"Asylum of the Daleks"

Oh dear, my carefully crafted image as a man of the book and too clever by half will now fall to the ground when I talk about "Doctor Who" fanboyishness. Ah well -- let the egg roll, as they say.  I don't ride motorcycles or jump out of airplanes, I just document my little life on the web and try to pass the time agreeably with all I meet.

Please don't look at me as I type this. It's embarrassing.

Now, on to my Doctor Who viewing habits:

  • I usually purchase a season pass via iTunes for the SD (rather than HD) version.
  • I usually download it on Sunday morning and enjoy watching it Sunday night.
  • A day or so afterward, I read what Ross Ruediger and Steven Cooper have to say about the episode, finishing with the Wikipedia entry on the episode, to get a sense of what the mainstream reviewers thought of the show and any interesting tidbits the other fellows left out. I find myself  more in agreement with Steven's reviews, as he packs a lot of context and interpretation into his posts, and usually highlights the best lines that really express character or emotion.
Now, Season 7 just premiered on Saturday night all over the BBC-speaking world, the reviewers have had their say. I won't attempt to compete with them as they do a far better job than I could. Here's some of what caught my eye from the episode, in no particular order:
  • The classic rule of writing is that the ending should be in the beginning. Those seeds should be planted early on. And it is, during Amy's model shoot where she punches at the camera with HATE and LOVE written on her fingers. Clever Mr. Moffat -- signaling his themes right from the start, punched right in your face. (With a tip of the hat, of course, to Charles Laughton's "Night of the Hunter," where Robert Mitchum's character has those letters tattooed on his fingers. One of those movie images that has entered into the collective unconscious.)
  • Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin was brilliant. As she was never in the same room as the actors she was talking to, she had to generate all the energy and interest in the scene herself. And it was impossible not to fall in love with her.
  • When Oswin bids the Doctor to "remember her," Jenna Louise-Coleman smiles and looks directly at the camera, breaking the fourth wall --  she's asking US to remember HER. And we will, when she reappears in the Christmas special. Despite Ross's impatience with the season 6 arc, it looks like The Moff is laying plans for another long-term payoff.
  • Making the audience see and fall in love with Oswin is rather like the device used in "A Beautiful Mind." A clever trick played on an audience that believes everything it sees because that's what medium forces you to do. Another masterful Moffat misdirection.
  • The moment when Amy hallucinates and sees a room of elegantly dressed men and women was so wonderfully surreal and unexpected that it took my breath away. A really bold choice; it doesn't advance the plot, really, or reveal character, but it pushes the right buttons of disorientation and keeping you watching the screen to see what happens next. It's the kind of moment you never see in a Davies script.
  • It was a show on a grand scale, but it didn't feel as big or affecting as "Family of Blood" or "Amy's Choice" or "The Girl Who Waited". Hard to say why -- possibly because it was so hard to believe that Amy and Rory's marriage was over; the "Pond Life" mini-episodes that ran the five days prior to the season premiere showed them rolling with the flow of their odd life together. These two people have gone through fire for each other; this divorce gimmick felt like a gimmick and diminished whatever emotional power this subplot might have had.
  • Or the smallness of the show could have also been that there's something terrifying about one maniacal Dalek on the loose or a small number of them in a confined space. But seeing a bazillion Daleks just sitting and quivering in place flattens the effect; more than one or two Daleks just isn't scary. Though hearing a bazillion screaming Daleks is spine-chilling.
  • Loved the trapezoidal passageways in the asylum, as they call back to the First Doctor's inital visit to Skaro.
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Michael E Brown @brownstudy