Spoilers spoilers and more spoilers for the first episode of the seventh series of Doctor Who, a little guy we call Asylum of the Daleks. The post will still be here after you watch the episode, don’t worry! But if spoiler-free previews are more your cup of tea, check out our spoiler-free review from the screening in New York City last week at this link.
For the rest of you who’ve seen the episode… let us begin.
Perhaps it’s bad to begin on a negative note but Asylum of the Daleks starts with a rubbish voiceover and a giant papier maché Dalek, so after all of the build up in Pond Life I felt a little meh about everything. There’s a giant hooded figure in ridiculous heels doing the talking and trying to make everything seem mythical, coupled with echoey effect that sounds a bit like when you talk into a poster tube. A silhouetted Doctor appears on the side of the strange Skaro cave thing and then cut to…
Amy, who is a model and pouting away effortlessly in line with every model stereotype. Rory turns up and, just as we suspected after Pond Life, are getting a divorce, seemingly out of nowhere. But then, all of a sudden, the make-up lady grows an eyestalk out of her forehead. At this point I couldn’t decide whether the eyestalk was more creepy or silly but either way it reminded me a lot of The Long Game, way back in the first series of New Who and that thing you could get that downloaded information right into your brain.
As setup as it was, I did rather enjoy it when Amy, Rory and The Doctor are measuring the gravity of the situation on a scale of one to ten and fittingly, The Doctor marks it up to ”Eleven.” Nothing like a nod to fanspeak! So in truly British fashion, the Daleks have a Parliament and it’s here that we see them call “Save the Daleks,” just as in the teaser. I was glad that came early on and didn’t spoil a significant part of the episode, but I was not so glad when I saw all the wobbling and weird colors in the new opening titles, although the font is cool.
Having remained spoiler-free, I did not expect to see Jenna-Louise Coleman this early on and I appreciated that she seemed to be recording some sort of voice blog. Maybe she could start vlogging? Other Oswin favorites include the hammock and how she blasts music to drown something uncomfortable, quite familiar to teenagers everywhere.
Smith has all of the intense lines in this episodes and he really delivers when he tells the Prime Minister Dalek, ”I thought you’d run out of ways to make me sick.” Naturally it falls to Rory to break the tension when he asks about the color, adding ”sorry, there weren’t any good questions left.” Oh Rory, I have missed you.
My immediate reaction to Jenna as Oswin is LIKE LIKE LIKE. She’s straightforward and positive – ”Provisions good but…keen to move on” — but I’m a little scared for how she fares in the rest of the series as some companions are excellent in standalone episodes but lack the narrative support and development that enables them to become really great characters.
Back to the plot: everyone is zapped to a cold planet by the Dalek Parliament. The Doctor is zapped on his back but doesn’t make snow angels. He makes contact with Oswin but Amy finds him and everyone runs around the snow to find Rory, who has been zapped into a hole full of rain and Daleks. Sounds like London in summer.
Amy and the Doctor stumble upon some creepy dead spaceship men who are reminiscent of the skeletons in the library episodes what with the white suits and deadness. Fire extinguishers continue to be a Moffat staple weapon but they don’t quite knock out the already dead people who themselves grow eyestalks. Naturally, once the dead guys have been cornered it turns into a Doctor and Amy relationship counselling session, with the Doctor asking in a very motherly fashion, ”well,what happened?” only to garner the response, ”it’s not one of those things you can fix like your bow tie.”
Rory is by himself in the drippy part of the planet. Apart from the Daleks screaming “EGGS EGGS EGGS EGGS EGGS,” which he’s a bit slow to realise is “Exterminate,” Rory whips out his secret agent roll and has a bit of a flirt with Oswin who is “just flirting to keep [Rory] cheerful.” The lighting in the Rory scenes is particularly great in contrast to the excessively bright outdoor scenes.
Although the whole episode generally felt a bit empty, it had some real gems in the dialogue, such as the interchange between the Doctor and Amy: ”I’m sorry but it’s started already.” “How do you know?” “Because we’ve had this conversation four times.” and the little quip between the Doctor and Oswin: ”Why can’t I ever see you?” “Limited power, bad hair, take your pick.”
While the Doctor chats with Oswin, Amy walks towards a Tower of Terror vs. Big Fish room of dancing girls and men in suits. I wasn’t a fan of the camera placement in this scene because it kind of makes her look like she’s drunk or on something and starring in an E4 drama (think Skins). Big “epic” shots continued to attempt to disguise the narrative emptiness of the episode, such as when the Doctor walks in carrying Amy or the camera pans over the teleport. I much prefer the moments of humor, with the Doctor asking where the milk for the soufflés come from and Rory realises “this is the kind of escape plan where you survive for about four seconds long.”
Amy, an angry angry woman, has to remember how to feel love to survive or something. This annoyed me, until Rory and Amy started to speak.
“It will buy us time because it will take longer with me [...] we’ve both always known that…Amy the basic fact of our relationship is that I love you more than you love me”
“Whatever they did to me at Demon’s Run, I can’t ever give you children. I didn’t kick you out. I gave you up…don’t ever talk to me about waiting outside a box because that is nothing. Nothing compared to giving you up.”
OH MAN THE PAIN. While we rub salt into our wounded wounds, let’s flick back to the Doctor, who is grandiosely declaring: ”these are the Daleks who survived me” as he walks through the Intensive Care Unit. The Daleks here are breaking free of their chains and suddenly seeming scary again because the Doctor exhibits fear, where before he just seemed a little cocky and not particularly scared considering there are people with Dalek eyestalks popping out of their forehead.
The twist in the episode was a little predictable and the big sweeping statement the Doctor makes — “You dreamed it for yourself because the truth was too terrible” — was quite boring, plus the editing between Oswin and her Dalek form went on far too long, especially the “eggs” thing. We get it. She’s saying exterminate. In true 11-era form, too, Oswin hints at the manic pixie dream girl she was doomed to become with the line “run, you clever boy” — it would be fine had we not seen these constant examples of everyone loving and praising and admiring the Doctor, especially the women and feeling the need to do it in a coquettish sort of way. Maybe I’m overreacting, but the history of the characterisation of women in the last few series is cause for concern.
My cynic rested when Amy and Rory kissed for about five minutes, as we knew they would, but it came out to play again with the very gimmicky “Doctor Who?” bit…was the whole episode leading up to that? Sort of felt like it was. If I sound underwhelmed, it’s because I was, but I expected to be underwhelmed so the blow didn’t hurt quite so much. Still… next week, Arthur Weasley, Filch and Lestrade. Bring it on.