According to legend, you have a dumping ground. A planet where you lock up all the Daleks that go wrong: the battle scarred, the insane, the ones even you can't control.
Written by Steven Moffat
Kidnapped by one of his oldest foes, the Doctor is forced on an impossible mission to a place even the Daleks are too terrified to enter... the Asylum of the Daleks. A planetary prison confining a veritible Continuity Cavalcade of the most terrifying and insane of their kind. When a human starship crashed there and started broadcasting songs from Carmen, the Daleks realised that if something can get in, all the insane Daleks could also get out, which would be really very bad. There's something, or someone, down there that no Dalek wants to go near, so the universe's leading expert on blowing up insane Daleks, the Doctor, is forced to beam down to the prison planet to go turn off the force field and blow up all the insane Daleks (as well as himself). He is sent in with Amy and Rory, since Dalek data indicates that he needs companions at all times, but Amy's and Rory's marriage is in meltdown.
A genius human hacker, Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman), has been stuck on the crash-landed ship for a year. This is a bit of a surprise for the audience, since Steven Moffat had stated that she wouldn't be appearing until Christmas — then again, the Doctor tells the Daleks "it's Christmas!", so that's alright then. She's been keeping busy by making soufflés and playing Carmen at a very loud volume to keep out the nightmarish Dalek voices. She's almost impossibly successful in warding off the renegade Daleks: being the best hacker the world has ever known, she effortlessly destroyed the Dalek's security system and kept them away from her base. But the rest of her crew were killed in the crash, and — as they're horrified to find out — turned into humanoid Dalek zombies by the Asylum's automated system.
As soon as the heroes land, the automated system starts working on them as well. The Daleks gave them wristbands to trick the security system into believing they'd already been converted. Amy manages to lose hers quite early on, and the Dalek mindvirus starts "subtracting love and adding anger" — turning her into one of their own. Oswin contacts the group using a makeshift intercom system, but avoids the question of why the Doctor can't establish a video link to her. The Doctor asks her how she made soufflés for a whole year — particularly, where she got the milk.
The Doctor rushes off to save Oswin while Rory tries to force Amy to take his wristband. It's simple logic, he explains: if the Daleks "subtract love and add anger", they'll have to spend much more time on him. Because the simple fact of their marriage is that he loves her more than she loves him (by 2000 years, to be exact), and she hates him more than he hates her. She responds by slapping him in the face. The reason for their breakup and impending divorce? Rory wants more children, Amy can't have more children after what happened to her in Demon's Run, and she broke up with him to "set him free" and live a happy life without her. It doesn't matter in the end, because without either of them noticing, the Doctor slapped his own wristband on Amy before running off.
Meanwhile, Oswin has guided the Doctor to her hideout, and has used her suspiciously improbable hacking skills to delete all Dalek knowledge of the Doctor. When he finally reaches her, he's horrified: Oswin is a fully converted Dalek, who unknowingly dreamed a world of cushy couches and soufflés to keep herself sane. She was right about one thing, though — she's indeed a genius hacker, and by accessing the Dalek Hive Mind equivalent, she was able to override all information the Daleks ever had on the Doctor. Which is great, because the Daleks kept growing stronger, and more hateful, and more innovative, every single time the Doctor fought them — every encounter with him just gave them more reason to become more violent. Daleks without knowledge of the Doctor are a fantastic favour to the whole universe. With her last conscious, human thoughts, she shuts off the forcefield, and the Daleks promptly blow up the prison planet with her (apparently) on it. The Doctor escapes through a sonicked teleport pad, bringing Amy and Rory along with him.
Amy and Rory rather effortlessly resolve their marriage, and the Doctor hastily bids goodbye to a collection of extremely confused Daleks who wonder who this Doctor person is and why he's babbling about an Oncoming Storm.
Armour-Piercing Slap: Rory gets two, courtesy of Amy. The first is played for laughs ("Amy it's me. Do you remember me?" slap) and the second is played for drama during their argument ("Give me your arm. AMY!" slap).
