Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Asylum of the Daleks (SPOILERS)

1/9/12 “Asylum of the Daleks”
“Remember me.” --Oswyn

Two things to note before I plunge in here:  I don’t particularly like Daleks, and I tried not to spoil myself on any of the rumors going round.  Which is always the best policy, I find, as it can often lead to wonderful surprises and can keep you from being disappointed.  For example, I had even forgotten (if I had ever learned) that there were meant to be every Dalek ever in this story.  I had also barely just seen “Pond Life” (soul-destroying in the extreme and only relevant for what clues it gave regarding Amy and Rory here) before watching the season opener.

I’m not sure why, but a giant Dalek made of sand (on Skaro, nonetheless) failed to move me; looking back, I probably should have been really impressed by this apocalyptic warzone.  It moved very quickly for me, before the Doctor was lured into a trap.  Like the Doctor, I wish the Daleks would stop.  Using human bait to lure him into traps, that is.  I have to say, I almost laughed as the woman transformed into a humanoid/Dalek (wasn’t the one in “Daleks of Manhattan” enough?) but recovered control of myself long enough to watch seriously as the Doctor was brought into the “Parliament of the Daleks” which I’m sure impressed a lot of people with its scale.  I’m sorry to be such a pooh-pooher, but I think the highest point of Dalek-generated splendor for me was at the end of “Bad Wolf.”  To me, it seems unlikely that will be topped.  Nevertheless, quite nice to see the regal gold-toned Daleks primarily back over the multicolored bumper car ones. 

With some fast-moving exposition, the Daleks (through their humanoid/Dalek mouthpiece—presumably in place to inspire horror, to give us clues for things which will come up later, and because Daleks are not particularly interesting to listen to, delivering backstory) reveal that they have an asylum planet where they chuck their criminally dangerous (like Arkham Asylum, except Daleks don’t seem to escape from it with the comical regularity).   I wonder if Dalek Caan (Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!) was ever consigned there . . . it seems he should be a prime candidate.  A spaceship got through the force field the Daleks have set up around the planet and they now want to blow the planet up.  In order to do that, they first need to disable the force field, which can only be disabled from the planet’s surface, and given that they are too scared to do so, the Daleks are emotionally blackmailing the Doctor into doing it for them.  Okay, fair enough.  The Doctor, like me, why on Earth Daleks had asylums, given that they should be prepared to destroy faulty units.  The Daleks reply that it is “offensive to extinguish such divine hatred,” which they see perhaps as a reason why “we have never been able to kill you.”  This, to me, is preferable to general ineptitude if we are to believe in the magnitude of the Dalek threat.  “You will save us!” the Daleks shriek in chorus.

For the emotional blackmail and because Daleks follow the letter and know that the Doctor “always has companions,” the Daleks have scooped up Amy and Rory (meaning they must still have been the Doctor’s most recent companions—ie, it seems, despite the irritating little glimpses in “Pond Life,” he has only been traveling alone).  Amy and Rory, however, are separated and soon-to-be divorced. At first, I was wildly angry with this development.  However, in retrospect I think I was angry with Amy for her having become a model.  (Why this should bother me when she was a Kiss-o-gram before is not clear.)  Amy, despite all evidence to the contrary, is not as modern a companion as she is made out to be.  If the only jobs she can get (or appears to want to maintain) are Kiss-o-gram and model, she is obviously far more invested in her looks than anything else.  Shallow, I believe is the word, whereas Martha was very driven in her career and Donna at least was an accomplished SuperTemp.  One doesn’t necessarily need to be defined by their careers, but vocation or avocation, one hopes a companion’s got one.  This is to say I shouldn’t have been surprised Amy has graduated onto this and blown off Rory, and while it is a situation where one gains more sympathy for the ruptured lovers later, I can’t say I was heartbroken at the thought of the Ponds being no more.  Amy has had her interesting moments—most of them in series 5/fnarg—but overall her personality is quite irritating.  I hate to be a mass of contradictions (oi, Walt Whitman!) but there’s something about companions (and Doctors, for that matter)—you almost want to end the show too soon rather than too late.  For example, the Ninth Doctor I love greatly and wish he’d had more than one series.  But if he’d had two series, perhaps I would think there had been too much of him.  Who knows?  “Make them remember you,” the Doctor says to Amy of the Daleks, though she doesn’t respond in the adorable way Rose did to the Sycorax.

