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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who blogging: “Asylum of the Daleks”

Doctor Who Matt Smith

(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode… or unless you don’t care if it’s spoiled for you. this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”)

(get my downloadable discussion guide to “Asylum of the Daleks” for teachers, librarians, and everyone else who needs to keep kids amused, engaged, and educated at DoctorWhoTeachersGuides.co.uk)

I wouldn’t go as far as “disappointed.” There some good stuff here. The notion that the Daleks have become better warriors, better conquerors, better haters because of their fear of the Doctor? Whoa. If he hadn’t fought so hard, would they be less of a menace than they are?

But the insane Dalek has been done before — and much better — in “Dalek.” Of course, that was supposed to be the very last Dalek in the universe, and we know how that turned out. (There is no power in the universe stronger than the one that drives television ratings.) Still, there are lots of potentially interesting things to be explored in the notion of an “insane” Dalek: Is it a Dalek that refuses to exterminate? That would be considered an extreme aberration by Daleks, wouldn’t it? And yet the Dalek prime minister tells the Doctor that they couldn’t bring themselves to destroy these “insane” Daleks because they find beauty in their pure hatred. So what makes them insane, then? They’re too good at killing? That doesn’t seem like it should be a problem.

It might have been nice if Moffat had delved into this just a little. Or even just explained why the Daleks need a parliament. Do they disagree about things? What sort of business could possibly go on in a Dalek parliament? What could their agenda possibly look like?

9:45. Welcome
10:00. Hate committee
10:30. Hate hearing
11:00. Hate caucus breakout groups
12:30. Exterminate break
1:30. Hate
2:30. Hate
3:30. Hate
4:30. Hate

Also: How is the Doctor “saving” the Daleks by shutting off the force field so they can destroy the planet? In other words, what threat do the Daleks think the prison planet poses? Do they fear that whoever is broadcasting Carmen from the planet has survived the nanocloud transformation and will somehow infect them with non-Dalek ideas? (That is sort of what happens, but there’s no indication that the Daleks see this as a possibility.) And hey, what’s with the nanocloud turning people into Daleks, anyway? Why don’t the Daleks just use that on every planet they invade — why would they even need prison camps?

Why — o why! — can the force field only be turned off from within the asylum? Leaving the key in the hands of the inmates? What the hell?

Okay, I get it: all of this is merely in aid of introducing us to Oswin Oswald, who doesn’t realize — or won’t admit to herself — that she has been turned into a Dalek. This was all extremely well done, and I didn’t catch on until the very last moment, just before the reveal, that Moffat had been tricking us, or even how, even though it’s completely obvious: the Doctor even wonders aloud why he cannot see Oswin, which should have been a clue. I did get a little choked up: Oswin is cool, Oswin is smart, Oswin would have been a great companion for the Doctor.

Oh, wait. She is going to be a companion for the Doctor. For this is Jenna-Louise Coleman

Doctor Who Jenna-Louise Coleman

whom we already know is joining the show with the upcoming Christmas episode as the new companion, replacing the departing Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.

So all of this was actually just Moffat painting himself into another impossible corner (and if history is any judge, he will not extricate himself in a satisfactory way). We know that Oswin had never traveled in space before:

Joined the Alaska to see the universe and end up stuck in a shipwreck first time out. Rescue me, Chin Boy, and show me the stars.

so that rules out the Doctor scooping her up outta her past to go flying about in the TARDIS. And she’s well and truly dead now, since the Daleks blew up the planet. (Unless… Oswin used her screaming genius to teleport herself off the planet, and the Doctor will soon be traveling around with a Dalek that thinks it’s a human? Seems unlikely.) Which means that Jenna-Louise Coleman will be playing a completely different person and Moffat is just totally yanking our collective fannish chain here by giving us something to specuate about for months. Or she’ll be playing a person who is somehow connected to Oswin: a clone, a Flesh ganger, etc. The Doctor never sees what Oswin looks like (or what she used to look like as a human), so he won’t make a connection when he meets the new companion.

Basically: argh.

I wish Moffat wasn’t so fascinated by doing this sort of stuff, twisting stories around to create suspense that (in the past) has ultimately felt artificial when it all gets resolved. Maybe it will work out better this time.

I also wish that Moffat wasn’t so totally fascinated by Amy and Rory and their relationship. Their relationship is by far the least interesting thing going on here. There was a good reason why the Doctor didn’t do “domestics.” I kinda also don’t get Amy and Rory’s decision to stop traveling with the Doctor. I can certainly imagine lots of reasons why someone might give up a life like the Doctor’s, but I haven’t seen any of them depicted here. There certainly isn’t a sense that their life that “goes on when [the Doctor is] not there” is particularly interesting even to Amy and Rory. Does Amy really enjoy “pouting in front of a camera” more than she enjoys running around the universe? I don’t see that, either. She says “I really miss this” when she and the Doctor are under attack by Dalek puppets, but then she goes home again at the end!

Finally: Is everyone the Doctor encounters this season going to run around screaming, “Doctor who?! Doctor who?!” Including himself?

Meanwhile, I’m taking deep breaths and chanting over and over to myself: I still love ‘Doctor Who,’ I do I do. I still love ‘Doctor Who,’ I do I do…

Random thoughts on “Asylum of the Daleks”:

• Oh my god, the Daleks are truly evil! Look at the torture device they subjected their prisoner to:

Doctor Who

• Always with the Doctor, the trouble goes to 11!

• So, each episode this year is supposed to have custom titles. This week, Dalek “eggs” on the lettering:

Doctor Who

• There was a Dalek war on Vulcan! Which means Starfleet was involved, right?

