Sunday, 2 September 2012

Saving the Daleks

"Rescue me chin boy and show me the stars!"

When I first watched it last night, I came away from Asylum of the Daleks not thinking it was bad, merely disappointing. The pacing was all over the place, everything about the plot felt far too convenient, and the episode was just trying to do too much in not enough time. After watching it a second time, I still think the story has it's problems, but I've come to really, really like it.

I'll talk quickly about the new opening titles, but it isn't something that will affect my opinion of the episode.  I don't like it very much though. The new colour for the first half in particular just looks like they changed the hue in Photoshop... in quite a rush. I like that it's darker, but the colour balance makes me rather queasy. I don't like the way the big DW is still present, but separate from the rest of the titles. It just feels disjointed, like they couldn't be bothered to make a new way for the TARDIS to fly back in. The dalek themed logo was a nice idea but nothing that special; in fact I'd say it's a little gimmicky. I like the new ripple effect they having going for the titles though. I think it's pretty cool.

I suppose the biggest thing about the episode is the surprise appearance of Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin. For those of you who don't know, Jenna was announced as the new companion after the Ponds leave at the end of the Autumn half of the season. Naturally, having her appear three months early was quite an interesting surprise, well done to everyone who was aware of this and managed to avoid spoiling it!

Anyway, Oswin proved to be VERY popular. Her bright attitude, lightning quick wit and intelligence, and - lets face it - stunning good looks flung both her and Jenna-Louise Coleman up the trending topics on twitter, and for good reason. Oswin is easily the most capable companion we've seen for a very long time, probably since Romana. She's distinctly unimpressed by The Doctor, almost expecting him to show her the stars and be brilliant. She had the potential to be properly up herself and annoying, but comments such as "oh yeah, I'm a genius" only come off as endearing.

While it was a great example of Fridge Brilliance - I appreciated the reveal and all the hints towards it the second time I watched the story - the twist with Oswin being a Dalek at the end never really hit me as well as it probably should have. Yeah, I liked Oswin, but I'd only known her for 40 minutes, so I couldn't be too concerned about her. Maybe that will change as I get to know her after Christmas, but for now? Meh.

On the Daleks themselves, I don't think Moffat was quite successful at "making the Daleks scary again", but they were definitely a serious threat throughout the episode. The Nanocloud was an interesting idea which basically combined the Nanogene plague from way back in Series 1 with Daleks. It probably would have single-handedly made the Daleks scary if the zombies it created were more actively used, but they disappear as a threat pretty quickly. The mindscrew the Nanocloud performed on Amy would have been nice if it actually put her in danger, but sadly it never did.

As threatening as they were, though, the nanocloud seems more like a concept which would be better suited to the Cybermen than the Daleks. As does converting humans (admittedly genius ones) into Daleks. I wouldn't have an issue with that if it was explained why the Daleks were converting humans a bit more thoroughly than "Oh, they need genius." But I suspect that's an issue with timing, and I'll come to that later.

The actual Daleks themselves successfully trap The Doctor, Amy and Rory within about three minutes and have an impending massive laser ready to destroy the Asylum that they're on as soon as The Doctor does what they need him to. Their new found concept of beauty disgusted The Doctor and it's certainly unsettling, as is their chant of "SAVE THE DALEKS!" Oswin's Dalek moments are truly disturbing too. Unfortunately, the Daleks in the Asylum are pretty crap shots and aren't too threatening as a result, but they do their job well enough... Until they blow up at least.

This episode looks very expensive. Steven Moffat wasn't kidding when he said the episodes from Series 7 were going to be like mini-movies. Everything about this episodes production screams "bigger budget", especially the magnificent CGI shots which could easily be from a summer sci-fi blockbuster.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory spend most of their time moving through the dark Asylum, and the atmosphere manages to stay consistently tense. The Daleks aren't too dangerous, but they don't need to be, the atmosphere is fear enough, and creates a sense that The Daleks will become dangerous any second. Oddly, the much lighter scenes involving Oswin the soufflĂ© girl don't feel out of place at all.

