Monday 17 August 2020

Story 227 - Asylum of the Daleks

In which the Doctor travels to the ruins of the Dalek city on Skaro to meet with Darla Von Karlsen. He suspects a trap, as she claims to have escaped from a Dalek labour camp and wants him to save her daughter from there - and he does not believe her story. Sure enough, it transpires that she is a Dalek agent - a walking corpse fitted out with Dalek technology. An eye stalk emerges from her forehead, and a weapon from her hand, and she shoots him as a Dalek spacecraft hovers into view.
On Earth, meanwhile, Rory goes see Amy, who is participating in a modelling shoot, to discuss their divorce. After he leaves, Amy's dresser turns out to be another augmented Dalek agent. Rory is attacked by another when he gets on a bus outside.
He and Amy wake up to find themselves in a white room, and they are reunited with the Doctor when he enters. The floor begins to rise and they are taken up into a vast chamber which is full of Daleks.
The TARDIS is also here. The Doctor recognises this as the Parliament of the Daleks, presided over by a Prime Minister - a Dalek mutant in a special transparent casing. They are on a huge spaceship.
The Doctor is shocked to discover that he has not been brought here to be exterminated. The Daleks want his help...

They are in orbit around a planet which the Daleks use an asylum for all their deranged kind. It is supposed to have impenetrable defences, and yet these appear to have been breached. A signal is coming from the planet which is not of Dalek origins, and the Doctor recognises this as classical music from Earth. A young woman named Oswin Oswald answers the Doctor's call, claiming to have crash-landed here. The Daleks fear that if someone can get onto the planet, then insane Daleks could get out, so they want the Doctor to go and investigate. They are too frightened to go themselves. After being given special bracelets which will get them through the defences, the Doctor, Amy and Rory are beamed down to the surface. Rory, however, becomes separated. The Doctor and Amy meet a young man who claims to be another survivor of the crash - that of an Earth ship called The Alaska. He takes them down to his escape pod, which is buried beneath the snowy wastes of the planet. The Doctor is curious about how long the survivors have been here. Oswin mentioned making souffles to pass the time, but where would she get eggs from? The young man, Harvey, then lets slip that he died in the crash. All of his colleagues in the pod are also dead. However, the planetary defences include nanogenes which turn anyone unprotected into augmented Dalek agents - living or dead. All the corpses stir to life, and the Doctor and Amy are forced to flee down into the asylum complex. In the confusion, however, one of the corpses has managed to steal Amy's bracelet.

Rory, meanwhile, has found himself in the middle of the asylum. He is in a large chamber full of inanimate Daleks from different periods of their history. He is horrified to discover that they are not dead - merely dormant, and he has woken them up. he manages to escape into a corridor where he is contacted by Oswin, who tells him that she has hacked into the asylum's systems. She will guide him to safety. She is also in contact with the Doctor. The Dalek nanogenes are beginning to affect Amy, and she will become fully augmented if she doesn't get off the planet soon.
The Doctor finds Rory, and the take Amy to a transmat chamber. The Doctor then sets off to find Oswin. Left alone together, Amy and Rory discuss the reasons for their break-up. It transpires that Amy is deliberately pushing Rory away as she knows how much he wants to have children - but the events on Demons Run mean that she cannot have any more children. Rory decides to give Amy his bracelet, only to find that she is already wearing one - the Doctor's. He can withstand the nanogenes longer than she ever could.

Oswin guides the Doctor towards her, and the route passes through the Intensive Care section where the most insane Daleks are kept. On hearing that they come from planets like Vulcan, Exxilon and Kembel, he realises that these are the Daleks who have encountered him. Oswin helps him get through the area and he emerges into a brightly lit chamber in which there stands a lone Dalek, weighed down with heavy chains. This is as the Doctor had suspected. Oswin has managed to retain her humanity, despite having been converted into a Dalek a long time ago. She only thinks she remains human, carrying out tasks like cooking souffles. The Doctor had guessed as much from the eggs to make the souffles, and her ability to hack so easily into Dalek systems when she claimed to be an entertainments officer on her spaceship. Now confronted with the truth, she elects to destroy herself, but will take the asylum planet with her. She will deactivate the shield around the planet, knowing the Dalek Prime Minister intends to fire upon the planet - removing the risk of insane Daleks ever escaping. Oswin deletes all reference to the Doctor from the Dalek databases. She tells him: "Run you clever boy, and remember". He rushes back to the transmat chamber and beams up to the Parliament ship as Oswin deactivates the shields. The planet is blown up. The Doctor had adjusted the transmat to place them safely within the TARDIS. When he emerges, the Daleks demand to know who he is.
The Doctor then takes Amy and Rory back to their home, the couple now reconciled.

Asylum of the Daleks was written by Steven Moffat - his first Dalek story - and was first broadcast on 1st September, 2012.
It marks the beginning of the seventh series, and introduces the future companion actor Jenna-Louise Coleman in what was a huge surprise to most at the time. The media already knew that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill would be leaving part way through Series 7, to be replaced by Coleman, but she wasn't due to feature until the 2012 Christmas Special. Despite preview screenings, the secret was pretty much kept. Fans were further surprised to see that she had been turned into a Dalek, and was blown up at the end of the story.
It was also known that the seventh series was, like the previous one, going to be split into two halves - either side of Christmas, rather than the summer as we had with Series 6.
Other developments include a new title sequence, and arrangement of the theme music. Each story of this first half of the season would have a personalised title sequence, with different colour palettes and textures for the words "Doctor Who". For this story, the text had Dalek hemispheres added.
Each of the stories for this series, which would take the programme up to its 50th anniversary, was to be given an epic, cinematic flavour, with movie-style posters released for each broadcast.

