Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Asylum of the Daleks"

“Asylum of the Daleks” kicks off the seventh series of Doctor Who with a bang. The revived show has yet to start a season with the Doctor’s greatest enemy because stories featuring the Daleks are generally the biggest in any given series. One hopes their going first is a sign of big things to come.

The Doctor is kidnapped from Skarro by a Dalek puppet posing as a woman who wants the doctor to rescue her daughter from a Dalek prison. Amy and rory are similarly kidnapped by Dalek puppets right after the two sign divorce papers. Our heroes wind up before the Parliament of the Daleks. The Parliament requests the Doctor’s help with a crisis on their asylum planet where they keep all the insane Daleks. A human ship known as Alaska has crashed on the planet, thereby damaging the force field surrounding it. The Daleks want to destroy the planet before the inmates escape, but the force field is not ruptured enough to do so. The send our heroes in to shut the force field off.

Our heroes do so with the help of Oswin Oswald, a genius from Alaska played by Jenna-Louise Coleman in her first turn on Doctor Who While I have not actively sought out any spoilers beyond trailers and production photos, how did I miss that Coleman was going to be in the first episode? She is not slated to become the Doctor’s new companion until Amy and Rory depart. Was her appearance a well kept secret, or am I just terribly out of the loop? I may have to evaluate my geek credentials after being caught of guard by this one.

Oswalk turns out to have been converted into a full dalek in order to better serve the asylum with her computer skills. The revelation is incredibly horrific, as is the way most of the insane Daleks are presented. I could have done without the comic relief element of the stuttering Dalek trying to say “exterminate” but Rory thinks it is sating “egg.” I did like that many of the inmates are there because of the Doctor. They hold a Major grudge.

In the midst of it all, Amy’s wrist device which keeps nanotech from altering er into a puppet is damaged. Rory offers her his, and we learn they have divorced because Rory wants children, but Amy is not infertile because of her kidnapping and giving birth to Melody last series. She decided to let him go so he can find another woman with whom to rear a family. Rory notes he loves her enough to wait 2,000uears for her, which prompts a face slap and an eventual reconciliation.

In the end, Oswald helps transport the Doctor and his companions off the asylum planet before the Daleks destroy it. She also wipes their collective minds clean of any memory of him. The final gag of the Parliament all asking ’Doctor who? Doctor who?” incessantly is a bit corny, but I will let it slide based on the rest of the episode.

The Daleks have a Parliament? With opposition leaders? A shadow government? One wonders what Prime Minister’s questions must be like. I assume they have foregone an emperor like they used to have. Or maybe the emperor has become a queen of England figurehead these days. Free elections are non-existent, one imagines.

“Asylum of the Daleks” is a good start to the season. There is a lot of action in a very moody setting. The asylum is dark and full of even more deraned than normal Daleks. Some of the comic relief elements are a little off. I do not care for the egg jokes or the “Doctor who?’ refrain. One also has to wonder how the Alaska can damage the force ield merely crashing into it, but the daleks, who have enough firepower to destroy the entire planet, need to shut it down before they can do so. From what materials Alaska made? Some tough stuff, apparently. These are fairly minor gripes in a otherwise enjoyable start to the seventh series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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