Review: Doctor Who 7.01: The Asylum of the Daleks

By Heather S. Vina

Written By: Steven Moffat

Recap: “First, there were the Daleks. And then there was a man who fought them. And then, in time, he died. There are a few, of course, who believe this man somehow survived and that, one day, he will return.”

The episode begins with a woman on Skaro (named ‘Darla von Karlsen’ on Wikipedia, played by Anamaria Marinca, but never named in the episode), calling on the Doctor to help him save her daughter, Hannah, who is trapped in a Dalek prison. It turns out that “people” told her that he could help her and that disconcerts the Doctor. The Doctor quickly realizes that it’s a trap. That’s confirmed when a Dalek sensor comes out of her forehead and a Dalek weapon comes out of her palm. The Doctor is knocked out before he can escape and a Dalek voice intones, “The Doctor is acquired.”

Back on Earth, Amy is in the middle of a photo shoot when she is interrupted by news that Rory is there. He’s brought their divorce papers, which she hasn’t signed, yet. She signs them and snipes about not being married to him, anymore, but looks remorseful when he storms out. A makeup girl comes over to touch up Amy’s makeup, but, as she has Amy in the chair, she goes unconscious and the same thing happens to her that happened to Darla – she turns into a Dalek hybrid. Amy is knocked out and a Dalek voice intones that “Amelia Pond is acquired.”

Rory is getting on a bus, when the same thing happens to him as happened with the Doctor and Amy, only, with the bus driver: “Rory Williams is acquired.”

Rory and Amy wake up on the Dalek ship, when the Doctor enters the room, escorted by Daleks. The Doctor tells them that their level of trouble is – from 1-10 – at an “11.” Heh, I see what you did there, Moffat!

The trio is brought into a huge room full of Daleks, of all shapes and sorts. There are a lot of them. I mean a LOT of them. The Doctor explains to his Companions that they are in the Parliament of the Daleks. He tells them that they need to be brave and to “make” the Daleks “remember them.” He then goes to offer himself to the Daleks, expecting them to blow him away. However, instead of blowing him away, the Prime Minister of the Daleks (basically, this twisted lump of warped flesh with one eye) tells him that he will “save the Daleks.” The other Daleks chime in until it’s a chanting roar of “Save the Daleks.”

The Daleks going to their worst enemy to save them!

“Day 363.” A young woman named ‘Oswin Oswald’ (Jenna Louise Coleman) is narrating her time trapped by the Daleks on her ship. She’s keeping herself fairly well occupied by listening to classical music, making soufflés (though badly burned ones) and keeping an audio journal. Seems the Daleks come out at night, demanding that she allow them to enter, but she has managed to hold them off so far.

The Dalek ship finally arrives at the Asylum of the Daleks, a planet where the Daleks dump all of their “insane” or damaged Daleks. The Doctor has heard of it, and always thought it was a fable, as he can’t imagine the Daleks not just destroying them. But the Prime Minister tells him that it is “offensive” for them to destroy the “beautiful divine hatred” of those Daleks. The Doctor is disgusted by that and the Prime Minister muses to the Doctor that maybe that’s why they have never been able to kill the Doctor, because of his “divine hatred.” Or, you know, it could be because he’s just that good and you’re not, Prime Minister!

It turns out that the Daleks are concerned that a ship crash landed on the planet, and they’ve been receiving a transmission from the ship ever since. The transmission is of the opera, Carmen. The Doctor makes the “bold” move to try to talk to the person transmitting it. He manages to get a hold of Oswin, who is delighted to finally talk to someone. The Doctor is shocked to find out that she has been there for a year, trapped, and surprised that she has been making soufflés.

The Daleks interrupt the transmission and the Doctor realizes that they are worried that if a ship can land on the Asylum, then a ship might be able to escape. Not even the Daleks want to see their insane brethren running loose. Unfortunately, the planet is heavily guarded by a force field, and the only way to turn the force field off is to turn it off at the planet itself. And that’s where the Doctor and the Ponds come in, because it turns out that the Daleks are too terrified to go down there themselves! “The Predator” of the Daleks (AKA, the Doctor) will save them.

The Daleks give the Doctor, Amy, and Rory wrist bracelets, which will protect them from the nano cloud on the planet that immediately turns organic material into Daleks. And then they proceed to fire the trio at the planet.

