Wednesday 12 September 2012

Asylum of the Daleks - Review.

Dr Who - Asylum of the Daleks, the Doctor carries an unconscious Amy Pond past a load of daleks

Responsibility, it’s a terrible thing. There I was, determined not to bother reviewing this series of Dr Who - on the grounds that reviewing old comic books and old editions of Top of the Pops is more than enough work for one lifetime  -  when a seething public demand has forced me to return from the grave.

Well, that’s all well and good but, given my mixed feelings about last year’s series, will I  be impressed by what I find?

In Asylum of the Daleks,  the Doctor and the Ponds are quickly captured by the daleks who, instead of doing the obvious and killing them, send them  to a prison planet where they keep all the maddest and baddest of daleks.

This is because a spaceship’s crash-landed there and the normal daleks are scared the mad bad daleks will use it to escape and cause no end of mischief. As far as anyone knows, there’s just one member of the crashed ship’s crew still alive. That’s a woman called Oswin who’s in radio contact with the daleks and keeps going on about soufflés.

Eventually, after blundering through more corridors than Beyoncé has stage outfits, the Doctor finally finds Oswin… …only to discover she’s been turned into a dalek.

I have to admit I was bored senseless watching this. There was nothing actively bad about it but I couldn’t help feeling I’d seen it all before. There was endless blundering around in corridors. There were nanobots transforming humans into non-humans. There was a dalek with human emotions and there were great hordes of daleks shouting a lot.

There was also the let-down that the maddest and baddest of daleks didn’t seem noticeably different from the normal daleks. I’d had visions of them being like the good daleks in Evil of the Daleks and of them having fun with beach balls.

But, on reflection, one of the biggest problems was the presence of the Ponds.

There’s always been a problem with the Ponds – and that’s the fact there’s two of them. Whilst I’ve nothing against Rory - and Arthur Darvill does a good job of playing him as both man-of-action and clueless husband - Rory’s presence is the main reason Amy’s never worked as a character. The fact he was brought in as a companion so soon after Amy means there’s never been any chance for a one-on-one chemistry to develop between her and the Doctor. Even now, she and the Doctor feel still like acquaintances rather than friends.

The problem’s exacerbated in this episode, as the Ponds could be cut out of the story completely and it wouldn’t make any difference at all to its outcome, making you wonder just what they’re there for. The truth is, given his abilities,  it’s always been hard to make out a case for the Doctor even having an assistant. It’s all but impossible to make out a case for him having two.

My other big problem was Oswin.

Dr Who, Asylum of the Daleks, Jenna-Louise Coleman in a Star Trek style red dress, Oswin
There’s no denying that Jenna-Louise Coleman who plays her is what we in the Middle Ages used to know as a comely wench, and she gives an excellent performance but, knowing Moffat, there has to be a serious worry that the smug, wise-cracking persona she’s given here is the one she’ll be lumbered with when she returns as the Doctor’s permanent companion later in the season. If so, her constant barrage of River Song style witticisms and innuendo are going to get tiresome very quickly.

The truth is that if I’d never seen Dr Who before I’d probably have enjoyed this episode greatly but the presence of so many familiar elements, and pre-knowledge of Moffat’s weaknesses, made it a strangely non-compelling tale that stirs up an ominous dread in me about just how the rest of this season’s going to go.

The next episode up is Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – one I wasn’t looking forward to at all, bearing in mind it’s written by the dreaded Chris (Torchwood) Chibnall, surely as poor a writer as has ever been inflicted on the show. Will the man they call Chibbers somehow manage to confound me and entertain me despite myself?

Only time and my next review will tell.

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