Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Asylum of the Daleks

I've watched and re-watched Asylum of the Daleks, and BOY OH BOY DO I HAVE OPINIONS.  

Non-spoiler version:

As Moffat had previously declared, he wanted big sexy movie-poster-worthy episodes, and this does NOT disappoint in this, at all.  But I have to disagree with the Moff's belief that no story is too big to tell in 45 minutes.  This was a story too big to tell in 45 minutes, and it should have been 60-75 minutes long.  As-is, it felt very Michael-Bay-on-adderall, jumping from big flashy scene to big flashy scene, while cramming all the 'bits in between' into the edges with a shoehorn.  The companions' development were severely shrifted short, especially considering the Pond Life teasers.  All of the best Doctor Who episodes make me cry (ok, so more almost all of new-Who makes me cry), but this one got nary a sniffle.

But then again, it's an all-ages sci-fi show.  It's not necessarily supposed to get all caught up in the everyday soap-opera emo stuff of life.  It's supposed to be VSSWHHhhooooooaaaaa PTEW PTEW OH NO RUN!  WE NEED A DOCTOR SRSLY HELP! DOCTORRRR--oh there he is. And what sort of time do you call this? and then the Doctor is TOTALLY NERDCORE BADASS and his companions are brilliant and brave and the best of humanity, and sometimes also the worst.

On that measure, this was a good episode.  Do watch.  When you do, come back here and read the rest of this, and let's talk about it in the comments, because that has only begun to scratch the surface of my giant mountain of thoughts about this episode.


For a shorter, better-organized, punchier version of what I have to say here, you can read Graeme McMillan's five questions about Asylum of the Daleks.  McMillan covers the important stuff very well, and if I wanted to be better writer I should probably follow his example.

But I am a fangirl, and I must squee.  Allons-y!

"What do we do?"
"Make them remember you."

I LOVE this episode's continuation of the timey-wimey memoryfuckery which has been a common theme throughout Eleven's stories.  First the cracks in the universe, then the Silence, and now this.  Molto bene!  I also love the subversion of Eleven's typical MO here, and the progression from "Make them remember you" to "you made them forget me" is wonderful.  It seems like a tipping point, where most of the Doctor's life was spent traipsing around making history, and now 11 has to stamp it all out.  He's purging his Timeline. I'm sure many of us can relate.

I expect that during the Daleks' next encounter with the Doctor, they'll see him as just one more pest to be easily exterminated, and he's going to rock their world (naturally), and it's going to be brilliantly entertaining to watch.

I also love the progression of Dalek society.  They have a parliament now!  They experience beauty!  Yes, it is a twisted version of beauty, but finding beauty in sublime hatred is not unheard of.  The Daleks have experimented with human/Dalek hybrids, but I only vaguely paid attention to those episodes, because... well...

This guy.  Jesus Christ, this guy.

Now I want to go back and watch them all now to get a grasp on the new Daleks' society/psychology/origins/EVERYTHING.  Aren't the new Daleks generated from humans?  Or were those all destroyed?  I don't remember, and that situation must be swiftly rectified.

(The author takes a break to read the entirety of the Wikipedia page about Dalek variants.)

SO APPARENTLY THERE'S THIS WHOLE 'HUMAN FACTOR' THING that happened way back in freaking 1967.  This gives me hope for a Dalek revolution, possibly with a splinter faction that wants to subjugate the universe instead of exterminating it.  So far the Daleks have mostly chosen to assert their superiority through straight-up eliminating all other life-forms from the universe... but wouldn't it be so human, to exploit them instead?  (With the added moral gray area of, hey, at least we're not exterminating them like those guys, Doctor, shouldn't you be on our side?)

The most mind-blowing bit of this ep, for me, was Amy's hallucinations while she was being converted.

These people are completely normal and not at all creepy.

This is no hallucination - this is Amy tapping into the Dalek telepathic network / "Pathweb".  (Which, btdubs, is my new name for the intertubes.)  She's not hallucinating those people - she's seeing what those Daleks think they are.  What they're dreaming for themselves, because the truth is too terrible.  Part fantasy, part who they use to be, with more or less madness from the transformation into something so hateful and inhuman.  I especially like the guy who appears to be mid-psychotic-break, stumbling rigidly around... right after we hear that some of the Daleks are "catatonic".  It's perfect.

It's also the special sort of Doctor Who sad, beautiful and tragic in equal parts.

