Category Archives: Science Fiction

Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #5

I’ve been following this comic since its release, and I have to admit that unfortunately I am unimpressed. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the upcoming Marvel movies, and as such, the company saw fit to re-launch the long-defunct series, this time paring down the cast and adding tentpole character Iron Man to the mix. Thus far, the results have been lackluster.

The original GotG was an epic space-faring story featuring spectacular cosmic battles and reality-bending plots. The Guardians were conceived by half-human, half-alien Peter Quill as a trouble-shooting force whose responsibility would be to protect the galaxy from cosmic-level threats. (By cosmic, I mean the kind of thing it usually takes a TARDIS to sort out.) The comic was high on humor and adventure, and the charm of the stories came from this band of misfits and renegades facing down such things as a giant spaceship powered by faith and an enormous space octopus from an alternate reality.

Now, under Brian Bendis’ direction, the cast has been pared down to it’s bare essentials, and the team’s adventures have become pretty much pedestrian affairs. Once headquartered in the decapitated head of a Celestial and backed by a telepathic Russian space dog, the Guardians now tool about in a much-less impressive stolen space battleship and fight threats so underwhelming they would barely attract the attention of the Avengers.

This issue featured the debut of Angela, a Neil Gaiman creation from the independent comic series “Spawn”. Entering the Marvel Universe for reasons somewhat vague, Angela begins by taking on Gamora in a decidedly unexciting battle, while GotG leader Peter Quill finds out about a potential reality-threatening event. The entire issue is singularly uninteresting. Everything from Rocket Raccoon’s boring conversation with Tony Stark to the appearance of GotG favorite Mantis seems to be stripped of veneer. Rocket is supposed to be the funniest of the characters but his dialogue falls flat in the face of Tony Stark’s somewhat predictable Star Trek references about his tryst with Gamora. The situation is exacerbated by Bendis’ lack of attention to detail, for Rocket claims no knowledge of Earth pop culture, when the 2008 run had him admitting to purchasing a collector’s edition copy of the movie “Beaches” on ebay.

The problem is that Bendis has effectively sucked all the mind-boggling concepts that made GotG impressive in the first place. Plus, he doesn’t get Rocket, and if you don’t get the Raccoon, you really shouldn’t be writing Guardians. It has been said that GotG was chosen to be a film because Marvel wanted to go in a more fantastic, cosmic direction, but this will be made difficult if the comic series insists on becoming mundane and pedestrian.

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Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: Man of Steel

It is, I think, an axiom that every hero is a reflection of their generation. Back when Superman was first created, he was pretty much a tougher-than-average strongman who had no reservations about bullying people into submission. As time wore on, the character grew to become the archetypical boy scout that dominated his persona for most of his existence. In the Superman films of the 70’s and 80’s, this persona was used to provide humor. The naive hero who said he fought for truth, justice and the American Way was rebuffed with a caustic “You’re going to be fighting every politician in the country!”. Such was the cynical post-Vietnam climate the these films were created in. Over time, the comedy overran the series, to the point where the idea of Superman and his enemies was hardly something to be taken seriously, but rather an opportunity to be cornball and show dumb sight gags involving super-breath. As beloved at it rightfully is, the Christopher Reeve Superman was still a trifle campy, so much so that the original director Richard Donner was fired over trying to keep things serious.

Given that, how will Superman fare in a gritty, terror-ridden world where everything alien is viewed with suspicion? That is the question that Man of Steel tries to ask, and I think this is why so many of the negative reviews of the film seem to pine for the whimsical style of the Reeve era. This is Superman taken as realistically as possible. It is very much a darker film; even the brilliant whites of Krypton have been replaced by a moody Matrix-style planet. But within this dark environment there is still at the core the same message of hope that has always been there. Superman’s purpose is to inspire us to be better people, to reach for an ideal even if we constantly falter in the process. Such an inspiration is sorely needed in the post-911 world, and it is no mistake that Clark’s efforts to defeat the Kryptonian General Zod are inter-cut with individual heroics by humans both civilian and military. It’s as if our real-life heroes are suddenly granted an superpowered ally, or as if Superman himself has become a metaphor for the heroics that we witness in every catastrophe. Those who were wishing for the kind of flights of fancy that the original films did so effectively will be disappointed. There are no romantic moonlit flights with Lois Lane, nor any pathetic criminals getting their just desserts in comedic fashion. What we get is as close to a real-life Superman as you can get; one who is surrounded by tragedy but who still strives to do the right thing, and in the process he inspires others to do the same.

