The seventh season of Doctor Who kicks of with several bangs, the introduction of a pivotal new character and a whole lot of Daleks. Geronimo!
Following the big question at the end of Series 6, that of “Doctor Who?”, the seventh season (or the thirty-third if you prefer) of the iconic British series is determined to not only put that question back in the forefront of our minds, but to take it up a notch as well. With this series, show-runner and writer Steven Moffat is determined to make the series more like a sequence of blockbuster movies, compressing 90 minutes worth of action down into 45. It sounded like a sure way to sacrifice story for action, but we should always know that the Doctor (and Moffat) has a plan. This is how to kick off a series of television.
Asylum of the Daleks is a throwback to the kind of classic Doctor Who serials of the 1970s, but this wholly belongs to Moffat and director Nick Hurran. In a mere three-quarters of an hour, we are reintroduced to Amy (Karen Gillan) and her husband Rory (Arthur Darvill), who are in the midst of some marital woes. Whisked away against their will to a Dalek mothership with The Doctor (Matt Smith), they are presented with something of a surprise. Soon the trio wind up at the titular Asylum of the Daleks, where even more surprises await and more twists and turns than a planet full of pretzels. To reveal anything more would be spoilers, sweetie.
While it is true that Doctor Who has always been partly about big sci-fi concepts and running around time and space, where it is most powerful is when it celebrates that wonderful uniqueness of humans. For the last few seasons, this has unfortunately meant a rousing celebration of The Doctor’s brilliance and self-sacrifice at the end of every other episode, so it refreshing to see somebody else take the limelight for a while. Principally, this comes in the form of a new character (Jenna-Louise Coleman), but perhaps we still need to wait a while before she reaches her full potential. Coleman is a delight on-screen though, and there is plenty to look forward to when she makes her highly publicised return later in the season.
The introduction of the Asylum of the Daleks is an intriguing concept, and one that takes us right back to the origin of the species. Long-time fans will get some kicks out of the many references that pepper the episode, not least of which are the visual ones of Daleks from various eras. Some may quibble at the manner in which the Amy/Rory story plays out, especially if that is to be that as far as the story is concerned, but there’s so much else going on that it’s barely worth mentioning.
Asylum of the Daleks fulfils the promise of being a terrific standalone episode that comes to a satisfying and rousing conclusion, but sets up just enough to knock them down in later episodes. Hurran takes Moffat’s script and runs with it, a frenetic actioner that barely comes up for breath. If this opening salvo is any indication, it is going to be a hell of a season.