The gang end up in separate places. Amy meets a man named ‘Harvey’ (David Gyasi), a crewmember of the ship Alaska, the same ship that Oswin is from.

The Doctor ends up near a Dalek eyepiece that Oswin has hacked into. The Doctor is shocked that Oswin has been able to hack into the Dalek technology, as that is no easy feat. They are interrupted by Amy and Harvey, and the Doctor and Amy go running off to try to find Rory, who has landed some ways from them and plunged into a hole. Alas, the hole leads to an underground cavern where the shells of almost a dozen or so Daleks are lying dormant. Or so Rory hopes.

Here’s an idea: Don’t poke the killing machines, Rory!

Harvey brings Amy and the Doctor back to his ship, telling them that the ship came down several days ago, which is different from Oswin’s story of having been there for a year. He brings them into the ship, where the duo discover his crewmates are really corpses and have been dead for a long time. Turns out that Harvey is a human/Dalek and didn’t know it! But he starts remembering, and turns to attack the Doctor and Amy. The two manage to lock him in a closet. The Doctor realizes that the nano cloud changes anything, living or dead, into Dalek hybrids. Meaning that the corpses are Dalek puppets, too!

The Doctor and Amy escape into the cockpit, where Oswin helps them find an escape route, which leads into the underground and, hopefully, to Rory. The Doctor asks Amy about the marital problems she and Rory are having, but she tells him he can’t fix it. Alas, the two’s heartfelt conversation is interrupted by the discovery that Amy has lost her bracelet, which means that she will be changed into a Dalek puppet, as well.

Meanwhile, Rory – who failed to take my advice on NOT poking the killing machines – ends up waking the Daleks up. The ancient and worn-out Daleks come after him. Oswin finds him and helps him escape, closing and locking the door after him. She flirts with him while she leads him to safety in the teleport room.

The Doctor explains to Amy about the changes that will take place, with the conversion. First, it will try to erase her memories and her feelings, “rewriting” her. The physical changes come later. Unfortunately, the conversion has already started, as her memory is already beginning to go. The duo run into the room that Rory escaped from, with the Daleks still riled up to “exterminate.” The Doctor calls on Oswin to try to help them, questioning why he can’t see her. She brushes it off and tells him she can lead him to Rory. While the Doctor and Oswin are talking, Amy starts to hallucinate, seeing the Daleks as people rather than Daleks. The Doctor manages to wake her up and they escape back into the hallway, with a Dalek coming after them. Luckily, the Dalek has no firepower, so it decides to self-destruct to take out the Doctor, instead. The Doctor manages to put the Dalek into reverse and send it back into the room with the other Daleks, blowing them all up.

Rory hears the explosion and goes back into the room, finding all of the Daleks dead and the Doctor with an unconscious Amy. The guys bring her back to the teleporter room, where Oswin warns them that Amy’s going to start killing them soon. Amy wakes up and seems okay for now, much to the Doctor and Rory’s delight. That settled, the Doctor turns to question Oswin, quizzing her on how she’s remained safe from the nanoclouds and how she has managed to do everything that she has done. He’s not buying her story that she is able to hack into the systems of the most advanced warrior race in the universe from a crashed ship. But what bothers him even more is that she is fixing soufflés: Where does she get the milk?

However, Oswin changes the subject, wondering why the Daleks call the Doctor the “Predator.” He explains that he is just a “man with a plan.” Turns out his plan is for Oswin to drop the force field then meet them at the teleport, and for them to use the teleport to beam back to the Dalek ship. He knows the Daleks are going to blow up the planet as soon as the force field is down, but believes there is enough time for them all to escape. Oswin can do it, but she refuses unless the Doctor comes and gets her. The Doctor has no choice, so he explains to Rory what to do while he goes off to get Oswin.

While the Doctor is off trying to get to Oswin, Rory and Amy finally have a long, long overdue conversation about their relationship. Rory offers his bracelet to Amy, theorizing that it will take longer for him to be converted, because he is more full of love, since he loves Amy more. Amy is upset and finally blurts out why she kicked him out: He has always wanted kids and she can’t have them, anymore, not since whatever happened to her at Demon’s Run. She didn’t kick him out; she gave him up so he could have what he wanted…though I think he’d much rather have her. Rory still tries to put his bracelet on her, but they see that the Doctor already gave her his. The two finally kiss and make up, and all is well with the Ponds! Well, except for the imminent death, of course.