Which brings us to Oswin.

"Soufflés? Against the Daleks?"

This moment is when the Doctor fell in love with the new companion.  THIS is my Doctor Who Emotional Moment.  SO very much more than anything that happened with the Pond-drama subplot.  Seriously.  Murray Gold helped; her theme music is light and hopeful, everything good.

Is it just me, or does it seem like Oswin has something of the Doctor about her?  A cocky, irreverent supergenius, and a little bit sexy?  Her prosody is even exactly like the Doctor's.  This is one of those big little details that might become relevant later in the series.

Edited to add:  Adam James Cuthburt noted here that she seems awfully like River.  Now wouldn't that be interesting?  Especially since that opens even more parallels:  The woman trapped in a dream world at the core of a planet, eh?

Besides that, I don't have much to say about Oswin that hasn't been said a thousand times elsewhere on the internet.

Btdubs, HOW FUCKING ADORABLE* is Matt Smith's face when he transforms from 'weary Doctor facing tireless enemies' into 'kind of in love with this new awesome person'?

"Sorry, there weren't any good questions left."

I fucking love Rory.  When we first met him, he was ... a gooseberry.  But he gained some levels in badass, and then there was crying Roman Rory with a baby, and he pretty much became SO COOL.

Amy's always been awesome, if kind of fucked up, but that's what happens when you have the whole universe streaming through your head for your entire flipping childhood, or when you run away to outer space for several weeks with your childhood imaginary friend on the night of your wedding, or when you had parents and didn't have parents, both ways, for your entire life.  I get that she's complicated and all over the place mentally and emotionally.  (The DW writers would insert some terrible Scottish joke here, which I find distasteful.)  But that's part of who Amy is, and it makes her a wonderful companion for the madman with a box.

Then this episode happened.  Ugh.

Don't get me wrong.  The shapes of the characters were exactly right, and a lot of their scenes were brilliant. They've matured a little bit; at this point they've got zero fucks to give, and I love that.  But like I said earlier, I feel like the whole marriage-saving plotline was crammed into the corners of this episode, like trying to fit just one more thing into an overpacked suitcase.  They go from divorcily insulting each other to desperately making out, with a single teary-eyed conversation in between.  And it's one that they've apparently had before!  (From Rory's "I know" reaction to Amy's sterility revelation.)

Rory's part in it would make a lot of sense... if he hadn't been so insultingly dismissive of Amy at the beginning.  During the first few minutes here it seemed like Rory was leaving Amy, not the other way around.  But halfway through, he was all BUT I LOVE YOU MORE!  Which is pretty much true.  But given that he waited TWO THOUSAND YEARS for her, d'you think that he might put up some resistance to the whole getting-divorced thing?  Or at least he might let her sort out the paperwork instead of doing it himself?

Oh, and Amy just seems like an abusive jerk.  Seriously, the last time she slapped Rory, I wanted him to pop her one right back.  Apparently the writers want us to believe that Amy decided, for Rory's own good, that she should kick him out?  But then she's the one who wants the Doctor to fix them?  (See Pond Life Pt 5.)  But then she tells the Doctor that it can't be fixed, that it's a lost cause?  BUT THEN she's all like NO I LOVE YOU MORE, even though he waited TWO THOUSAND YEARS for her? because yeah, I guess she's been through some shit for him too, but... I mean, she said it approximately 10 seconds after she struck him across the face.

Two thousand years he waited.  For this.  Damn, dude... maybe you should get out.

AMY YOU ARE BEING TERRIBLE STOP IT THIS INSTANT.  You don't need the Doctor to scare you into being honest with Rory!  You can do that all on your own, and the name of the game is Just Fucking Start Being Honest With Rory.  I know, I know, she's a fictional character and it's actually the writers/editors/producers' faults but COME ON AMY GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.

Maybe, hopefully, the later episodes will provide some context.  But they already had Amy pretty much straight-up molest the Doctor, so it really looks like they're going with the impulsive, overemotional asshole angle.  To my great disappointment, because she's the person I'm supposed to be identifying with, right?  I don't care how smart or sexy she is, if she isn't good then what's the point of her?

Ah well.  Time to get all excited about Dinosaurs on a Spaceship!  Because DINOSAURS!  On a SPACESHIP!

*The answer is:  SO ADORABLE.

"You beauty!"

ETA:  Here are some links:
My continuity roundup of all the episodes in S7, part 1.

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