That said, the movie is far from technically perfect. The third act suffers from the kind of over-extended action sequences that plagued Star Trek: Into Darkness, leaving the viewer longing for a breather. The muted color pallet also makes it difficult to follow the faster-than-a-bullet action sequences, with Superman’s darkened uniform sometimes blending into the background. On the plus side, the film is stacked from top to bottom with Oscar caliber actors, all of whom invest completely into their roles. Henry Cavill, while admittedly limited in his dialogue, is able to convey the mystery and loneliness of the alien searching for his place in this world. His one performance flaw is a tendency to yell a lot, much like a Spartan out of director Zack Snyder’s previous film, 300.

Dylan Sprayberry and Cooper Timberline are both wonderful as the much-bullied younger versions of Clark Kent. Amy Adams turns in her usual charming performance as a somewhat muted Lois Lane. She is less grating and irascible than Margot Kidder’s take on the character, but she occasionally lacks the same fiery spirit, and her chemistry with Cavill is not nearly as electric as that between their 70’s counterparts. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe are both impressive as Jonathan Kent and Jor-El, two very different men who nonetheless share the same core values and share the responsibility for fathering the fledgeling hero.

Critics of this film should not be surprised that we got a darker, grittier take on Superman. It is, after all, the reason why Christopher Nolan was involved in the first place, and it continues the realistic take on the characters that Nolan began with his Batman trilogy. It is somewhat ironic that DC Comics, once considered the more traditional, brighter and lighter of the two major comic firms, has begun a series of films that will undoubtedly be much more grounded than their original source material, while Marvel has for the most part gone for the flashy, humorous and more whimsical approach that DC was once known for. Superman was the first of comic superheroes, and hopefully the proposed films of the long-floundering DC universe will follow his lead, giving us grounded, realistic stories that still carry a message of hope.

Man of Steel gets Four Acorns out of Five!


Geek Squirrel’s Nutty Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness.

In a previous blog I posted my concerns about J. J. Abrams’ seeming lack of comprehension regarding the original spirit of Star Trek. Some readers considered it an indictment of the rebooted franchise, and in a sense it was. That said, Abrams did deliver a fresh take on the series that was enjoyable and modern, despite its flaws. In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Abrams and his writing staff appear to go overboard in their attempts to please old school Star Trek fans, and while I applaud their efforts, their failure to really understand the philosophy of the series leads to some serious problems in the third act. That said, Into Darkness is still a very enjoyable movie and almost everything that a good summer blockbuster should be. It succeeds as solid entertainment but fails to reconcile itself to the original source material.

The movie itself is not short on action. Most of the sequences are well-choreographed and exciting, but some of them, particularly a shuttle chase midway through the second act, are borderline gratuitous and could easily have been removed. The actors are all given something interesting to do, and each deals with it with varying degrees of success. The principles all turn in well-crafted performances, and Benedict Cumberbatch finally gives the world at large a taste of his acting abilities. The film also attempts to deal with some post-9/11 issues in a somewhat limited fashion. There are attempts at the higher sense of morality that the original series was famous for, but the third act backslides into simple good vs. evil sensibilities.

Some of the movie’s stumbles lie in the common blockbuster errors of excesses at the expense of logic. Many situations are set up based on the flimsiest of notions, like the opening where the Enterprise is hiding underwater in order to avoid detection from a primitive alien race. Why it was necessary to hide the immense ship in the ocean when she would be perfectly safe and secure in orbit is never explained, nor does it serve any obvious purpose other than to set up a ‘money shot’ of her rising from the depths. Similarly, newcomer Alice Eve is exposed in a ridiculously juvenile T and A scene. Abrams piles on the explosions in the third act, setting up action sequence after action sequence like Michael Bay on a weekend bender. Again, these sequences are wonderful as individual set pieces, but they tend to overrun the movie like an endless parade of shiny red fire trucks.

Much of the film’s major narrative flaws have to deal with Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, and in deference to those who have not seen the movie, I will refrain from spoilers until further down in this review. Suffice it to say that Cumberbatch begins as an intriguing, mysterious villain, but devolves into a common bad guy that needs to be punched out as brutally as possible. Again, part of this lies in attempts to cater to fans of the original series, which some viewers might find pleasing but others may find highly contrived. I will allow you to form your own opinion on the issue, but I personally fall into the later camp. If you wish to read a more detailed analysis, feel free to stick around after the final rating, otherwise, this is your spoiler warning.

