Friday, September 14, 2012

TV Review: DOCTOR WHO S7E1 - Asylum of the Daleks

As something new, I'll be starting to write more recaps and reviews of TV shows, specifically, DOCTOR WHO and whatever other shows I have time for. Before we get into yet another recap for some weeks old episodes, I kind of wanted to just a give a little bit of my history with DOCTOR WHO.

I had heard a tons of stuff about this "longest running sci-fi TV show" and honestly didn't know that much about it other than that. The rebooted series came on to Netflix which had four seasons....And then I kind of hated it. I was pretty confused as to what the hell Destro (9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston) was talking about all of the time, the graphics were a little goofy, and Rose Tyler's eyebrows just bugged me. So I dropped it for a few months. Then I came back to it, and I almost did not stop until Matt Smith started his run as the Doctor.

The show captivated me just like it has so many others. It's funny that this is probably one of the first times I've actually written or talked about the Doctor considering that, while I watching the David Tennant run, I was thinking of writing an awesome "Why Doctor Who reinforced my Atheism" post that never quite happened. I'm usually not one of those people that likes constant change and giddy optimism in my pop culture and because of this, it's actually a really strange show for me to like.

And to be perfectly honest, ever since 11th Doctor Matt Smith and current show runner Steven Moffat came into the picture, I've had a hard time adjusting to the show, but eventually came to embrace the different style of writing. One thing I still have not come around to is the Internet's love of Amy Pond and Rory Williams. I've always found them grating in their own way, and they are my least favorite modern era companions. But that is another piece for another time. Since life got in the way, I'll be doing a review of the two episodes of the season so far starting with the opener, ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS, and then DINOSAURS ON A SPACESHIP.

As silly and stupid as they can be, I freaking love the Daleks. I guess I'm a sucker for Nazi-parable villains with their single-minded hatred of everything has lead to some interesting exploration of their hypocrisy, especially when the Cult of Skaro came up to power during the 10th Doctor seasons. The episode starts with the Doctor heeding the call of a woman to help rescue her daughter from a Dalek prison camp. Since his "death" at the end of the last season, the Doctor has been difficult to find, and she was forced to call out to the Doctor in a manner that would intrigue him, and so she had him meet her in a building in the Dalek's home world of Skaro which leads him to be captured by a freaky new type of Dalek that can be disguised as a human.

Cut to my least favorite companions getting a divorce. Apparently Amy Pond has decided to keep on being a model, and Rory now plays in a rockabilly band thanks to his new greaser look. If you kept up with the POND LIFE miniseries on the BBC site, you knew this was coming. However, the reason why is revealed later, and it's of the weakest aspects of the episode. Cut to them being "acquired" by other human-Dalek agents and being taken to a Dalek spaceship.

What follows is one of the most awe-inspiring images I've seen during the show where Amy, Rory, and the Doctor are taken to the "Parliament of Daleks" (I thought they had an emperor before, but maybe I'm wrong) where the Daleks, in unison, ask the Doctor to save them literally from themselves. The Daleks began to hear a song from the opera, CARMEN, transmitting from the titular Asylum, a wasteland where the insane and unruly Daleks are kept. By implying that someone, a human in this instance, could actually crash into the planet and survive implies there would be a way for the Daleks to get out...somehow. Just run with it. Apart from the Pond divorce, the reasoning behind the plot is pretty lame, especially when you consider just how sedated all of the crazy Daleks are down in the planet. Their task is to shut down the shields so the planet can be blown up to pieces.

Once the trio is coerced into going down to the planet, they are giving a Deus Ex Machina bracelet that allows protects them from the nanobots down in the surface. This is rather clever defense mechanism for the planet; anytime that someone or something gets to the surface then nanobots start to reprogram them into Dalek agents much like the lady at the beginning. When they land, Rory is the one that gets separated from the group while Amy and the Doctor are on the surface. Here, the Doctor comes to "meet" Oswin, the lady that's been sending the transmission. She's a genius hacker who also loves making souffles, and she will be the person that helps out our heroes in this episode.

