TV REVIEW: Doctor Who, Series 7 Episode 1 – “Asylum of the Daleks”
Posted by wedgedoc on September 1, 2012
Kidnapped by his oldest foe, the Doctor is forced on an impossible mission – to a place even the Daleks are too terrified to enter. The iPlayer summaries are getting shorter and shorter and I’m sure next week’s will just be the episode’s title! So here’s a bit more plot to go on, without being spoiler-woilery.
Following the events of Pond Life (the final episode of which leads directly into the Ponds’ story for this episode and so is worth watching), the Doctor is mysteriously summoned to the Dalek homeworld by a distress call aimed directly at him. Events lead him, Rory and Amy (because records indicate the Doctor requires Companions) to a planet housing the Daleks that are too insane even for the Daleks. The ones the “Dalek Prime Minister” can’t control which include some Classic Series Daleks. Basically, the Daleks are worried because a ship crashed into the planet – and if something can get through their force-shield then something can also get out. And no one wants a planet’s worth of insane Daleks wandering about, now do they! Our intrepid heroes are equipped with bracelets to protect them from the nano-bots that fill the air of the planet and then shot through the impenetrable force-field in order to complete their mission for the Dalek race.
Along the way, the TARDIS team converse with a survivor of the crash who has been trapped on the planet for a year. This survivor has managed to hack the Dalek systems and keep them at bay. No mean feat. Especially as she’s done so much more. Practically shutting the whole facility down.
It’s good to see a proper Dalek fleet, though the new hierarchy (Prime Minister and Parliament? Surely the Dalek Prime or Dalek Supreme would head the Dalek Council in the absence of the Emperor?) seems a little off-kilter, the hordes of regular (Bronze) Dalek Drones interspersed with Series 5′s Progenitors was well-realised. The idea of having the bigger Daleks as the ruling elite rings true with me. Though quite why the Red Drones are required in the Elite is quite beyond me! I liked seeing Robo-men again, though the addition of actual Dalek instruments coming out of them struck me as a Russell T Davies-ism. For shame, Moffat. A simple blue glowing third-eye would be sufficient. surely?
Once the adventure proper begins inside the Asylum, a particularly creepy vibe permeates the episode. It’s great to see some Classic Series Daleks in the background (Particularly the Special Weapon Dalek!) though I would have liked them to feature more amongst the active inmates of the Asylum. Instead, whenever an individual or crowd of Daleks is seen to move, it’s always new series ones. So much for “every Dalek ever” being in there misleading preview talks! This is especially true of one scene towards the end where logically mainly Classic Daleks would reside. Once again, it’s Rory who becomes seperated from the others and he seems somewhat out of his depth here, which seems a bit of a backward step for his character.
I’m getting wrapped up in fanboy, so will move away as rapidly as I can. The cast this week is the smaller, regular cast, a couple of extras and the horde that is Nicholas Briggs. Despite not meeting until near the episode’s climax, the interaction between hacker-survivor and our Time Lord is witty enough and there’s a truly heart-rending Pond moment. It’ll be a shame when Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are no longer with the series.
Moffat’s cleverness comes through with some great ideas that are excellently realised. The Daleks’ main defence on the planet is brilliant, if not devious and twisted! A planet full of insane Daleks? Magnificent! His trademark witty dialogue also shines through with not only the main crew but also the extras. (“Do you remember who you were before?” “Yes. I’ve read my file”). And finally, we get a potential reason for why the Daleks haven’t just killed the Doctor already.
Oh. And the final twisty-wisty reveal? I’m not going to say any more. But it’s a good-un. With reaching consequences for later in the series, no doubt. The writer even manages to help the Doctor’s new “Low profile” scheme out some more this episode. Great stuff.
What this episode is NOT is a jumping on point. Anyone coming on board now will lose out from having not seen the last two years of the programme. One thing I do miss about Doctor Who is the stand-alone nature that each story used to have. Having said that, most TV shows these days have ongoing plots that need to be followed, so perhaps this is par for the course.
So despite a few fan-boy niggles this was a great start to the series. Not as awesome as The Eleventh Hour, perhaps but certainly no New Earth!