• Love saves the day again! Just like in “Closing Time”! It’s cool that so many of the most evil robot races of all spacetime can be defeated by, basically, wishing really really hard.

• Great quotes:

“Is there a word for total screaming genius that sounds modest and a tiny bit sexy?” –Oswin
Doctor. You call me the Doctor.” –the Doctor

“We have grown stronger in fear of you.” –Oswin/Dalek
“I know.” –the Doctor

(next: “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”)

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  • RogerBW

    I gave this one a shot, but didn’t feel dragged back in to the enthusiasm for nuWho I had in the early days. The thing that kept popping out at me was: why not suggest that somebody try to repair the force-field generator? But no, everyone assumes that the only possible answer is to blow up the planet (because blowing things up is how we solve problems now).

    But the insane Dalek has been done before — and much better — in “Dalek.”

    And in Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks!

    This Vulcan is probably the one that showed up in The Power of the Daleks – and fans have spent much time arguing over which solar system that’s in, never mind anything else. Things were a bit looser in those days.

    The Dalek-conversion thing is a suitably nightmarish image – Moffatt is good at those – but as you say it seems like far too useful a capability never to have been mentioned before.

  • KeithAllGamer

    I was wondering why Oswin could sound non-Dalek on all the communication technology on and off the planet, but not from her own voice box (or whatever the hell Daleks speak from)?  What did she sound like to the Doctor and others?  Seems like one of those things they hope we wouldn’t notice.

    Between Smith and Coleman, I’m going to have to start watching with close caption to fully understand what they are saying.  They talk so fast I often miss what they are saying, even listening on headphones.

  • ScottyEnn

    “But no, everyone assumes that the only possible answer is to blow up the planet (because blowing things up is how we solve problems now).”
    TBF, these are Daleks you discuss. ‘Blowing things up’ is pretty much how they’ve been solving problems since day one. 

    “And in Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks!”

    Nah, to each their own, of course, but those two episodes were for the most part utter cack in my opinion. At least this one doesn’t rely on DNA being transmitted through lightning. 

    Agreed that the new series still hasn’t done Daleks better than “Dalek”, though.

  • RogerBW

    TBF, these are Daleks you discuss. ‘Blowing things up’ is pretty much how they’ve been solving problems since day one.

    Yeah, but that’s not how the show has traditionally presented problems being solved. The old Doctor, given a problem like this, would have found a way to turn it into a real nuisance for the Daleks. At the end of this, they pretty much get what they wanted (except the death of the Doctor, of course, but you’d think they’d be used to that by now).

    Nah, to each their own, of course, but those two episodes were for the most part utter cack in my opinion.

    I wasn’t super enthused over them, but they’re another outing of the “mad Dalek” idea.

  • ScottyEnn

    “Yeah, but that’s not how the show has traditionally presented problems being solved. The old Doctor, given a problem like this, would have found a way to turn it into a real nuisance for the Daleks.”

    That’s a bit of a myth; he blows up Skaro in “Remembrance of the Daleks”, blows up a whole heap of Daleks in “Destiny of the Daleks”, tries to blow up a load of Daleks in “Revelation of the Daleks”, and lets other people blow them up in “Day of the Daleks” and “Resurrection of the Daleks”. And, of course, he apparently blew up a whole crapload of them during the Time War. And those are just the ones I can think of from the top of my head. When it comes to Daleks at least, the Eleventh Doctor isn’t the only one who’s favoured the ‘blow them all up’ solution.

    And those are just Dalek stories; the Doctor’s not exactly been shy about responsible for solving a lot of other problems with explosions throughout the series. In short, the show doesn’t shy away from the ‘blow everything up’ solution as often as you might think.

    ETA: Also, pretty much the first thing the Second Doctor did was blow up a whole load of Daleks.

    “At the end of this, they pretty much get what they wanted (except the death of the Doctor, of course, but you’d think they’d be used to that by now).”

    Although they do also get their memory of their greatest enemy — and thus any ability to prepare for him should they ever cross paths again — deleted as well. Plus given that we all know the Daleks aren’t ever going to be gone for good, frankly it makes more sense that they come out more or less on top (or at least break even) every now and again rather than the endless “It’s the final end of the Daleks for realsies this time.” / “Oh wait! It’s not! Some more of them have conveniently survived somehow!” runaround.

  • ProperDave

    Well, the rest of the internet is having a collective fangasm over this one, which leaves those of us who were underwhelmed by it looking like grumps. I’m starting to accept now that, with the exception of certain standout episodes,  Moffat’s Who is something I’ll like but  probably never love. In fact I doubt I’ll watch this episode again until I buy the Blu-ray set in maybe 2015.

    I’d like to criticise Moffat, but then I see how others are enjoying the show, and witness on Tumblr the raw enthusiasm of young Americans who’ve only recently discovered it, and I simply don’t have the heart. I don’t want to be one of those people I sneered at during the Davies years: the “Make it for me! Make it for MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” crowd.

    Although, saying that, I’d love to see what Toby Whithouse could do with the show.

  • RogerBW

    I’d like to criticise Moffat, but then I see how others are enjoying the show, and witness on Tumblr the raw enthusiasm of young Americans who’ve only recently discovered it, and I simply don’t have the heart. I don’t want to be one of those people I sneered at during the Davies years: the “Make it for me! Make it for MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” crowd.

