Episode Title: "Asylum of the Daleks"
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Nick Hurran
Previously on "Doctor Who":
On Skaro — the Dalek homeworld — the Doctor (Matt Smith) answers the distress call of Darla Von Karlsen (Anamaria Marinca), a woman who claims that her daughter is trapped in a Dalek death camp. The Doctor is suspicious of her story and he realizes that Darla is a humanoid Dalek android too late to avoid a beam that knocks him out. On Earth during the present day, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) poses for a modeling shoot before she is interrupted by the arrival of her estranged husband, Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), who gets Amy to sign the divorce papers ending their marriage.
Shortly thereafter, both Amy and Rory are kidnapped and subdued by humanoid Daleks. They awaken in a Dalek cell and find that the Doctor has also been taken prisoner. The trio are brought before the Parliament of Daleks and they bravely steel themselves for their executions, but the Daleks surprise them by asking the Doctor to save the Daleks. The Dalek Prime Minister explains that the Daleks have an asylum planet filled with the most insane Daleks ever created. The Daleks were reluctant to kill their violent brethren, but they are deathly afraid that the inmates will escape and destroy the Daleks.
After learning that the potential security breach of the asylum came from a crashed ship called The Alaska, the Doctor makes contact with Oswin Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), a young woman from The Alaska who has somehow managed to elude the Daleks and keep them at bay for over a year. Oswin also mentions that she's been cooking souffles, causing the Doctor to question where she found the ingredients. The Doctor and his friends are given bracelets that will protect them from the security system of the planet, which consists of nanogenes that would otherwise transform them into Dalek automations.
The Doctor and his friends are given the mission to disable the Asylum's force field before they are forcibly transported to the planet. In the process, Rory is separated from Amy and the Doctor, but they encounter Harvey (David Gyasi), another survivor from the Alaska. However, Harvey states that he and his crew have only been on the planet for a few days, as opposed to a year as Oswin claimed. Meanwhile, Rory awakens deep within the Asylum itself, as he encounters damaged and slumbering Daleks who don't immediately react to him. Harvey takes Amy and the Doctor to the Alaska, where they discover that the entire crew is dead and that Harvey was turned into a Dalek automation without realizing it.
When the dead crew reanimates as Dalek automations, Amy and the Doctor lock themselves in the cockpit. However, Amy loses her nano-bracelet in the process. Elsewhere, Rory accidentally awakens some of the Daleks, but he manages to elude them with the guidance of Oswin. Soon after, Oswin reestablishes contact with the Doctor and begins guiding him to Rory. However, Amy begins to be affected by the Dalek nanogenes, which causes her short term memory to fail and gives her vivid hallucinations. The Doctor also comes to the conclusion that the Daleks will simply destroy the planet once they deactivate the force field, before the Doctor and his friends are able to escape.
To counter the Dalek's plans, the Doctor brings Amy to Rory and tells him to watch over her while he goes back for Oswin so that they can teleport to the Dalek ship together and escape the planet. The Doctor also tells Rory to remind Amy of the love they shared to keep her conversion at bay. So, Rory offers Amy his bracelet and argues that he could hold out against the conversion longer because he loves her more. Angered, Amy slaps Rory and tells him that she knows that he wanted children and that she only drove him away because her captivity at Demon's Run has rendered her infertile. She reaffirms her love for him before he moves to give her the bracelet anyway… and they find that the Doctor had already given Amy his bracelet.
Deep within the bowels of the asylum, the Doctor encounters several severely injured Daleks whom he has faced before. When the Daleks surround him, Oswin hacks into their hive mind and deletes all memory related to the Doctor. When the Doctor finally reaches Oswin, he discovers the truth about her captivity and he apologizes to her. The Doctor explains to Oswin that she was unable to prevent herself from being fully converted into a Dalek, so her mind built a fantasy scenario in which she was still human. Unable to take the truth, Oswin nearly exterminates the Doctor herself… before her mind reasserts itself.
Oswin tells the Doctor to remember her and run, as she prepares to deactivate the force field. As expected, the Daleks begin to bombard the planet as the force field falls. Amy and Rory reconcile and kiss while awaiting the Doctor, who arrives just in time to teleport them all back to the Dalek ship. Once on board, the Doctor and his friends are stunned that the Daleks and their automations have no idea who he is… because Oswin apparently wiped out knowledge of his existence from their entire collective memory. They quickly board the TARDIS and leave. The Doctor drops the Ponds back on Earth, while he happily repeats the Daleks' puzzled question to him… "Doctor Who?"
The "Doctor Who" team deserves a lot of credit for keeping the spoilers from this episode largely under wraps. I was expecting the Ponds to have marriage problems, but the divorce was lightly surprising. However, the major surprise was the debut of Jenna-Louise Coleman's Oswin, as she is slated to be the next companion of the Doctor later this season. For that reason alone, I didn't think that Oswin would turn out to be a Dalek herself. That was a great twist.
This was a very clever way of introducing Oswin into the series while Amy and Rory are still on the show. Coleman showed a lot of cheeky personality in her scenes as Oswin, and there is something appealing about her ability to constantly outmaneuver the Daleks' programming. The question now is how do the producers of this series bring Oswin back after her apparent death? Perhaps by visiting Oswin before her transformation into a Dalek or finding some way to restore her. The fourth season finale of "Doctor Who" hinted that Gwen Cooper from "Torchwood" was a reincarnated version of her Victorian era character from the second season of "Doctor Who." That's another possibility for Oswin. Or maybe Coleman won't even be playing Oswin at all.
The Doctor never even saw what Oswin's human body looked like, so it will be interesting to see if he recognizes her during their next meeting. As for the Ponds' marriage troubles, that was actually the least convincing part of the episode. It's hard to believe that Amy would let Rory slip out of her life before trying to find some way to restore her ability to have children, or at least approaching the Doctor for his help. The Ponds already have River, but if they wanted more kids, adoption would have been easier than simply splitting up.
While the Ponds' breakup seemed a bit contrived, Amy and Rory are still fun to watch as a couple. Their reconciliation was well staged and I laughed when Amy slapped Rory for bringing up his Last Centurion days as proof that he loved her more. The other love story here is between the Doctor and the Ponds. At any point previously, the Doctor could have graciously bowed out of the Ponds' lives and let them keep the happy ending that he wanted for them. Instead, the Doctor can't seem to keep himself away from the Ponds. It isn't the Doctor's fault that Amy and Rory were dragged into this adventure, but if you've been keeping up with the prequel web series "Pond Life," it's clear that the Doctor is still unintentionally bringing chaos into their lives. The Doctor doesn't want them to grow up and slip away. His love for them may be real, but the Doctor will only have himself to blame if Amy or Rory meet a tragic fate in their final appearances.
"Asylum of the Daleks" also did a good job of reestablishing the Daleks as a threat. The insane Daleks of the asylum had a sense of menace that the Daleks haven't had in years. It was also horrifying to see that the Daleks can completely convert a human like Oswin into one of their own kind. That's generally Cybermen territory, but it has some good potential for the Daleks as well.
"Doctor Who" season seven hit the ground running and It's hard to ask for a better opening episode than this. Bring on the dinosaurs in space ships!