Asylum of the Daleks
Review by Paul Bowler
You’ve gotten up early to see the trailers; stayed up until all hours for the latest images, and read every interview you could get your hands to prepare yourself for the return of Doctor Who. Now at long last the wait is over. Season Seven marks the beginning of the end for Amy and Rory as their adventures with the Doctor draw to a close over five blockbusting episodes, beginning with the return of the Doctor’s greatest enemies in Asylum of the Daleks!
The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan), and Rory (Arthur Darvill) find themselves kidnapped by the Daleks and taken to a gigantic spaceship in deep space for an audience with the Parliament of the Daleks. Instead of exterminating their greatest “predator” the Daleks actually want the Time Lords help. There is a planet where the Daleks store the most deranged and terrifying of their own kind, a planet sized prison that even they fear to visit, the legendary Asylum of the Daleks. A strange signal has been transmitting from deep inside the Asylum and the Dalek Prime Minister wants the Doctor and his companions to investigate and prevent the insane Daleks from escaping the Asylum. The Doctor finds himself in a race against time to help Amy and Rory – throwing in some marriage guidance along the way – but as the newly awakened Daleks close in for the kill, a newfound friend offer them all an unexpected way to defeat the Daleks…
Season Seven gets off to a confident start. Right from the moment the slightly tweaked title sequence spins away you are thrown into one of Steven Moffat’s most intriguing episodes to date. Things have not been going well for the Ponds since we last saw them, they are on the brink of divorce because Amy has found out she was left infertile after the events at Demons Run. After they are kidnapped by the Daleks and reunited with the Doctor at the Parliament of the Daleks the TARDIS team soon fall back into their familiar roles – but it is apparent right from the start that the Doctor is already doing his best to try and get the Ponds into a situation that will force them into a reconciliation.
Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are on top form in an episode that really puts them both through the emotional wringer. When Amy loses her bracelet that protects her from the Dalek Nano Cloud that acts as the Asylums security system – a virus that turns you into a Dalek construct – the scene is set for the heartfelt reunion of the Ponds.
The Asylum itself is a terrifying place, filled with Daleks from every era of Doctor Who. Although it would have been nice to have seen a few more of the older style Daleks, it was a great homage to the shows illustrious history, and offers up a number of highly atmospheric set-pieces. It’s incredibly creepy when Rory stumbles around in the Asylum as the Daleks begin to wake up. He mistakenly thinks that they are asking for eggs, the broken Dalek spheres on the ground, until they slowly come to life and begin to scream exterminate at him.
Even the Doctor is forced to reel in horror from the Daleks when he enters the Intensive Care section! This is the place that holds the most dangerous inmates of the Asylum of the Daleks, those who have survived the Doctor himself, rusting creatures of boiling hate who have been entombed ever since their fateful encounters on planets where the Daleks plans were once foiled by some of the Doctors previous incarnations. Matt Smith is superb as the Doctor throughout Asylum of the Daleks, running the gauntlet of the Time Lords emotions, his initial bravado before the Dalek Prime Minister giving way to pure undulated fear when he becomes trapped by the Daleks in Intensive Care.
Director Nick Hurran gives Asylum of the Daleks a truly epic feel, playing to every nuance of Moffat’s incredible script, showing us new aspects to the Daleks as well as introducing us to the vast hierarchy of the Daleks Parliament and the Dalek Prime Minister. The episode is packed with fantastic action and CGI effects! The Asylum is one of the most creepy and unsettling places to appear in Doctor Who for some time, it seems to ooze with dread, and when the Daleks become active again the action never lets up until the last spellbinding moment when the Doctor outwit’s the Daleks by getting them to voice the greatest question in all creation: “DOCTOR WHO? DOCTOR WHO? DOCTOR WHO?”
One aspect Asylum of the Daleks that will astound many people will be the debut of the Doctor’s new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman as computer genius Oswin Oswald; the Junior Entertainment Manager of the doomed Starship Alaska that crashed landed on the planet a year ago. She helps the Doctor and his companions by hacking into the Dalek technology and guiding them through the labyrinthine depths of the Asylum. It appears that Oswin also has an extensive knowledge of the Daleks, which proves invaluable to the Doctor when he is trapped in Intensive Care. Having apparently spent her time baking soufflés in a secure area in the heart of the Asylum, Oswin does her best to guide her new friends to a teleport chamber, but when the Doctor goes back into the Asylum to get her out he is horrified to find that she is in fact a Dalek! After escaping her crashed spaceship, Oswin must’ve stumbled into the Asylum where her genius intellect was gradually subverted by the Dalek Nano Virus – encasing her inside a Dalek while her mind built a fantasy world for her to live in!
The fact that this aspect of the story has remained hidden until transmission makes it an extra special surprise. Jenna-Louise Coleman was a delight in every scene as she interacted with the Doctor. It is a shame that the two of them never actually meet in this episode, but it is a testament to Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman for creating such on screen chemistry in spite of them never actually sharing any screen time together. I was immediately won over by Jenna’s performance as Oswin; it poses a lot of intriguing timey-wimey questions that I’m sure Mr Moffat will have a lot of fun with in future episodes!
Asylum of the Daleks gets the Seventh Season of Doctor Who off to a fantastic start, Matt Smith has really made the role his own now, and as we move towards the Ponds exit from the series we have been treated to a glimpse of the wonderful partnership to come.