    Well, quite. I think that nuWho is subject to the same sorts of fanboyism that anything else popular is these days: say “I didn’t enjoy it”, and the fans will perceive this as an attack and say “you’re wrong”. Well, no, you have no idea about the veracity of my statement about my own mental state; I can point out the flaws I see in the thing, but ultimately what we have is not necessarily a quality issue but simply an incompatibility. I don’t enjoy huge multigeneration family sagas with lots of sex and betrayal, either. That doesn’t mean they’re bad, just that they don’t appeal to me.

  • Oddly enough, Moffat was better when he didn’t try so hard. The best episodes since he took over have been things like ‘eleventh hour’. He has an actor who can truly play the Doctor and all we need now is the Doctor to start acting like the Doctor, outwit his way out, think about things, be one step ahead.

  • Tim

    Remember Rory is holding a little box that activates the teleporter that gets them all off the planet just before it blows? It had four switches on it. Rory, Amy, the Doctor and… 
    That has to be rubbish but I had fun noticing it.

    Still, I am “positive” that our new companion got off the planet before it blew. Maybe she’s hidden herself somewhere on the TARDIS? Also, the nanobots giveth; the nanobots taketh away. She’ll “hack the system” and get herself rebuilt. … Speaking of built; the young lady in question, who is the right age to be my daughter *blush*, is quite well constructed already.

  • Tim

    Oh. One other thing; the ultimate question? Hidden in plain view?

    Doctor Who?

  • englerp

    Well, quite. I think that nuWho is subject to the same sorts of
    fanboyism that anything else popular is these days: say “I didn’t enjoy
    it”, and the fans will perceive this as an attack and say “you’re

    Well, to be fair, as you said, it’s more the fanboys-girls who will perceive it as an attack, not the fans. ;)

    BTW:  Personally, i liked the spisode.

  • Jem

    Took the words out of my mouth. Feel like a grump too as it seems everyone else loved the episode unreservedly and for me, just ‘meh’again. I gave up on Moffat’s Who well before the end of Season 6 (one of the thickity-thick ones I guess), surfaced for the Christmas special to give it another shot – and immediately regretted it – but given the passage of time and the promise that we’d be back to good old fashioned stories, not to mention the advance hype, switched back on hoping to be proved wrong as Season 7 started.

    I agree that the enthusiasm from new fans is wonderful. It’s great to see that Who has never been so popular around the world.  But..but …I can’t connect to Moffat’s Who. I have tried, but it’s simply not for me. As a child I was entranced by Jon Pertwee, giggled through Tom Baker’s flamboyent years, eventually came to love Peter Davison, struggled through Colin Baker and did my duty for Sylvester McCoy. The good and the bad together but I never stopped watching because it always came good again for me just when I thought I’d fallen out of love with it. Recently rewatching some Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy episodes it struck me that I got more enjoyment from them than anything in Moffat’s run. I know that the RTD years were big, blousy and often sloppy and are now as derided as poor Mr McCoy’s but you know what – for me they had real heart and just like in the past, I kept watching even when I felt disappointed with one particular episode because I knew that there might be something great around the corner  and there usually was.

    This now just *feels* soul-less and exhausting. Witty lines machine-gunned out, puns in search of a backstory , a cynical by the numbers ‘best of’ from Moffat’s back catalogue for the plot and worst of all, feisty females with a sly line in sexual innuendo, a mysterious past and who will give the Doctor a run for his money (TM –  Stephen Moffat every episode after 2005).

    It’s not you Stephen, it’s really not – it’s me.


  • innpchan

    Ain’t it the truth!!!  I’m so glad MAJ wrote out the “genius and a tiny bit sexy” line because I listened six times and still didn’t get it!

  • ProperDave

     I hear you, brother…

  • I think I know why the switch for the force field is inside the force field: The whole facility is automated, and the switch is part of that setup. Not to mention that this setup means no one is ever going to be tempted to release the inmates and unleash them on either the universe or the “sane” Daleks. Until, of course, the Alaska breaches the facility and they might escape anyway.

    Most of the Daleks we see in the Asylum are the original blue-and-white ones, covered in rust. And the ones in intensive care are the ones that survived encounters with the first two or so Doctors: Kembel, in “The Daleks’ Master Plan,” and Vulcan (no, not THAT Vulcan) in “Power of the Daleks.” Both of which are mostly missing, which is a shame because “Power” is the Second Doctor’s first story, and “Master Plan” is twelve parts of which three exist.

    I’m guessing Coleman’s character will be an ancestor of Oswin’s, just given the photoshoots that have been leaked; and I hope they’re not the same person, because Oswin doesn’t fit the Companion role–she’s too alpha, she’d have the Doctor completely out of his depth, and he’s the one that’s supposed to know things and be clever; the Companion is supposed to be an audience surrogate, and the New Series has done well with that up to this point. (hmm…I wonder if people in the late ’60s felt this way about Zoe? If so, I should stop complaining, because I love Zoe.)

    As for Amy: she’s still reluctant to grow up; she’s torn between adventuring with the Doctor (“Little Amelia Pond, like a name in a fairy tale”) and society’s expectation that she set aside her fantasies and live a normal boring adult life (“Twelve years, and four psychiatrists”). Rory used to be her anchor in the mundane (hence Amy’s Choice); but now he’s part of the fantasy himself. On the one hand, the bits that were only about Amy and Rory’s relationship were the slow part of the episode; on the other, they were by no stretch of the imagination boring. Moffat is playing the game that we all play as children: everyone tells us growing up is a good thing, but do we really want it?

