Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: Asylum of the Daleks


Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 15 of The Nerdist as Whore: Asylum of the Daleks .  My 'translations' are in red.

Come hither, ye Whovians, and rejoice!

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Doctor Who has, after a 9-month hiatus, returned to our screens and has done so in style.

Doctor Who has, after a 9-month hiatus, returned to our screens and has done so in disgrace.

“Asylum of the Daleks” was exactly what you could want from a (relatively) stand-alone episode: It was exciting, scary, heartfelt, twisty, triumphant, and shocking.

"Asylum of the Daleks" was exactly what you could expect from the inept team in charge: it was horrifying, Canon-shattering, hypocritical, illogical, embarrassing, tragic, inadvertently hilarious, and sad, just sad.  Sad, sad, sad.  It also, I can promise you, will not, NOT be a stand-alone episode.  It will be tied into some grand epic story arc that will not hold up to scrutiny, not make any sense, and serve as another poor example of plotting. 

Steven Moffat’s script and Nick Hurran’s direction blended together exceedingly well and, go figure, the cast did a great job, too.

Steven Moffat's script and Nick Hurran's direction blended together exceedingly disastrously and, go figure, the cast did a bad job, too.

After the somewhat disappointing finale last year and the syrupy Christmas special, it was time we had a true rip-snorter of an adventure. It can never be said that the Moff doesn’t know how to open a season with a bang… a planet-destroying bang.

After the awful, awful finale last year and the brain-killing Christmas special, it was time we had a true rip-snorter of an adventure.  Pity we didn't get one.  Let it never be said that the Moff doesn't know how to open a season with a bang...or with something that will never have a logical or satisfying conclusion to a story arc which even he probably doesn't understand.

Again, let me pause here to say that any critic that refers to his subject by a cutesy nickname (like "The Moff") cannot be trusted to be either analytical or critical.  Just a thought.

Now, especially for this episode, it’s going to be very difficult for me to discuss what I need to and remain spoiler-free. So, before I dive into the hope-you’ve-seen-it-already territory, I’d like to say this episode did not disappoint at all.

"I'd like to say this episode did not disappoint at all."  Famous last words, Mr. Anderson.  Famous. Last. Words.  I'D like to say this episode DID disappoint, and did so on a grand scale.  I don't think we've had a bigger, more disastrous season opener than this one, and that's saying a lot.  Then again, we haven't seen the worst yet.

To say I loved it would be pretty accurate.

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!
To say that Kyle Anderson is a pathetic whore with the intellectual skills of a fruit fly and the integrity of Jimmy Hoffa's accountant would be pretty accurate.

More shocking, more astounding, more horrifying, is that we're barely in the intro to Anderson's review.  I get the sense that he thinks Asylum of the Daleks is somewhere in the same league as Caves of Androzani, Tomb of the Cybermen, Inferno, The Aztecs, or what I think is the greatest Dalek story of All Time: Evil of the Daleks...and he's serious!

As much as I dislike the word, “Asylum” felt epic and massive and yet, as Moffat’s best scripts are, it was a very intimate story at its heart, one of reconciliation and discovery.

"The word “special” is used too often anymore for things that don’t deserve it, much like the word “epic,” for that matter, but that’s for a different article."

Direct quote from Kyle Anderson's review for The Doctor The Widow and The Wardrobe

Let's remember that for a moment.  Last Doctor Who review, Mr. Anderson said the word 'epic' was overused, and now, here he is, using the word 'epic'.  And for the record, did we ever get that 'different article' he promised.

I've concluded that Kyle Anderson was flat-out drunk when he wrote this. He could also be seriously delusional, or been paid off.  This review isn't even worth the time to mock.  The typical Andersonian ebullience he taps out for any Moffat-penned script went into insane overdrive on Asylum of the Daleks.  I've never really known a Moffat script that is 'intimate' or about reconciliation and discovery.

Kyle Anderson is either paid off or completely bat-shit crazy.  We cannot establish which one though.

I’m most pleased that the show was finally able to deliver a Dalek story that gave the Daleks some depth and actually made them scary again.

I'm most pleased that the show's check finally cleared. 

Anderson didn't write that this dribble about Asylum making the Daleks scary again.  That came straight from BBC promotional material.  Asylum of the Daleks made the Daleks scary again?!  He can't be serious.  He just can't be. WTF, Kyle? 