Army of The Ages: Daleks from all eras of the show's history are in attendance as inmates. However, the focus is clearly on the Russell T Davies-era Dalek models, as classic series models only appear as background cameos; here is a spotting guide for the latter kind.
Counts as such in the Real World as well. The Dalek props were assembled from the BBC archives, private collections, and fan-made replicas. The oldest BBC one was first used in a Troughton story from 1967.
Battle in the Center of the Mind: Oswin is shown boarding up a door to her "escape pod" to keep out the Daleks. Since it's all a fantasy created by her, what she's really doing is keeping her humanity safe from her encroaching Dalek conditioning.
Bi the Way: Oswin flirts with both Rory and the Doctor and mentions her first crush was a girl called Nina. She elaborates that it was a phase, though.
Black Dude Dies First: Or, in this case, has already been dead for a year. He'd just forgotten about it...until the Doctor and Amy reminded him.
Dalek Supreme: What is the noise? Explain! Explain!
Doctor: It's me.
Rory: I'm sorry, what?
Doctor: It's me, playing the triangle. Okay, I got buried in the mix. Carmen, lovely show.
Everyone gets exasperated when the Doctor keeps asking where Oswin gets the milk for her soufflés. Subverted; it turns out to be a very pertinent question.
Couch Gag: This episode debuted a gag in the opening sequence, with the Doctor Who logo being textured differently every episode. In this episode it was textured with Dalek bumps.
Could Have Avoided This Plot: Once Amy tells Rory why she broke up with him, they're almost instantly back together again. This is after they've both already signed the divorce papers, though it should be noted that Rory is abducted before he can file them.
Crazy-Prepared: Rory, who had no idea he might be captured by aliens, keeps an electric torch in his pocket. Although looking at the history of his travels with the doctor (especially things like the Silence and the Weeping Angels), he may have just kept it on him just in case.
Deadpan Snarker: Creepily enough, the Dalek Prime Minister seems to be one with regards to the Doctor, observing that maybe his species's admiration of "such divine hatred" is why they are unable to defeat the Doctor.
Faux Affably Evil: The Dalek Prime Minister is far more polite, sardonic and respectful with the Doctor than any Dalek in the past. This oddly enough creates a rather disturbing reversal from the usual banter between Daleks and the Doctor, with the fuming Doctor being outsnarked by a Dalek.
Somebody else seems to have climbed out of the escape pod already.
The character of Oswin as a whole, as the actress returned later in the season as a new companion, who was revealed to be the same character. Kind of.
There's a ballerina figurine in Oswin's "escape pod".
Oswin's escape pod looks vaguely like a Dalek on the scanners.
Carmen. It's a tragic story as Carmen dies at the end.
Also, in Carmen the Habanera aria, the song Oswin plays in almost every appearance and what the Dalek's pick up, the translation of the lyric "Prends garde à toi!" is "You best beware!" But on the whole song, Carmen warns the onlookers she is like smoke, untouchable and unattainable. Just like Oswin.
"Run, you clever boy, and remember." These are repeated in The Snowmen, which becomes critically important to the plot.
Genre Savvy: The Supreme Dalek's smart enough to know the Doctor works best with companions. Their whole strategy is basically "fire the Doctor at the prison planet, stand back and let him do his usual thing".
Rory: In fairness, that is slightly your M.O.
Doctor: Don't be fair to the Daleks when they're firing me at a planet!
When they're all together in the Dalek Parliament, Amy is able to figure out everything the Doctor is thinking and doing.
Gone Horribly Right: The Daleks converting Oswin to harness her genius. Combining her intelligence with Dalek technology made her able to hack just about anything, and indeed created a very powerful entity... that was beyond their ability to control. As the Daleks themselves are an example of the trope, the irony of one of their own experiments backfiring on them is almost poetic.
