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21 September 2015 @ 08:51 pm
NuWho Rewatch: Asylum of the Daleks  
I really like this story. In fact, I still really like this story even though I was a little worried that, once you were aware of the various reveals, it would lose some of its force. The Doctor, Amy and Rory are captured by the Daleks and sent to infiltrate the Daleks' asylum and shut off its forcefield so the Daleks can destroy it. On their way they are rescued repeatedly by Oswin Oswald, "souffle girl", who claims to have been trapped in the asylum following a spaceship crash.

I like a lot of the imagery in the story. Amy's vision of the Daleks as they see themselves has been widely acclaimed, but there are some other great visuals in the asylum and I also like Oswin's mental hideaway with its reds and browns. Oswin's story is both clever and genuinely affecting. Even where the Dalek convert whispers "I know. I read my file" to the Doctor when he tries to engage her emotions with her lost daughter, is surprisingly effective.

Less well-handled is the Ponds break-up and reconciliation. daniel_saunders has complained that the show never properly addressed the emotional fall-out of River's kidnap which is a valid criticism, though you can see how it would have been difficult to do within the constraints of the genre. This is, I think, Doctor Who's attempt to do that, but the break-up comes out of nowhere (arguably even if you have watched the Pond Life shorts that led up to this season and pre-figured it) and while the audience are still trying to understand what has happened everything gets patched up. The fact that the underlying issue was Amy's belief that children were all important to Rory, his (and I think you could argue the audience's) lack of awareness of how much he meant to her, and her own infertility gets rather lost, I think, in the rapid pace of these events. That story needed more space, probably two or three episodes to play out in a way that it would have time for the audience to understand and digest. I do like that it isn't simply a bolted on sub-plot, but that it is the Dalek nanogenes and the way they work that forces Amy and Rory to finally have a conversation, but beyond that it feels too rushed and I don't think it really works to move us on from the River plotline.

That said, I really dislike the infectious Dalek nanogene idea, much as I like Oswin's story. They are too easy, too ill-defined, and make the Daleks too powerful. You have to wonder why the universe hasn't been entirely converted into Daleks if all they need to do is dump a few conversion nanogenes on any planet and then sit back and watch. I dislike the Cyber-rain at the end of series 8 for similar reasons.

The story's final reveal, that the Doctor has been wiped from Dalek memory also appears to have been quietly dropped (though I leave it open that I could be wrong about that, because some of of the dialogue in The Magician's Apprentice might be interpreted to refer to it). Moffat's intended trajectory from series 6 onwards has obviously been about the Doctor taking a step back from his very visible position as defender of all that is right and good in the universe. However the route has been inconsistent. In part, I think, this is because of the attraction of old enemies who can say words to the effect of "so Doctor, we meet again." But also because the audience clearly responds well to the Doctor's speeches in which he effectively threatens enemies with his reputation. I think it would be good to see more stories (particulalry climatic "event" stories) with a Doctor who is an unknown to those around him, but the show is obviously struggling with actually delivering on that idea.


In lots of ways Asylum of the Daleks is similar in structure to something like The Girl in the Fireplace - it is a science fiction short story with a twist in the tail. Unlike, The Girl in the Fireplace, it isn't self-contained and much of its context, I would argue, is dependent on a wider folk-understanding of the Daleks. It's also burdened with the rather rushed Ponds sub-plot which needed more space to breathe.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/171113.html.
 
 
 
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 21st, 2015 08:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the shout out. I think part of the problem with the Ponds here is that for a supposedly ideal couple, they have zero communication skills, which I found hard to believe.

This part of the audience is getting fed up with scenes where the Doctor threatens people with his reputation! But I think it's another instance where I'm in a minority. I'd like to go back to the Doctor just being an eccentric man ambling around the universe, but again...

I thought this was OK at the time, but it seemed to improve a lot on second viewing, once I could see that it was actually trying something rather different.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 22nd, 2015 10:04 am (UTC)
Were they supposed to be an ideal couple? I can see that the Doctor was possibly rather invested in that idea, but the Doctor's feelings about that relationship were always rather over-involved. I thought it was possible to see why the relationship worked, even with the comparatively poor communication.

I think Moffat very much wants the Doctor to just be a man in a box again, but he's clearly having trouble delivering on that and its interesting to pick at why.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 22nd, 2015 10:51 am (UTC)
I think Moffat very much wants the Doctor to just be a man in a box again

Not sure. His comments in DWM over the last couple of years would suggest that he wants to have his cake and eat it, sometimes having the Doctor as just a man in a box, other times playing on 50 years of history and Time Lord powers.


EDIT: You may be right about the Ponds being an ideal couple being the Doctor's view rather than an objective one.

Edited at 2015-09-22 10:52 am (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 22nd, 2015 01:13 pm (UTC)
I suspect the need for "Event" episodes (season openers, finales and Christmas specials) creates problems for "just a man in a box" since the expectation has been created that these will involve epic scale, set-pieces and returning enemies (obviously not all of them, but they are common elements) and current Who tends to reach for the "oncoming storm" aesthetic when using those elements.
wellinghallwellinghall on September 22nd, 2015 02:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think all of this is right.