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Doctor Who Season 7: Another Question About ‘Asylum of the Daleks’

I know, I know; there’s not another episode of Doctor Who until next Saturday. But still, there’s something about the first episode of this season of Who that’s been in my head that I want to ask about: Should I be bothered that I’m not bothered that the show’s producers’ and PR lied to us? Spoilers for “Asylum of The Daleks” ahead, so be warned.

The lie, of course, was that Jenna Louise Coleman – the Doctor’s new companion – wouldn’t appear in the series until the sixth episode of the season; we’d been told that by the PR for the series numerous times, and I’m fairly sure that both showrunner Steven Moffat and Coleman herself offered up similar commentary more than once after she was announced as joining the series. And yet, there was Oswin, flirting with Rory, saving the day and refusing to surrender to her fate (When a character looks directly at the camera in her final shot of an episode and says “Remember me,” that’s a fairly big clue that things aren’t necessarily what they seem).

Watching the episode for the first time, I loved the surprise of seeing Oswin and recognizing Coleman, as well as the various questions it raised (Is Oswin the new companion, or will Coleman have different roles throughout the season until she shows up in the sixth episode? If it is Oswin who’ll be the companion, will she join up with the Doctor before she was turned into a Dalek? Did “Remember me” have some deeper significance – i.e., will her reappearance later be specifically tied to the fact that the Doctor didn’t forget her? What if Jenna Louise Coleman’s entire new companion thing was a lie?), but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself surprised by being entirely okay with the fact that all of the advance PR was a lie.

On the one hand, I completely understand the feeling: We have so much spoiled for us in advance these days, even when it’s not a “spoiler” as such. Just knowing Coleman was cast as the new companion in Who, for example, spoiled that (a) there’d be a new companion, (b) she’d fall into the “cute young woman” role of, oh, every companion since the show was revived by Russell T Davies, and ( c ) that she’d show up midway through the season, for the Christmas episode. While none of those are classically considered spoilers, per se, it shapes our expectation of the upcoming season in the same way as any other kind of spoiler does, but we generally just consider that kind of information about what’s to come “news” that’s par for the course. This Oswin dodge was, in many ways, a welcome reprieve from that and a reminder that surprises can be awesome in storytelling.

But on the other hand… Does this fake-out represent some kind of breach of trust between the people behind the show and the audience? Is it better to be told nothing than to be told something that’s not true? If Coleman’s entry point into the show is something that they’ll fudge, should we approach everything else stated as fact to be suspicious?

I’m unsure; taking that latter train of thought to its natural conclusion – “How do I know that Steven Moffat even wrote that episode?” to go to an extreme- seems ridiculous, but I also feel that there’s something to be said for the… validity, perhaps, of the trust the audience has in the creator and what they’re told by the people in charge. Once that’s broken, it feels like a dangerous move, the downgrading of authorial authority to something on the same level as fan speculation. An overreaction, perhaps; this was one playing with expectations outside of the narrative itself – where, I’d argue, fake-outs are to be encouraged and a large part of the fun of storytelling – and hardly a sign that every press release from the BBC about Who should be treated like the start of some kind of PR revival of Punk’d.

And yet… And yet, as much as I find myself returning to the “It’s all in good fun!” mindset – because it is, right? Right? – I feel guilty for doing so, for some reason. Am I alone in that? Does anyone else feel like they’ve been cheated by the early arrival of Coleman, and if so, does anyone feel like it’ll make them be less likely to believe what they’re told by the Who powers-that-be from now on?

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Comments

  • http://www.nightly.net/ Robin in Alaska

    The Doctor would be running into some really unfortunate “Disappearing McFlys” if the Oswin we see in Asylum gets saved from being a Dalek. Think about it. If she gets saved, who’s there to save the Doctor, Rory and Amy? It smells like a “fixed point in time”. So if that is actually Oswin and Oswin dies as a Dalek in Asylum and yet we eventually meet her at an earlier point in her time and she becomes a companion… isn’t she just a retread of River Song, who died when we met her? Plus, what a bummer! You’re cool Oswin, but heh, you’re dead. Yeah. Oswin in Asylum raises a bunch of issues and questions to ponder.

  • http://twitter.com/DarrinBradley Darrin Bradley

    i loved the fake out! keep them coming!!!

  • Reth Sogen

    I really think it was just a way to introduce the audience to Jenna Louise Coleman before she comes on board full time as Clara (the new companion).  The motivation?  To soften the blow of Amy and Rory’s departure.  Coming into this season, I was very sad about them leaving the show. But after loving Jenna Louise Coleman as Oswin, I’m looking forward to seeing her as the new companion (even if it is a potentially different character she’ll be portraying).  I think this will soften the blow of Amy and Rory leaving, given that I know what I have to look forward to.  I think people are reaching and over-thinking Jenna’s appearance in that first episode.