When Amy is in the process of being converted by the nanogenes, the Doctor saves her by slipping his own nanogene-repelling bracelet on her. So why isn't he now in danger of being converted? 'Cause...
Amy: Time Lord. What's the betting he doesn't even need it?
Happily Married: Subverted. At the start of the episode, Amy and Rory's marriage is going through difficulties. Though it seems to be getting better by the end.
Held Gaze: Amy and Rory when they are talking about the difficulties in their marriage and how much they still love each other that ends with a Big Damn Kiss.
Henpecked Husband: Once again confronted, deconstructed and ultimately averted. When the Ponds are forced to finally confront their relationship issues, Rory laments how he's always felt he loved Amy more than she loved him. Turns out he was wrong. Again.
In Love with Your Carnage: Sort of. The Daleks claim to find hatred beautiful, even if that hatred is directed at them. The Prime Minister suggests that this is why they have so much trouble killing the Doctor.
Oswin's last line, which ends with her looking straight into the camera.
Oswin: Run, you clever boy... And remember.
The Doctor does the same thing when leaving the Daleks chanting "Doctor Who?"
Doctor: Fellas — you're never going to stop asking.
Also, at the beginning of the episode the Doctor tells the Daleks that "it's Christmas!". Not long after that, we get the first appearance of Jenna Louise Coleman, who Steven Moffat had told fans wouldn't be appearing until... Christmas.
Lotus-Eater Machine: Oswin created her own personal paradise in her mind (as much as she could under the circumstances, anyway) and fully believes that she is a human trapped in an escape pod to avoid the truth that she has become a Dalek.
Meaningful Echo: A running gag from earlier turns into the most chilling word known to man.
The cut to the Doctor fixing his bow-tie, after Amy realizes the Doctor has helped to fix the relationship she told him earlier was "not one of those things you can fix like you fix your bow-tie".
Mickey Mousing: When Oswin switches the music to the "Toreador Chorus," the music matches the banging on the door.
Mind Rape: This is how the nanocloud conversion process begins.
Mood Whiplash: From Oswin's narration into her diary at the beginning of the episode:
Oswin: Day 363. The terror continues. Also, made another soufflé ... very nearly.
Moral Dissonance: No one ever calls Amy out for not telling Rory she was infertile, or for assuming he valued having kids over being with her
She did tell him she was infertile at some point prior to the episode (when she says "I can't have them!" about kids during their argument, Rory whispers "I know.")
Moral Event Horizon: In-universe: the Daleks manage to disgust the Doctor again, even after all they've done already. They keep the insane Daleks alive as they feel their hatred is beautiful.
Motor Mouth: Jenna-Louise gives Matt Smith a run for his money.
Ms. Fanservice: Anamaria Marinca as Darla. And Jenna-Louise Coleman in her short red dress and lipstick for that matter.
Mushroom Samba: Amy starts seeing a room full of waiters greeting her and spinning ballerinas. It's actually a room full of half-active Daleks.
Mythology Gag: In early drafts of The Daleks, it would have been a plot point that Skaro was subject to regular monsoon-like storms. When this serial opens on Skaro, just such a storm is taking place.
One of the Daleks that Amy sees as human is a ballerina. The design of the Daleks, specifically their long skirts and gliding motion, was inspired by the Georgian National Ballet dancers seen by Terry Nation one evening.
The spinning Dalek is almost certainly the one that the Daleks tested the Thal anti-rad meds on waaay back in The Daleks. It caused the Dalek to spin around constantly and moan.
The Special Weapons Dalek is in the asylum. The EU novels identified it as insane as early as 1990.
Dalek Sec's casing appears as a man in a suit when Amy's hallucinating.
Poor Communication Kills: Or at least ends marriages. Amy throws Rory out upon learning she can't have more children, and somehow doesn't think to actually tell him this, leaving him understandably bitter after a couple of months or so of wondering what the hell he did wrong.
