Asylum of the Daleks

If there is one thing that the Daleks have been for the past 50 years, it’s inconsistent. Sometimes Daleks are intelligent, other times they are simply idiotic. Sometimes they are evil, other times they are comical. And the most important: sometimes they are scary, other times they are lame.

Despite my fondness for them firmly placing them above any other Doctor Who villain, it really depends on who the writer is on how these guys are used. Episodes like 2005’s Dalek are instant classics in the minds of many fans, while others such as Daleks In Manhattan come off as camp as a sequined cape. I was surprised to realize that this was showrunner Steven Moffat’s first real foray into these armored squid guys, and for the most part he really nailed it. If anything, he has found that a way to make a monster scary again is to wound it, or drive it crazy. The headless Cyberman armor in The Pandorica Opens is a fine example of this, and in this episode we have an asylum full of the Dalek equivalents.

First thing first, I had no idea that Jenna Louise Coleman was going to be in this episode. For the first time in a VERY long time we had an actual surprise that wasn’t ruined by a big UK newspaper or a questionable write-up in a magazine. Her appearance is a two edged sword though, as I really enjoyed her character, but this is probably not the same character that later shows up later on. Without outright spoiling my reasons for those that have not seen the episode, let’s just say that if it is her – Moffat will have to unleash the “timey wimey” on the show to achieve this.

This episode had it all for fans of older Dalek episodes. Returning, is a human slave class lead by the Daleks, minus the stupid speech pattern that the robomen had, or those dumb helmets from the Davison era. We had a glimmer of the many factions within the Dalek Empire including a new “parliament of the Daleks”. While this was a bit Star Wars-esque (galactic senate anyone?) it achieved a reasonable way to have thousands of Daleks in a room at once. Those thousands of Daleks were very impressive, but failed on one regard. The promise of “Every Dalek Ever Made” wasn’t an outright lie, but one had to play “Where’s Waldo” to see most of them. There was a special weapons model, and a 1960’s model in there from what I could see, but they weren’t features quite as prominently as I had hoped. I bet somebody with far too much free time has spotted them all, but I’m too lazy for that.

All in all, I really liked this episode; it had everything I like about Moffat scripts: mystery, surprises, horror, and a dash of humor. This season, despite how short it this half is, seems to be more up my alley than the previous Christmas episode, and holds the “blockbuster” status teased in the lead-up.

TV Review – Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour wasn’t just a good episode; it was a great episode, and possibly one of the best first episodes for a doctor ever.

In the year leading up to this “re-launch” of Doctor Who, many fans were acting in polar opposites.  On one hand, we had a cult beginning to form around Steven Moffat, the new show runner and head honcho of production.  Fans of his previous work in the series including The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and many other episodes began to see him as some sort of savior- a man who could do no wrong.  Others were being alarmist calling for Moffat’s head after initial casting announcements and the departure of David Tennant.  Now that The Eleventh Hour has aired, is the show in good hands?  In short, the answer is a resounding yes!

A new Doctor, a new Tardis.

Immediately, one can tell that this is not the same vision that former Executive Producer Russell T Davies had for the show.  Much like his previous episodes, Moffat takes care in making his characters and locations seem straight out of some sort of dark fairytale.  In short, the story of this episode is nothing spectacular, but does a wonderful job of establishing a new Doctor, a new companion, and a new style to the show.

I will even go as far to say that this version of Doctor Who seems more in line with the classic show, or at least an evolution thereof.  This especially rings true when thinking of the lighthearted playfulness of some of the classic Tom Baker episodes from the 70’s (especially under the helm of Douglas Adams), a sign that the show didn’t take itself too seriously to not let the fans have a bit of fun every once in a while.  We see nods to this playfulness right from the beginning as we hear a small girl praying by her bedside:

“Dear Santa, thank you for the dolls and pencils and the fish. It’s Easter now, so I hope I didn’t wake you but… honest, it is an emergency. There’s a crack in my wall. Aunt Shy says it’s just an ordinary crack, but I know its not cause at night there’s voices so… please please can you send someone to fix it? Or a policeman, or…”

Amelia trying to satisfy the Doctor’s food cravings.