  • innpchan

    All in all, I did love it, and JLC’s (First! on the acronyming of the new companion) surprise appearance did make me giggle like a 5′ 2″ brunette in a minidress.

    Did have a problem with the resolution, though, for two reasons:

    First, the transformation flashback just wasn’t horrifying enough.  She was still wearing lipstick for goodness’ sake!  What would have REALLY worked for a dismembered human-to-dalek transformation is finishing with a Davros-esque eye removal and artificial blue ocular implant in her forehead.  Now THAT, on JLC’s face (even with lipstick), would have been terrifying.

    Second, the whole “transformation” itself.  Wouldn’t a BETTER reveal have been that the Doctor had been talking to, not a transformed human, but an honest-to-God dalek that had come to believe it was a cute, bubbly, souffle-making girl?  Perhaps because it had met said girl at one of the camps mentioned at the episode’s open?  And had heard said girl chatter on and on about her love for cooking, and Carmen, and her mom, and phases with Nina, and minidresses with matching tennies?  And he’d then had to exterminate little Oswin, and subsequently been infected with the worst, most obscene, infectious, and utterly terrifying insanity the Daleks could imagine: Guilt. 

    No wonder they needed the asylum planet blown up. 

    (Call me, Steve.  My rates are reasonable.)

  •  That amused me–notice how the Doctor says it at the end of the episode? Exactly the same way Dorium said it at the end of the last season. Nice little parallel there.

  • What do you mean by “an actor who can truly play the Doctor”? Have any of the previous Doctors not been able to “truly play the Doctor?” Given what I’ve seen of the Classic Series, I think not.

  •  So how are we defining “fangirl/boy”? I mean, I love the show, I’m definitely addicted to it (even watching the Classic series from the beginning!), but I think about it analytically, accepting its flaws as flaws and attempting to explain things logically. And sometimes I catch flak for it from friends who take these things more on “faith.” Bit of a Spock vs McCoy (speaking of the other Vulcan). So am I a fangirl?

  •  Telepathic link. Apparently the Daleks have them now. Oswin was projecting her own thoughts through the speakers; she didn’t sound like a Dalek because her self-image was still human. Sounding like a Dalek requires actual vocal cords, and the speakers inside the tin can, neither of which she was using. Though how was she playing back Carmen? That still confuses me.

  •  but the best part is the response: she asks how to say “genius and a tiny bit sexy” referring to herself; he responds “Doctor. You call me the Doctor.” Already butting heads and making it sound like flirting.

  •  Remember that “Evolution of the Daleks” is based on “Evil of the Daleks.” And give Moffat some credit for finally doing something completely unprecedented with the Daleks: erasing their memory of the Doctor. Does this undo the damage caused by Four in “Genesis of the Daleks?” Or just take them out of the picture for another couple of seasons?

  • innpchan

    But they were talking so fast I heard it as “Doctor.  You -called- me the Doctor.” 

    Confused me because I didn’t hear her say “doctor.”  I thought he was wondering how she knew his name.  Made no sense because they talk too fast for us colonials!

  • englerp

     Since, you accept the flaws as flaws, imho no.

  • The first time through I felt disappointed – and deeply miserable at my disappointment. My problem was that the story seemed to be all over the place – I couldn’t see where it was going, and I was watching the clock to work out when it was all going to come together. 

    Having watched it a second time (ie having rewritten the story in my head) I enjoyed it immensely, but I wish I hadn’t had to work so hard to get there.

    With regard to Rory and Amy – in retrospect, I can see the Pond Life #5 is showing that cracks form and relationships fall apart really quickly. But from there to a decree nisi in a month? That’s going some. Still, easy come, easy go, and if you’re going to split up quite so rapidly then presumably you can change your mind again just as quickly. So, unconvincing, but a not unaffecting performance. (OK, I cried.)

    The exciting ideas that I took from this episode were the variations of Dalek in human form: updated robomen, ballet dancing mad Daleks, humaniforms with Dalek eyestalks, guns and accessible personality (Darla von Karlsen) and dalekform human mind (Oswin).  These ideas I genuinely found creepy and alarming – what would an evil, hatefilled, driven genius look like if it wasn’t saddled with a mutated body and a giveaway metal casing. An angel of light?

  • What could their agenda possibly look like?

    9:45. Welcome
    10:00. Hate committee
    10:30. Hate hearing

    You’ve been peeking at the Tea Party minutes, haven’t you.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this episode. For the most part, it felt less like the farcical comedy to which we’ve been subjected of late with Moffat’s team and far more like grown-up Doctor Who. Mostly. I found myself wondering hours after watching it, “Wait. How did Amy and/or Rory not end up with a Dalek eye-stalk in the forehead?”

    I found the pacing good, the dialogue sharp, and Oswin a compelling character. Sadly, Amy and Rory have been becoming less compelling and less relevant for a while, although I did like the hints that something terrible had been done to Amy at Demon’s Run. Moffat is finally dealing with the horrific devastation and loss that Amy and Rory must be feeling after losing Melody/River, but he just glosses over it rather than confronting it as it should be confronted.

    Were there plot holes? Aplenty! Would I have preferred to see the Doctor and his companions trapped on a planet of fully active “insane” Daleks? Certainly! There are always things that can be done better, and this one has loads of it, but I also thought that the good and the bad were more or less in balance, which cannot always be said when a brilliant writer doesn’t have an editor / overseer to reign in his or her impulses.

    Overall, I thought it a decent start to the series that doesn’t overstay its welcome and certainly doesn’t give us a setup that will only lead to disappointment like last year’s series premier. Do I want better? Surely, I do. Am I happy having the Doctor back? Oh, yes.

