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.
– 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.