Sunday, September 2, 2012

Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 1: Asylum Of The Daleks

Doctor Who is back! Finally something new to watch on TV; or rather watch online in my case, as I don't have BBC America and don't live in Cardiff.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The Plot: 
The Doctor and the Ponds are kidnapped and brought before the Parliament of the Daleks (I guess that means no more Dalek Emporer?). It seems they have a planetary asylum in which they keep their insane. The forcefield surrounding the planet has been pierced by a crashed spaceship, threatening to loose the insane Daleks on the universe. 

The Daleks want to destroy the asylum, but can only do so by deactivating the forcefield-- from the planet's surface. Terrified to step foot in the asylum, they want to Doctor to do it for them. 

On the surface of the planet, the Doctor and his companions are aided in their task by the human pilot of the crashed spaceship, who has a shocking secret.

 • After all the pre-season buildup about how this episode would feature every Dalek ever... we barely see any other than the 2005 models. I saw a couple Supreme Daleks and one or two of the new Skittles versions. And the Special Weapons one. But where were all the old school 1960s Daleks? I think I might have glimpsed a few frames of one. Seems like all the older models must have been stuck way in the back. 

Some have suggested that we didn't see very many of the old versions because the BBC didn't want to spend money building a bunch for just one episode. Fair enough, but have they ever heard of a little thing called CGI? Most of the old school versions reportedly came from museums and fan collections, so maybe they were trying to handle them with kid gloves. 

Fans have been wondering for a long time why every time the Doctor encounters the Daleks (or the Cybermen for that matter) they're always the latest versions. You'd think a guy with a time machine would run into some of the older model Daleks from time to time. This episode was the perfect chance to finally see him meet up with some of the old school versions, and for the most part it didn't happen. Disappointing, especially after all the buildup. You'd think by now I'd know not to fall for MarketSpeak.

• It was hard to tell for sure but it looked like the Skittles Daleks got a new metallic paint job. The fans have almost universally denounced these new candy-colored Dalek designs; were the new paint jobs an attempt to mollify the fan boys?

•  Nice update to the "Robomen." The Daleks used similarly altered humans way back in the 1960s in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth. Back then though they looked like humans with some sort of nightmarish dental appliances or perhaps like they had vices on their heads.

Not sure why the female Roboman spokesperson was dressed in her finest S&M fetish gear though. Who dressed her like that? The Daleks?

• OK, I'm having trouble remembering how all these Daleks are here in the first place. Hasn't the Doctor wiped out the entire race several times by now? I guess I need to rewatch Victory of the Daleks. I think that one might have explained it.

And I thought Skaro, the Dalek's planet of origin, no longer existed as well. Looked like it was still there in this episode. You know, I'm just not going to worry about it. Doctor Who has never been a stickler for its own continuity, so I'm just gonna go with the flow and enjoy the pretty pictures.

•  I'm not quite getting the Dalek's motivation here. They have a planetary asylum where they stick their insane, because their "pure hatred" is the closest Daleks come to the concept of beauty. But then they blow up the planet because... uh, I'm not sure. Because they're afraid of the insane Daleks and don't want them to get loose? To quote the Daleks: EX-PLAIN! EX-PLAIN!!! EX-PLAIN!!!!!!! 

• I love Rory. Er, um, in a totally bro-mantic way of course. The scene where he thought the powering-up Dalek was asking for "eggs" (first syllable in EGGS-Ter-Mi-Nate, or course) was classic.

• Wow! The Doctor's new companion Clara, who was supposed to make her debut in the upcoming Christmas episode, actually makes her debut here. And she's a human who's been turned into a Dalek by nanobots. I have to say, I certainly didn't see that coming. How the hell did they keep that a secret in this age of spoiler sites and social media?

So the Doctor will soon be getting a friendly Dalek companion? Or will he encounter her before her conversion, and then have to be careful to not reveal her ultimate fate to her? Time will tell, I guess (heh). 

Amy and Rory split up shortly before the episode begins and get back together by the end. It all seemed a bit abrupt, but whatever. As for their argument: maybe it's just because I'm a guy, but I think Amy is dead wrong. Rory waiting 2000 years for her to come out of a box trumps the trauma of her "having to give him up." 

So Clara the Friendly Dalek wipes the Doctor from the entire Dalek database, so that they no longer know who he is. I can't tell yet if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I guess it'll make for some interesting stories, if from now on they don't automatically know who he is. Unless he goes back to a point in time before this episode. Or did she somehow retroactively wipe their memories?  

As for wiping out their entire database you'd think maybe they might have a backup disk lying around, but that's just me. 

Most impressive sight in the episode: Karen Gillan's skirt.

• So I'm assuming that the nanobots stopped trying to change Amy into a Dalek as soon as they teleported off the asylum? Or perhaps the Doctor sonic-ed them away? Or maybe the writers forgot about them?

 OK, this "Doctor who?" in joke has got to stop. It was kind of funny the first twenty times they did it, but now it's just getting old. 

For years now I've been on a personal crusade to inform the public that "Doctor Who" is the name of the show, not the character. The character is known simply as "The Doctor." He does have a real name, but he keeps it to himself and it's known only to a few. He's The Doctor. Not Doctor Who.

Yet the show keeps making these little jokes that work the title into the episode, usually by having the Doctor say, "I'm the Doctor," and then someone says, "Doctor who?" Last season there was a big deal about how the universe would be destroyed if "The Question That Must Not Be Asked" is ever answered. And what is the question? You guessed it. "Doctor who?"

Then in this episode the entire Dalek race forgets the Doctor and when he appears before them, they ask who he is and he tells them. Then then all shriek in unison: Doc-tor who?"

Yeesh. Enough already. 

All in all though, a pretty good start to the season. I really enjoyed it, despite a few bumps in the road. Next week, Dinosaurs On A Spaceship!

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