The Doctor notes the rift between Amy and Rory and, though we are unaware of it, is proving Amy’s words true that he is immediately forming a way to bring them back together.  Although the Seventh Doctor used his manipulating skills to perform many feats, as far as I know he never used them to reunite estranged lovers, making the list of the Doctor’s possible abuses of power (from “A Christmas Carol” onward) continue to increase.  One never thinks of the Doctor as a matchmaker! 

Elsewhere, a perky, fresh-faced young woman we will know as Oswyn is baking a soufflé and listening to Carmen to celebrate her mother’s birthday.  She completes her verbal log as she “reexamines her defenses” and burns another soufflé.  Oswyn is taking her solitude gamely.  The fact her “defenses” are wooden boards made me (for some reason) think of Evie in the fantasy sequence in V for Vendetta, which actually proved to be an apt comparison.  It also made me think of Steven Taylor, whose years with the Mechanoids with only Panda for companionship have always touched me and made me wonder about his mental state.  This, too, in a way, is a more apt comparison than I could have possibly imagined.  I can’t say I had guessed about her true state yet, partly because I didn’t yet quite understand where she was. 

The Doctor is also impressed with Oswyn whose fast-talking and flirtatious rapport is more reminiscent of Press Gang than River Song.  The fact that she uses soufflés to combat the Daleks amuses the Doctor, and we all strain against the wheels of the mighty Plot Point as his question about where she gets the eggs from is never answered.  With Oswyn apparently trapped at the center of the Asylum, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory have added incentive to rescue her as well as try to get out of there as quickly as possible before the Daleks blow up the planet.  The Doctor is then called The Predator by the Daleks which, I dunno, doesn’t really move me either way.  I’ve written an intriguing note about “Eighth Doctor gear” but I can’t for the life of me think what I meant.

The Doctor, Rory, and Amy are separated as they are beamed down to the planet, whose surface looks like a sheer face of Snowdon.  Amy is creeped out to find a snow-suited human wandering around on the surface—the starliner was part of ALASKA as were the rescue ships. (Is ALASKA important or just a red herring like MYTH?) Unfortunately for all humanoid life on the asylum, the nanogenes related to the ones in “The Doctor Dances” are programmed to rewrite them into humanoid/Dalek shells, ridding them of their memories and hollowing them out for Dalek programming.  It’s a grim prospect; the Doctor, Rory, and Amy all have wristbands that keep them safe (for the time being).  When the Doctor and Amy follow the man into the rescue ship pod, they are horrified to see corpses.  Alas, it’s about to get grimly worse as these sprout eyestalks and become humanoid/Dalek/zombies!  A stomach-turning proposal.  “I forgot about dying,” says the man, and having died on the surface his body was preserved.  Now fleeing from these zombies, the Doctor and Amy also have to deal with the fact they have taken Amy’s wristband.  Her DNA is already beginning to be rewritten.  Before she learns this, however, she says, “Is it bad that I missed this?”

Now, I know there’s a time and a place, but you’d think if Amy was serious about her split from Rory, she would have thrown herself at the Doctor by now.  I think.  Anyway, Rory is having his own problems, and I must say, Moffat can still ratchet up the suspense:  Rory is inside the asylum complex in some tucked away area where the dust is thick and the Daleks are like shells of corpses.  Dead?  Or merely sleeping?  It’s so Rory to say “sorry, what?” to a field of potentially lethal, very rusty Daleks and offer them eggs (the “Dalek bumps” which litter the ground).  Question:  is Rory still an Auton?  Then a Special Weapons Unit Dalek (tank-Dalek, I used to call them, before the fanboys converted me) makes such a brief appearance I wouldn’t have noticed if Jamie hadn’t squee’d.  “Just flirting to keep you cheerful,” says Oswyn who is an equal-opportunity-flirter. 