With the exception of “Dalek” all the way back in Series 1, in every other story featuring the surly salt-shakers, they’ve felt like little more than Snidely Whiplash-esque melodrama villains, with plans too grand and sweeping to truly menace.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Evil of the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks.  Yep, all pretty comical treatment of the Daleks on those.  All those were pretty campy, right Kyle?  Oh yes, I forget: those were pre-Rose Dalek stories, and to NuWhovians, It All Started With Rose 

Here, though, the Daleks become, as they should be, terrifying in their own right and not entirely based on universal subjugation. The Daleks as a warring entity still aren’t that scary, but individual ones are again.

If Kyle Anderson really, truly, seriously believes Asylum of the Daleks has made the Daleks terrifying, his point of reference to Daleks must be NuWho only.  

This review, without even actually starting, is completely insane.  It's clear Anderson and I saw two different episode.  Of course, I am an independent, self-funded reviewer, not someone with a too-cozy relationship with the people I cover. 

Now, beware, we’re heading into SPOILER territory. You’re being amply warned.

I’ll start out with minor spoilers and go on from there.

I absolutely adored the idea of the human meat-puppet Dalek zombies. It isn’t the first time the Daleks have used human slaves as acolytes, but having them be sleeper agents with creepy eyestalk heads was a particularly creepy touch.

Robomen didn't NEED eyestalks
to be creepy!

They, and especially the mummified ones in the Alaska cockpit, evoked other creations like the Vashta Nerada. Moffat loves his undead.

Moffat loves his undead alright...to where he can't kill off any character permanently.  Let's see: Rory, River, the Doctor, Sherlock, Moriarty.  It leads one to seriously wonder whether he has some pathological fear of death.

Anyone else get a Weeping Angels vibe when Rory was walking through what he believed to be a corridor of dead Daleks? This stuff was reminiscent of his other work, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

As if The Moff would ever break from his patterns...

I loved the idea of the Parliament of the Daleks, and of course the Prime Minister would just be a mutant and not need a tank to sit in.

I hated the idea of the Parliament of the Daleks.  Seriously, how do they have a Parliament?  Which ones are Tory, which ones are Labour?  Do they have actual elections? Or is this more House of Lords, where it's an inherited seat? And of course, the Prime Minster would be just a mutant, completely in tune with the Dalek philosophy of total uniformity. 

The conversation in the beginning between the Doctor and PM was creepy and very telling.

I scare easy.

Finding out the Daleks find hate beautiful and hence would rather not destroy it was a whopper of a great revelation only bettered by the notion that the Doctor’s hate for them is the only reason they haven’t killed him.

That has to be the worst excuse for their eternal inability to exterminate the Doctor.  They keep him alive because their hatred for him they find beautiful?  I'm not buying this for a moment. 



The millions of Daleks were really cool to see, though I was disappointed we didn’t see as many older-style Daleks as they perhaps promised. I definitely didn’t see the Special Weapons Dalek from “Remembrance of the Daleks.”

Wait a minute, Kyle.  You remember the Daleks from Remembrance of the Daleks and you STILL think Asylum made them scary?  Didn't "The Moff" promise we'd see all the old-school Daleks?  Oh, yes: The Moffat Lies. 

Throughout, Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs did maybe his best work to date, making the insane, scared, and sad Daleks all sound different. His work at the climax of the episode, when the Doctor finds Oswin, is particularly great. I also loved beginning the episode on the long-desolate Skaro. Really nice touch.

Now, someone remind me: wasn't Skaro already destroyed in the Time War?  That whole thing now is so convoluted and beyond repair that I don't remember.

Matt Smith is amazing.
Matt Smith is horrible.
I don’t need to say any more than that at this point. He is MY Doctor.

I enjoyed a lot of the Amy and Rory stuff.

I enjoyed a lot of the soap opera in space stuff.

It was nice to see them not 100% perfect, like they apparently had been for too long.

She was a bitch.  He was a wimp.  Neither quality I would qualify as making someone perfect.

Introducing an element of dissent between them was interesting and Gillan and Darvill have really fantastic performances throughout, but especially in their emotional breakdown scene.

I'll bet their emotional breakdown wasn't as big as Anderson's break from reality while watching this.

I think I would have enjoyed this aspect a little more if it didn’t seem to come out of nowhere.

It would have been more believable if the show had established some rifts in preceding episodes rather than take endless time with all that "River Song is Our Daughter" crap we sat through all last season.

As cute as the “Pond Life” segments were, they probably should have been a bit more real and established the problem in their lives. I think I’d have had a better time believing they’d been on the rocks, to the point of divorce, if we hadn’t just seen them living in harmony with an Ood.