Star Trek: Into Darkness gets Three Acorns out of Five!
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The Final Frontier…..

Still with me? All right then.
Abrams has admitted that he was not a fan of the original Star Trek, nor did he appreciate the type of idealistic moralizing the show indulged in. This is eminently clear in his writing staff’s treatment of the latter half of Into Darkness, which is essentially a reboot of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. In re-visiting the classic film, Abrams effectively shoe-horns large chunks of dialogue from the original film into the climax of his own, instead switching the roles of Kirk and Spock so that the good Captain is the one who makes the sacrifice. Abrams and writer Robert Orci wisely back off from a verbatim re-shoot of the emotional death scene, but enough of the dialogue is in place to make some viewers visibly cringe upon witnessing what seems to be a near-parody of a classic sci-fi moment.

In rebooting the original story, however, Abrams and Orci back away from exploring a potentially deeper moral in favor of returning to simple good guy versus bad guy mentalities. Throughout the first act, Kirk is portrayed as a person hell-bent upon revenge against Khan, and it is only Spock’s calming influence that prevents him from simply killing Khan outright. This is reinforced when the crew discovers that Khan was merely a pawn in a conspiracy engineered by their superior officer at Starfleet. Khan’s terrorist actions were in effect an attempt to stop a renegade Admiral who was holding his people hostage. At this point, the morality of Kirk and company is evident. Kirk realizes that his desire for revenge may be at least somewhat misplaced, and he brokers a truce with Khan in order to defeat the Admiral. This creates an interesting commentary on the post-9/11 world. The idea that the pursuit of revenge has corrupted the United States has been a facet of other post-9/11 fiction, most notably the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. But no sooner has the Admiral been defeated then Khan reverts to his evil ways, setting up the reboot of the original film’s ending. This completely undermines the potential for a morality play on the level of classic Star Trek, for in the end, the crew decides to “get the bastard” in order to avenge Kirk, and Spock is only prevented from killing Khan due to a contrived need for a deus ex machina to revive his Captain.

In attempting to re-imagine Wrath of Khan, Abrams and his writers back away from the kind of philosophical and moral stance that was a hallmark of the original series; a moral stance that Abrams confessed he did not enjoy or appreciate when he first watched the show. The creators’ lack of understanding of the source material is equally evident in their treatment of Khan himself, for the potential of redemption existed within the character when he was first introduced in the episode “Space Seed”.

KIRK: Name, Khan, as we know him today. (Spock changes the picture) Name, Khan Noonien Singh.
SPOCK: From 1992 through 1996, absolute ruler of more than a quarter of your world. From Asia through the Middle East.
MCCOY: The last of the tyrants to be overthrown.
SCOTT: I must confess, gentlemen. I’ve always held a sneaking admiration for this one.
KIRK: He was the best of the tyrants and the most dangerous. They were supermen, in a sense. Stronger, braver, certainly more ambitious, more daring.
SPOCK: Gentlemen, this romanticism about a ruthless dictator is
KIRK: Mister Spock, we humans have a streak of barbarism in us. Appalling, but there, nevertheless.
SCOTT: There were no massacres under his rule.
SPOCK: And as little freedom.
MCCOY: No wars until he was attacked.
SPOCK: Gentlemen.
KIRK: Mister Spock, you misunderstand us. We can be against him and admire him all at the same time.

Khan was presented as more Napoleonic that Nazi, and while his attempt to take over the ship was ruthless, he expressed frustration at what he saw as being forced to kill in order to achieve his ends. It is Khan’s admirable qualities that eventually persuade Kirk to give him a chance to start his own civilization by marooning him with his people on a habitable planet. (The fact that it tragically did not work out was the setup for Wrath.) As such, the potential for creating a more layered villain existed in this story, and had Abrams and Orci taken notice of this, they might have broken new ground with the character. Had they chosen to keep Khan on the path to redemption, or at least made him somewhat redeemable, they would have kept to the spirit of the original series while creating a more original and creative story. At the very least, they could have stuck more to the spirit of the original episode by exiling Khan rather than beating him down and shoving him into a cryo tube. By choosing to re-create Wrath of Khan, however, they created a contrived, forced conclusion that trampled on the morals espoused by the original series. Adhering to the philosophy of original Trek would arguably have delivered a film more satisfying to old school fans, while at the same time escaping the sense of re-treading (harsher critics might say ‘stomping on the hallowed memory of’) Wrath of Khan

It is a shame that Abrams and Orci seem to be unable to reconcile the flashy effects, superb acting and spot-on characterizations with a story that explores deeper issues and breaks new ground. If a third installment is created, I am hoping that they will end these rather weak attempts to pander to old school fans with mishandled plot reboots, and instead focus on what new Trek does best: present a newer, hipper and more action-oriented film that respects the original material rather than pays lip-service to it.