    So, who’s scared? Geronimo!

  • Acting as devil’s advocate (and part of my daily regime of developing a female gaze): this episode fronts a woman sacrificing her happiness because she can’t deliver a child for the man she loves and a sexy female genius who copes with a terrible trauma by experimenting in the kitchen.  Can this be quite right?

  • bronxbee

    well, i’m going to say it:  disappointed.  when is the Doctor going to go back to being a solution instead of the problem?  when is he going to be a hero, instead of the guy who destroyed his own planet and people trying to end a war, where obviously the enemy got away and is multiplying like… roaches?  when will we see the end of Dalek this-that-and-the-other-thing?  Moffat was good, sometimes even treat, with the stand alone episodes he wrote… but i feel his running of the show is going all pear shaped, and aiming too hard for the international market.  i still love DW, but a lot of that is residual affection for the Doctor’s character and storyline in the old show and the  excitement and sharper edge of Davies’ nuWho…. also, tired of the Ponds and their soap opera.  i prefer space opera.

  • VanessaDK

     I’m cogitating on the idea that a lot of this erasing of the doctor  is long term set up for the 50th anniversary….

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I enjoyed it.

    I think it worked well enough as a stand alone episode, and I think stand alone episodes on this show seldom work. The opening act was full of stuff made up just for this story: the skin job Daleks, the Parliament, the Asylum. I was ok with the controls being on the planet because the explanation only has to go one question deep: the Asylum is the epitome of “locking them up and throwing away the key,” so one non-insane Dalek was sent down to turn the field on and then self-destruct, and if you want to make sure no one can break these insane Daleks out, where better to put the key than down among the insane Daleks. My asnwer to “what if the insane Daleks find the key” is answered by how the Daleks on the planet don’t seem to do much of anything at all.
    The story of Amy and Rory, while not the most compelling choice nor told in the most compelling way, was at least more interesting than listening to them whine “We’re just so booooooooooooooooored.” They can still pull this out, if they spend some time in the next 4 episodes addressing rape survival: how Amy copes, how Rory copes with being the husband of a rape survival, how the Doctor makes amends for not protecting his companion. I’m not all that concerned with why they keep staying behind. honestly, who can cope with living in that kind of danger all the time? The only reason I could buy that Rose or Donna could was because neither had any sort of life to go back to. This is why Steven Moffat doesn’t think most people would want to run off with the Doctor.

    No mention of the dance hall sequence? I thought that was clever.

    “The Doctor lies” isn’t just a recurring line for the 11th Doctor. It’s an ethos that Moffat himself embodies. And yet, everyone still wants to take his PR statements at face value. I’m not going so far as to suggest Ms. Coleman isn’t going to play the next companion. Rather, I’m looking at this episode, comparing it to statements he’s made about the next companion, and trying to decide what exactly he’s lied about. I suspect it might be important that the Doctor never sees Oswin’s face. He may be setting up a situation where we, the audience, know something the Doctor doesn’t (for a change). Also, given the themes of predestination as applied to a time traveler introduced last season, combined with the dialog snippets we’ve seen from “A Town Called Mercy”, I also suspect the Doctor may well cross his own timeline to save Oswin from the Daleks, either deliberately or accidentally.

  • doc365a

    I enjoyed this episode. It was…fun!  Having said that, I can say this: the episode would have benefited with more exposition in the first 10 minutes. I mean, the planetary force field makes absolutely no sense on its face; no use having an asylum as a dumping ground if the force field, meant to keep the craziest of the crazy from getting out, can only be switched off from the planet, which means they have no way of dumping the insane Daleks onto the planet. What if the force field had never been activated until Oswin herself turned it on? Late in the episode, she mentions “there’s a force field in here,” with “in here” apparently (unbeknownst to her) being on a planetary scale.
    And what if the Parliament of the Daleks was only recently convened because of this? After all, there’s now something down there that shouldn’t be, and it’s managed to survive for a year and they know it has free reign over their systems. They probably even know it’s a Dalek, but based on the transmissions they’re recieving, they’re utterly baffled about how to handle it…and terrified of what it could do to them, if it’s not taken care of. So they convene this great council, and decide that the Doctor is their only hope of salvation. Something like this, I think, would have given us some much needed background and set the situation up much, much better in my opinion.
    But I’ve got to say the reaction to this episode only confirms to me something that I find a little bit disappointing about the show now, namely that a schism seems to have developed in the fandom that “this show sucks now” or is starting to suck under Moffet’s tenure, while on the other side any one who admits to liking the RTD years as much or – heaven forbid!- even more are attacked as being idiots who like everthing spoonfed to them. Oh well, another subject for another time. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the show for what it is, which is all it has ever been: entertaining, with some not-so-great stories here and there and the occasional moments of true greatness through it’s fifty-odd years…and above all, fun!

  • Arkaan

      You know, the one thing I think Moffat came close to nailing was Rory and Amy leaving, actually.   I think there’s still a bit of valorization of the Doctor which made it difficult to articulate, but Rory’s pointed dismissal of him in “The Girl Who Waited” and the way Rory’s lack of fear (which turns into lack of faith) in “The God Complex” basically tell us that he’s done as a companion.  I wish the show explored that more, but it’s there.  I also wish that the fascinating stuff in this relationship (waiting 2000 years, the kidnapped daughter) was explored more.

