Ah, a new series of Doctor Who. Something I've been dreading since the conclusion of the last one which I was frankly terrified of reviewing because that would involve me trying to make sense of it all. What... was that?
Season Y was very peculiar. Even more so when you consider that the individual stories were actually quite good. The Rebel Flesh was like one of the best PDAs that set out with something that seemed utterly dull and trad but then turned it on its head without being post-modern for the sake of it and was still a highly entertaining adventure yarn... The One with the Pirates had a duff ending but had already done its job by then with a nice serving of supernatural tension and plenty of humour... The Doctor's Wife was quality storytelling. Apparently. Need to watch that... Dude from Gavin and Stacey Just Can't Get a Break was something I thought destined to be crap but turned out to be brilliant. It almost felt like an "If *I* Had Written" job done on Rise of the Cybermen to have love defeat the alien menace but in a way that wasn't utterly and nonsensically McGuffin-driven, and to give the Cybs some credibility. And half the episode was a sitcom! If there was one episode to point to and say "This is what the show should be doing it would be that"
A big part of that reason was that that was one episode that came as close as possible to not addressing the ungodly filthy and stinking diarrhetic elephant in the room of that series, even as its leavings are in the process of destroying the very rug that is being woven on that poorly-chosen floor. I am speaking of course of the most monstrously confusing and ultimately pointless story arc ever.
As Mad Larry pointed out, River Song being the daughter of Rory, Amy and the Eye of Harmony or what the fuck ever actually changes nothing whatsoever. Likewise, her having been programmed by The Silence to assassinate the Doctor doesn't really change anything. Still. And then at the end of it all when the Doctor goes through it all to fool Amy and Rory into thinking that he IS dead now. For reals... he goes and drops in on Christmas to say "HULLO! I'M NOT DEAD!" and they're like "Yeah. We know. It was kinda obvious"
MUCH LIKE MYSELF IN EPISODE FUCKING ONE.
Okay, okay, so it wasn't just for Scotch Face and Pommy Nose's benefit. The rest of the Universe was also involved. The whole season was meant to be a weird kind of wake up call that possibly, going around to every planet and announcing "I am the Doctor, I'm written all through history, I'm a hyper-judgemental God-like being who's going to fix your shit whether you like it or not mofos now sit back and take your medicine!" could possibly have some kind of unwanted consequences. The sort of thing a genius would obviously never consider.
Yes, Moffat re-wrote Planet of the Spiders for Generation Y/Z. And instead of dull but edifying it was fast and confusing, an experience somewhat akin to being raped by Sonic the Hedgehog.
The biggest problem was that after 13 episodes it STILL hadn't ended. What was the question that the Silence feared being answered? Take it away obnoxious head in a box.
DOC.TOR.WHO? DOC. TOR. WHO?
You might take away from the phrasing the revelation that the Doctor is actually meant to be God (???), the dread that now Moffat wants to re-write Lungbarrow (!!!) a migraine induced by just how complicated A WHOLE MORE YEAR of this shit will be to follow (groan) and the quiet confidence that consequences will never be the same.
Incredibly, in interviews prior to the season opening Moffat was suggesting that, yeah, maybe he was wrong about a few things. Like needing an arc. And the Silence being the be-all-and-end-all. And maybe NOT marking the 50th anniversary would be silly. Going back on all his rum-fuelled rantings that been written down previously. MORE INCREDIBLY, given the newfound tradition of producers constantly lying about the content of upcoming seasons, it appears to be true.
There was only one moment in Asylum of the Daleks I had to explain to mum. "Oh yeah," I said when Amy flashed on screen "There was a couple of seconds where they explained she became a model in a story you won't remember". Done. Sorted.
An absence of Silence is not evidence of quality, but Asylum started intriguingly enough. The appearance of Skaro did not even seem to utterly contradict non-retconned canon if you like to view the Hand of Omega making the planet uninhabitable rather than blowing it up (yes, as it did on screen) and the re-jigged Robomen agents of the Daleks are a nice, simple and creepy idea.
If you're like me you may have raised an eyebrow at the appearance of the Parliament of the Daleks and the further complications it throws over their needlessly convoluted political structure. And then another one at their 'Prime Minister' being just a big mutant in a tube. It's a new trend with big Daleks in the new series but does it make sense? Logically they continue to use non-transparent casings to hide their features, which would suggest they don't take pride in their form, so it's odd that their leaders now shove themselves in giant test tubes and shout out to demand attention but WHATEVS.
Then, you know, you might question why they would have a Parliament and a Prime Minister when, though they are a Monarchy (ruled by an Emperor) they are clearly not democratic and why constituents would need representation in a parliament is highly confusing when all they do IS SHOUT STUFF AT THE SAME TIME.