This crack, as a plot device, furthers Moffat’s plan to make any insignificant inanimate object in my house scary to me.  It seems to pay off as I could feel creeped out by it from the get-go.  Let’s face it, Amelia is having to deal with a crazed lunatic that fell from the sky, crushed her Aunt’s shed, and is demanding food from her, and she is totally unfazed.  As the Doctor says “Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall.”

The Doctor messes up and disappears for 12 years after promising to be right back, only to meet his young friend again as an adult.  Amy now questions whether the Doctor even existed, and was sent to therapy because of her encounter with him.  The theme of this episode seems to be trust, as Amy isn’t sure if she can trust the Doctor.  What follows is a wild romp to stop Earth’s destruction at the hands of the Atraxi, a race of giant eyeball creatures who are looking for an escaped monster called Prisoner Zero.

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A simple thing like a voice mismatched to a person

is made horrifying with Prisoner Zero.

Matt smith breathes new life into the Doctor’s character that I feel was much needed.  Not to knock David Tennant, as he still is one of my favorite incarnations of the Doctor, but I felt that his portrayal started to feel tired towards the end of the 2009 TV specials.  Many have pointed out that Matt Smith has supposedly based his take on everyone’s favorite Timelord on that of the late Patrick Troughton who played the Doctor in his second incarnation.

I can see this to a degree, but can see many mannerisms from a multitude of actors that have played the role.  That’s not to say that Smith’s portrayal is simply a pastiche of previous actors roles, but he obviously wants to pay homage to those who came before.  Smith also brings a lot to the character with the way he talks, his odd appearance, his almost arrogant demenor, and his eccentricities (i.e. licking a shed to date the wood).  Some were worried having an actor so young playing the Doctor, but all of that was put to rest for me as we see him step out from a projection of David Tennant’s face late in the episode; we see that he simply IS the Doctor.

Next up is the sultry adult Amelia Pond, or Amy as she is calling herself these days, as played by Karen Gillan.  Karen portrays Amy as a confident strong female character.  Gone are the days of the female companion that only yells “oh Doctor”, twists her ankle, and gets captured in every episode of the classic series, but Amy even seems different from the modern “unrequited love for the Doctor” companions.

When we first see Amy, she even knocks the Doctor silly with a cricket bat, thus proving that she may be the toughest or at least the strongest willed companion in a while.  Even though Amy is seen to fancy the Doctor a bit, she is by no means smitten with him.  I think this comes into play for two reasons: she’s engaged, and she sees the Doctor as her “imaginary friend” as she saw him as a child.

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The supporting cast, such as Rory here, were great as well.

I feel that Moffat wrote her introduction perfectly, as we don’t have to deal with another “prospective companion has to prove themselves” storyline, as Amelia already did that as a child.  I always dislike when the Doctor is made to not trust his companion, and a situation like Martha Jones was not what I wanted to see.  For those who do not remember, Martha was basically only taken onboard the Tardis so that the Doctor could try to forget about Rose, but was left in the cold about 99% of the time.  The Doctor treated her sort of badly, and didn’t even make her a true companion until half-way through the show.  No wonder the character decided not to stick around.

The only real bad thing I can say about the episode is that the Atraxi and Prisoner Zero were not that compelling as villains, but that seems to be the point.  By concentrating on the building relationship between Amy and the Doctor the episode prepares us for the whole season and the new production style 100% as the story ends.

The Eleventh Hour wasn’t just a good episode; it was a great episode, and possibly one of the best first episodes for a Doctor ever.  Rather than have the Doctor lay around sick all episode or try to kill his companions, we are given a Doctor forced to take on an alien takeover with only his mind, a biff difference from what usually happens.  Through the strong performances by Smith, Gillan, and the supporting cast, I can see that this season will be truly great.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I now leave you with a clip of the new theme as well as a trailer for the season, and yes I loved the new theme!