Saturday, March 16, 2013

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks, Review pt.2: The Review

If you haven't already read pt.1 of this review click here.

Thanks to the unsurprising build of success since the show returned in 2005, the BBC has really stepped up the budget and production value of the show. In the beginning there were times when you had literally no budget for an episode and had to make do with old sets and costumes. Steven Moffatt was right when he promised we would be seeing 5 short movies, and not just in the resemblence of episode titles to the names of movies. The shot through the porthole in the floor of the parliament ship to reveal the Asylum planet alone was worth watching. The locations lend themselves very well to the grandeur the scenes of the show now hold. How else without camera tricks and attempts at special effects could they hope to reproduce an icy planet, or in a later episode, a full on town from the old west. (Both were actually found in Spain).

Besides "Pond Life", they also released a prequel for Asylum. I love the prequels because, tho short, they usually contain something meaningful. In this one, a mysterious hooded figure calling himself The Messenger, comes to The Doctor in his dreams telling him a woman needs his help. The Doctor doesn't want to go until The Messenger writes the coordinates of the planet in Gallifreyan, alone worth watching the 2 1/2 minute video.

The episode opens on Skaro, home planet of the Daleks, but let me skip that for a second. The new Dalek hybrid people are cool and well done. Part Dalek but unknowing of this until activated makes them the perfect traps. It was chilling when The Doctor tried to remind Darla she had a child and she leaned in and coolly replied "I know, I've read my file." In fact the Daleks in general are good and proper creepy in this episode. From unknowing pawns having an eye stalk emerge from their forehead to thousands of Daleks surrounding you speaking in unison, lighting up the room as they beg The Doctor to help them destroy the Asylum. And the asylum itself is an even creepier idea, a place where all the damaged and mad Daleks are kept. But theres someone else in the asylum.

Tricksy you are, Steven Moffatt. It was revealed before the airing that we would get to see Skaro. I understand why it needs to be in desolation, thanks for the continuity Moff, but barring the monument The Doctor was in they showed the actual planet for about a collective 10 seconds. Why wasn't the asylum there? Maybe because it was more exciting on the entire planet that filmed beautifully, unlike filthy Skaro. The second trick was amazing. Most amazing in that it wasn't, widely anyway, leaked that Jenna-Louise Coleman, to be The Doctor's next companion, would be in this episode. Trapped in the wreck of a cruise liner inside the asylum. Jenna is brilliant. Shes charming, witty, intelligent, brilliant in fact and actually Im describing her character. Now Steven Moffatt revealed the name of the new companion as Clara* Oswin, so I knew something was up when she introduced herself to The Doctor as Oswin Oswald.

*As a side note, Clara got her name from the middle name of Elisabeth Sladen, the amazing actress who played the beloved companion Sarah-Jane Smith, who met the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th and 11th Doctors.

Of course, Amy and Rory are also collected, separately, to assist The Doctor. Amy is still doing the modeling thing we saw introduced in "Closing Time" and it is so apparent that she and Rory still care for each other. One of my first big questions comes early on when they arrive in the parliament and Amy asks what do they do. The Doctor replies, "make them remember you". I cannot make a connection with this, so if anyone got it please let me know. As far as I saw it never got explained, and perhaps it just hasnt yet. (Tricksy, remember)

Rory gets separated as the beam burrows through the planet into the heart of the asylum itself. The tension as you stare at the dozen or so absolutely still Daleks. Old and cob-webbed, there seems to be no reaction when Rory inspects one. But then the one corrects its eye-stalk from where Rory moved it and I knew it was on. I didn't care for the conveniently placed pipe behind Rory, but seeing the Daleks gradually come alive and react helped me forgive it. It was such an interesting idea to have all the types of Daleks represented, and I especially loved seeing the special weapons Dalek during this scene. I am a huge fan of Resurrection of the Daleks, but I can say that this is my favorite Dalek story of the new series.

Okay, here's my other beef with this episode. When they are in the Alaska landing shuttle and the dead crew are waking up as Dalek hybrids, why didn't they go up the ladder they were standing at and go out? They didn't know about the hatch so why would they risk kicking through the advancing zombie Dalek army to lock themselves inside a room? At any rate it gives us the setup for The Doctor learning of Amy and Rory's split, and with Amy's bracelet gone, a way to reconnect her and Rory later.

They beautifully shot the scene where Amy is hallucinating, seeing a small group of people, including a young ginger ballerina in white turning. Then when she is shown they are Daleks and you see the white Dalek spinning around in a circle, well it was madness and I loved it. I think Moffatt did a good job of making the Daleks creepy and scary in brand new ways.

Okay, let's wrap this up. Putting the Dalek in reverse to destroy them all was genius. I just don't know if I buy the baby thing and Amy giving Rory up. It feels as out of place as her being a model. But there it is. We saw the connection was there so I was fine and even happy that it was resolved by the end of the episode.

I had no idea that Oswin would end up being a Dalek. I figured something would happen, since she wasn't coming back until Christmas. But that was good. It broke my heart a little. The way they went back and forth as she spoke between human and Dalek was great. And if I hadn't thought before something was up with her, I knew it when she looked at the camera and said "remember." Oh yeah, and she hacked the Dalek's pathweb and made them forget The Doctor. Every last one of them. Which leaves us with the reminder of where this series is going. The answer of the question that should never be asked. Doctor who? After dropping Amy and Rory off at home, The Doctor seems pleased, at least that the Daleks are asking that question. Frankly, I'm worried. I don't think we need to know his name. I like the mystery of it we've had in this series, just please be leading to something else more clever than just revealing his name. Even if it is the 50th.

Next up is "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship". only 14 days to the new episode!

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