On the surface, Amy and the Doctor meet a survivor of another ship crash who happens to be a Dalek agent. It's at this point that we come to the realization that the nanobots convert both living and dead organisms giving us creepy skeleton Daleks. The big deal of this sequence is that it puts Amy once again in "danger" of dying since one of the skeleton Daleks took her bracelet. If we hadn't been through this type of plot before numerous times ( e.g. FLESH AND STONE, NIGHT TERRORS), I wouldn't have groaned as much as I did but I understand why they did it.

Down below Rory is helped by Oswin when he wakes up various different types of Daleks from their sleep. I enjoyed the bit of foreshadowing when they wake up by saying, "Eggs..." then slowly turning it into their signature "Exterminate!". They go through some clever action beats, including one where the Doctor causes a Dalek that's self-destructing into a roll into a room full of more Daleks. Eventually, they get to the shield control and a teleporter. Oswin has been flirting with Rory, being sassy with the Doctor, and helping open doors, so she asks to be rescued as well so the Doctor goes off by himself to find her while Amy is struggling with the nanobots.

The scene that follows, while heartfelt, seems like the type of thing that could have been discussed before the Amy and Rory got the to the stage of divorce. Turns out that after the incident with the Silence at Demon's Run, she cannot have any more babies after River Song, and since Rory really wants kids, the obvious thing is for Amy to divorce him? It's that sort of weird attitude that always leaves me cold towards Amy. But as I mentioned before, when she says that it was hard giving Rory up so he could be with someone that could give him kids, I felt it.

What made more of an emotional impact for me was the big twist of the episode when the Doctor discovers that the wonderfully charming Oswin is a converted Dalek. Turns out that her ship did crash a while a go, but since she was such a hacking genius, the Daleks made her into a true Dalek with a shell and everything. Something about hearing emotion coming out of the shell got to me. What's really interesting is that this is something that the Cybermen would do instead of the Daleks. They would think that Oswin as a human is not hateful enough to be one of them.

One scene of note that I really enjoyed was that right before meeting Oswin, the Doctor has to go through the ICU portion of the Asylum where we get glimpses of early Dalek designs before the Last Great Time War wiped out most of them. As the Doctor says, "These are the ones that survived me." It's pretty crazy seeing the Doctor cower as they approach before Oswin hacks their network to make them forget who he is.

Once Oswin remembers what happened to her, she urges the Doctor to leave and that she'll stay behind to deactivate the shield. Once they leave the planet, the Daleks destroy the Asylum, and it's at this point that the Doctor realizes that Oswin wiped out the memory of ALL of the Daleks so they have no idea who he is. As the TARDIS is teleporting out of the Dalek ship, we hear a chorus of "Doctor Who?"s being exclaimed. This is obviously a reference to the last season finale where the Silence is revealed to be trying to kill the Doctor, so that once he is asked this question, he may never get a chance to answer it.

Overall, the episode was a good jumping off point from last season, picking up some of the threads that were started before and trying to boldly go into new directions. I am especially happy with what they've done with the Daleks. The new human-Daleks are an interesting addition to their arsenal, and it might prove them to be more lethal and less goofy villains than before. I also liked that in the Asylum you get a sort of "greatest hits" of all Dalek designs before being blown up and their memory of the Doctor erased. This symbolizes a new beginning for their relationship as enemies. But the Amy and Rory divorce issue felt a little lame to me in how it was resolved so quickly and without tension.

There is the obvious issue of Oswin. The actress that plays her is supposed to be the new companion after the Ponds leave the Doctor after this Christmas specials, and she was most definitely blown up at the end. How will she get to be a new companion then? Interviews and snippets of information have hinted at the fact that Oswin and the new companion might not be the same person, so we'll see what happens. I found her to be charming and sassy much like Donna from the Tennant years.

It seems that The Question and the theme of separation are going to be recurring themes that we will see throughout this season until at least Amy and Rory stop being the Doctor's companions. Which is a nice transition into this week's episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship."

No comments:

Post a Comment