If Pond Life is considered Canon, then we have a serious problem.  Each of these little cutesy bits made things light and comic, so when we get this episode they suddenly hate each other and want a divorce.  It does come out of nowhere and there is no rhyme or reason for it, at least at first.  It got so ugly between them in the opening that they called each other "Miss Pond" and "Mr. Williams", (which makes it the first time Amy called Rory by his actual last name rather than the usual "Mr. Pond", showing how weak he was).  During the course of the episode, we find why they are divorcing: it is because of Amy's inability to have children.

This very serious and important plot point Anderson does not address in his review, so let me do that. This is going to be a bit of a rant, so bear with me.

I have two friends: Caleb Sattelmeier and his wife, Alexandra (Alex for short).  They face a situation similar to the Williamses (click here for their story). It's a heartbreaking story, but they have recently announce that they are going to do something that the Pond-Williams never apparently contemplated: Adoption.  This perhaps is the most insidious aspect of this story.

If Amy and Rory really wanted children, adoption is the most logical choice, especially since I imagine Amy 's income as a fashion model is pretty good.  It is the most obvious resolution to their problem, but Moffat doesn't contemplate it.  Why? To create drama.

Personally, I think this is an insult to all those who are incapable of having children, making their situation hopeless.  It is also insulting to those who have been adopted, suggesting they are not worthy if they don't have a family to begin with.  Anderson's cowardice in not mentioning this, or pointing out the fallacy of it all, is shameful, but he is simply too beholden to Moffat to be a fair arbiter of the true quality of  a Doctor Who episode.     

Also, does this mean Amy’s part Dalek, or are we to believe she hadn’t been physically changed yet?

File that under 'plot points that won't get brought up again".

One more quick note before I open up all the spoiler gates: Nick Hurran’s direction was top-to-bottom fantastic.

Broken clock: the visuals were good.

He directed “The Girl Who Waited” and “The God Complex” in Series 6, which were two of the most stylistically different episodes in the whole season, and here he directs the most grungy, creepy, atmospheric story we’ve seen in quite awhile. He also directed episode 5, “The Angels Take Manhattan,” and I really can’t wait to see what he does there.

Spoiler alert: it's going to be an absolute mess.

He’s established himself as being up there with Toby Haynes, Adam Smith, Euros Lyn, and the great Graeme Harper as one of the very best directors of the new series.

And now, for what you’ve all been waiting for – ALL THE SPOILERS THERE ARE

HOLY SHIT! Jenna-Louise Coleman was in this episode! How did we not know this? I am incredibly impressed with the Twitter-verse and the like for not spoiling this for me or most people. (I realize several UK feeds started tweeting in depth about the episode before it had aired in the US and Canada. If this happened to you, I’m sorry; that sucks.

If this episode is to your liking, I'm sorry; that sucks.  As for Jenna-Louise Coleman being in this episode, we have yet to touch the tip of the iceberg.

In the future, I encourage you to do what I do – steer clear of all social media on Doctor Who Saturdays until you’ve seen the episode.)

In the future, I encourage you to do what I do--steer clear of all Nerdist Doctor Who reviews until you've seen the episode.

I was utterly shocked when she showed up in the first post-titles scene, and was even more utterly shocked when she stayed in the episode throughout, becoming basically the other main character. On top of that, she did a fantastic job. Really, really great.

Well, I won't begrudge her debut story, but I can tell you this fawning of Coleman by Anderson will only grow and grow and get more sickening.  For my part, I thought it was good, but honestly, by this time next year, I pray she will go.

Working essentially in a vacuum, she seemed to be able to play opposite the other actors like they shared the screen. Having never seen her act (with the exception of the tiny part in Captain America I didn’t know she had until I watched that movie again last week), it was very refreshing and exciting to be able to know she’s so great this early.

Yeah, yeah...

And this is why Steven Moffat’s a genius:


And this is why I'm a hopeless rimmer...

The whole twist of the episode (that Oswin is not only a girl trapped in a Dalek asylum, but trapped in a Dalek) and its effectiveness on the audience is contingent on our knowing that she’s going to be the new companion come Christmas. I’m sure some viewers didn’t know this, and it may or may not have affected them, but for me it was paramount.

By 'paramount', I mean I got a bonus from the BBC.

Because we knew the actress is going to be the new companion, and that we didn’t know she was going to appear in this episode, we (or I) assumed that the inevitable twist with her character wasn’t going to be what it ended up being. We all assumed that this character is the same character that will be the companion and hence weren’t paying attention to the fairly obvious, or at least brushing it off.

Which is pretty much what Anderson does on all his Doctor Who reviews.  

