Doctor Who – Season 7 – Asylum of the Daleks Review
It’s been a long time coming but Eleven and the Ponds are back, with a few added Daleks.
“So how much trouble are we in?”
“Out of ten? Eleven!”
Any fan of Doctor Who has probably taken the time to watch the short web series “Pond Life” that preceded the series premiere, which has quite firmly established that the Ponds no longer travel routinely with the Doctor – instead he pops in every now and again and keeps them up to date with his travels – whilst they carry on with real life. But for the Ponds, all is not well… indeed divorce is on the cards!
So the Daleks decide to pop in and gather up the Doctor and his necessary companions in a slightly more than unsettling new form (will schoolchildren trust their bus drivers ever again?), as they need him, the Predator or the Oncoming Storm, to solve their own problem.
The Dalek Asylum has been breached – a planetary prison where the most insane and uncontrollable members of there are locked up – so someone needs to go in and clean house…
“Save the Daleks!”
Lots of nice visuals in this episode from a majestic opening sequence on the legendary home planet of the Daleks, Skaro, and a tweaked opening sequence that helps set a more sullen, darker Doctor in place (and apparently there will be tweaks to the title sequence every week to fit the plot of the episode – a nice little FX trick).
Indeed I found myself finding the Doctor actually physically kicking Dalek slaves back a more physically aggressive approach than normal for him… I sense Moffat steering us gently back into territory that reaffirms how the Doctor, without a regular companion, is not always the best of men…
Speaking of his companions, I’ll say that the marriage troubles between the Ponds are not given enough room to breathe and although the reason why is perfectly valid and critically completely in character for big girl on Tardis Amelia Pond, it almost seems a shame that in some ways it isn’t Rory, tired of the Doctor dropping in and out of their lives so much and Amy’s clear devotion to him, that has prompted the change in their status quo. That said, both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill play their parts with such aplomb that their scenes together with the resolution of their dilemma say so much more that what was written.
Oh and speaking even slightly more on the subject of companions… well hello (!) Jenna Louise-Coleman! Moffat, you crafty and sneaky man, you’ve snuck her into the series premiere (ala Rose Tyler in Series 4 premiere) but this was no cameo – this was a full fledged guest starring role and her character of Oswin Oswald was so fully realised that I wanted to know more about her; and then Moffat broke my heart…
“Run you clever boy… and remember…”
I can only say that she bounced off of our screens and created a new dynamic with Eleven and I am eager for her to join the series full time; as this character (shades of River Song’s fate) or as a relative, I don’t mind! Bring on Christmas!
But what’s particularly striking about this episode is how fast it moves. From the start you are dropped straight back into the action and suddenly the end of the episode is nigh! One wonders if this is how it feels to be the Ponds; a madman with a box drops into their regular lives, whisks them away with all the bells and whistles and then plops them back down (relatively) safe and sound.
Actually, I wonder if that’s intentional since that’s exactly what happens to the viewer every single week!
Much as how the format for the series allows it to drop in on any era or place in time and space which can then set the entire episode as a mystery, a thriller, an adventure or a fantasy, a new companion or Doctor can regenerate the entire show with their new dynamic.
I remember a few years ago during Planet of the Dead, and I suddenly realised how much I loved David Tennant’s Perfect Ten, but I also felt so familiar with what he would say and how he would say it, that I knew it was time for a change.
This is how I’ve come to feel about the Ponds time in the TARDIS; either they have to go or the Doctor does, and I don’t believe we are anywhere near seeing the full extent of Matt Smith’s performance as Eleven.
So all in all, a rather good rollicking adventure! The Doctor and the Ponds united! The Daleks turning to their most hated adversary! Moffat using his unique sense of humour in his writing (“Eggs…” anyone?)! Jenna Louise-Coleman! Some superb set design for the Asylum from the dark and dilapidated rooms that also convey ancient age and forgotten majesty; I can’t be the only one who was on the edge of their seat as Rory or the Doctor were walking through the corridors, just waiting for an eyestalk to roll into shot! Jenna Louise-Coleman!
And finally it all ends, echoing the last episode of series 6 with “Doctor Who?” Who indeed is this man without his companions? Who is this man with his companions? And with a new lease of life after his supposed death and Oswin’s gift to him, who is this man without his history with the Daleks?
“Fella’s… you’re never gonna stop asking!”
4 and a half Daleks travelling in reverse out of 5!
Next week: DINOSAURS… ON A SPACESHIP!
About Joss Gateway
Sci-Fi Heaven's resident Stargate and Doctor Who columnist. He's lovely too.