Saturday, 1 September 2012

Doctor Who - Asylum of the Daleks review: An 'all-guns-blazing season opener' + surprise

We're still taking it all in, but it was pretty good wasn't it? One of the first episodes in a long time that you immediately want to watch again for the details you might have missed.

From Amy Pond swishing about as a model on a staircase in her normal life away from space travel, to the Doctor being summoned to a CGI-rendered Skaro (home planet of the Daleks, don't you know) by a woman with a mini-Dalek eye stalk popping out of her forehead, to a slightly-altered title sequence with a new font for the words (details!) and a tweaked logo - it felt exciting to have Doctor Who back on tv: the same, but different.

And, as an episode from the pen of the show's chief writer and show-runner Steven Moffat, and as an all-guns-blazing season opener, it's fair to say expectations were high - not least because of the 'movie poster' style images released for each of this year's five new episodes, and promises of every Dalek ever seen in the show making an appearance in this one.

But what was it like?

Asylum of the Daleks was part mythology-explainer (how the Doctor got the 'Who'), part Amy/Rory departure-countdown (via a slightly surprising 'about to divorce/reconcilation' storyline to get them speaking again), via the Moffat-motif of using an apparently throwaway line as a key plot point (the 'eggs' becoming the first syllable of the Daleks' battle cry Exterminate), as well as enough bits to make you go 'ooh' now and then, even if that's just inside, and to yourself, quietly.

It also looked good, too - the glaringly bright snow-based scenes (filmed in a day in Spain - Spain!) add a bit of outdoorsy action to what is a claustrophobic and tense episode, set on a Dalek space ship.

And most impressively, and ignoring their apparent move into a human-style political system of parliaments and prime ministers (do they have elections now?) the Daleks were creepy, scary and insane - but you can imagine longer-term fans keen to see the promised older Dalek versions might have been disappointed none of them got any lines, like: "I-WAS-USED-IN-A-STORY-MADE-IN-NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FOOOOUR'.

Of course that's exactly the right way to do it, mind you - make it for the average viewer, rather than for the hardcore fan, who'll watch it anyway: to most people they're just hordes of dusty old, insane Daleks struggling to say 'Exterminate' (although we can't deny many fans may have felt a uniquely particular but unidentifiable thrill many could not even be able to articulate at the spectacle of it all).

But probably the best surprise was the appearance of (possibly) the new companion (or at least the actress who is to play her), and who was apparently not due to appear until Christmas.

For some viewers, that fact might have passed them by, but actress Jenna Louise Coleman - here playing a character called Oswin - made an impressive debut, even if she was written like a cute, flirtatious and up-together character you might have seen in something like Moffat's sitcom Coupling (or even his Press Gang): speaking in smart quips with an enormous amount of self-possession, especially amazing given that she thinks she's been stuck inside her crashed spaceship for a year (although no one wants the Doctor's travelling companion to be a misery, so it's fair enough).

But the reality of her character's situation - and its conclusion - make it clear that her reappearance come Christmas will not be so straightforward, but then who wants straightforward (and remember it's not the first time we've seen a future companion in a different role - Freema Agyeman played a cousin of Tennant companion Martha, but that was before she was even cast as Martha), but of course it's all no doubt part of Moffat's over-arching and full-of-surprises plan.

And one we look forward to following, of course, and pretending we knew it all along, and possibly getting a bit confused along the way too, but hey. We can't wait.

Related stories:
Doctor Who - A Town Called Mercy: Fancy that - a self-reflective cyborg killer in a cowboy hat
Doctor Who - Dinosaurs on a Spaceship review: 'Part comedy romp, part genocide-wreaking villian'
Doctor Who: It's fair to say none of these characters will be in the new series
Idle speculation and uninformed pondering about the title of the first episode of the new Doctor Who series
Doctor Who: So what does that picture Moffatt tweeted of the 1960s Dalek actually tell us?
Two lost 60s Doctor Who episodes found: Fans thrilled, then a bit disappointed ;)
So did the Doctor Who Confidential film crew capture the meeting in which it was decided to cancel Doctor Who Confidential


  1. It was a bittersweet episode. Well written, well directed, well acted...etc

    But the special-weapons dalek didn't get to use it's gun or move about much.

    Win some, lose some.

  2. We're with you Julian, on all points - especially about the Special Weapons Dalek ;) Thanks for your comment.

  3. I could not be happier about Jenna-Louise Coleman being the new companion once the Ponds leave; she was great in this episode. I can’t wait to see how Oswin’s story will connect to Clara’s, because there’s no way it won’t. It’s so nice to finally have new episodes of Doctor Who on TV again! Unfortunately, I work late on Saturday nights, so I won’t be able to watch any of the show live this fall. That’s why I’m glad I can count on my Hopper to have every new episode ready and waiting for me to enjoy as soon as I get home. It’s a relief to know I won’t be out of the loop when the time comes to discuss new episodes with my Dish co-workers who are fellow fans. Next week looks fantastic. I am SO ready for some dinosaurs on a spaceship!

  4. Thanks for your comment Taylor - good to hear you're excited a tv-ooh, and yeah it will be interesting to see how Oswin's story connects to Clara's (assuming Clara is definitely the new companion's name!).