Moffat used the audience’s preconceptions to aid his storytelling.

Moffat used the audiences' stupidity to aid his storytelling.  That and sycophants like me that pretend to be 'analytical critics' when we're really just virtually paid-for lackeys.

I always thought it was odd the way they announced Coleman as the new companion.

Yes, I was hoping for a better actress myself, but you can't have everything, can you?

It seemed to come a bit early and out of nowhere. Also, aside from a few leaked photos, we didn’t know the name of the companion. He wanted to make sure the fact that she’s joining the show was known well in advance so that her appearance in this episode already had meaning to the audience and he could properly pull the rug out from under us. To coin a Moffat-esque phrase: it was “Meta Weta.”

Ugh.  Just ugh.

And because she was by herself for the whole story, they could show a ton of clips of the Doctor, Amy, and Rory and never once see that JLC was involved. So brilliant.

It 'so brilliant' that it will never be resolved, like the exploding TARDIS from The Big Bang Parts 1 & 2 you keep harping on about.

Here is the theory I have about Oswin Oswald and how she will fit in to the eventual story.

Do tell.  I'm sure it will be as accurate at your theory as to why shot the Doctor last season, or your theory about the true nature of River Song. 

In her final shot, she tells the Doctor to remember her name.

He doesn’t know what she looks like; again, only we do. She looks into the camera as she says “remember” for the final time.

Didn't Spock do the same thing to McCoy in Wrath of Khan (or as it's known today, the movie that was remade and released as Into Darkness)? 

I think that the character Jenna-Louise will play come Christmas is an ancestor of this character. It’s been somewhat rumored/known that the companion will be named “Clara Oswin,” so I’m guessing she’ll be the great-great-great-great grandmother of the girl in the Dalek.

Guess again, oh analytical critic.  Guess again...

Just speculation of course, but the only thing the Doctor has is the name and “Oswin” is an interesting enough name to stick out in someone’s brain. I’m hoping she’ll be not from the present day, but we’ll see.

Wanna bet she isn't from the PRESENT day?

Just my theory, take from it what you will.

You mean take it as the garbage you pass off as 'objective reviewing'?

And I loved, loved, LOVED that she was able to make the Daleks forget the Doctor.

Would that we be so lucky...

This is integral to Moffat’s proposed plan of making the Doctor a cipher again and not the universe-famous “Predator of the Daleks” that he has been for decades.

This is integral to Moffat's proposed plan of remaking the Doctor into his own diseased, deranged, delusional, megalomaniac image.  This is integral to Moffat's proposed plan of making the Doctor's Companions, not the title character, the center of the show. This is integral to Moffat's proposed plan of making the Doctor into a blithering, blundering idiot, rather than the famous 'intellectual hero' that he has been for decades.

This is integral to Moffat's proposed plan of destroying Doctor Who permanently.  

If the Daleks can’t remember him, other people won’t, too. I mean, who’s going to believe Cybermen?

OK, so if the Daleks can't remember him, does this mean she erased everything?  The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Genesis of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks, Bad Wolf Parts 1 & 2, even Journey's End Parts 1 & 2? Nearly fifty years of continuity gone in an instant? Explain how that is a GOOD thing... 

Random thought: I’d really love an “Almost Got ‘im”-style episode where a Dalek, a Cyberman, a Sontaran, and the Master all sit around playing cards talking about how they nearly defeated the Doctor. Copyright: Kanderson.

Kanderson pitching his second fan-fic to The Moff. 

To sum up: “Asylum of the Daleks” was a big, enormous mark in the WIN column. Loved it to bits.

I think I'm going to be sick..

This wasn't a review.  This was a fanboy masturbating on a keyboard and passing it off as objective reportage.  Note that in his review, not once the he say anything negative.  In short, there was apparently no flaw in Asylum of the Daleks. That to me seems rather incredible, to think that Asylum of the Daleks is THAT perfect, a story with no flaws, no mistakes. 

Whatever reputation I, Rick Aragon, have, I stake on this: Asylum of the Daleks was nowhere near as brilliant as Kyle Anderson insists it is.  Asylum of the Daleks is not the Best Dalek story Of All Time, or one of the Greatest Doctor Who Stories of All Time.  I don't know if I'd call it the worst Dalek story of All Time, but the praise for this is parody enough. 

Next week’s episode is Chris Chibnall’s “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back to review that sucker.

And you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be back to give it a glowing review for you suckers. 

With likely fewer theories and spoiler warnings. I leave you now with the BBC America trailer:

I leave you with another message, one directed at Kyle Anderson...


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