‘Doctor Who’ Recap: ‘Asylum of the Daleks’

Matt Smith as the Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks

Note: Not to be read until you’ve seen Asylum of the Daleks, or have decided you would rather read it than see it. After this point, the plotspoilers will rain down like rain on a rainy day in a wet place.

So, after a week of relatively mundane alien adventures with Amy and Rory, in the Pond Life sidebar which reveals Rory has moved out, we open with a legend: the legend of the Doctor. It’s Skaro, there’s a massive building in the shape of a Dalek (because, as we know, vicious dictators love the sight of their own faces) and in the city that contains this monstrous skyscraper, it appears to be both raining and on fire.

Enter the Legendary Doctor, who has returned from the grave, and is extremely suspicious, especially of a mother who has escaped one of the impossible-to-escape Dalek prison camps, leaving her daughter behind. And it turns out he’s right to react in this way, as she’s basically a Dalek wearing a human body for disguise. The eyestalk comes out of her forehead, the gun barrel from the palm of her hand. One shot later, and that familiar grating monotone announces that “the Doctor is acquired.”

Meanwhile, Amy is at a modelling shoot, and there’s a mutual frost-off with Rory around their divorce papers. Then her makeup artist does the eyestalk forehead thing and she’s been acquired too. As has Rory, thanks to a Dalek bus driver.

They wake up in a white room in a spaceship, and then the Doctor and his Dalek guards arrive. This is then levitated into a big arena filled with evil pepperpots, the Parliament of the Daleks. But instead of exterminating all and sundry, the command comes down from on high: “you will save the Daleks,” and then they all start chanting “save the Daleks” like it’s a Greenpeace rally.

However, somewhere else, a girl who looks a lot like Jenna Louise Coleman is compiling her diary entry for the day. Burnt souffle, mum’s birthday, oh and another attack in the night from the things outside her door, things with Dalek voices that can’t be ignored, even with the help of Carmen by Bizet.

Back in Parliament, the Daleks explain that they’re taking the Doctor to the Dalek Asylum, the planet where all the really, really mad Daleks, the kind that would exterminate first and never bother to ask questions, are left. And it’s also the source of a signal they simply don’t understand: music. Carmen, to be precise. A brief chat later, and we discover it’s Oswin Oswald, entertainment officer on the spaceship Alaska, which has crash-landed on the Asylum. This means the forcefield surrounding the Asylum is permeable, and that can only mean trouble.

Problem is, all the Daleks are too scared to go down and turn off the forcefield, to facilitate the destruction of the Asylum. They need to send someone properly brave to go and do it. It’s at this point they reveal that the Dalek name for the Doctor is “the Predator”, which makes them a collective Arnold Schwarzenegger, when you come to think about it. Kind of fitting, actually.

Then, with a free wristband and a “Geronimo!” the Doctor, Amy and Rory are hurled down to the Asylum, where it has been snowing. The Doctor and Amy land on the slopes, where Oswin has hacked Dalek eyestalk probes, and it’s through one of these that she and the Doctor have a chat. She needs rescuing.

Rory has landed inside, where he discovers a lot of rusted old Daleks that appear to have been switched off. Amy and the Doctor meet another survivor from Oswin’s ship, only he’s convinced they’ve only been there for two days. Once inside the ship with all of the dead crew, it all becomes clear that they all died. And the survivor is actually another Dalek in a human coat, made by the nano-cloud: micro-organisms that en-Dalek-ificate any organism, living or dead. This includes the survivor’s dead crew-mates. Time to run away!

Amy confesses she and Rory have broken up, and she and the Doctor embark on a journey into the Asylum, but not before they realise Amy’s wristband, the thing which keeps the nano-cloud at bay, has been swiped by the zombie human Daleks. Bad news.

More bad news: Rory is discovering the switched-off Daleks are not switched off. More running away! Although it’s guided running, as the ever-cool and flirty Oswin guides him to a teleportation room. Amy is starting to hallucinate people, as the nano-cloud starts to eat away at her memory. Oh wait, they’re not people! They’re Daleks! Again!

Then the Doctor tricks a Dalek into blowing itself up, killing the Daleks that stood between them and Rory. The trio are reunited, and the Doctor has a plan: Oswin drops the forcefield, and the Daleks in the spaceship blow the planet up. However, in order for this to work, the Doctor has to go and get Oswin, or she won’t drop the forcefield. So off he pops, leaving Amy and Rory to sort out their marital difficulties.

It turns out Amy can’t have children, and she knows Rory wants children, so rather than explore adoption, she gave Rory up, to achieve his ambition. Rory claims he loves her more than she loves him, but this is how she proves that he is wrong. They feel foolish, but happy. Oh and the Doctor slipped a wristband on Amy, so she’s going to be fine.

Meanwhile, in the room full of the most severely affected Daleks, the gun-less Daleks who survived the Doctor, the Doctor himself is about to be plungered to death. Except Oswin erases their memory of him from the Dalek hive-mind, the path-web. This is something even the Doctor has failed to do, and yet Oswin Oswald, entertainments officer, has managed it. How?

Oh no. We should really have seen this coming, in a story of Daleks disguised as humans. She’s a Dalek too. A Dalek in a padded cell. It turns out Oswin did survive the crash of her ship, and the Asylum Daleks wanted her advanced intelligence for themselves, so they converted her, gave her the full eyestalk and sink-plunger treatment. She created a bubble into which her humanity could be left to prosper, but it’s not real.

It’s then that she points out that, as a fighting force, the Daleks have only gained in strength after all their battles with the Doctor, he’s a catalyst for their future development. He needs to be less involved in their affairs, and so maybe it’s a good time to run away. Run away from Oswin the Dalek, run away from the exploding Asylum, and run away from the Daleks.

She takes down the forcefield, and the Doctor and a snogging Amy and Rory teleport up to the TARDIS on the Dalek spaceship, where it turns out ALL the Daleks have forgotten who he is, thanks to her path-web manipulation. His influence on the Daleks is over, and like a free man he dances around the TARDIS console, repeating “Doctor WHO?” to himself while Amy and Rory settle back down into married bliss.

But surely we’ll see Oswin again? Surely? Won’t we?

Next week: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

See more posts by Fraser McAlpine