Asylum of the Daleks

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the latest episode of Doctor Who.

On a purely plot-and-spectacle level, Asylum of the Daleks was a fairly enjoyable episode of Doctor Who. If you turned off your fannish brain and ignored everything you have ever learnt about the daleks, the Doctor, or this episode ten minutes before, it was a fun, twisty, creepy story with some great visuals, some powerful lines, and that thrill that comes with the return of long-missed characters.

Shame it didn't make sense. And shame the show has abandoned any pretence of caring about the Ponds.

Since this blog is Feminist Fiction, I'll skip past the plotty elements that didn't add up. To me, lack of internal consistency on a plot/world level prevents it from being a great show, but it doesn't stop me from enjoying it, once I've reset my expectations and turned off the part of my brain that would previously anticipate and interpret the developing plot.

Unfortunately, I can't turn off the part of my brain that responds to characters, and this episode basically spat in the face of all expectations of character growth and consistancy.

After months of demanding that the whole Demon's Run incident have consequences, the show finally included some. Sort of. Thanks to being kidnapped, potentially experimented on, and giving birth in a box, Amy can no longer have children. Instead of addressing this issue with her husband, she kicks him out without a word, and the beginning of the episode hints at a theme of concealment and pretence. She works as a model, her sadness will be covered up by the makeup artist, and she really seems to be overdoing the whole "geronimo" thing throughout the episode, as though throwing herself back into risky adventure will prevent her from dealing with her issues.

This is interesting. This is promising. Past traumas have consequences, Amy has character depth... this will be interesting to explore and build upon.

Except that, in the space of one episode, it was over. Amy and Rory fought and broke up off screen (even with the Pond Life prequels, we didn't get any hint of discontent until the breakup), and then the Doctor manipulates them back together in about half an hour. Rory accuses Amy of never loving him as much as he loved her (because in this episode, Rory is apparently a jerk), and she breaks down and tells him what happened. And then they kiss and get back together, without any difficulty, without addressing the problem at hand, and without any potential for future growth. It just feels like Moffat needed something for the Ponds to do in this episode, so he threw in the divorce for a bit of temporary drama.

And Moffat chose infertility as the vehicle for his drama. Existing issues, like the fact that their baby was kidnapped and brainwashed, or that Amy herself was kidnapped and forgotten for a long period of time while herself believing she was fine, are not even mentioned. It's this strange paradox of Moffat's writing that motherhood is both fetishized and complete irrelevant. The relationship drama happens because Amy feels she is an inadequate woman for Rory, that she will fail him because she cannot have any more children, while previous episodes like the Christmas special have shown that "mum" is basically a superhero role in this show. Yet the mother herself does not matter. She cannot express concern for or grief over her children when it's irrelevant to the plot. As long as River Song is fine in the future, Amy is completely unconcerned by her daughter's kidnap. Her own feelings about potential motherhood are used to create drama, and then washed aside as soon as the husband says "no worries, that's fine."

Of course, Rory and Amy are incapable of solving their problems themselves, through conversation and reflection and character growth. The Doctor must swoop in to save them, manipulating them into actually talking to one another and so restoring their marriage. And he does so by tricking Amy into believing that she is dying, making her absolutely terrified. He could have given her the protection band as soon as she lost her own. But no. He let her be scared and sad, because Amy and Rory are incapable of living their lives themselves. They are people who wait, and who need the Doctor to inspire even the slightest bit of action or growth in their lives.

And their heroic, character defining declaration? They will wait for the Doctor "for the rest of their lives."

Meanwhile, we (potentially) met the new companion. She's sexy, confident, smart, flirty, and gives the Doctor a run for his money. In Moffat's hands, this could not possibly go wrong.