Luckily, what they are shouting is interesting. For the first couple of seconds. "Save us" gets a little old soon afterwards, but THIS is the moment where I thought "Hang on, this could be good"
As noted by Barnaby Edwards and Nick Briggs in the wake of the oh-so-close-to-being-great... hang on, I need to google this... Brotherhood of the Daleks good Dalek stories need a hook. Eg Daleks on drugs, Daleks that are invisible, Daleks who are actually good, Daleks who are actually evil but pretending to be good, Daleks that aren't Daleks yet, Daleks that are... facilitating cannibalism.... Daleks that... are actually time travelling Dapol figurines...
Okay, so not all of them have worked. But the new series has lacked this for the most part. Victory of the Daleks is ironically the only one that made a half-hearted stab at this and not quite hitting the mark, though Daleks in Manhattan may have tried if they thought having them slightly out of context was gimmicky enough.
NOW Moffat hits upon one that hasn't been used, and it's actually quite startling when you have basically had The Daleks Vs The Universal Monsters in the middle of The Chase. Daleks. Doctor. Enemy mine. The simplicity! The hook gets even better - they need the Doctor because there are some places were even our beloved Kaled APCs fear to trundle, namely a complete hellhole entirely of their own making, the titular Asylum of the Daleks.
Kindly overlook the fact that if you have a planet filled with THE MOST DANGEROUS DALEKS EVER the last place you probably shouldn't keep the forcefield controls is ON THE INSIDE HOLY SHIT PRIME MINISTER! And the fact that if I gap in the forcefield can be used to transmat down lifeforms it surely could be used to transmat bombs of the same weight which traditionally Daleks have in vast quantities. The setup is good and the story only hits two false notes...
First... whatserface. Ortina? Ortega? Let's call her O. I gather (since I'm totally insulated about new series stuff) that she is to be a companion. Well... the character is quite offputting. For a harried shipwreck survivor living a nightmarish existence she is beyond quite calm. She is super-humanly mellow about affairs, to the extent I wonder if she is the elusive Minister of Sound. While insisting to be addressed by her real name she demeans and objectifies the Doctor and Rory on their appearance, at one point demanding Rory undress so she can masturbate over his pecs in spite of the fact they are both in MORTAL DANGER. Priorities?
Secondly, just as an awesome setup seems to be delivered, what with the eponymous Asylum it seems to be squandered as horribly as, say, Cybermen invading 1980s Earth. (Twice, if you think about it...) For 50 minutes all the horribly, unthinkably, jaw-droppingly insane Daleks do is... shout about killing people. Much like every perfectly sane (for want of a better term) Dalek has. At this stage I was thinking the script would have made just as much sense on a Rubbish Tip of the Daleks, Hospice of the Daleks, Dalek Graveyard, Time Shares of the Daleks etc...
But then... that twist. The best kind of twist. The one where you think the clues are just niggles of the script that don't make sense and are stunned when it unfolds. It is glorious. O IS A CRAZY DALEK! And how crazy! Her battles with the Daleks are actually battles with her own denial and fears over what she has been all her life! All that crap about being able to hack Dalek systems, about having somehow known to erect a nano-proof shield the second she crash landed. The complete lack of concern about her shipmates suddenly makes sense.
Moffat follows this up by putting the obligatory 'emo crap' as I'm sure a lot of fellow fans know it to extraordinarily good use both literally and metaphorically with Rory and Amy's need to repair their destroyed marriage (presumably over guilt of having fathered River Song) tied directly into their need to fight off Dalek nanobots. Again, before this scene I was really puzzled over the decision to have Amy and Rory's marital troubles in the script, but it had a very satisfying conclusion. Although I DID have to explain Rory's chronology to mum afterwards (And boy is THAT tricky to do now..)
It comes down a little bit from these dizzying heights when O 'deletes' the Doctor from the Daleks' memory... what? It almost feels like the writer himself has second thoughts, as the instant she says "The Daleks have a sort of hive mind..." she follows up with "Well, not really". Which is it??? But somehow she's able to delete the Doctor.
...why not program them with dreams of loving kittens and puppies in place of world domination while you're at it. Furthermore, this all leads to a repeat of shouting "Doctor! Who!" all over again. Because we loved it so much the first time? Da fuq?
Also, why has there been no evidence of this before? There has never been any incidents of Daleks communicating telepathically, not even when communicating with bases - it's all verbal and all Daleks have acted autonomously and independently. If there was any semblance of a hive mind how could they have had MULTIPLE civil wars? And a fucking Parliament? How could MILLIONS of them have gone insane?
I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth because it IS another step towards the Doctor becoming something that isn't egomaniacal BUT at the same time... isn't the Daleks hatred of the Doctor a big thing that defines them? It will be interesting to see what happens next time they show up.
Anyway, the important thing is the story was 99% brilliant, in my humble-but-not-at-all-humbly-stated opinion.
Never thought I'd be giving a Dalek story a score like that. Because you know me. I don't think they're very good. But they're always as good as the story they're in.
Wait... was there a next time trailer? Oh, yes. Triceratops in the cargo bay. Whaaaa!