Not everything about this episode was a success though. I still take an issue with the pacing. The tense feeling of the Asylum is unfortunately ruined slightly by its brevity. The story tried to do too much and didn't quite have enough time to do it.

What suffers most because of this is probably Amy and Rory. They start the episode signing divorce papers before being taken by the Daleks, but the breakdown of their marriage lasts a grand total of 30 minutes. The discussion they both have about their relationship is certainly emotionally charged and sad, but this massive development in their relationship - the way the break up affected them both, how it all actually went down - is mostly glossed over because there just isn't enough time. What should have been a massive shift, or at least a new perspective, on their relationship was ultimately just the revelation that Amy can no longer have children. The way it was revealed was simply bad writing, though. Surely Rory already knows that Amy cant have kids? She's only saying it again for the sake of the camera. With that said, Karen Gillan's acting is brilliant, enough to make me not realise how poorly the scene was done.

Also, why is Amy a model? She was capable of building a sonic probe in The Girl Who Waited and now she's pouting in front of a camera? Personally I think Amy and Rory should have simply not been in this episode. Their place in the plot feels awkward and unnecessary, and I think the episode would have benefited more from the extra time if it were handed to making The Daleks more threatening. If not Amy and Rory, at least scrap the divorce sub plot, which had all the use of time sink.

The last moment with the Daleks forgetting about The Doctor feels a little far-fetched, but it's not too important. I suspect it's all playing into a larger storyline... Hopefully.

Overall, a decent episode. Great start to the series, a return to form for the Daleks, and a cool story to boot. Can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm looking forward to Dinosaurs on a Spaceship!



  1. It appears that you have higher standards than I when it comes to Doctor Who. Now, I'm not saying that that is a bad thing, but personally, I freaking adored the episode, at least until the last five or ten minutes.

    I agree with you about the stupidity of Amy being a model, but that's where the similarities in our opinions end.

    Three things in this episode narked me off.

    Firstly, we now have Dalek Cybermen?! What the utter barnacles! These have the potential to be the scariest motherfudders that ever did appear on our screen, and they're reduced to the power of the common Zombie?!

    Secondly, although I agree that it was a nice plot twist, I hated Oswin being a Dalek, it was like a knife to the heart. Somehow, in 45 minutes, I fell in love with the character. But even without that, something didn't really fit. They were on a freaking asylum planent, who the hell was there to "convert" Oswin? And while we're on that topic, since when was it possible to convert Humans into Daleks?!

    Lastly, I absolutely hated that Oswin made the Daleks forget about the Doctor. Who/What the hell is going to scare him half to death now?!

    Also, there were a few other smaller contradictions, for example, we already established that it was supposed to be impossible to teleport into the insides of the TARDIS, back when Donna did it. As far as I know, the insides of the Tardis is in a different point in space and time, and the teleport only had enough power to teleport to the Dalek ship. In addition, at the start, we find that the Daleks were scared of the Asylum, but later on The Doctor tells Amy to hang on to her fear, as it "isn't Dalek". WTF?! Also, don't Daleks move by hovering slightly? If this is the case, why did we hear the sound of wheels when Rory pushed the Dalek? Lastly, since when did Dalek's have wireless capabilities?!

    1. I agree with the whole thing about the Daleks forgetting The Doctor. It seemed a little contrived the first time and it's one of the few things I didn't feel better about the second time. I let it off slightly because I get the impression it's going to play a part in "the first question" story arc.

      They've converted Human into Dalek before, though. In Revelation of the Daleks and in Bad Wolf. I don't know who did it this time, but still.

      They never established it was impossible to teleport into the TARDIS. Dalek transmat technology was able to get inside in Bad Wolf. I don't know what happened to Donna in the Library, but it wasn't a consequence of teleportation, which The Doctor seemed fine doing. They only had the power to travel a certain distance, and the TARDIS was on the Dalek ship. It was pretty clever, really.