  • Badger Jack

    Shoot, I am still waiting to see what happened to ‘The Doctors Daughter’!
    Remember the pretty blond that was cloned from the Dr., and was reanimated
    and took off in a shuttle at the end of the episode???

  • guest

    Georgia Moffett, oh yeah. She really is The (5th) Doctor’s Daughter. LOL
    And having a companion show up in a earlier role goes back to Androids of Tara, with Tom Baker and LLalla Ward.

  • guest

    This….this is a major overreaction. Something very similar to this was done earlier this year during the promotion of a certain extremely high profile movie (don’t want to say the title to avoid people potentially spoiling it for themselves) and there was none of this reaction. Sometimes, people lie to protect the creative integrity of the movie/show/whatever. We live in a world where, if something’s sufficiently popular, every bit of info will be overanalyzed and picked apart in an attempt to figure out what’s going to happen, and sometimes the creators straight up lie to get around that. It’s a little irritating that they feel they can’t be straight with us about it (‘you’ll be seeing her pop up in different ways throughout the season” or something like that), but no, I don’t feel cheated, and I think you’re taking this WAY too seriously.

  • Guest

    We simply don’t know if the Oswin we saw was the Oswin that was slated to become the companion, or a grand daughter, or alternate reality. The proof is in the pudding and I don’t mind a red herring or two along the way. After all, the show itself is full of them.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_72CLW6G7UUHOHATYRSCMKQOVQI Don

    Assuming, of course, that she really was a Dalek at all. Think about it – every time they heard her voice over a comm speaker, she sounded fully human. But when the Doctor met her, she spoke in a Dalek voice. In 49 years, there’s never been a Dalek that could imitate a human voice. Even if this one could, why would it do so over the speakers but not when meeting teh Doctor face-to-face? There are numerous reasons why I believe the entire Asylum scenario was a ruse by the Daleks to convince the Doctor that they’d forgotten who he is, so he’ll eventually reveal to them (through someone close to him) his real name. My theory is that Oswin Oswald was never really a Dalek at all, but was in fact strapped to a table somewhere and brainwashed into believing that she was trapped in the Asylum and, later, that she’d actually been turned into a Dalek. Her voice and consciousness were being piped into a remote-controlled Dalek casing, in order to complete the ruse. The full theory’s here, in my blog:

    http://whotriviaman.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-method-to-daleks-madness-truth.html 

  • Artoftony

    This is a non-issue

  • Forgotten Arts

    This could simply be an Amy or Gwen type thing with them hiring an actress for a one time role then liking her enough to offer her a starring role later on. Do we know that they didn’t shoot asylum before casting the new companion? British shows take much longer to shoot then american shows. That’s why the seasons are shorter and Davies always had one episode a year with little to no Doctor. Blink, Christmas Invasion, Turn Left.

    But this is Doctor Who so who knows. They made dinosaurs on a spaceship make sense they can make anything work. If there is a third musical reference on Saturday then I am betting that will have something to do with Coleman. Twice is a coincidence three times is a pattern.

  • http://www.facebook.com/knutrobert Knut Robert Knutsen

    Stephen Moffat’s first rule is “The Doctor Lies”. And the same can be said for Moffat. He will lie or fudge the truth in interviews before an episode is aired to protect the story.

    He shouldn’t have to, but too many people keep pushing for information that we really don’t need up front. A lie calms people down, a “no comment” doesn’t.

    As for “breach of trust”? That only comes down to what’s on screen and the questions there are: “are we entertained” and “does he make us believe the unbelievable plot twist”. Personally, I’d say yes.

  • http://twitter.com/tomdaylight tomdaylight

    Christ. No we shouldn’t be concerned by any “breach of trust”. These are storytellers, not politicians or journalists. They are out to entertain us – to surprise us, to thrill us. Not inform us. What a silly premise for an article.

  • Lyle

    I thought the fact that Oswin was played by Jeanna Louise Coleman was a clever way of playing with fan’s expectations. When I saw Oswin, and realized this was the actress that would play the Doctor’s next companion, I immediately thought that this was the episode when the Ponds would leave and this woman was going to be the new companion. This kept me on the edge of my seat, because I kept wondering if the Ponds were going to die, especially since Amy was slowly being turned into a Dalek. This was especially bitter sweet because you thought Amy would die before she and Rory were reconciled, and when they finally did reconcile as Amy was possibly dying, it was especially emotional.
    I thought for sure Oswin was the new companion because she had such a playful flirty relationship with the Doctor, and, for me at least, she was so damn cute. Seeing that she was in fact a Dalek was very sad. It is obvious to me that the new companion will be related to Oswin somehow. At first, I thought the new companion would be Oswin about 5 years ealier (because of the Doctor’s whole timey whimey effect), with the Doctor realizing she would die, and he had to let her die while training her to be able to accomplish the tasks she did in this episode, in order to save the timeline. But, I see the new companion will have a different first name but the same last name as Oswin.
    What this all means, well, instead of complaining about how the writers are messing with me, I will sit back, enjoy, and believe the writers know what they are doing. Still, I can get why some people get nervous about such things, considering how some people felt burned by the ending such shows as Lost.