      I liked the episode.  Certainly way more than Dalek (which suffered from some truly amateurish acting) and the third season two-parter.  If the rest of this season remains at this level, I’ll enjoy it

  • Jackiep

    I liked the idea that one of the symptoms of Amy’s perceptions becoming Dalek is that she saw a room full of spinning Daleks as dancing people.  But of course Daleks see themselves as people, the only real people.

  • I didn’t mean it in comparison to other Doctors as much as against other actors… I mean, they could have got Graham Norton, or Alexa Chung.

  • I enjoyed it. Made for a great introduction to Oswin. And forgive for saying it, but MAN is she one fine looking woman. Moffat sure knows how to pick companions. I look forward to seeing how she ends up as one. It’s going to take some ridiculous story telling to get there, I imagine.
    Matt Smith is always fun to watch, and he’s the main reason I continue to enjoy the Moffat era. From a show quality standpoint, they certainly lack, but the characters are so compelling.
    I didn’t like Amy as a model, though.   She’s never flaunted her good looks before, so this felt out of place.
    Bring on the Dinos!

  • Jackiep

    Amy as a model makes sense.  The original Amy worked on her looks as a kissogram, but that was when she had no parents and was raised by her Auntie.  Amy raised by her Mum and Dad not only had a far posher wedding than was originally planned (this wasn’t a salsa band in the village hall, this was a swanky do paid for by her family) obviously still traded on her looks but now as a rather classy model.  Same Amy, different life.

  • NorthernStar

    That was OK.  Not great but passably good.  The lack of a firm, logical basis on which episodes rest, is something that becoming a bit of a trademark.  It’s almost as if Moffatt gets blinkered by his main point – and Oswin as a Dalek was a very good twist indeed – that he forgets to root in a background that makes sense.  It’s frustrating.

    Much as I liked Rory finally snapping “I love you more than you love me” the marriage-in-crisis plotline just feels forced.  Now if they’d made it about the loss of their child (statisically a large portion of marriages break up after the death of a child) it might have felt natural and been interesting.

    Also, now that the “Question has been asked” (Doctor Who?) will silence fall? 

  • i enjoyed the episode :)

  • Danielm80

    Amy’s career as a model makes sense to me, if I put in enough effort. The life she had before allowed her to travel all of time and space. Very few careers on Earth give her anything like that experience, and those that do tend to require years of training. But if she becomes a famous model (and at the end of last season, her face appeared to be on signs all over London), then she can visit exotic locations and meet influential people around the world. It’s not as exciting as life on the TARDIS, but she doesn’t get shot at by Daleks every few months. So I understand why Moffat wanted to give her that career.

    If it had been up to me, though, I would have made her a travel writer.

  • Knightgee

    My major problem with Amy and Rory is that the stories they are given are very rarely the emotional compelling and satisfying things Moffatt wants them to be. Are we meant to believe Amy left Rory without discussing her reasons why at all? That she didn’t once sit down and say “look I can’t have children and I feel like I’m letting you down because I know how much you wanted to start a family”? Did she really just jump straight to divorce without any communication of what the problem was? And he just let her? I don’t buy it.

    It seemed forced, designed specifically for them to have a climactic emotional reuniting over a problem that shouldn’t have occurred to begin with. You’ve known each other your whole lives, you’ve seen various versions of each other die and be reborn, you’ve traveled the galaxy together, you’ve been separated by thousands of years, but Amy not being able to have kids anymore is the thing that finally breaks you two down? And all it takes to resolve it is a chat about it?

    Other than that I thought the episode was fine, but I remain annoyed that these two companions who have so much potential are routinely given the least interesting things to work with. I like their chemistry, I like the idea of them, I like the actors who play them, I don’t like what Moffatt decides makes for compelling stories for them. The new companion has potential if they keep her genius and tone down the flirtiness a bit  (also ugh at that “it was a phase” line).

    On another note, the Daleks basically having the Doctor removed from their memories means things are kind of reset with them, which I appreciate, because the idea of the Doctor as a well-known, feared, dangerous force that must be stopped was a compelling one in Series 5, but got a bit old by series 6. Him being able to flit around without all that baggage and without people planning season long strategies for killing him will be nice.

  • innpchan

    I always figured the “Amy as a model” bits were a bone tossed to Karen Gillan to keep her around longer.

  • I agree about the schism. I find the absolutism involved in having to idolise Davies in order to reject Moffat rather sad. I thought Davies was a brilliant writer with some rather obvious, in-your-face flaws. Moffat I feel is a brilliant writer with some rather obvious flaws. For me, they are slightly less in-your-face.

    I’m in the happy position of being able to double-judge the show. Not by watching it twice, but by watching it with my 10-year-old son. And he likes it as much as he ever has.

  • But she actually was a model before she became an actor.

  • The dancing people is also a reference to the design notes Terry Nation gave to Raymond Cusick, involving the Georgian National Ballet. Cusick was savvy enough to take what worked and make up the rest.

  • My major problem with Amy and Rory is that the stories they are given are very rarely the emotional compelling and satisfying things Moffatt wants them to be. Are we meant to believe Amy left Rory without discussing her reasons why at all? That she didn’t once sit down and say “look I can’t have children and I feel like I’m letting you down because I know how much you wanted to start a family”? Did she really just jump straight to divorce without any communication of what the problem was? And he just let her? I don’t buy it.

    This may well be a mileage-may-vary situation. Are you British? Do you have experience of this sort of miscommunication in marriage? (These are rhetorical questions, I’m not intending to pry).

    My own experience is such that I did not find this aspect of the relationship between Amy and Rory at all unbelievable. Those who cannot believe that others do not think and behave in the same way as they do themselves may struggle with it though, I grant you.

