One by one, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are abducted by the Daleks and brought to a ship housing the Dalek Parliament. Fully expecting extermination, the Doctor and his friends are shocked to hear the Daleks demanding that the Time Lord save them from an unspecified threat – namely, the Daleks’ own past. On a remote planet, the Daleks have imprisoned the most insane, battle-scarred members of their own race, sealed in with a shield. But a ship has managed to crash there, and is broadcasting a signal that could give away the planet’s secret. The Daleks have captured the Doctor and his friends to send them to deal with the crashed ship, facing an onslaught of mad Daleks along the way.
written by Steven Moffat
directed by Nick Hurran
music by Murray Gold
Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Oswin), Anamaria Marinca (Darla), Naomi Ryan (Cassandra), David Gyasi (Harvey), Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Daleks), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek 1), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek 2)
Notes: The Daleks in the “intensive care unit” are survivors of conflicts with past Doctors; Oswin points out that they’re veterans of Spiridon (Planet Of The Daleks, 1973), Kembel (The Daleks’ Master Plan, 1965/66), Aridius (The Chase, 1965), Vulcan (Power Of The Daleks, 1966), and Exxilon (Death To The Daleks, 1974). Despite this, and despite much pre-publicity stating that nearly every style of Dalek ever seen in the original series would be seen here, the Daleks seen in this area are all the up-armored Dalek casings introduced in 2005’s Dalek. Glimpsed in the part of the asylum first visited by Rory is the Special Weapons Dalek (Remembrance Of The Daleks, 1988), a legendary major variation on the standard Dalek casing despite this being only its second on-screen appearance in the history of the series.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: It’s been a relief, in the past year or so, to see the Daleks deployed sparingly. Following the controversial introduction of what’s arguably the most radical redesign of the basic Dalek “look” in 2010’s Victory Of The Daleks, it was easy to wonder if perhaps the xenophobic pepperpots were staying in hiding out of sheer embarrassment. A Dalek-centric season opener hasn’t happened since 1988, but in many ways, Asylum Of The Daleks has more in common with the 1979 season premiere, Destiny Of The Daleks. It has Daleks displaying wildly uncharacteristic behavior, it puts the Daleks in the back seat and lets others speak for them, and in the end… it’s really not about the Daleks at all.
In the “behaving out of character” category, we now have Daleks who can convert humans into either full Daleks (not too much of a shock, as it’s been done before; see Revelation Of The Daleks in 1985 or The Parting Of The Ways in 2005) or into previously unseen “Dalek hybrids” who sprout Dalek eyestalks from their foreheads and Dalek weapons from their forearms. This development, never deployed in any previous Dalek story, erases the last clear line between the Daleks and Cybermen. The thought of mixing Dalek and human DNA was previously an abhorrence to all involved (the “human Dalek” seen in 1985 was a discarded experiment carried out by Davros), but now apparently it’s okay. And the humans-with-ridiculous-Dalek-eyes-stuck-to-their-heads (again, not exactly new: check out the silly Vader-esque helmets worn by the Daleks’ human troops in 1984’s Resurrection Of The Daleks) overlook the Daleks’ previous use of Robomen… but, as with those goofy helmets in 1984, it just looks silly.
What the story is really about is a girl named Oswin. Stranded on a planet where the Daleks send their most battle-scarred warriors who have gone insane – many of them after a loss to the Doctor (an angle that was not played up to maximum effect) – Oswin is somehow holding her own against an entire planet of Daleks, and she isn’t doing much more than baking souffles. Making her debut months ahead of what had previously been announced, a surprise that made it to the premiere date intact thanks to an unprecedented degree of cooperation from both the press and fans who attended preview screenings, is Jenna-Louise Coleman, who had already been announced as the new companion who would be taking over after the departure of Amy and Rory. Though her involvement in Asylum is cryptic to say the least, she owns the episode, handily stealing every scene from the established regulars.
That’s not too difficult to do when the teaser keeps running with the Amy-and-Rory-on-the-edge-of-divorce thread that was established in the Pond Life webisodes. (One gets the impression that the Pond Life project came into existence just to keep this plot development from coming out of absolutely nowhere.) This would’ve been a plotline morth worthy of further exploration if it had been even remotely essential to the plot, but Rory and Amy are separated early in the show, and the whole thing is resolved with a splash of soap opera and an info-dump about Amy’s reproductive system having been wrecked during the ordeal in which she was forced to give birth to River in captivity (A Good Man Goes To War). And then it’s all resolved and fixed up tidily by the end of the show. Since when was Star Trek: Voyager (and its magic-reset-button brand of storytelling) back on the air?
And after months of buildup, publicity and magazine covers promising that we’d see “Every Dalek – ever!” in Asylum, we’re treated to only the briefest glimpses of them in the background. I think even with the uncooked stew of half-baked concepts (and over-baked souffles) that the rest of the episode turned out to be, the audience would’ve been pleased to see the old-model Daleks in action again, whether they were ready for HD or not. And the one place where there absolutely should’ve been a glut of original series Daleks – the “intensive care” ward which the Doctor must make his way through to reach Oswin – disappointed because the standard-issue Russell T. Davies-era Dalek casings were the only ones seen. (And in the end, Oswin’s fate really wasn’t that much of a surprise if you were paying attention to clues that were laid out very early in the show.)
It appears that the question “Doctor Who?” – flagged down forcefully at the conclusion of The Wedding Of River Song – may be the new season’s “big theme.” I’m not sure what to make of Oswin’s reboot of the Daleks’ entire history with the Doctor, but after the scene of a chamber full of Daleks asking “Doctor Who?”, followed by the Doctor himself all but dancing through the TARDIS and saying the same thing, the thought occurred: “this better be building up to something really good… because right now it just sounds incredibly silly.”
Asylum Of The Daleks is one of those mishmash-of-ideas-which-never-quite-come-together episodes of Doctor Who, though it may be unique in that the cream – namely Jenna-Louise Coleman’s performance as Oswin – does stand out and rise to the top, making the whole mess watchable and entertaining.