First, a little background on Who and me. I started watching the fifth series of the New Doctor Who last September. I have only watched the new series, from Doctors Nine to Eleven and am not going to pretend to be someone with immense Who-knowledge. I don't think I will ever watch Classic Who, since that spans about four decades. I started watching Doctor Who because: 1) Tumblr and its Who-obsession is a little hard to ignore, 2) I thought Matt Smith had a very interesting face, 3) he appeared to be a wearing a bow tie, which I love, as this Doctor person, 4) I had seen a little bit of it on a flight and it looked interesting enough... certainly worth a look.
I will give a detailed account of all this on a later post, but I must talk about how people have their "own" Doctors, basically meaning that one of the eleven incarnations of the Doctor will always be their favourite and represent for them the 900+ year old time-and-space travelling alien. My Doctor is definitely Smith's bow-tie-and-tweed-jacket wearing Eleventh Doctor. I think he is just delightful and well, awesome! And I love what the current head writer of the series, Steven Moffat, has done with Smith's reign. I have always enjoyed the more epic scale of Moffat's writing. It feels like an adventure or a fantasy or a sci-fi story, with all these fantastic characters in them, headed by "the mad man with a box". Yes his predecessor, Russel T. Davies has a more emotionally-driven core to all his series, but for me at least, I think Moffat's tales can be very poignant too, albeit a little crazy at times. I guess that is because he himself is such a fanboy of the series that he just wants to put everything in there and then realises that he needs to reconcile all of that, as we can see in the sixth series. That definitely got a bit messy, but it was a lot of fun too.
So all this introduction brings us to the actual matter at hand, the episode 7x01 named "Asylum of the Daleks":
1) Just from the get-go, the scale and the look of the episode is leaps and bounds ahead of anything I have seen in Doctor Who yet. If one would compare the comically terrible-looking Atraxi from "The Eleventh Hour" and the gorgeous Dalek parliament in "Asylum of the Daleks", they can see how far this show has come in only two years. There is an immediate blockbuster movie appeal to it.
2) Before the opening credits, we are told that though most of the universe now believes that the Doctor is dead, his mortal enemies, the Daleks, think otherwise and are even able to trap him via this human-Dalek chick- that was a bit contrived because it isn't that easy to trick the man or he would have been dead over ten times by now (he sort of is, if you think about it).
3) Also we see the very surprising divorce taking place between childhood sweethearts, Amy Pond and Rory Williams. I really like how this show exploits Karen Gillan's, who plays Amy, modelling background since her character, the erstwhile kissogram, is a big model now. The Daleks abduct them too.
4) I love the part when all the Daleks start pleading "Save the Daleks!" Especially with all the lights. My thoughts were exactly like the Doctor's, "This is new."
5) Btw, in case you are a non-Who watcher and are reading this just because you love me so, the Daleks are an alien race that hate everyone and everything except each other and their big aim in life is to "Exterminate!" everything in their path. Unfortunately for them, the Doctor is always in their path. They look like a big letterbox mixed with a vacuum cleaner, which is why even though they are pretty ruthless, I can never take them very seriously. But I think that as a concept, the Daleks are definitely a very formidable enemy because they are completely made of hate, and even find it beautiful, as the Doctor finds out in this episode.
6) Hey new opening credits! There will be a new one for each of the first five episodes, which are the last five Ponds episodes *sniff*. Anyways, this one had the "Doctor Who" sign embedded with the Dalek "eggs".
8) So basically the reason the Daleks have recruited the Doctor and his companions are because a ship has landed on a planet named the Asylum, where they keep all the mad Daleks, and since someone has gotten in in spite of the planet's force field, these unstable Daleks that even the normal Daleks are scared of, can get out. So they need someone to go to the planet, close the force field from inside so that they can destroy the planet, even though they find such extreme hatred divine.
9) The ship is Oswin's and she's been transmitting "Habanera" from Carmen as a distress call. I love Eleven's face when he asks Oswin what she has been doing for over a year to protect herself from the Daleks and she replies that she's been making souffles, and he goes "Souffles? Against the Daleks?" He's the only person who makes me want to sing "Funny Face".
10) So the Daleks choose the Doctor, their "Predator" and Amy and Rory to be the ones to complete this mission and fire them at the planet. "You're going to fire me at a planet? That's your plan- I get fired at a planet and expected to fix it!"
11) The Asylum is shown as a snow-clapped planet. The outdoor scenes were shot in Spain and the show keeps its now big-budget look. Amy and Doctor land on the ice and Rory actually fell into the underground tunnels of the place, where all the Daleks are kept.