  • stpatrick67

    Three thoughts:

    If the Doctor goes back to meet Coleman/Oswin before Asylum of the Daleks, he can wipe her memory (Donna Noble) or the writers can figure out another way her memory is erased of her time with the Doctor.

    It’s not the first time an actor has appeared on Doctor Who and played different roles (Lalla Ward, Colin Baker and several of the villains), so Coleman could be somebody brand new.

    Did anybody else notice that the Doctor had a band aid on his finger in Asylum of the Daleks?  We know he isn’t invulnerable, so did he get infected then?

  • Jensu1

    That is what keeps bugs me, that she sounded human over the comm speaker.  I get the feeling there is a story arc we haven’t noticed yet. 

  • Elayne Riggs

    Graeme, I don’t know that I’d classify either Donna or Martha as particularly young or even “cute” in the conventional sense.  Martha was hyper-competent and never batted eyelashes as far as I remember, and Donna was fairly over-the-top most of the time.

  • Lastnamecumbie

    Well the doctor was suppose to die in a fixed time but he didn’t anything is possible on this show.

  • Lastnamecumbie

    They most likely are trying to keep their audiences guessing and thinking.

  • Jdd1369

    How about this instead … watch the series with a totally blind eye to the PR and press releases and internet tidbits (like I did) and thoroughly enjoy the episode for what it was meant to be!!!

  • Emily

    i don’t think she sounded human over the speak phone. whenever she spoke we heard her voice as if we were in that control room with her. the way that every person who heard her was so hesitant to listen to her advice and the way rory said to the doctor “are we actually going to get her” right when they were about the leave and the doctor said “i dont think we have a choice” (which is very un-rory and un-doctor…i mean rory was all for those skin-clone people rights, why would he want to leave a HUMAN behind?). i think she had a dalak voice over the intercom but we didn’t hear it as such to save the surprise. i think maybe, perhaps, i don’t know what the “science” of this would be, but maybe she wasn’t making up that world in her head. maybe she is stuck in some sort of control room/prison somewhere controlling that dalak and still has a chance to be saved. i’d hope it wouldn’t be the same arch as river song where we just meet her earlier in life. she didn’t act like she knew him or anything. maybe the “remember me” was just a suggestion to us that she’ll be back but neither her nor the doctor could possibly know that yet. 

  • Emily

    But your theory, Don, is clever about the Dalaks because it is very weird for them to have asked for the Doctor’s help in the first place but it all seems very suspicious so i’d be interested to see if this was just a very ingenious plan. for some reason though, as “smart” as the dalaks are i dont think theyre that smart. and i feel like they for the most part want to conquer the world and only destroy the doctor when he gets in their way, but otherwise keep away from him as much as possible but i dont know the thought process of a dalak so hahaha. i do think you theory is pretty interesting and possible. 

  • Simonpimpernel

    It’s no mystery.

    Coleman’s character in Asylum is Ozwin Oswald… and we know that when we next see her she will be playing a character called Clara Oswald… so i think it’s pretty safe to say her companion is an ancestor of the character we saw in Asylum.  I think her appearance in Asylum is just to give the Doctor a reason to form a deeper connection to Clara than he does with most of the other people he encounters from episode to episode and thereby explain why he takes her on as a companion.

  • FDCain

    You’re reacting as if they told you Santa Claus isn’t real. All they did was snuck in a surprise for the people who were paying attention to the news about the new season. They don’t tell you every facet of every episode. Is that a breach of trust? No. It’s storytelling.

  • http://twitter.com/biscuitman18 Jeff Heatherly

    With respect…you’re reading WAY too much into this, and seem to be trying to create outrage where none is called for. Just sit back and watch a television show. Might do you some good.

  • cyrax

    Emily, a pretty massive hole in that story. Why would the Doctor knowingly go to rescue a dalek, then not rescue her at all because he finally saw that Oswin was a dalek? Why would he pretend to be so surprised that she could access the pathnet or was actually a dalek?

    Safe to say a dalek that can transmit Habanera can imitate a human voice. Also the other daleks would have recognised her dalek voice when she spoke during the council.

  • NYCEsq

    I completely agree.  The names give away the fact that it’s a relative or the new companion (ancestor or descendant).  When we see Clara in episode six, it will be the first time we see the Doctor’s new companion though not the first time we see the actress.  It’s 100% consistent.  And yes I agree with the comments that this was done cleverly by Moffat to soften the blow of Amy and Rory’s departure who are almost universally loved by Whovians.

  • Guest

    Every companion in the new series is a “cute young woman”? I understand that you’re not referring to Jack, Mickey, River, Rory, etc., but… Catherine Tate is either going to kiss you or punch you for that. Probably both.