Doctor Who (7.1): Mad as a box of Daleks

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Dalek story that really tapped into the full menace of the hate-filled killing machines (Dalek in the first of the New Who series is the one that comes to mind), but Asylum of the Daleks is properly creepy.

(It’s been a while, so to avoid tears before bedtime, let’s be clear, this is a spoiler-filled review and, if you can, you really should watch the show before we go on.)

From the unsettling opening on Skaro, where the only being not aware of the trap was the bait, to the spiky, bitter reintroduction to the Ponds (though I note that Amy signed herself Williams on the divorce papers), it’s all very uncomfortable viewing. And that’s without Dalek eye-stalks popping out of people’s foreheads…

Matt Smith really puts the relief into comic relief when he gets to play the Doctor’s post-expectation-of-death moment in the Dalek Parliament for laughs. And all at once we’re back on solid ground.

Except that we’re listening to Carmen and a young woman’s audio diary. She’s clearly stranded somewhere alone. There appear to be Daleks outside. And, hang on, isn’t she Jenna-Louise Coleman? The new companion due to take over at Christmas? What the …?

The answer (or at least, an answer) is that she’s Oswyn Oswald, the sole surviving crew member of a ship that has crashed on the planet where the Daleks dump their colleagues who are too mad, bad and dangerous even for them to handle. If she got in, then the psycho Daleks can get out. The only solution is for someone to slip past the forcefield that encircles the planet, and turn off the said forcefield so the planet can be destroyed by the parliamentary spaceship. The Honourable Dalek Members are too scared to go down, so they are sending the Predator (another new name, I still prefer the Oncoming Storm) to do the job. Along with his companions.

From here on in the plan is to rescue Oswyn, turn off the forcefield, escape the planet and fix Amy and Rory’s relationship. And to do all this without being turned into Dalek puppets with eye-stalks in their foreheads (the planet has a nano-cloud which converts everything living or dead into Daleks).

There are whacking great clues all over the place pointing to the big twist in this tale, although I confess I hadn’t put it all together before the big reveal – and I would love to know the explanation for what we (and the Doctor) heard for most of the episode. Clearly Oswyn’s plea to be remembered doesn’t fall on deaf ears, and the Doctor will be making good on that promise at Christmas (although if he saves her from this fate, doesn’t that mess with the timey-wimey?).

So rescuing Oswyn will have to wait for another, earlier day. Can the Doctor fix Amy and Rory? Of course he can. Though I may be tiring of the ‘love can save the day’ thing now. I’m hoping it was being deployed ironically, seeing as the Doctor had already technically saved Amy from further Dalek conversion by slipping her his wrist band, and therefore love was being used to save a marriage (a reasonable assumption to make).

It goes without saying that the whole destroy the planet and escape by the skin of their teeth thing is pulled off too. Not to mention a neat reset that will make future Dalek encounters much more interesting.

My favourite moments: Rory alone with a bunch of silent, still Daleks – and their slow, terrifying return to life; the Doctor manipulating a Dalek into self-destructing and taking a dozen Daleks with it; Rory and Amy telling the truth about their feelings for each other; Oswyn’s heartbreaking realisation of her situation; and finally, the Daleks asking “Doctor who?”

It’s not as brilliant as The Doctor’s Wife, but neither is it The Curse of the Black Spot. It’s a good start after a bloomin’ long wait – fingers crossed that space dinosaurs fulfil their promise next week.

Posted by Jo the Hat

6 Comments

Filed under Dr Who

6 responses to “Doctor Who (7.1): Mad as a box of Daleks

  1. Dreamer

    I hope next week’s episode lives up to expectation as well! I mean it’s got Arthur Weasley, Argus Filch and DI Lestrade.

    I loved Asylum, but I didn’t like how they handled Amy. Again. And no more Confidential. 😥

  2. Tim

    Eggs. Stir. Minate. Well, it had me laughing, anyway.

    Overall, this was terrific stuff, even if it did sag a bit in the middle. The great reset continues, extending even to the Daleks’ memory of the Doctor being erased – this is a good thing for me, as it allows a proper exploration of the Daleks now without the need for it to be always end-of-the-universe stuff.

    Lots of great moments for me. Definitely loved the “I’m looking for … reverse” bit. Rory in the room full of dormant Daleks was properly scary – you just know they’re going to wake up. (And you just know they won’t be able to shoot straight, as usual.) And Oswin’s self-realisation is heart-breaking and beautifully played by J-LC. She’s going to be great, I think.

    But was it just me or were there about a jazillion references to The A-Team here? The Daleks ‘hire’ the Doctor and his team to solve a problem where no one else can help. The A-Team was, of course, led by John (Hannibal) Smith, the Doctor’s preferred alias. And there’s the whole breaking-into-an-asylum-to-get-Murdoch-out thing. At least the Doc didn’t light up a cigar and say that he loves it when a plan comes together …

    That, and more thoughts, over on my review. I may not bother doing weekly recaps, but I’ll be back here every week for my usual fill …

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2012/09/02/doctor-who-season-7-episode-1-review-asylum-of-the-daleks/

  3. holbylover819

    In my opinion, the best bit was-
    Doctor: You find hatred beautiful?
    Dalek: Maybe that’s why we have so much trouble destroying you.

  4. Martin Rosen

    I grew up with the Doctor, remembering William Hartnell et al. I used to understand it, Daleks, Cybermen etc want to rule the world. The Doctor would arrive in the nick of time and save the world.

    Now I am a little (!!) older and I really find it so confusing! Can I borrow a young child to explain it all to me!!!

  5. icy

    Anyone think the comment about the Daleks finding it offensive to destroy such pure hatred offensive, then why would they destroy the asylum anyway when they wouldn’t just destroy the faulty ones to begin with? Agree about J-LC she is good, maybe not as good as Suranne Jones though?

  6. And the wonderful Anamaria Marinca (Sex Traffic) to boot!

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