P. S. Am I the only one who thought the “old Spock” cameo was also a waste of time?


Clara Oswin Oswald

I’ve been pretty critical of Clara Oswin Oswald of late, and I figured it was high time to try and articulate my issues with the character. First, as one of my readers very astutely pointed out, often one’s reaction to a new Doctor Who companion is predicated on how one feels about their immediate predecessor. In my case, it’s quite obvious that I thoroughly enjoyed the Doctor’s previous companions, Amy and Rory. That said, I have tried to give Clara the benefit of the doubt, but I find that as the episodes progress, this is harder to do.

First, I should say that I adore Jenna Louise-Coleman’s characterization of Clara in all of her incarnations. She is charming, quirky and plucky, which are all the necessary ingredients for a good companion. I love her personality, but I am having difficulty with her storyline.

The first problem is how the character was introduced. We have been effectively given three introductions to Clara; first as Oswin, then as Victorian Clara, and finally as the modern Clara. Of the three introduction stories, the first was the strongest, while the last was undoubtedly the weakest. This is not only in terms of the actual episodes, but of the characterization of Clara. When first introduced, Oswin is by her own words, a “screaming genius and a tad bit sexy”, and the way she goes about her day while marooned on the Dalek prison planet makes you want to root for her from the beginning. Victorian Clara’s investigative skills are at the forefront in her episode, and the scene where she follows the Doctor up the ladder to the TARDIS was nothing short of enchanting.

Unfortunately, Modern Clara is not featured in the best light when the Doctor finally finds her. She is initially confused by a simple thing like the internet, and she is placed in a reactionary role. Rather than initiating the adventure, she reacts to a situation that is thrown upon her. She displays none of Oswin’s cleverness until her mind is enhanced by the Great Intelligence, and takes none of the initiative that Victorian Clara displays. This version of Clara is a character who is thus far someone whom things happen to, rather than someone who gets things done.

This is a major difference from most of the modern-era companions. In her debut, Rose is the character who rescues the situation by saving the Doctor from the Autons. Jack proves himself as a man of action from the beginning, and even Martha saves the Doctor from asphyxiating in her first adventure. Amy’s courage is proven both in her scenes as a young girl and an adult, and she also resolves the situation in her second adventure, “The Beast Below”. Mickey, Donna and Rory all start out as reactionary characters who, like Clara, appear to be simply reacting to the adventures around them, but each eventually proves their worth through individual heroics. The current version of Clara has yet to take the kind of heroic action that made us understand why the Doctor chose his companions. Every one of her predecessors proved that they could be a hero in their own right, but Clara has yet to show her mettle in a convincing fashion.

The interesting thing is that her previous incarnations both demonstrated the kind of characteristics that one would expect from a companion. Oswin’s bravery is self-evident, and she saves the Doctor by deleting his identity from the Dalek mainframe. Victorian Clara passes the tests that Madame Vastra and the Doctor have set up, and shows her determination by following the reclusive Time Lord even after he tries to shake her. While it can be argued that all three versions are supposed to be the same character, this particular version of Clara has yet to earn her stripes. Her back story has none of the frustrated longing of Rose, Donna and Amy, nor does she appear to be growing in the manner of Mickey or Rory. She is, thus far, a passenger and an observer, and even when she has helped, it has mostly been a follow-on to what the Doctor has already done. Her sacrifice of the leaf in “The Rings of Akhaten” simply puts the last nail in the coffin; she does not think of a solution, but is simply following the Doctor’s lead. Ditto her assistance in “Cold War”. Her reliance upon the Doctor in her initial confrontation with the Ice Warrior smacks of dependency, and her final words at the climax are again merely a follow-up to what the Doctor has already done.

Personally, it will be very difficult for me to like Clara, despite her charming personality, until she earns her stripes. Until she demonstrates some independent characteristics, challenges the Doctor or even outright disagrees with him, she will come off as weaker than her predecessors. Hopefully her time will come, but until it does, she will not have proven that she deserves to be in the category of “those magnificent companions”.


Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy.

It’s kind of sad when the best thing you can say about an episode is that at least it’s better than the last time they were in the Old West.  Granted, it would not have taken much for that to happen, but the disappointment of “A Town Called Mercy” lies in its valiant but failed attempt at being something more than an average episode.  The show tries to create an interesting moral dilemma to show that the Doctor has once again grown rough around the edges in the absence of his companions, but in the end, an all-too-neat and almost consequence-free ending serves to undermine what might have been a great episode.

Team TARDIS finds themselves in the Old West, faced with a town blockaded by what appears to be a cyborg bounty hunter.  The hunter is searching for an alien doctor, no, not our Doctor for a change, but Kahler Jex, a man responsible for creating the cyborgs via a series of hideous experiments.  Jex is hiding out in the town, having crashed there and offered his more benign services to the primitive townsfolk.  Upon finding out about Jex’s past, the Doctor angrily throws him outside the town’s boundary to be killed by the cyborg.  The town marshal intervenes and is fatally wounded, passing his badge and the responsibility to keep Jex alive to the Doctor.

The Doctor is thus confronted with the moral dilemma of protecting a man he despises; a man who has done horrible things, but also a person who according to the marshal remains a good man at heart.  Along the way we get some interesting pieces of dialogue, from the inevitable comparison to the Doctor’s role in the Time War, to an eminently quotable last sentence from the Marshal (played brilliantly by an underused Ben Browder).

The failure in this story lies in the resolution, which is in the end taken out of the Doctor’s hands.  Jex elects to commit suicide rather than face his attacker, deciding that the cyborg should not carry the weight of even one more death on his hands.  Jex is played by Adrian Scarborough, who attempts to balance the unrepentant war criminal with the one who seeks redemption.  Scarborough gives a memorable performance, but in the end his character leans a bit too close to the light, becoming a man who is indeed worthy of redemption in the end.  The fact that Jex makes the decision for the Doctor undermines all of the questions raised in the story, for in doing so, he absolves the Doctor of any guilt.  The story would have been much more poignant if the Doctor had been forced to make a decision and live with it.

This episode does raise some interesting questions about the Doctor and his dual roles as hero and destroyer of worlds.  There are also some wonderful homage’s to the classic Western, including the oft-repeated gag of the undertaker measuring a man for his coffin.  In the end, however, the story fails to achieve the kind of heights that other morally ambiguous episodes have reached.  Had the creative team decided to push the questions even further and take more risks with the story, then the episode might have found a place among the very best Doctor Who episodes.  Choosing to play it safe, however, leaves us with an episode that feels unfulfilled.
“A Town Called Mercy” gets a (marginal) Three Acorns Out of Five!

 


Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

With a title like that, did anyone really expect much more than what we got?  This was a terribly fun episode filled with cool moments but lacking in substance and occasionally logic.  The Doctor is still traveling on his own, but still drops in to scoop up the Ponds for an adventure.  This time, however, the Doctor has brought in a gang of assistants in the form of Amy, Rory, a big game hunter named Riddell, Queen Nefertiti of Egypt and last but not least, Rory’s dad, Arthur Weasley. 

Several well known guest stars appear in this episode.  In addition to Mark Williams as Rory’s Dad, we get David Bradley; yet another Harry Potter alumnus who plays a cold and calculating villain named Soloman.  We also get Rupert Graves, aka Inspector LeStrade of “Sherlock” fame, as Riddell the hunter.  There’s also a bunch of dinosaurs.

The story itself is pretty silly and merely an excuse for some occasionally funny character moments.  Both Amy and Rory get to do cool stuff, with Riddell and “Neffi” not always succeeding to make an impression among the crowded cast.  Rory’s dad fares the best among them, although even his moments come across as rushed amid the chaotic action.  The trouble with so many good actors vying for attention is that not everyone gets to shine, and character moments between Rory and his dad are sacrificed in favor of dinosaur/robot chase sequences.  Still, the senior Mr. Williams does a good job of expressing both the wonder and confusion of his son’s travel habits, and the end of the episode features a lovely quiet scene where involving watching the Earth while enjoying a sandwich and a cuppa.