12) At this juncture, I have to say that I have decided that Donna and Rory are officially my favourite companions. Arthur Darvill plays Rory with so much heart and has a brilliant comedic timing. The whole scene when he discovers that he's surrounded by all these mad Daleks, with their "eggs" is both scary and funny, which isn't easy to pull off, but he does so effortlessly.
13) Okay so many people found the rotting-skeleton-Dalek-hybrid-puppet-things with the laser coming out of their heads scary, but I didn't. I felt the Dalek eye that Oswin operated to talk to the Doctor when he has crashed on the planet was much more sinister.
14) Anyways this thing called nanogene cloud in the planet turns all organic matter into a Dalek, which is why there are rotting-skeleton-Dalek-hybrid-puppet-things, and Amy loses the nano-field bracelet protecting her from it.
“Is there a word for total screaming genius that sounds modest and a tiny bit sexy?”
“Doctor. You call me the Doctor.”
“I see what you did there.”
16) I have been reading about how this episode evokes the atmospheric terror of The Thing. I haven't seen the movie myself, but I really want to now.
17) I liked the part when Amy goes all psyche-Dalek (see what I did there) and sees visions of various people when there are Daleks instead. Ballerina Dalek was pretty.
18) Also when the Doctor blows up the Dalek, or rather makes it blow itself up. Geronimo!
19) And, Amy slapping Rory when she gains consciousness was fun.
20) From here on, the show becomes much darker and emotional. Oswin talking about how a person becomes a Dalek when love is subtracted from then and hatred is filled in them has a bang-on effect when you think about it retrospectively.
21) Also, my favourite part of the episode, along with Oswin and the look, was the emotional scene between Amy and Rory. Amy's look of hurt when Rory says that she should wear his bracelet because it'll take longer to subtract love from him since he loves Amy more. I can sort of accept that (I wish I could get someone who would wait 2000 years for me), but I am pretty sure that Amy loved him a lot too. Still, when she talks about how she had to give him up because she could not have children after Demon's Run, and thus not make Rory happy in that way, her love for him can also not be compared. And then they realise that the Doctor had already secretly put his bracelet on her, and we see the Doctor fixing his bow tie, proving Amy's earlier statement wrong- "It's not one of those things you can fix like you fix your bow tie." Doctored!
22) I'm not going into the main plot twist of the episode, except that Oswin is amazing, Moffat is a troll and all the Daleks have officially forgotten who the Doctor is-"Doctor Who?" (times million)
"Fellas, you're never gonna stop asking." <-- I love the way Smith says that too.
All in all, it was a cracker of an episode. Epic in scale, but with a superb emotional bang. For someone like me who isn't particularly impressed by the Daleks, I liked how it didn't focus on them so much as again, the concept of them. This is why when the Doctor suddenly finds himself surrounded by the craziest of all the Daleks, those who survived him, and literally screams for help, we can understand what a malevolent race they really are. Moffat put in the perfect balance of humour, horror and drama in it. The director Nick Hurran made it feel so movie-like, and the whole look and mood was Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin is already a fan-favourite and it will be very interesting to see how she will return in the Christmas special. Matt Smith, as always, is the flaily, mean, genius-y, hilarious, concerned Doctor who I love. Gillan and Darvill too shine in their big scene. My favourite first episode since "The Eleventh Hour".
Note: This post was originally titled "The Doctor and Tyra" because I was going to discuss the current America's Next Top Model episode too. But I realized that I really don't have the mental capacity to write about that hot mess. The only reason I am mentioning all this is because I wrote an equally insane opening paragraph to this post that I masochistically need to share because I'm afraid this is the peak of my creativity. I give you, my spur-of-the-moment pitch for, "The Doctor and Tyra":
'The TARDIS accidentally crashes into the Top Model house and the Doctor finds himself surrounded by crazy model wannabes who are actually from planet Fierce from the Pot Ledom galaxy and Tyra Banks is their psychotic alien ruler extraordinaire who wants humans to become her slaves, but fashionable ones and is disgusted by the Doctor's bow tie and orders him to remove it and since he cannot stand for such a stylistic travesty because obviously "Bow ties are cool", he teaches this to the models who then kill Tyra with her own curling iron zapper. GERONIMO!'
Oh wait, I think this is the plot of Tyra Banks's next bestseller. My bad. Ignore all of this.
I hope you liked this. I don't know how many of you watch Doctor Who, but you should because it is awesome :)