Asylum of the Daleks Review
Pond Life Review
The serial, Pond Life, begins in “April,” where the TARDIS’ Helmic regulator (mentioned before in “Smith and Jones,” and playing a pivotal role in The Ark in Space) is malfunctioning, preventing the Doctor from piloting precisely the TARDIS through time. Unable to visit the Ponds, the Doctor continues through a series of zany adventures.
The appearance of the Sontarans (and, later, the Ood) is fun, and feels like the perfect way to utilize, yet not overexpose, classic monsters – - much like the Cybermen in “A Good Man Goes to War,” or the Dalek in “The Wedding of River Song.”
“April” continues the trend of romantically linking the Doctor to history’s most alluring women, adding Mata Hari to a list that already includes Madame de Pompadour, Elizabeth I, and Marilyn Monroe. Note that all but Elizabeth I were romanced by the Doctor in episodes written or produced by Steven Moffat. While I don’t mind Moffat’s euphemistic assertion that the Doctor enjoys, um, “dancing” with women, in “The Doctor Dances,” I do feel that this episode’s double entendre of fireplace-poker-as-phallus really pushes the limits of taste. Steven, you are no longer writing Coupling, and Eleven isn’t Captain Jack. I worry for Queen Nefertiti.
Ironically, the Ponds appear only in the final moments of “April,” as Rory erases the Doctor’s voice message, and Amy raises a toast to the madcap adventures of their time-lost friend. Was I wrong to expect more of the Ponds?
In “May,” the Doctor drops in to recruit Amy and Rory’s help in saving the Earth, months too early, before the threat has even occurred – - and in the middle of the night, no less! – - due again to the malfunctioning Helmic regulator. While the situation is played for laughs, it actually delves into subject matter Doctor Who so often avoids: the effects of revealed “spoilers,” which, in this case, leave Amy and Rory sleepless with worry as they consider the nature of the Doctor’s crisis. “May” also serves as the best teaser for Series 7, as it actually includes near-subliminal glimpses from coming episodes, and offers a few notes of the show’s familiar, adventurous overture.
“June” is built solely on the verbal joke of “Ood on the loo,” much in the same way “Smith and Jones” was crafted around Russell T Davies wanting to hear the Scottish David Tennant say, “Judoon platoon on the Moon.”
“July,” is the first to show real continuity, as it reveals the mysterious origin of the Ood: it wandered out of the TARDIS when the Doctor visited in “May.” (Though, the question then becomes, “Where did the Ood hide for the rest of ‘May,’ until Rory discovers it in ‘June?’” But I digress.) The episode is also rife with in-jokes. The Doctor assumes that the months-long-missing Ood was merely wandering about the TARDIS, much like Kamelion disappeared for 15 episodes, in five serials, over 11 months, in Seasons 20 and 21. Also, Rory’s Roman soldier lunchbox may have replaced Amy’s ad campaign for Petrichor as my all-time favorite Doctor Who Easter egg.
The highlight of the episode, however, is the montage of the Ood, in gloves and an apron, making the Ponds’ bed and hanging their laundry. I was caught off guard by how loudly I laughed.
“July” also shows the slightest bit of discord between the Ponds, as Amy inconsiderately steals a sausage off of Rory’s breakfast plate. Rory’s facial retort insinuates that the sausage will make her fat. Surely, this isn’t the start of the marital woes evident later in Pond Life, or in “Asylum of the Daleks”?
“August” serves as a nice bookend to “April,” as it mirrors the Pond Life premiere’s format: the Doctor is leaving a voice message for the Ponds, relating his myriad adventures, this time to Hastings Hill and 11th Century Coventry. Luckily, we are only shown a clip from one event, where the Doctor invents pasta for a hungry Hun (more clever wordplay!). Instead, the flashbacks in “August” focus on Rory, storming out of the Pond house, an angry Amy chasing after him before breaking down in tears. (Apparently, now that the Ood has left, they are fighting over who has to take out the trash?) I will say that seeing Amy’s tear-stained face left quite a lump in my throat, a feat that Who rarely manages to do. (I’m sure that my long-time readers can probably name the other four moments.)
Unlike, in “April,” however, the Doctor erases his latest voice message, perhaps believing that the Ponds’ absence indicates that they are moving on with their lives and are less attached to, or interested in, his every misadventure – - a belief proven wrong as “August” finds a lone Amy wishing again for the Doctor’s influence in her life. The question we’re left to ponder (pun intended) is, “Why?” The Doctor’s mere presence has done so much to destroy Amy’s life; is it possible that Amy’s relationship with Rory only thrives amidst that chaos?
As for the Time Lord, himself: while it was funny to see “May” paint the Doctor as an allegorical child, interrupting is parents’ nighttime slumber with stories of “monsters,” I found the Doctor’s blatantly immature response to the Ponds not being at his beck and call to be off-putting. I love that the Eleventh Doctor has a child-like sense of wonder, and that it allows Matt Smith to utilize his comedic talents; however, there is a difference between “child-like” and “childish,” and I wish that the writers would realize that a 1,104-year-old alien can be the former, without resorting to becoming the latter. It’s funny to see Eleven speak “baby,” not to watch him act like one.