Doctor Who's Series 7 Premiere: The Daleks Return

By Emily V. Gordon

Sep 02, 2012

Doctor Who S07E01: "Asylum of the Daleks"


The powers that be have decided that the first five episodes of Doctor Who Series 7 will be standalone, movie-style episodes, so much so that they have released movie posters for each one:

I like this idea, as overarching storyines can either be an amazing, goose-bumpy homerun or feel tacked on to otherwise-great episodes.

"Asylum of the Daleks" began with the Doctor being summoned by a woman. "They say you can help." "Do they? I wish they'd stop saying that." We are a long way from the Doctor of just two seasons ago, the one who use to bristle with excitement about being summoned to far away places for adventures. The faraway place in question was the original Dalek planet Skaro.

Now, Doctor Who fans have wildly different opinions about the Daleks. Some people think it's awesome that they're still considered the ultimate bad guys, terrorizing people with their slow-moving, menacing tanks. Others think it's ridiculous that the show keep trying to hold onto Daleks when we have better technology to make creepier, scarier villains. I tend to lean more toward the latter camp, but I do like it when Doctor Who tries to look at Daleks in a new way, and based on those requirements, these Daleks succeeded. These Daleks have figured out how to hijack humans and use them as their disguises. It's a familiar Doctor Who trick to make us wonder whether the person we're meeting is human or... other, but it always pays off for me. The Doctor, Rory, and Amy were all summoned by these Dalek-humans to the Parliament of the Daleks for a mission that could only be carried out by the Daleks' Predator—the Doctor.

Besides changing up the Daleks, the other steadfast thing Doctor Who is messing with this season is Amy and Rory, who were signing divorce papers and snapping at each other exasperatedly at the episode's start. This genuinely affected me, especially when the childlike Doctor questioned their marital problems, and Amy retorted, "Don't give me those big sad eyes, Raggedy Man." In the real world, where they live, people get divorced. Ouch. While Amy, Rory, and the Doctor tried to do the Daleks' bidding by shutting down the forcefield of the Dalek Asylum so the Daleks could clean house, they encountered a young woman who'd been shipwrecked on the Asylum planet for about a year. It was Oswin... and if she seemed familiar, it's because she's the next companion, the one you've seen splashed all over every Doctor Who blog. Oswin is a gorgeous, witty, hacking genius, and she flirted with both Rory and the Doctor as she tracked them around the Asylum. Unsurprisingly, she wanted to be rescued. I found her to be charming and a bit much, but hey, I also thought Donna was a bit much in her first episode, and she went on to become my all-time favorite companion.

While at the Asylum, our heroes were only protected from being turned into Dalek-humans by special armbands, and Amy discovered that hers was missing, which meant the process of turning her into a Dalek-human had already begun. Once again, similar to the most recent Weeping Angels episode, Amy had to struggle to hold onto herself and not be turned. This led to—thank goodness!—the reunion of Amy and Rory. It was a lovely moment, but a bit of a sitcom dilemma they were in; you know, the kind where one conversation between the characters would have cleared everything up. Ultimately, though, I'm just happy they're back together.

The Doctor finally located Oswin, and it turned out she wasn't what we thought she was, or what she thought she was. She was a Dalek-human that had been turned all the way into a Dalek, and she had no idea. The human part of her erased every memory that the Daleks had of the Doctor to help him, and she begged the Doctor to remember her as a human. When they were returned to the Dalek planet, the Daleks had no idea who he was, calling out "Doctor Who?! Doctor Who!?" Essentially, it seems this will reset the Daleks' relationship with the Doctor. So much of their identity has been based on considering the Doctor their predator; what will happen now that they just hate him as much as they hate everything?

Overall, this episode had some sparks to it, and a fun welcome for Oswin, but I grade Doctor Who episodes on how goosebumpy they make me feel. I get goosebumps based on the emotional weight of the stories, the creepiness of the monsters, and the surprise level when things come together in a way that I never thought they could. As much fun as this episode was, it wasn't that goosebumpy to me. The two sides of the Doctor—his childlike joy and cynical universe-weariness—are still at odds, and it's going to take a lot of changes in his life to get him back to where he needs to be. Those changes are coming.

"Asylum of the Daleks" was a good toe-in-the-water episode, but I'm ready to jump back in.


NOTES


– I loved Rory sliding, Indiana Jones-style, under the closing door in the Asylum.

– I had kinda hoped that the "crazy, insane" Daleks confined to the Asylum planet were actually there because they were kind, and had love in their little Dalek hearts. That could have been a very fun twist.

