Monday, September 03, 2012

Dr who, asylum of the daleks review (spoilers)

Well. That could have been better, couldn't it? On the positive side, I think this is the first truly weak episode of Dr Who that Moffat has penned. Starting with the revelation of the divorce of Amy and Rory, apparently all is not well for the Ponds. Well, a bit out there as a plot twist, but I guess there is dramatic potential there, so I'd give it a pass. I do dislike off stage character development though, it feels a bit like cheating. It means the writer doesn't have to do the work of showing a relationship collapsing, he can just tell you that it has.

Then the plot itself. The daleks are back, and they kidnap the doctor and his companions (it is known that he needs them). Worthy of note here: the daleks now apparently have a fleet and power large enough to infiltrate earth.. why don't they blow it up? They've tried it multiple times. I guess the explanation is that the daleks do genuinely fear the doctor at this point. Rather than involving the doctor in an evil scheme, the daleks ask for his help.

This is a nice enough twist, but the reasons for it don't quite work. So there is a signal coming from the planet which is non-dalek in origin. This freaks the daleks out, because if something non-dalek got in, maybe it can get out? The planet is full of nutty daleks, so the slightly saner daleks don't really want to risk their hides by going down there. So they will compel the doctor to go sort out whatever is there, then turn off the forcefield so that the daleks can blow the planet up. Why would the doctor agree to this? Well the only way off the planet is with the forcefield off...

Wait a minute there. Wasn't the only reason they were sending the doctor down was they were afraid there was another way off? Why wouldn't the doctor just use that? Oh well, the speed of plotting almost gets us past this, and off the doctor and his companions are fired down to earth. There proceeds a bit of reasonably fun action adventure stuff. During this, we learn that organic entities that land will get converted into dalek zombie things, which are pretty cute and scary, and also meet the stranded lady, who.. urgh. I think Moffat has a bit of a problem writing women. Its not that he is traditionally misogynistic, but he tends to hero worship a little. Women are often vivacious and cute and perfect. Sometimes they are mothers. The worst moment was when the lady (yes, I've forgotten her name) reveals that her first crush was on a girl called Nina. She was going through a phase. Going through a phase.

Urgh. When Russel T Davies was running the series it became a bit of a joke as to how, at least later in the run, practically everyone they met were differently sexual in some manner. But its much worse than the inverse. Moffat's run as been a lot more hetronormative, and this is a great example. A woman suggests she might be gay or bisexual and then instantly dismisses it, using a phrase which has been used to oppress homosexuals and bisexuals for decades. It serves to make her a male fantasy rather than a person.

Sadly, we are not quite done with the gender issues. Amy has lost her anti-dalek bracelet, and is turning into a machine. The doctor runs off to save the day, and Rory has to keep Amy human. A bit of back and forth of bitter argument, and it is revealed that Amy kicked Rory out because she couldn't have children, and that she "gave him up". And then they get back together. Argh!

So many issues

1)Its really only in television that break ups tend to happen like this, with one big emotional choice, rather than a lot of small ones, with a large one to galvanise action.

2)Gender issues strike back, as Amy is so distraught because she can't have a child. This is technically fine, but its a bit out of the blue for a character who honestly hasn't seemed to greatly care about raising a family.

3)They get back together again. So Moffat breaks them up, out of the blue, and then puts them together at the end of the episode? Now I don't know how the rest of the series will go, so I hope that this will have more long term ramifications, but in the short time its deeply unsatisfying. There are things the doctor can't fix, and it would be nice to see that acknowledged.

Finally we discover that the lady is a dalek! Gasp. Well, gasp if you hadn't been paying attention. I was genuinely surprised by the number of people who were taken aback by this. After all, there are multiple signals given that this is the case throughout the episode.

So yeah, not a terribly constructed episode, some funny action bits, some good dialogue in places, and the idea of having the doctor wiped from the daleks memory is splendid, but all in all, could do better.

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