Written By: Steven Moffat
Directed By: Nick Hurran
The Story: Captured by his greatest enemies the Daleks, and set before the Dalek Parliament, the Doctor, along with former companions Amy and Rory, is forced to infiltrate the Asylum, a planet which houses the most insane and feared Daleks in existence!
The Verdict: With the last few episodes of DOCTOR WHO having been crushing disappointments (I’m looking at you THE WEDDING OF RIVER SONG! And you, THE DOCTOR, THE WIDOW, AND THE WARDOBE!), it’s fair to say the weight of personal expectation for this week’s premiere has been almost crippling. Would ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS be a rip-roaring return to form for the TV show that has had a place firmly in this reviewer’s heart for longer then he can remember? Well….
Yes and no, because Season Seven of DOCTOR WHO has plenty of promise, judging by this week’s opening episode. And yet at the same time, it’s rather disappointing.
Lead writer Steven Moffat starts things off well enough, and delivers a fantastic pre-titles sequence, before literally dropping the Doctor and his companions right into the action. The rug-pulling reveal of future companion Jenna Louise Coleman as another character altogether was a head-scratchingly genius idea. It’s a mystery that, much like last year’s whole ‘is the Doctor dead?’ story-arc, will have Whovians and regular viewers guessing for months!
The scenes with the Doctor, Amy & Rory roaming the dark corridors of the Dalek Asylum were uncomfortably claustrophobic, and during a couple of tension-building moments, actually a little creepy, thanks largely to composer Murray Gold’s nerve-shredding score. And best of all, at long last, we get some insight into the emotional aftermath that followed the events of last season, as Amy and Rory find their marriage in tatters as a result of the revelations regarding Melody Pond and the terrible events at Demons Run, resulting in a fantastic emotionally charged scene between Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.
So what went wrong? Well, when the show promises to give us something awesome like insane Daleks, you’d expect them to deliver something strange, weird, and different. The concept of mentally unhinged Daleks is a terrifying one (especially when it becomes clear even the fully functioning Daleks fear them), but when realised on screen here, all we got was some Daleks that looked a bit battered, and could barely string a sentence together. Hardly anything for the Dalek Parliament to fear, let alone us (maybe the Parliament just had better things to be getting on with, like Dalek Health Service reforms or expense scandals or something). And whilst the final moments of the Doctor proclaiming ‘Doctor who?’ aloud may have some fans jumping with delight, proclaiming the words ‘genius’ and ‘what a twist’, for me, it all felt just a little too much of a bad in-joke.
It’s an episode that will no doubt divide fans. The concept is great, the actual realisation of it on screen not so much. There’s some great performance from the three leads (or four, depending on whether you count Coleman just yet), especially from Matt Smith, who lights up the screen the moment he appears, and both the music and the cinematography work well in creating a creepy and unsettling atmosphere throughout proceedings. Sadly though, it’s all let down by a script which has a brilliant idea within, but just doesn’t quite know how to realise it just as brilliantly on screen.
Best Bit: The reveal that Oswin is in fact a Dalek. I did not see that one coming! A simple, beautiful, tragic scene played to perfection by Matt Smith, Jenna Louise Colman, and surprisingly, Dalek Voice Artist extraordinaire Nicholas Briggs!
Predictions: So now even the Daleks, the Doctor’s greatest enemies in the whole universe, don’t remember who he is. Something tells this reviewer that that will little development won’t be good in the long run.
Nitpick 1: Not too keen on the rejigged title sequence. The sequence has been darkened so we can barely see it, the revamped DOCTOR WHO logo is very uninspiring, and the lack of 3D text makes it just look…well, dull! If it ain’t broke, why smash it to pieces? Go back to the original please, Mr Moffat!
Nitpick 2: Did we really need to see Rory running and sliding under a door in slow motion? It wasn’t cool or awe-inspiring. If anything it was very jarring and quite laughable. Sort it out Hurran, you’re a great director, you don’t need to resort to hokey camera effects to keep us interested.
Star Performance: Jenna Louise Colman as Oswin. Whether she’s the new companion or not (my guess is not, more likely the new companion will be in some way related to Oswin, but she definitely won’t be the same woman), there’s no denying her performance here was excellent. Funny, heart-breaking, and above all, engaging, her performance had it all. If this is what we’re to expect from her on a regular basis when she steps aboard the TARDIS full time at Christmas, then we’re in for a treat!
Best Line(s): Upon hearing a song from Bizet’s Carmen:
Dalek Prime Minister: What is the noise? Explain! Explain!
The Doctor: It’s me.
Rory: Sorry, what?
The Doctor: It’s me, playing the triangle. Okay, I got buried in the mix!
Join us next week for part two of THN’s Doctor Who Series Blog.