The Doctor makes his way towards Oswin, but, alas, he ends up having to go through “Intensive Care,” which is filled with locked-up Dalek survivors of “particular wars.” Turns out these wars were all ones that the Doctor fought with them, ones in which he won. The Daleks start waking up, growling out the Doctor’s name. The Doctor rushes through, but ends up being trapped at the last door. Oswin tries to help him and ends up hacking into the Dalek’s “pathweb,” wiping out the Daleks’ memory of the Doctor. This causes them to retreat, since they no longer remember their hatred of him or their defeat at his hands. The Doctor is shocked that she was able to do that, as he tried to do it before and wasn’t able. She brags a little more and opens the door for him, leading him into the room where she is.

The Doctor is shocked at what he sees and tells Oswin that they have a problem. Oswin can see him through her viewscreen. He asks her if the room she is in looks “real” to her. She claims it is real. But it’s not. She dreamed the room up because the truth was too terrifying for her: She’s a Dalek. Not a human/Dalek, but a real Dalek, trapped in chains, claiming in her Dalek voice that she is not a Dalek. The Doctor theorizes that she had escaped the Alaska and was found by the Daleks, who recognized her potential and decided to turn her into a real Dalek, instead. Oswin flashes back to her memories of being trapped by them, trying to keep her humanity while the Daleks converted her. As she flashes back, the Dalek conversion starts up again, and she starts to say, “Exterminate!”

Luckily, Oswin manages to break free again and stops herself from killing the Doctor. She asks him why the Daleks hate him so much. He sadly tells her that he has fought them so many times. Oswin claims that the Daleks have grown stronger in their fear of him and the Doctor acknowledges that truth. He’s tried to stop, but hasn’t been able to.

Oswin takes down the force field and tells the Doctor to run. The Doctor hesitates and Oswin tells him that she is Oswin Oswald; she fought the Daleks and she won. She asks him to remember her and he thanks her before taking off.

The Daleks in the ships above start attacking the planet. The Doctor makes it back to a happily reunited, and passionately kissing, Rory and Amy, and teleports them all to the Dalek ship. The trio make it back, landing right in the TARDIS as the planet explodes. The Doctor pops out of the TARDIS and mocks the Daleks for not “seeing this coming.” But the Daleks have no idea who he is and demands that he identify himself. “Doctor Who?” As the Daleks start chanting this, the Doctor realizes that Oswin managed to delete all knowledge of him from the entire Dalek database. He smiles, waves off the Daleks, and takes off.

Rory and Amy are back together at their house, reunited, and the Doctor is alone in the TARDIS, cheerfully celebrating Oswin’s existence and her wiping out his identity for the Daleks.

Review: Well, I feel like a broken record, but I did love this episode! It wasn’t quite as exciting as the season six opener, with its dead Doctor and the Astronaut, and wondering what the mystery was behind the Silence. But it was still very well done, with witty lines and a really compelling story with Oswin and her true identity. I was surprised that Oswin was a Dalek and I’m glad I was, because it made for a much more enjoyable watching experience for me. It never occurred to me until the end that she could be something other than a human, since I know the actress who was playing her – Jenna Louise Coleman – is the new Companion. I don’t know whether this is a case of an actress just playing two characters, or if they are going to somehow make Oswin the Companion, after all. Spoilers have the new companion being named “Clara Oswald,” which would seem to make it another case of an actress playing a Companion and a relative, similar to what Freema Ageyman did with Martha Jones and her cousin, Adeola Oshodi (“Army of Ghosts”). As much as it makes me sad what happened to Oswin, I think I prefer that she is gone, because bringing her back in as the Companion seems to play too loosely with time, even for the Doctor.

I quite enjoyed Jenna Louise. She could have come across as too much of a Mary Sue, with the witty banter and brilliant tricks, but Jenna Louise played her with charm and fun, which softened out any of those issues. And the truth of why Oswin was able to do everything she did revealed a different kind of genius than what was suspected in the beginning of the episode. Oswin is truly one of the top “triumphant tragedies” of the series. This young woman was turned into a Dalek, yes, but she managed to keep her humanity, keep her sanity, and, in the end, she died on her terms, human to the end, heroic to the end. It made me so sad seeing her die, but it was also inspiring that she beat the Daleks, simply by dying as herself.

