‘Asylum of the Daleks’
Deep in space there is a planet where the insane and scarred Daleks are kept under close supervision, an asylum. However, strange transmissions have started to emanate from beneath the asylum’s impenetrable force field. Fearful of the threat of their own deranged brethren, the Daleks have kidnapped the Doctor and his companions to solve their problem for them. Using nano-cloud technology, the Daleks have transformed human beings into their agents and sent them after their most hated enemy, their ‘predator,’ the Doctor.
The 50th anniversary season of Doctor Who is here and the opener is a blockbuster story featuring the Doctor trapped on a planet populated by insane Daleks. However, the ‘real story’ is Amy and Rory’s falling out and the Doctor fixing their marriage. Yep, we have taken a step back to 2006 where nothing is more important than the companion, or in this case, the companions finding love for each other.
The plot for Asylum of the Daleks could be written on the back of a match book. For a story running almost an hour in length, there was a lot of dead air in which characters asked stupid questions, wandered down corridors slowly (even when they ran it was in slow motion) and the very monsters the viewer was meant to fear failed to do anything at all other than scream and wander around like old rusted dodgem cars.
I know that Nicholas Briggs is a die-hard fan of classic Doctor Who and I have long enjoyed his Big Finish audio productions such as the stellar Dalek Empire. Therefore it is always painful when I hear him voicing the Daleks in drek like this. Honestly, the CGi mob of Daleks all shouting the same thing was about as impressive as the cardboard cut out Daleks way back in 1966’s Power of the Daleks. The only problem is that Power of the Daleks was actually about something, included rich compelling characters and a gripping drama that established the Daleks as a very real threat. It’s also Briggs’ favorite classic Dalek story.
“While it was interesting to open the story on Skaro where the Dalek Empire is horrifically powerful, there is something inherently wrong with a Dalek story in which the Daleks do not kill a single character and the Doctor’s big win is to get his enemies to forget who he is then dance through the TARDIS as if this makes anything better.”
Asylum of the Daleks opens with one of those woeful scenes that are all too familiar now, a narrator telling no one at all about how deadly and powerful the Doctor is and how he is the only person the Daleks fear. Again, the script fails to show this and instead just tells us because it has no faith in its audience or in the material (at least they are right on one count). The Doctor is summoned by a woman desperate to get her sister out of a Dalek slave camp on Skaro, a blasted ruin of a planet (I still say the rumored title ‘The Ruins of Skaro’ is a far better one than ‘Asylum of the Daleks’). The Doctor can see that this is a ruse but before he can escape he is zapped as the strange woman sprouts an eyestalk from her head, a gun from her palm and becomes a humanized Dalek.
This is quite possibly the goofiest idea in Doctor Who and will be an unimpressive action figure.
Meanwhile Amy Pond is pursuing a modeling career (I think she’s cute, but… a model?? Amy???) and Rory interrupts her photo shoot to get their divorce papers finalized. Then they are both kidnapped by humanized Daleks and taken off to to a Dalek spacecraft. Despite the publicity that this story would feature every Dalek ever, there are far more of these silly humanized ones than anything else.
The Doctor waits patiently to be killed by the Daleks but instead is hired by a contractor to infiltrate an impenetrable force field. Sure, it’s impenetrable unless you hurl a person directly at it. Breaking through the impenetrable force field is a radio transmission of Carmen (which of course the Doctor played in… isn’t the writer silly?). A spaceliner has crash landed on the asylum leaving one survivor, a cute-as-a-button gal named Oswin, who has managed to call for help. So human bodies and opera are the only things that can get through this otherwise damned impressive force field. The Daleks are terrified that if the crashed space-liner could get through (so human bodies, opera and massive space ships can break through the honestly pretty impressive force field) the incarcerated Daleks might too. Given that the longer this story goes on more things can break through the force field, I have to agree with the Daleks on the need for immediate action.
