Friday, 7 September 2012

On 7.9.12 by KieronMoore in ,    No comments

Doctor Who came back with a bang for its seventh series this Saturday; a bang caused by the death rays of a million Daleks. This was Asylum of the Daleks, showrunner Steven Moffat’s first story to feature the old pepperpots as the main villains.

And what a Dalek story it was! My initial comment on Twitter was “Fucking shittytits, Doctor Who was good” and I still feel that’s a good summary, but I’ll elaborate a little.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory were kidnapped by the Dalek parliament and sent on a suicide mission to the planet known as the Dalek Asylum, where those little buggers too insane for their own race are sent. This led to a fast paced story with a series of individually memorable set piece action sequences linked together into a gripping adventure. The landing in the ominous snowy plains, the spaceship full of zombie-esque crew with Dalek eyestalks, Rory waking the sleepy Daleks, the self destructing Dalek, the climatic encounter in Intensive Care - this story made the Daleks, for the first time in a while, a thrill to watch. I was expecting to be playing "spot the classic series Dalek" but became too engrossed in the action to really care whether the Special Weapons Dalek had more screentime than the Day of the Daleks model. As to the Nick Clegg-esque U-turn on the New Teletubby Paradigm, well, thank you, Moffat. And, joy of all joys, no having to explain how they’ve escaped from the Time War again or having a trillion Daleks blown up when someone presses a deus ex machina button!

Yet there was more to Asylum than the fight against the mad Daleks, as companions Amy and Rory were having their own conflict. Their previously impenetrable relationship had cracked and the Doctor’s desire to patch things up was the emotional throughline of the episode. The slower, more thoughtful scenes came at exactly the right moments – “That’s life, raggedy man; it’s what happens when you’re not around” breaking the Doctor’s hearts as he realises he can’t always help his friends, followed by that absolutely beautiful scene where Rory and Amy argue about who puts the most love into their relationship, and then the realisation that the Doctor had manipulated them into having this conversation, but they don’t care, because they love each other. And I loved this episode for that.

There’s only one major element of the story left to discuss, and it’s one that I didn’t expect to be discussing – Oswin Oswald, the spaceship “Junior Entertainment Officer” (I call euphemism) who helped the Doctor and co. navigate the asylum. Oswin was played by Jenna-Louise Coleman – the very same Jenna-Louise Coleman announced as the Time Lord’s next travelling companion. I must say I’m very impressed that the BBC managed to keep her appearance a surprise, despite holding press and public preview screenings. Well done and thank you to everyone who could have leaked that but didn’t! The character added a new burst of energy and cleverness to the team, though I did find her flirtatiousness a little too reminiscent of River Song. “Strong female character” does not have to equal “flirty”, Moffat! Nevertheless, I did have a happy moment when I realized that we’re up for a main companion who is both LGBT and, for the first time in the revived series, not from present day Earth. It’ll also be very interesting to see how she’s brought back. Only in Doctor Who can someone be turned into a Dalek, get stuck on a planet after it explodes, and come back for at least nine more episodes…

With action, humour, scares and emotion, Asylum of the Daleks had everything necessary for a brilliant series opener. Let’s hope the rest of the series can live up to it.

Next week: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Dinosaurs are cool, Rupert Graves is cool, but I’m a little worried about it given Chris Chibnall’s Who backlog. Redeem yourself, Chibbers!


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