Countdown to Christmas, Day 1: Series 7, Episode 1 - "Asylum of the Daleks"
WARNING: THIS ANALYSIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT WATCHED DOCTOR WHO OR AT THE VERY LEAST HAVE NOT SEEN THIS EPISODE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Well, it's begun. Today is exactly one week until Christmas, and that means it's time for that series I promised - Countdown to Christmas!
As promised, this series will consist of analyses of the episodes of Series 7 Part 1, as well as the 2-part prequel to the Christmas Special. This being day 1, today's analysis shall be of the Series 7 premiere, "Asylum of the Daleks."
So the biggest thing for me going into this episode was that I was a tad bit lost. You have to remember, I went from the Series 2 Christmas Special to this. So WAY different vibe. And different Doctor for that matter. The opening credits sequence was WAY different than the much plainer version used in Series 2. And yet they supposedly are going to change it AGAIN in the Christmas Special this year? Not sure why. The one in this episode is pretty cool in my opinion.
So, as for the episode...we start with a lady narrating some sort of letter, and the Doctor's shadow is seen. Then the Doctor appears and talks with the woman, while they look on the ruins of Scaro, the original home planet of the Doctor's nemesis, the Daleks. I have to say, Matt Smith's acting was pretty good in this scene. I'm not familiar with the Eleventh Doctor except through the specials, so this was my first time seeing him in an actual episode. He's kinda scary actually. I think it's his head/face - they are very statuesque. In a creepy way. I don't know if that's intentional. At the same time though, the Doctor wasn't very nice in this scene. I know the Doctor has scenes where he has to be serious and not so nice, but the Eleventh Doctor seems to do it more than usual.
Anyway, it turns out the lady is a Dalek. Sort of. It's like she was turned into one. Which is pretty icky. So, the Daleks capture the Doctor using her. We then go to Earth, where apparently Amy Pond has become some kind of model and gotten a sort of punk makeover. She's doing a photo shoot anyway when someone comes up to tell her her husband is there, to which she replies she has no husband. But she goes to the dressing room anyway, and Rory's there with what appear to be divorce papers. Amy doesn't even seem concerned about it, though Rory clearly is. So something is not going too well with these two. Hmm. Meanwhile, Amy gets abducted by her stylist-turned-Dalek, and the same thing happens to Rory as he gets on a bus to leave.
Amy and Rory find themselves in some white room. They don't seem too happy to be together, given the circumstances. Rory peeks out the window and sees a bunch of spaceships aiming at them. He reads the atmosphere and guesses they are in trouble. Then the Doctor comes in, guarded by Daleks, and small talk ensues. Now here I was confused. Why are there those metal/iron Daleks in this episode? I mean, I get that there are ones on the asylum planet (more about that in a sec), cause that's where the old, useless Daleks get sent to. But in the other scenes where there are Daleks, like this scene, they are all those iron Daleks. But I thought they'd "upgraded" in "Victory of the Daleks" to those colored, plastic-looking ones. But I could be wrong.
So Amy, Rory, and the Doctor get raised up on a platform where they are confronted by the Dalek Parliament. The last thing I'd want would be to hear that many Daleks talking at once. Aw man. That is not fun to listen to. Anyway, they apparently want to destroy this asylum planet they've set up where they dump all the useless Daleks. Problem is, there's a force field, and it can only be disabled from within the planet. Just goes to show how un-forward-thinking the Daleks are. And, for whatever reason, none of the Daleks want to go down there and deactivate it, so they're going to make the Doctor do it instead, regardless of the fact that they basically hate him. And because the Doctor "requires companions" (not sure where they got that idea; he can totally travel alone if he wants...the Companions are supposedly to help him not abuse his power and, I suppose, also to keep him from going insane from the loneliness), Amy and Rory are going too. The looks on Amy and Rory's faces when they finally understand why they are even on this Dalek ship in the first place are priceless. I bet Amy was thinking "And I left a BLOODY PHOTOSHOOT for this!"
So, after being provided with watch-like devices that are supposed to protect them from some nanomatter or other, the three are beamed down to the planet. The planet looked a lot like Hoth to me, the icy planet from The Empire Strikes Back. Also, the snow, I'm sad to say, did NOT look like snow. It kind of looked like sand actually. Then again, who knows how they filmed these exterior scenes - they could be on a soundstage for all I know.
And their adventures on the asylum planet begin, which mostly involve a lot of running from Daleks or people turned into Daleks. Amy loses her watch-thing and the Doctor realizes that she is now vulnerable to the nanomatter, which in a short period of time will turn her into one of those human-Dalek hybrids. He does everything he can to keep her human, while in the meantime the two try to find Rory, who ended up down in the interior of the planet in a maze of hallways filled with a lot of broken Daleks. Every time he tried to touch one, I thought "You better not do that," remembering how Rose woke a Dalek up by touching it back in Series 1.
And then there is Oswin. Oswin Oswald, the girl trapped inside a Dalek - and the episode strongly suggests she is just a human trapped in a Dalek, by the way. The Doctor may be convinced she is a full-on Dalek, who happens to have dreamed up her whole reality of hacking Dalek security, unsuccessfully making soufflés, recounting her day into a tape recorder à la the Captain's Log from Star Trek, boarding up her hatch to keep the Daleks out, and listening to the soundtrack for Bizet's Carmen on repeat. But I don't think so. I think she is really human. Yeah, it does appear she is controlling and speaking through that Dalek, but I believe her when she says she is a human who fought the Daleks. How exactly that room she is in exists I can't say. Definitely too big to be inside of a Dalek for sure. But she does show her humanness at the very end when she tells the Doctor to run, and to remember her. So I believe she's human.
Oswin was great. Kinda snarky, kinda flirty, but funny at the same time. Very well acted. And of course, Oswin is played by none other than Jenna-Louise Coleman, who's going to be the new Companion starting with this year's Christmas Special. This sort of thing isn't unheard of - it happened to Freema Agyeman, who played Series 3 Companion Martha; she appeared in "Army of Ghosts" in a smaller role before becoming a Companion. Alex Kingston also had a cameo as River Song in Series 4 before being properly introduced as River Song in Series 5. Since it does appear Oswin Oswald and Clara Oswin may be connected or even the same person (as I suggested in my post the other day), Oswin's "remember me" may have some significance. We'll see.
Overall, I liked the episode. It was less scary than I expected. And Amy and Rory got back together in the end, yay! Oh yeah, and it's in this episode that we learn Amy has become infertile as a result of what happened to her in "A Good Man Goes to War." That's why she wanted to divorce Rory - because he wants kids, and she can't give him kids (well except Melody/River Song). But it seems he doesn't care about that at all - he still loves Amy anyway. We'll see how that develops.
I'm still not crazy about the Eleventh Doctor yet. Like with the Tenth Doctor, he may grow on me, but for right now, he's not my favorite. A little too Byronic to me. Though he does have good light moments. Like at the end when all the Daleks start saying "Doctor who?" (nice touch, given the title of the show) and he realizes Oswin really did wipe all memory of him from all the Daleks' minds, and then he dances around the TARDIS saying "Doctor who?" with enthusiasm.
Well, that's it for today. Tune in tomorrow for Day 2 and Series 7, Episode 2, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"!