The Doctor and Amy get separated from Rory who comes into contact with the flirt short dress wearing Jenna Louise Coleman who is baking souffles and listening to music while happily recording a diary while she waits for rescue. She flirts with Rory (really?) and acts as a more resourceful plot contrivance than any sonic screwdriver ever could. While it’s unclear why there is an asylum at all, why the Daleks can’t solve this problem, perhaps by shooting zombie Daleks at the planet or another space-liner or just leaving… who knows. But what makes matters less clear is that Oswin can somehow hack all of Dalek security and talk the Doctor and his companions through every step of their mission which never made any sense in the first place.
The Doctor and Amy encounter another survivor of the crash, who takes them into his sunken escape pod, but it is soon revealed that he too is a humanized Dalek and that the pod is full of zombified humanized Daleks. It’s not a bad visual, but unnecessarily spooky for the kids in my opinion and it serves no real purpose since they can be stopped by just closing the door on them. In fact none of the monsters in this story are capable of opening a door. Bad luck, that.
Rory narrowly avoid an army of kill crazy Daleks (including a special weapons Dalek who can’t even be bothered to move!) and is reunited with the Doctor and Amy… who has lost her magic wrist watch which was meant to shield her from the cloud of nano bots that are now transforming her into a humanized Dalek. But the Doctor has a cunning plan to not only save Amy’s life but her marriage to Rory as well despite the fact that Amy has pointed out he can do no such thing.
See, the transformation into a Dalek can be halted by just loving a lot. Coincidentally this is also the Achilles heel of the cyber conversion process. So all the Daleks and Cybermen need in order to stop killing everyone is a good loving relationship. Huh. Thanks, Steven Moffat, for once more transforming Doctor Who into a soap opera/comedy. It’s Coupling with space/time travel! Rory forces the magic bracelet that prevents you from becoming a Dalek because he knows he can last longer since he loves her more than she loves him. They then have a couples’ fight over who loves who more, get all puffy-faced and cry a lot then realize that the Doctor has saved their marriage. Ta-da. As if I really cared about that plot thread. What about the Daleks? Why does the asylum exist? How did Oswin survive? At least one of these questions gets answered.
The Doctor leaves the couple to sort this out while he tries to rescue Oswin but must walk down THE CORRIDOR OF THE DALEKS! Here, survivors are kept from conflicts on Spiridon (Planet of the Daleks), Aridius (The Chase), Kembel (Mission to the Unknown and The Daleks’ Master Plan), Vulcan (Power of the Daleks), and Exxilon (Death to the Daleks). Why they all look liker the McKinstry MKI Dalek rather than classic ones, I don’t understand.
The good Doctor has a freak out as he waits for Oswin to open the way out and then gets the shock of his life (the only impressive moment for me in this story), Oswin is not a trapped human but a fully transformed Dalek wrapped up in a delusional fantasy to cope with her situation.
Even though she is a Dalek, Oswin really really really doesn’t want to be one so she betrays her programming and helps the Doctor escape into the middle of an army of Daleks on board their mother ship. Rather than kill him outright (again), the Daleks are confused as to why they cannot remember the Doctor at all (because Oswin erased his record from their database) and rather than shoot him they just chant ‘Doctor WHO?’ over and over, waiting patiently for their nemesis to leave.
After the impressive Dalek back in 2005, fans have been waiting patiently for another good outing for the most popular of Doctor Who’s monsters (Doomsday came close)… but this was not it. There was zero potential for this story to rise above passable but it failed at even that thanks to the nonsensical plot, sorry special effects and the woeful focus on Amy and Rory’s love life.
Next time: ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ (in which Rory deals with a deadbeat father that never loved him while historical characters fight… dinosaurs on a spaceship)
Overnight ratings from Doctor WhoTV:
1. Asylum of the Daleks – 6.4 million (overnight)
2. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
3. A Town Called Mercy
4. The Power of Three
5. The Angels Take Manhattan