  •  She was? Makes sense, I suppose. Certainly better looking than most models I’ve seen.

  • bronxbee

    so, what… they can start all over again?  okay… i might be able to deal with that.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    My major problem with Amy and Rory is that the stories they are given are very rarely the emotional compelling and satisfying things Moffatt wants them to be. Are we meant to believe Amy left Rory without discussing her reasons why at all? That she didn’t once sit down and say “look I can’t have children and I feel like I’m letting you down because I know how much you wanted to start a family”? Did she really just jump straight to divorce without any communication of what the problem was? And he just let her? I don’t buy it.

    As a matter of personal anecdotes, I have known couples to engage in these behaviors, or variations thereof. Or, in some cases worse: my cousin’s marriage ended recently because one had an affair specifically because they wanted out of the marriage and knew that infidelity would be a no-discussion-no-reconciliation-possible deal-breaker for the other. Sadly, too many relationships could be saved if one or both of the partners would communicate openly. Add in the shame too often associated with rape survival, and the Amy/Rory situation certainly rings true, in general. Not completely compelling, mind. But much better than contempt born of boredom, which is what I feared was going to be the route they took.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Oh, that gives me a thought: what if the Doctor is going to, over the course of this series, take steps to erase memory of himself from the Universe. But, what if 
    he goes too far?  So that
    at Trenzalor when the question is asked – “Doctor who?” – no one can answer, because no on remembers, and that’s why silence must fall.

  • Lynn

     How about investigative journalist then? Especially the kind that goes to other countries and tries to report things the powerful consider dangerous?

    The model throwaway line was a massive letdown last season, and the fanservice at the start of this ep was completely gratuitous.

  • Random aside: I thought the best bit in the whole episode was the exchange between Oswin and Amy that went something along these lines:
    OSWIN: “Does she seem a bit too angry to you?”AMY: “Clearly, you’ve never been to Scotland.”

    I lost it. Probably because because my boss is a lovely woman from Scotland.

  • Any #FF discussants planning on live tweeting the next episode?

  • Pelahnar

    Interesting. One ‘plot hole’ that I noticed isn’t mentioned by anyone here that I can find, and I expected it would be. 

    The Doctor gave his wristband thing to the Ponds, I suppose as some sort of self-sacrifice thing. While it worked great as a twist at the end of Rory and Amy’s argument about love…it was never mentioned again. What’s the point of self-sacrifice if nothing happens to the one sacrificing? The Doctor didn’t ever show signs of being affected by the nanobots.

    …Or did he? This is why I put ‘plot hole’ in quotes above. What if the reason Oswin is able to return as a human companion later is because she was _not_ actually a Dalek in this one? The Doctor just saw her as one, his perception being altered by the nanobots. If Oswin is really a genius as she claims, I could believe that she made some way of fighting the nanobots for a year. Maybe it didn’t work perfectly though, explaining the (unsuccessful) souffles without milk and her memories of being changed.

    I also think it’s weird that the nanobots turned her _physically_ but not mentally into a Dalek (assuming I’m wrong, and she really did change), while everyone else was changed mentally but not completely physically.

  • My assumption was that it was the Daleks, not the nanobots, who turned her into a Dalek. And put her in chains. Which begs the question who was in charge down there? What Dalek subcommittee was plotting to escape and tried to co-opt a new member? All these and other questions (posed earlier by MAJ) have been left wide open for fans to debate.

    This episode has made Daleks into much more heterogenous bunch, and a much more diverse threat. And to my mind a much more credible species.

  • GrannyWeatherwax2

    Spot on post.

  • Sum1314g

    So did Oswin just delete the Daleks’ memory of the Doctor, or somehow rewrite their whole historical memory/records, etc.?  Because if it’s the former, the Dalek bookkeepers are going to have some really weird expenses to explain…

  • Eve

    I was thinking the other day about writers who I’d liek to take over after Gatiss and Toby Whithouse was the guy who popped into my head! Although mostly because he’s one of the few tv writers I can actually name and I do ejoy his episodes….

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    They hand waved it. Either Amy or Rory comments that the Doctor figured he’d be immune to the nanobots, due to Time Lord magic, I guess. *shrug*

  • Pelahnar

    Daleks have bookkeepers? But then again, I guess they have Parliament, so why not?

  • Liz

    Wow. I love your guilty Dalek scenario. It ties into what MaryAnn was saying – the truly “insane” Daleks would be the compassionate ones.

  • VanessaDK

     This. And when noone remembers, can the 50th anniversary special be far behind?

  • Knightgee

     I can appreciate all of that, but at the same time, if I’m meant to take such conflict seriously, it would be handy to not have it resolved in the span of a single conversation in one episode. This is the kind of thing Pond Life should have expanded on instead of spending all but the last of its episodes being cutesy then suddenly serious.

  • Jim Mann

    So all of this was actually just Moffat painting himself into another impossible corner (and if history is any judge, he will not extricate himself in a satisfactory way).

    I thought he resolved things very well in his first season, with The Big Bang, but agree that he resolved things less well last season. 

  • Eve

    …I meant Moffat…

  • Jackiep

    Oswin was in the Asylum and clearly was what the Daleks were terrified of.  A human who had been turned into a Dalek and yet retained sufficient identity to be a human in her own mind.  She liked emotional music, dictated loving messages to her Mum and thought she was bricking soufles.  (Even in her mental dreamspace, she couldn’t get that one right!).  Daleks can go mad (i.e. by human terms, sane), but a human converted who fails to change?  Terrifying.  No wonder they needed The Doctor to sort her out.