Asylum of the Daleks boasted what was, at the time, the largest set ever constructed for the programme. It also boasted the largest collection of Daleks ever assembled on the show.
The Daleks had featured only in a brief cameo in the last series, but prior to that the New Paradigm had been introduced, which were supposed to supplant the old bronze models. They had proven divisive, and now even the production team had gone off them. They do feature in this story, but it is the bronze ones who predominate. The new Daleks have been given a metallic finish to their paint work, which at least stops them looking so plasticky. This will turn out to be their final appearance.
In addition to the bronze Daleks, a collection of props representing the classic era of the programme was put together. These were mainly reproductions.
Unfortunately, as seen on screen, this proved to be a huge disappointment for fans keen to see once more the classic Raymond Cusick design. The older models are stuck in the background of dimly lit scenes, covered in dust so you can't even see their livery. Only the Special Weapons Dalek stands out thanks to its unique design, but it is barely glimpsed.
The Intensive Care section is the place where all the Daleks who had faced the Doctor are kept - the one place that you might have expected to see the old models. Instead, they are all newer bronze ones on show. Quite pointless assembling all the old models really.

Additions to Dalek lore include them having a Parliament, and a Prime Minister, who does not have a conventional Dalek casing. They have aesthetic sensibilities, finding hatred beautiful. It is offensive to them to eliminate it. They've long made use of human servants / slaves, but now these agents, or puppets, actually have physical Dalek attributes like guns and eye stalks. The Doctor is now known as "the Predator of the Daleks".
For such an epic story, there is only a very small additional cast. We've already mentioned Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin. Apart from Daleks themselves, everyone else is a Dalek agent.
Darla Von Karlsen is played by Anamaria Marinca, and Harvey is David Gyasi. He had previously appeared in a small role in the Torchwood episode Combat. Amy's dresser, Cassandra, is Naomi Ryan.
The small extra cast does allow more time for Darvill and Gillan to work together, as they work out their marital issues which first appeared in the fifth and final of the Pond Life shorts.

Overall, a strong series opener, though a little disappointing, Dalek-wise, for the reasons mentioned above. It was quite refreshing to get away from River Song and all the Silence business which dominated the previous series, though we're left with the question of how Oswin will fit in with the new companion when she finally arrives.
Things you might like to know:
  • Steven Moffat asked Matt Smith and Karen Gillan to name their favourite old-style Dalek, and they both opted for the black-domed Imperial Guard Dalek from Evil of the Daleks. A photo of them with the prop was released on social media prior to broadcast.
  • One of the Daleks, a reproduction of a Planet of the Daleks / Genesis of the Daleks grey model, belonged to Russell T Davies. It lived in his hall. He was pleased to be able to say afterwards that it was one that had actually appeared in the programme.
  • Moffat had almost written a Dalek story during the RTD era. He was due to have written the story which became Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks. On withdrawing from that, he agreed to write the Doctor-lite story for that series, by way of an apology to RTD for messing him around. That story proved to be the hugely successful Blink.
  • This was the first time since the TV Movie that Skaro had appeared. We see it in ruins and, bizarrely, the Daleks have a huge Dalek-shaped building in the centre of their city. Skaro had apparently been destroyed at the conclusion of Remembrance of the Daleks, only to be shown at the beginning of the Movie. No mention of it being destroyed in the Time War was ever made - the Doctor saying he had only wiped out the Daleks themselves. Come The Magician's Apprentice, the Doctor speaks as though he didn't know Skaro was still around and has to be told that it was rebuilt.
  • The scene where Rory faces a waking Dalek and thinks it is talking about 'eggs' was used once before, in a 1993 comic strip by Paul Cornell. On that occasion, the Seventh Doctor was being turned into a Dalek.
  • Five classic Dalek adventures are referenced with the Daleks in the Intensive Care unit - with mentions of the planets Spiridon (Planet of the Daleks), Exxilon (Death to the Daleks), Kembel (The Daleks' Master Plan), Aridius (The Chase), and Vulcan (The Power of the Daleks).
  • The odd thing about this collection of classic Daleks is that some of them come from adventures where there were clearly no Dalek survivors, so it's hard to say where these ones came from.
  • As well as RTD's grey Dalek, the Special Weapons Dalek, and the Imperial one favoured by Smith and Gillan, reproductions of Daleks from The Daleks and Death to the Daleks were also in the asylum scenes. One of the newer models is black, like Dalek Sec.
  • Arthur Darvill was supposed to have sported a beard as Rory for this story, indicating the breakdown of his marriage as Amy would have hated it. Darvill had grown a beard for his performance as Mephistopheles in the Shakespeare's Globe production of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. However, as A Town Called Mercy was recorded first, he had shaved the beard off. 
  • Whilst filming A Town Called Mercy, the crew realised that they weren't far from the snowfields of the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains and so a skeleton crew set off to film some scenes for the Asylum Planet.


  1. I always thought the addition to canon - the Daleks having a parliament was a bit odd. It came out of nowhere, and hasn't as far as I recall been mentioned again. The Daleks just don't strike me as the democratic type. Do they have elections? Political parties? Are there Dalek political campaigns - "I can set out my priorities in three words: extermination, extermination, extermination." All very odd.

  2. It was a bit odd, and never referred to again. Next time they appeared they were back to being ruled by a Dalek Supreme. Apparently the New Year Special this year will include a Dalek civil war (which would be their third), so we'll see what that has to add to Dalek politics.