jasmine Thomas a feisty young woman (who we now know will be the next companion) making a souffle and boarding up the entrance to what we presume is her crashed spaceship. As an aside, this appearance by Jenna-Louise Coleman is intriguing considering the end of the episode but I will come to that and will tag with “major spoiler” that will be hard to miss…

It seems she has been fending off the Daleks who have been trying desperately to break into her ship which she has fortified against them. No mean feat but she is coping and has supplies. Meanwhile back in the chamber, there is a Prime Minister type Dalek inside a glass jar. He and The Doctor discuss “The Asylum” which The Doctor refers to as a dumping ground “a planet where you lock up all the Daleks that go wrong… the ones even you can’t control.”

Dalek in a glass jar: It is offensive to us to extinguish such divine hatred
The Doctor: Offensive?
Dalek in a glass jar: Does it surprise you to know that The Daleks have a concept of beauty?
The Doctor: I thought you’d run out of ways to make me sick. Hello again. You think hatred is beautiful?
Dalek in a glass jar: Pehaps that is why we have never been able to kill you?

Loved that little exchange! The asylum is a planetoid with millions of battle-scarred and unhinged Daleks. Jasmine The young lady crashed there a year ago. They realise that as she got in then it is entirely possible that the inmates could get out. The iDaleks want to deploy the Predator… yes, The Doctor… to go inside the Asylum and lower the force field so that the planetoid can be destroyed.

The trio are put down onto the surface. Oswin (the young woman – I’ll stop calling her Jasmine now) has hacked Dalek technology in order to locate The Doctor. Amy is woken up by a human named Harvey on the surface and Rory is underground in a chamber full of Daleks waaaaay overdue on their MOTs. Amy, Harvey and The Doctor descend into part of a crashed spaceship. Rather like Red Dwarf’s Kryten in his inaugural episode, Harvey’s crew (who he claims he spoke to two hours previously – are all dead). I found this amusing and almost expected The Doctor to say “hey Amy, I think this one’s giving you the eye!” Poor Harvey is a Dalek puppet altered by the Nanocloud. He died on the surface… something that has implications momentarily.

Meanwhile, Rory gets to do an Indiana Jones style escape from the Chamber of Horrors as the Daleks begin to wake up. The Doctor and Amy discuss the Nanocloud and it turns out the latter – who now lacks protection – is slowly becoming a Dalek puppet. She experiences bizarre hallucinations as part of this transformation and has to be rescued as ever by The Doctor. Following an explosion where one inmate self-destructs, we see that ominous shot from the trailer with The Doctor carrying a limp Amy. But she is not dead, though she is still becoming a Dalek Puppet. Oswin sends The Doctor a map and requests that they go to her to rescue her.

Oswin: You know how you make someone into a Dalek? Subtract love. Add anger. Doesn’t she seem a bit too angry to you?
Amy: Well, somebody’s never been to Scotland!

After a pep talk from The Doctor, Amy and Rory have a bit of a heart-to-heart in which she slaps him and after some manipulation from The Doctor, they reconcile and move on. She now has a device that can counteract the nanocloud. The Doctor gets stuck in ICU with some very unhinged Daleks. He is saved again by Oswin who hacks their computer to make them forget him and he breaks through into her fortress/spaceship.

MAJOR SPOILER IN THIS PARAGRAPH: The tragic ending in all of this is that Oswin was an inmate at the Asylum. She was once human, part of the ship’s crew that crashed on the planetoiud and was converted into a Dalek because of her genius. The scenario of still being on board the ship and keeping them at bay was an elaborate fantasy that she created to cope with the horrifying reality. Once she accept this realisation, she agrees to fight back and aid in their escape.

And because of her actions in removing records of The Doctor from their database, it seems that all of the Daleks have completely forgotten who the Doctor is, not just inmates. Fanboy/girl moment as the Parliament asks incessantly “Doctor WHO?” finishing with another nod to the fanboys and girls in Matt Smith’s final line in the episode.

The Doctor: Fellas, you’re never going to stop asking.

Analysis

In terms of big ideas, there are few here. How often have we wondered what happened to the Daleks that survive The Doctor’s antics? Can’t say it has ever been a big issue for me but they must go somewhere as unforgiving and arrogant as the Daleks are. Still, this is an interesting idea. What is worse than a Dalek? An insane Dalek.

The Amy-Rory (not) break-up was incredibly formulaic even if the reason for their break-up (Amy letting Rory go because she can now never give him children) is a new one. Wasn’t really surprised that they got back together so quickly and personally I could have done without it in the first place. It wasn’t necessary and felt a little tacked-on as a human interest plot.

The tragedy of Oswin – as well played-out as it was – is cheapened by the fact that we know she will be back as the new companion. But the big question is whether she will be playing the same character. If not, then this tragedy will stand. If so, how is this going to play out? We will have to wait until Christmas Day to find that out. It won’t be the first time that an actor has played two different characters. Colin Baker played a Timelord military commander just one year before he became The Doctor.

And finally, what are the implications for a Dalek power that has no memory of The Doctor and his cunning plans to thwart their dreams of galactic domination? Is this going to be for his benefit or ultimately, will the Daleks be emboldened by the removal of the biggest thorn in their side? Will they, in fact, get worse? And how will they react to re-discovering that the galaxy still has one remaining Timelord at large? So many questions.

A very strong start to this short series. Roll on Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

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4 thoughts on “Asylum of the Daleks – episode review & analysis

  1. I just finished watching it and I think it was great. I laughed out loud and was very excited. I do feel in a small way that Moffat was right, he did make the Daleks seem threatening again. Even if it is just a little bit. One thing that intrigued me about the new series was the reason for Amy and Rory’s break up. After all they have been through for each other it had to be a really good reason. So I was actually satisfied by the reason that Moffst gave. It did seem a bit quick that for such a big problem they got back together so quickly. But that shows that Moffat was using it as a hook. As for the rest of the story, I’m really intrigued now. The fact that the Daleks have forgotten the doctor could mean they’ll become weaker, since Oswin said that they became stronger to beat him, but it also sets them up for lots of failure again. And as for Oswin, I can only expect that the doctor will meet her again and knowing the future he will probably decide to stay away from her, but maybe he will consider changing the future. Who knows, the problem is if he stops her becoming a dalek then the daleks will remember him again. So what can he really do and obviously Oswin hasn’t seen him before so they can’t have had all that adventures already. Or will he rewrite time, let her have adventures and then leave her to be a Dalek? We’ll just have to wait and see. But I don’t think will see you again until Christmas episode. So we have to ask why is she in Victorian London? Another question is this; it says they converted her because of her genius but what was the point in fully converting her just to have been trapped in the asylum? she obviously didn’t fight against the doctor at any point she was just in the inside there? A waste either way.

    1. … what he said 😉

      Thats what intrigues me most. If he stops her becoming a Dalek then they will remember him. Or as you say, will he take her on the trip of a lifetime and then send her to her fate with all the heartache that will bring.

      That of course, is assuming she is playing the same character and not her great great great great great great great grandmother

      1. I hope not. That would be a bit lame, I think. Moffat usually has something better planned. If its the exact same person, it would give a good reason why Doctor tries not to be close to her at first, or so I’ve hear, in the special. We’ll just have to see.

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