  • I watched this episode with 5.1 sound and I have to admit for the first time I found the Dalek’s quite sinister when it wass lowly purring out ‘Exterminate.’ I thought it was a well rounded episode apart from the fact that A Dalek Parliament seems highly unbelievable.

  • Haven’t read all the comments yet. But as for Oswin and the “new companion” thing, I’m thinking twins. We’ll know by Xmas.

  • Pelahnar

    They could also be terrified of a human smart enough to beat the system. Or maybe they didn’t actually _know_ what was down there, just that it was sending out signals (like the music) that was so un-Dalek. I’ve only seen this once, but I don’t remember them saying that they actually knew what the threat was?

  • Pelahnar

    If he were immune to the nanobots, then there was no point in giving him one in the first place. Or, assuming the Daleks didn’t know whether he was but he did, he should’ve said so and given it to Amy right off. But that wouldn’t be practical plot-wise, of course.

  • I have no theories how the new companion will be resolved, but it’s interesting to look up the names Oswin & Oswald and see that they mean “friend of God” and “power of God”. Does this indicate a new kind of relationship for the Doctor? Steven Moffat seems to want the way this plays out to be something substantial, rather than a cheap reveal: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/s7/doctor-who/news/a403576/doctor-who-steven-moffat-teases-jenna-louise-coleman-companion-impact.html

  • I watched the episode again last night, and I have become increasingly impressed with the way that Oswin’s imaginary world reflects how a homunculus stuck in a Dalek shell might dream. Although “finishing a soufflé” is a fiendish cryptic crossword clue for “ex/eggs terminate”.

  • how is the Doctor supposed to fight the Daleks if they dont even know who he is? Someone please give me a good answer.

  • Ryan Gross

    I’m surprised they didn’t actually go with omelette rather than souffle. Because eggs, stir, minute is a better description of how to make the aforementioned food, rather than a meal you have to bake. Then, I guess it negates the Doctor’s question of where she gets the milk. But they could have easily just said ‘Where do you get the ingredients?’ instead

  • Ryan Gross

    The Daleks will fight anyone, they don’t have to know them. “Exterminate” is their only modus operandi, and meet phrase. Not “oh hi Doctor, how have you been since our last battle? Still with the hot redhead I see”. It will hopefully open up some new avenues for Dalek stories without the burden of 50 years of history.

  • VanessaDK

    I don’t know…I just wondering if it is going to play into the longer arc leading up to the 50th annniversary

  • Tonio Kruger

    Well, the genius could have built herself a memory library or thought about a brick wall but I had the feeling that both those ideas have been done….

  • Tonio Kruger

    One would have thought that a fifteen-minute hate session would have been more appropriate.

  • Tonio Kruger

    But if silence falls in an empty forest, does it make a soun–Oh, never mind!

  • Tonio Kruger

    …This is Jenna-Louise Coleman

    Otherwise known as J-Lo. Oh, wait. That’s been used.

    So…J-Lo UK?

    And no doubt her upcoming companion character will be the next Gwen Turner…

  • I think this is how their voting process would go:

    Supreme Dalek: “All votes are in. All but one of the Da-leks have vo-ted in fa- vour of the bill… with one exception.

    Dalek in the back of the room: “I still think that…”

    (Supreme Dalek points his gun at the dissident, and blow him to bits in one shot)

    Supreme Dalek: “THE VOTE IS U-NAN-I-MOUS!”

    But really, WHY did Steven Moffat think that adding a pointless Parliament would make the Dalek Empire “scary again”? I mean, I can understand the necessity of a large congregation of Daleks to establish that the good old those bronze, PROPER Daleks are the standard again, but couldn’t they have called it something else? Also, YOU HAVE A SUPREME DALEK. USE HIM!!! I swear, half the time he was just standing awkwardly to the side as Mr. Octopus-In-a-Tank hogged the attention.

  • Jurgan

    Finally almost caught up. Yeah, I loved this episode unreservedly. Okay, no doubt there was some stuff that didn’t make sense, like the dalek parliament. I’m willing to accept the control being on the planet, though- I could probably hand-wave an explanation- maybe they used to have a remote control, but there was a riot and the receiver was destroyed? Who knows. I think an insane dalek is one who kills other daleks, not just inferior species, though then I’m forced to ask why the inmates didn’t kill each other. Okay, it’s a bit confusing, I admit, but I was willing to overlook it.

    This episode was genuinely scary. When the man at the beginning slowly realized he was dead the whole time, that was terrifying. Likewise Rory suddenly being surrounded by hostile daleks. This is the best the daleks have been since series 2. And I loved the reveal of Oswin- it once again raised the question of what it means to be human. Is Oswin still human because she thinks she is? I tend to say yes, and yet the Doctor unambiguously says no. Is this prejudice on his part? Is it right to tell someone a harsh truth when they’re happier with the lie? It was probably something she needed to hear, but it was still tough. I thought all of this was brilliant. I am concerned, though, how she becomes Clara. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but it looks like Moffat is going to create another companion with a complicated backstory that becomes a mystery for the Doctor to solve. Given how badly Moffat dropped the ball doing the exact same thing with Amy, I’m hesitant.

    Finally, there’s Amy and Rory. I have personal reasons that I won’t go into here, but for me their discussion near the end was heartbreaking. I will say that it would have been easier to accept if they’d been going through a trial separation rather than full-on divorce, but that’s a nitpick. The emotions in that scene were intense enough that I was overwhelmed. This is my favorite episode in quite a while.

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