I have seen a lot of complaints that the discord between Rory and Amy was contrived. I can kind of see that to some degree, but, on the other hand, it’s obviously been several years since they have been traveling with the Doctor and the truth is that real life can take a toll. The everyday frustrations and issues, getting into a rut. It was clear that they had dealt with the idea of having children one day, but they hadn’t dealt with the ramifications of not having children. And instead of discussing it with him, Amy pushed him away, which isn’t the first time, considering she first went off with the Doctor because she was running away from marrying Rory in the first place. So, it didn’t surprise me, but I am glad it wasn’t dragged on and that they reunited in the end! Maybe these two just need an adventure with the Doctor every year or so. It will be their version of a vacation!

It took me watching the episode again to really get why the Doctor was so happy that the Daleks didn’t remember him, anymore. And it was because he had realized the truth: that the Daleks’ hatred of him made them stronger and it was a vicious circle. The Daleks hated him and fought him and became stronger in their efforts to win against him. And no matter how much the Doctor didn’t want to become that icon, on the other hand, he couldn’t stop fighting against them, either. But now that they don’t remember him, he can become like a guerrilla: fighting against them, without becoming a battle cry to band them together. I loved his happiness over their amnesia and his little celebratory dance in the end! He did what he set out to do: stopped the Daleks, freed Oswin, and reunited Amy and Rory! And as a bonus, he freed himself from the Daleks, as well. Well, Oswin did. Nice job!

I think about the only complaint I had with this episode was that I really didn’t like the Dalek/Human hybrids. The Daleks – like the Cyberman – have always been about the “purity” of their species. The Daleks even turned on Davros, their maker, because he was a human being (well, a Skaaran). In the past, they’ve turned against their own kind if they thought they were flawed in any way. So, it is a stretch to me to believe that they would be okay with an “inferior” Dalek. It’s possible that they have adapted and have decided to use whatever tools they have in some stealthy war. But the Daleks have never been stealthy and they have always been about them being the ultimate ideal. Even calling these hybrids their “puppets” didn’t quite work for me, as the Daleks have just never been about stealthy or subversive, but rather, flat-out assimilation into what they are, period.

But other than that, I thought this was a great episode. The Daleks aren’t the most fearsome villain for me; I think the Weeping Angels win that award. But they are scary, relentless killing machines, and watching the Doctor, Amy, and Rory get trapped on their planet was nerveracking. You know they are going to make it, but it’s still tense. And the heartbreak of the reality of Oswin’s situation, lent some tragedy to the story.

I look forward to the rest of the season. How will the Doctor fare traveling on his own? What will happen to Amy and Rory? How will the new Companion enter the Doctor’s life? And why, exactly, are there Dinosaurs on a Spaceship?

Bring on the next episode of season seven!

Quotes:

Daleks: Save the Daleks.
The Doctor: Well…this is new.

Oswin: Also, made another soufflé! [turns out it’s burned] Very nearly.

Amy, as she and Rory watch the Doctor pace in the Daleks’ ship: He’s chosen the most defendable area in the room, counted all the Daleks, counted all the exits. And now he’s calculating the exact distance we’re standing apart and starting to worry. Oh, and look at him frowning now. ‘Something’s wrong with Rory and Amy, and who’s gonna fix it?’ And…straightens his bow tie.

Amy: Armed?
Darla: The Daleks are always armed.
Rory: What color? (everyone looks at him) Sorry, there weren’t any good questions left.

The Doctor: You’re going to fire me at a planet. That’s your plan. I get fired at a planet and expected to fix it.
Rory: Well, in fairness, that is slightly your MO.
The Doctor: Don’t be fair to the Daleks when they’re firing me at a planet!

Oswin [talking about herself]: Is there a word for total screaming genius that sounds modest and a tiny bit sexy?
The Doctor: “Doctor.” You can call me the Doctor.
Oswin: I see what you did there.

The Doctor: Do you know how you make someone into a Dalek? Subtract love; add anger. Doesn’t she seem a bit too angry to you?
Oswin: Well, somebody’s never been to Scotland!

You can buy episodes of Doctor Who season seven on Amazon.com.

About Heather S. Vina

Heather's been a fan of science fiction since she was five years old and developed a crush on Captain Kirk, while watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series. A huge Anglophile, she loves reading and watching (and mocking!) TV, but hasn't figured out a way to make a living doing either, yet. But she lives in hope!

Heather S. VinaReview: Doctor Who 7.01: The Asylum of the Daleks