The Doctor is still trying to get Amy and Rory together while they resist; Amy is dealing with her imminent DNA-rewrite, the Doctor is calling a Dalek “a tricycle with a roof,” and in a rather “Remembrance” move, he kind of talks one into blowing itself up.  Oswyn is surprised that the Doctor would wait for her; the Doctor is surprised at her hacking abilities.  Also, no one is surprised and not concerned by the fact that Oswyn insists the Doctor come rescue her rather than she coming to him.  In doing so, he gives the Ponds a moment for talk more deep that chitchat.  Rory wants to give Amy his wristband as he feels certain it will be more difficult for him to forget his human (Auton?) life.  “We’ve both always known I love you more than you love me,” says Rory, and damn straight, too.  Amy can give some feeble waffle about “how dare you?” but I find it difficult to believe her, even in light of what she’s about to reveal.  Rory did, after all, wait 2,000 years.  Amy reveals that she “gave up” Rory because he wanted kids.  I thought she was going to say, “. . . and I don’t.”  Alas, the script is not prepared to go that far, and it’s not because Amy doesn’t want, it’s because she can’t have, due to whatever happened to her after giving birth to River/Melody.  It’s just as Amy and Rory are reconciling that I realize how much I actually liked their warring state, as it seemed rather Grown Up.  Oh well.  They also realize that the Doctor switched Amy’s wristband—and is somehow not turning into a Dalek yet?  Or maybe he is . . . ^_^

The Doctor has by now gotten to Oswyn and realized her terrible secret:  she believes she is still human, while the only thing “human” left of her is her mind.  She appears to be a Dalek, chained up in the asylum; we have no idea what the Dalek mutant inside the machine looks like.  She is indeed, as she always claimed, a genius, and genius (and desperate and individual enough) to have created her own consciousness, a world where she is still human and not mostly-Dalek (like CAL, I suppose . . . Moffat!motifs!).  She wasn’t just left as an empty human/zombie shell; she went through “full conversion.” It is actually quite a good companion piece of “Dalek,” still one of the best if not the best Dalek story.  In that story, we actually learned to feel a bit sorry for a Dalek, and it felt so sorry for itself that it ended its life.  This begs the question of how many Daleks might exist with residual feelings of pre-mutation life.  As for putting a new dent into the Dalek mythos, this far trumps anything that’s come since “Dalek.” 

Because there is still enough Oswyn inside the Dalek casing, she urges the Doctor to run and save Amy and Rory and beam out.  Amy and Rory have declared passionate love for ever after and are kissing so determinedly that it gets in the way of the escape.  The Daleks blow up the asylum, yet the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are safe inside the TARDIS.  Because Oswyn deleted memory of the Dalek from their databanks, perhaps mercifully, he will no longer be known as the Predator or the Oncoming Storm (though I loved that one).  Even the Daleks are reduced to shrieking, “Doctor who?”  The fact that the Doctor called them “suckers” made me laugh because of all the times I wrote that in my Doctor Who The Musical parodies, à la:

CARDIFF-BASED— [she tries to flag down a taxi] BYE, YOU CHEAP MARTIAN SUCKAH—


I was really going to admire the sleight-of-hand for all the publicity involved in bigging up Oswyn as a companion and then blowing her up, but Jamie pointed out the impracticalities of that, so instead of giving her a memorable send-off, she’s going to be recycled in some (maybe half-@$$ed) fashion.  I hope, instead, it’s a good surprise. 

It was a good season opener, if “The Impossible Astronaut” / “Day of the Moon” was a great one, and “The Eleventh Hour” was an awesome one.   J


1 comment:

Matthew Kilburn said...

I thought of Steven Taylor too - is Oswin (the second man's name to be given to a woman in Doctor Who in three years) therefore a stowaway aboard the TARDIS, quietly and slowly allowing the ship to rework her DNA and restore her humanity? I expect something cleverer, though...