From BBC’s Doctor Who site
Kidnapped by his oldest foe, the Doctor is forced on an impossible mission – to a place even the Daleks are too terrified to enter…
So, after a break of nine months since the last Christmas special the latest series of Doctor Who started last night and Steven Moffat had a lot to deliver with this opening episode… and deliver he did with probably with one of the stronger season openers since the show returned in 2005.
Opening on the Dalek homeworld, Skaro, he delivered a concoction of fanboy/fangirl delights which had a fair degree of smarts, scares and surprises along the way.
The smarts and surprises came very much hand in hand. Following on from Series Six’s closing episode, “The Wedding of River Song”, the Doctor has kept to his intention of returning to the shadows and has become a figure of legend. This tone for the Doctor is established not only by the opening narration, but by Matt Smith’s performance. Along with Moffat’s writing, Matt appears to have changed the direction of his interpretation of the role by making the Doctor darker, less openly trusting than in previous seasons and markedly “older” than his portrayal in Series 5 and 6 (which makes sense as the character is now meant to be approximately 1100+ years old).
The first scene on the Dalek command ship is equally clever and it’s good to see that Steven Moffat has given the Daleks their devious and tactical nature back. By kidnapping the Doctor along with Amy and Rory, you get a tactic similar to that played out in “The Evil of The Daleks” wayyyyyyyyy back in 1967 in kidnapping the Doctor and his companions to serve their needs. In addition to this, you get a return of the belief in Dalek purity – they aren’t willing to send Daleks in to dispose of the threat of their insane bretheren when they can get “The Predator” to do the job for them.
If being kidnapped by the Parliament of the Daleks wasn’t enough to whet the fanboy palate (when did the Daleks come up with a system of government and what happens when the Dalek Prime Minister finish his term?), you are thrown headlong into main section of the storyline with our heroic trio into the Asylum and its intruder, Oswin Oswald, as portrayed in a surprise guest appearance by upcoming companion actress Jenna-Louise Coleman (more on her later). This is, in essence a journey through Dalek history, not only visually through various incarnations of the Daleks from the show’s near 50 year history but also through the script alluding to the Doctor’s victories at various points in the show’s history (when Oswin mentions planets such as Kembel, Spiridon, Exxilon, Vulcan and Arridius) and serves to tie the Classic and current incarnations of the series together in greater detail.
Tied in alongside the main plotline are two subplots, that of the countdown to the permanent departure of the Ponds in episode five and Oswin’s plot line.
As people who have been watching the “Pond Life” preview mini-episodes know, things have not been going swimmingly for Amy and Rory and this culminates with the pair separating for reasons unknown and Rory seeking divorce from Amy at the start of “Asylum”. But nothing is what it seems in the devious scripting mind of Steven Moffat and along the way we find that the real problem between the pair is simply a lack of communication, admittedly somewhat exacerbated by the interference of the Doctor’s lifestyle. Rory has held on to his belief that he loves Amy more than she loves him, which has been a fixture of his storyline very much since the first episode of Series 5 when Amy admitted that she had Rory dress up as the “Raggedy Doctor” in their childhood games, whilst Amy feels the guilt of not being able to give Rory children following the Silence’s actions on Demon’s Run. Whilst there have been bigger scenes emotionally between Amy and Rory, this has to be probably one of the most moving as Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill show how much Amy and Rory truly love each other and are willing to sacrifice for one another – Rory risking conversion to a Dalek puppet by being willing to hand over his anti-conversion bracelet to ensure that Amy remains the woman he loves and Amy admitting that she needed to let Rory go so that he could have the opportunity to father children.
But the real “Got Ya” moment has to be the inclusion of Jenna-Louise Coleman in the role of Oswin. Bearing in mind that she joins the TARDIS in the Christmas episode, this is a clever guest appearance as not only does it act as a surprise to the audience, but it also serves to make the audience wonder about the character that Jenna-Louise is going to play. Has the whole “Clara” thing been a big red herring and we’re going to meet Oswin from an earlier point in her time stream when she joins up with the Doctor? (I imagine that there’s loads of fan theories flying out there).
Jenna-Louise tantilises the audience with a cheeky portrayal in the role of Oswin, comically referring to Rory’s nose and the Doctor’s chin and also being flirty with both characters and referring to the fact that she could be from a similar time period as Captain Jack in that her sexuality could be as fluid as his with the reference to a former girlfriend called Nina. However, the character and Ms Coleman really come into their own in the scene where the Doctor discovers her fate in that she has been fully converted into a Dalek drone. How could we miss the clues??? The ability to hack into Dalek tech, the fact that she is keeping the “noise” of the Dalek programming out of her head and the fact that her utility belt has a whisk attached to it… never mind the fact that she has an endless supply of eggs and milk to make souffles by Eggs, Stir, Minute.
Jenna-Louise really sells the horror of the conversion process and the defiance of the character to maintain true to her own nature as she reverses a plot point from “The Parting Of The Ways” from back in Series 1. Where the Ninth Doctor accuses the Dalek hybrids of going mad because they are disgusted by their impure nature, Oswin is disgusted and rails against the fact that she has become a hybrid.
This episode shows nods to the past of Doctor Who as a series and the Doctor as a character and provides glimpses of the show’s future, most notably “The Fall of the Ponds”, a new companion and a continuation of the programme’s reboot by returning the Doctor to his original modus operandi of a man of mystery. “Doctor Who?”… it’s going to be interesting to find out.