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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