– The Doctor describing the a Dalek as "a tricycle with a roof" was genius.

– It was pretty nice that Oswin flirted with both the Doctor and Rory. Rory's a babe, it's time we all objectify him properly.

– I loved how the "eggs... eggs... eggsterminate" moment with Rory and the Daleks came back with Oswin and her souffles, as she was holding on to the "eggs" part and trying to make something human out of it.

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  • ArtemusRex Sep 10, 2012

    This will also be the first companion that isn't from the current century that the show is coming from. She is human though. It will give a different element to future episodes. Also, the Doctor will know the outcome of his companion before she meets him in her timeline.

  • winterbmine Sep 08, 2012

    Regardless of this episode (so happy the show's back!) is anyone else MEGA excited for the next episode?? All those historical figures (I'm a huge history buff), I personally have been waiting for a ligitamite ancient egypt episode (not just references to Cleopatra) since I started the show, and now there's going to be Nefertiti! SOO excited! (:

  • DutchZombie Sep 07, 2012

    The Daleks in the asylum DID have love in their little hearts, which is why Amy sees them as people (one's even a little ballerina girl)

  • torrijos Sep 06, 2012

    I actually love (gorgeous) Amy & Rory, and while travelling with the doctor I feel they have been trough hell. I'll be pretty sad to see them go.

  • fanboy2000 Sep 04, 2012

    I really wish they would move away from the "Amy and the Doctor" premise. The assistants are supposed to be replaced every few years, but the producers are intent on modernizing the show so much that it is now almost unrecognizable. Some changes are good, but this is not one of them. This show was never about "Amy and the Doctor", it is about the Doctor and HIS adventures accompanied by a litany of assistants over the years. Drop Amy and Rory. They've been on for three seasons now. Their time should be over. They've already been on longer than Rose who was the most popular of modern assistants. Move on to someone else, and get rid of that horrible descriptive monologue in the opening credits! It's an insult to fans because it makes it appear that the show centers around Amy who met some "weird Doctor fella".

  • fanboy2000 Sep 07, 2013

    Thanks to each of you who replied. All of you added an interesting perspective.

    @angeleys151 - I had not considered that idea, but it makes sense. It's good they dropped it for the 7th season.

    @Safibwana - I agree that a story arc is always the best way to dismiss the companions, and I did like the way they showed off Amy and Rory by having the weeping angels send them both back to the same time where they were able to live together for the rest of their natural entire lives, well into their 80s. Thank you for explaining the reason for the opening narration. It makes sense to me, although it was a bit awkward. A lot of Americans are familiar with Doctor Who, however.

    @Wisperin88 - Katherine Tate (Donna Noble) was also in a Christmas special: "The Runaway Bride". That was the episode where she was poisoned by her fiance to serve as a catalyst to release the Racnoss spider babies. She was made a companion one season later.

    @Cranky_Old_Batt - In most polls Sarah Jane Smith and Rose are the two most popular assistants. In fact, there was a not insignificant number of fans who had hoped the 12th Doctor was going to be Billie Piper (I was one of them :D) because Rose had looked into the heart of the TARDIS and her essence was absorbed by it.

  • angeleys151 Sep 07, 2012

    I agree, I really hate the Amy intro, because the show is about The Doctor, and not about Amy, but I thought/am hoping that the intro was just for the marathon in case people were tuning in having never watched the show before.

  • wisperin88 Sep 05, 2012

    Pretty sure Amy and Rory have had 2 seasons as this is just the start of their 3rd season. Yes the companions should change occasionally but forcing them off the show before the story can appropriately depart them isn't a good idea, i.e Martha Jones/Donna Noble both needed a bit more substantial story time to make their departures carry a little more weight. Rose had 3 full seasons and i believe is the only series companion to be on a Christmas special episode. When Amy and Rory's story surpasses Rose's in length then you can start to complain, otherwise respect the story telling process as by this time i think its clearly evident Moffat knows what he's doing.

  • safibwana Sep 05, 2012

    Amy is scheduled to be on exactly the same number of episodes as Rose (Karen Gillan one more episode because of her episode as Soothsayer). BBC America added that monologue because they thought the American audience needed it. I'm not going to get into the rest of it, but I thought clearing those things up might be useful, no matter what ones opinions were.

  • Cranky_Old_Batt Sep 05, 2012

    Replaced every few years, like Sarah Jane Smith?

  • safibwana Sep 05, 2012

    Believe it or not, her actual run as a companion was just under 3 years, December 1973 to October 1976.