Power of Love: How Amy fights the Dalek-puppet conversion (or so she thinks) and how Oswin maintains her humanity, seemingly. Between this episode and "Closing Time", that's starting to become a theme on fighting cyborg conversion in general.
Reed Richards Is Useless: In the end, Oswin the super-hacker writes the Doctor right out of the Dalek's minds. Not, however, instructing them to live a life of peace or stop bothering other species. Necessary though, because this is a TV show and we can't do without the show's most iconic enemies.
Red Baron: The Doctor gets a fresh one to go along with "The Oncoming Storm": "The Predator of the Daleks"
Replicant Snatching: The Daleks can now harvest human bodies into puppets for undercover purposes. The horror potential of this is not particularly played out in this episode, though.
Running Gag: The Doctor's exasperation at Amy and Rory's make-out sessions. Rory's nose gets some more jabs, although Oswin doesn't let the Doctor's chin off either.
Where does she get the milk for all the soufflés? This one turns out to be quite serious, though.
Show, Don't Tell: Apart from being told that the insane Daleks are the worst kind, they don't seem that much worse than the regular ones, sleeping most of the time and in need of repair. Although there are enough of them to fill up a planet.
Only the Doctor could be preoccupied with the state of Amy and Rory's marriage whilst in the middle of an veritable army of Daleks. Then again, they are, technically, his parents, and the series has made a case of how childish the Doctor can get.
Strawman Has a Point: When the Doctor questions why the Daleks seem to expect that he will just walk in and fix everything.
Rory: In fairness, that is slightly your M.O.
Doctor: Don't be fair to the Daleks when they're firing me at a planet!
Taking You with Me: One of the Daleks, having a damaged gun-stick, activates its self-destruct next to the Doctor. This, however, is exactly what the Doctor wanted it to do. He forces it to go straight back into an enormous group of Daleks, destroying them all.
Talking the Monster to Death: Subverted. The Doctor tries to do this with one of the Dalek Zombies, asking her if she knows that she once had a daughter before the Daleks hollowed her out and turned her into their puppet? The Dalek Zombie replies that she does... because she read her file!
Too Dumb to Live: Not only did Rory stick around when some insane Daleks started waking up—did he seriously think a bunch of glitched-out Daleks were saying "eggs" and not just the first syllable of "exterminate"?
Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth: The Daleks convert Oswin into one of them and attempt to add her to their Hive Mind, but Oswin's mind is too intelligent to be over-written. The Daleks become so confused by this they're too afraid to even go near her, and send in the Doctor, their worst enemy, to sort out the mess instead.
Translation Convention: Presumably Daleks don't really have an operating system that displays messages in plain English, like we see when looking through the POV of the one who self destructs.
Trailers Always Spoil: Averted: Oswin's appearance in the episode was kept completely under wraps prior to the episode's debut broadcast.
Trauma Induced Amnesia: Oswin forgets she is a Dalek and imagines life in the Asylum because the truth was too terrible.
Violent Glaswegian: Amy implies that most of Scotland is. After she slaps Rory and Oswin wonders if the Dalek conversion is already making her angrier than normal.
Amy: Well, somebody's never been to Scotland.
Visual Pun: Astonishingly, this is the first time in 49 years that televised Doctor Who has acknowledged the resemblance between a Dalek gun and an egg whisk. Oswin's obsession with soufflés turns out to be a subconscious way to deal with having aforementioned gun.
Amy: You want kids, you have always wanted kids, ever since you were a kid. And I can't have them. Whatever they did to me at Demon's Run, I can't ever give you children.
And this heartbreaking moment:
Oswin: Where am I?
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Played With. The Daleks successfully abduct the Doctor and his friends, but then turn out to need the Doctor to deal with the asylum of insane Daleks they're too afraid to go near.
Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: The Doctor, when the Dalek Prime Minister remarks that perhaps the reason the Daleks have never been able to kill the Doctor is because he is such a "divine" example of hatred.