The Problem With Daleks: A Sort of Review of “Asylum of the Daleks”Posted: September 2, 2012
Doctor Who returned last night and I sat down to watch it, but I have a confession to make.
I don’t really like Doctor Who.
Actually I’ll rephrase that, while I like the show, which often features some rather brilliant ideas (the creepy angel statues episode was one of the scariest TV shows I’ve ever seen) and some good characters (I quite like Amy and Rory, and I really dug River Song and Captain Jack), I have serious problems with the show and can’t see why some people rave about it. It doesn’t help that I find the character of the Doctor fairly uninteresting and a bit a of a tool.
But, these are problems to go into at a later date, today I’m just going to focus on the Daleks.
Now, they featured in last night’s episode and if you haven’t seen it, be warned there are spoilers ahead.
The episode entitled Asylum of the Daleks, saw the Daleks lure the Doctor (Matt Smith) into a trap, along with snatching his companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), who appeared to be about to divorce. The Daleks have developed freaky humanoid-Daleks, who look normal until the eye thingy pops out of their forehead. The Daleks, who are quite terrified of the Doctor need his help to go down to their “asylum” to stop whatever’s causing problems and risking releasing hundreds of insane Daleks into the universe.
They receive transmissions from a young woman named Oswin (Jenna-Louise Coleman), a quirky, wonderfully intelligent girl who’s crash landed on the planet and been stranded there for a year. She aids the trio, as they attempt to get there to deactivate the force field so the orbiting Daleks can destroy the planet. But Amy loses her protective bracelet gizmo that protects them from the “nanogenes” which start turning you into a Dalek puppet.
Amy and Rory reconcile, revealing the reasons for their split and the Doctor finds Oswin, who turns out to have been fully converted into a Dalek, but has managed to retain some humanity by retreating into a fantasy world where she survived alone in the ship. Heartbroken by this revelation Oswin lowers the force field, and erases the Doctor from the Daleks’ memory banks. The Doctor and his companions escape to the Dalek ship, the planet is destroyed and the Daleks have no memory of the Doctor, responding to him with “Doctor who?”
Amy and Rory return home, and a jubilant Doctor continues on his travels.
There were things I really dug about this episode- the idea of the Dalek asylum was inspired, and the battle scarred, demented Daleks were done quite well. Also, there was something creepy about them all standing apparently dead and then springing to life.
And I like that the Daleks are the only enemy that the Doctor hates. With others he’s always trying to give them a chance or the benefit of the doubt, but when confronted with these he’s fairly remorseless about killing them. Its the only time that the dark side they keep hinting at gets glimpsed.
I also really liked the character of Oswin, who was brilliantly sexy and flirty, and really charmed me. I liked that she was extremely clever and outdid the Doctor. Its a shame they killed her off, although given the whole time-travel thing maybe they can reintroduce her at a later date, or rather an earlier one.
I even quite liked the goofy comedy of Rory bumping into the reviving Dalek and not understanding it saying “Eggzzz” before it finally strung together the species’ catchphrase.
But it was riddled with problems- firstly, and this is something they’ve done regularly on the show, they showed their hand early thus spoiling the “big reveal”. As soon as the infected Amy saw the Daleks in human form I twigged that Oswin was going to turn out to be infected, and I’m not the quickest, so others may have gotten that even earlier on.
Also, the Amy-Rory soap opera felt a little tired and predictable, you knew they’d get back together. As sweet as the characters are and as good as Gillan and Darvill work together, I’m rather glad they’re due to be written out, because there’s nowhere left to go with them.
Finally, the Doc seems quite happy with the Daleks asking “Doctor who?” but wasn’t that the big, important question that caused so many problems in the previous series?
The other problem is my long standing issue with the Daleks.
The Daleks are the Doctor’s most iconic foe and a part of British pop culture, Kit Kat even used them in an advert back in the 90s.
But while they used to be the stuff of nightmares and a serious threat to the Doc they’ve become so watered down that all sense of menace is gone. The makers of the show have used them so often and had the Doctor defeat them with such apparent ease that his statement last night that they were one of “the most advanced warrior races in the universe” almost laughable.
The show’s writers have managed to take the Whoniverse (I’m assuming that’s the term they use) equivalent of Lex Luthor, a major, serious, respectable arch-nemesis and turn them into an easily vanquished joke like Stilt Man (yes, I know I switched between DC and Marvel but I couldn’t think of a weak DC villain off the top of my head).
And the ending, well, robbing them of their memory means they lost the only thing they really brought to the table- their history and mutual hatred with the Doctor grounded them and they fitted in with the writers’ desperate attempts to make us believe that Matt Smith’s character was once some fearful warrior when for the most part he comes across as an irritating children’s TV presenter.
In fact it makes them even less of a threat as now they don’t even have the inside track on his weaknesses and habits.
So, Doctor Who‘s back, and the first episode pretty much captured everything I like and dislike about the show. Good ideas created before the ball is dropped.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.