  • kanniballl Sep 05, 2012

    Amy's been a companion for 2 full seasons. She's leaving this season soon, supposedly around the 1/4th or 1/3rd mark in the season.

    Personally I would have rather they just had her say her goodbyes in the previous Christmas special and start with someone new immediately. But this isn't too bad.

  • qbe_64 Sep 04, 2012

    No offense Emily, but I don't recall you writing a weekly review ever before. I think Doctor Who may be a little out of your depth. The review reads more like an episode synopsis than a review. I definately couldn't do it any better myself, but I've come to expect a certain level of insight from TV.com reviews that I'm not getting here. I wish you the best, but I hope you improve substantially from week to week. A show like Doctor Who deserves the best.

  • wisperin88 Sep 05, 2012

    If The Nerdist wasn't so busy with his tv-show/podcast/comedy tours/Youtube Channel/Panel Moderating etc etc, then i would say (imo) Chris Hardwick would make for THE BEST reviewer/commentator for Doctor Who.

  • IndianaMom Sep 09, 2012

    Hardwick has Kyle Anderson to do the Doctor Who reviews for The Nerdist, and he does a great job. He's my go-to guy for all things Doctor Who.

  • bluemorphotat Sep 04, 2012

    Bloody Hell qbe_64 you sound bloody snotty.. "no offense"

  • qbe_64 Sep 05, 2012

    Non taken. I was trying to be constructive and not come off like one of those internet trolls who just rip on people for their own amusement. Based on your comment either;

    1) I failed, or

    2) you're one of those said trolls.

    After reading your posts below, you don't seem like a douche so I'm left with option 1. I'll work on it.

  • anngel421 Sep 07, 2012

    I think often when people start with the phrase "no offense" it usually follows with something super offensive, as such you came off a bit trollish and not constructive. If you really want to make your comments constructive and add to the conversation that is a forum board, how about posing questions that force people to think rather than retort, like the Tv.com people do at the end of their reviews? for example can we watch doctor who without succumbing to the temptation of spoilers?

  • stanking Sep 05, 2012

    Nothing constructive about it.

  • kanniballl Sep 04, 2012

    I don't know... I see it the other way around. LOTS of commentary, with the plot synopsis kind of just thrown in every now and then.

    It is hard to find a good balance between synopsis + review + commentary.

    I'm not saying this review was bad OR good, just saying that it did have a mix of both synopsis and review... and that the review was a heavier percentage that you allude to.

  • Cranky_Old_Batt Sep 04, 2012

    So about that nanite cloud. I can be reprogrammed, yes? If it can take human DNA and turn it into something Dalek....why not the reverse? Especially if it has been hacked....

  • AllanHarvey1 Sep 04, 2012

    Did anyone else not like how they introduced Oswin? cuz if you think about when she comes on the show we already know her ending. Like River song you already know she's gonna die in the Libary, so it makes me really not wanting to get invested in the charachter, unless somehow they turn her charachter back human, and somehow she survived the blowing up of the planet or She has a Twin sister lol... Idk maybe that's me.

  • kanniballl Sep 04, 2012

    Considering there are 2 "Oswin" names flying around (first/last name), I imagine it's going to be a family-member thing... twin sister / ancestor / distant cousin / etc.

    After all, the starliner crash was her FIRST journey into space.

  • gideongallery Sep 05, 2012

    the doctor made donna forget all her adventures with him, there is no reason he couldn't do it again

  • GreenyFool Sep 04, 2012

    I thought Moffat did a good job in making the Daleks relatively "scary", I only ever laughed at them since the shows revival, especially that awful bit where they were in battle against the Cybermen. A very good episode, looking forward to the rest!

  • kanniballl Sep 04, 2012

    Yeh, this was the only time I ever really felt the "menace" save for their first appearance after the restart. In the episode "Dalek" with Chris Eccleston it was pretty creepy. The DOCTOR was freaked out, one little Dalek was killing everyone, and the Doctor just goes on to say how the nearby city / state / country / etc will just be "gone" due to this one guy.

    The later appearances, even in Eccleston's good-bye episode, were "meh"

  • Willowing Sep 04, 2012

    A couple of problems that I see in the Daleks forgetting the doctor...

    Firstly, when caught in a bit of a bind the Doctor has used his past triumphs to scare off his foes, e.g. in The Pandorica Opens. If the Daleks don't remember him then this tactic will no longer work. But I think that's a minor problem.

    Secondly, and more importantly, at the end of Season 6 Dorium Maldovar warned the Doctor that there was a question that must never be answered. Now we open Season 7 with every Dalek in the universe (because they are all linked) is asking that very question...

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