One interesting development in the episode is the Doctor’s dispatching of the villain.  Soloman is a greedy mass murdering, kidnapping thief who deserves his punishment, but it has been a very long time since the Doctor has been this ruthless, and one can’t help but wonder how that bodes for the future.

“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” gets Three Acorns out of Five!


Geek Squirrel’s Nutty Review: Asylum of the Daleks

After a very long absence, the time-traveling Time Lord has returned to our homes like that quirky, weird house guest who sometimes makes your life complicated, but never, ever boring.  Last week we were treated to a series of shorts featuring the Doctor’s companions, who, much like the fans, have tried to establish a normal existence in the absence of the Doctor.  And again, like the fans, Amy and Rory’s Doctor-lite existence is punctuated by a few sudden appearances that serve to both stun and confuse them.  It’s much like getting all those sudden news flashes over the past year….you know, the announcement of the new companion, Matt Smith carrying the torch, the Doctor Who tribute that never materialized during the Olympics, the sneaky TARDIS sound during the opening ceremonies…all of those little appearances that just made you want to crave more.

Sadly, Pond Life is not all sunshine and crickets.  Despite the brief addition of their very own Ood (designation Ood Alfred), Amy and Rory appear to be on the outs, and by the last mini-episode they have apparently split up.  The Doctor, returning home like a child back from summer vacation, begins to suspect that all is not well with mummy and daddy-in-law.  Such is the state of affairs when the curtain rises on the Asylum.

There’s brief prequel where the Doctor receives a message from what appears to be a Headless Monk.  The monk communicates in a dream, forcing the Doctor to accept a mission to Skaro, the ancient home of the Daleks. It is there that he encounters a distraught woman who attempts to convince him to rescue her daughter from a Dalek prison camp.  Well surprise, apparently the Daleks have taken a page out of the cyberman/borg playbook, and have started to convert human beings into their mindless agents.  Two more Dalekborgs kidnap Amy and Rory on the same day they finalize their divorce, and just like that, we are swept into the Parliament of the Daleks.

It seems the Doctor’s oldest enemies have a bit of a problem.  Their storage planet of defective models has been breached by a starliner, and since even Daleks won’t fight crazy, they have collected their most deadly adversary and intend to shoot him at the planet so he can turn off the force field that surrounds it, so the Daleks can blast it Death Star style and end their problem.

But wait, there’s more…it seems the sole survivor is a plucky young lass named Oswin, played by *SURPRISE* Jenna Louise Coleman.  Remember that new companion they announced?  Remember that?  Well be prepared to have your mind blown people, because the Grand Moffat has it targeted with a laser set to OMG!!!!

The remainder of the story is filled with action, suspense, and Daleks of every make and model.  Each of the main cast members gets to shine, especially Rory Williams, who survives on his own for several minutes and even gets a bit of flirt action from his eventual successor.  For her part, Oswin displays a confident charm and intelligence that makes you want to root for her from the get-go.

Regrettably, the biggest problem of the episode lies in the circumstances of Amy and Rory’s divorce.  The split between the two is the most traumatic event in the lead-up to the new series, but it is patched up in a few minutes thanks to yet another clever psychological trick by the Doctor.  Amy’s reasons for dumping Rory are based on her experiences at Demon’s Run, which were not only a violation of her body but have also resulted in sterility.  Her inability to have another child, and most likely her feelings of unworthiness, were the reasons for the split.  These are huge problems, and yet they are resolved within a few minutes, completely defusing what could otherwise have been a source of tension throughout the remainder of the series.  In the real world, marital problems are not so easily solved, and having the Doctor come in and fix everything is akin to wish fulfillment.  One could imagine a child of a broken marriage hoping that the Doctor would come and fix his parents, but the real world is never that easy.

Be that as it may, the first episode has definitely accomplished a great deal.  It has, for the first time in a long while, made the Daleks scary again, if only for this one instance.  The idea of faulty, deranged Daleks running around in tunnels, accompanied by human husks that have been turned into their servants, makes for some scary moments.   In the end, however, the human/Dalek hybrids are no more than a different form of cyberman or borg, with the same underlying fear.  The only difference is that rather than being turned into a mindless automaton, their victims retain a level of cold, emotionless personality, unable to remember the things the loved the most.    The biggest and best surprise is Jenna Louise Coleman, who not only manages to prove herself as a worthy successor to Amy and Rory, but whose introduction has given fans a bigger mystery to solve than the identity of River Song.

“Asylum of the Daleks” gets 4 acorns out of 5!