7.1 – “Asylum Of The Daleks”
The Daleks capture The Doctor, Amy and Rory and give them a job – beam down to a planet full of deranged Daleks, turn off the planet’s force-field and let the Daleks in orbit blow the planet to bits. Once down on the planet, The Doctor and co get chased around by a lot of Daleks, while trying not to be converted into Dalek servants by Dalek nanogenes and attempt to rescue the rather lovely Oswin, who seems to have a great supply of eggs. En route, The Doctor saves a marriage, blows up a planet, gets himself forgotten by the Daleks and restores this viewer’s faith in The Doctor, the show and even Steven Moffat.
Oh Amy. The fact is, since Rory came along, it’s just never been the same between us. Is there any chance that another companion could be as pretty and perky and wonderful? Lightning can’t strike twice, can it? Ah well, according to the pre-series 7 publicity we’ll have to wait until Xmas to meet the new sidekick.
Series 6 had its sparks but was, on the whole, bloody annoying. The Xmas special was anything but and I was that close to calling it a day…okay, it wasn’t as bad as “Silver Nemesis” where I really did call it a day. So of course I tuned in and hoped for the best – and actually got it. “Asylum Of The Daleks” is cracking stuff, matching “The Time Of Angels” as an action-packed thriller. The pre-titles sequence is a great piece of set-up – yes, it all seems a bit simple for the Daleks to pick up The Doctor, Amy and Rory (and what happened to The Doctor wanting to retreat into the shadows and let everyone think he was dead?) but the Dalek puppets are a neat update on Robomen, the ruins of Skaro are awesome and the Moff’s scriptwriting skills return as he deftly gives us a whole subplot with Amy, Rory and the painful collapse of their marriage.
And then, out of the blue, comes Clara! Except she’s not Clara, she’s Oswin. We all know who she is because we’ve all seen the announcements but, in what must be the most closely guarded secret since the “Earthshock” episode 1 cliffhanger, the new assistant is right here, right now. What is going on? She’s staggeringly pretty – none of the fiery fury of Amy but chock full of cute, perky confidence, which is masking very real fear at being trapped in a capsule surrounded by Daleks and unable to cook a soufflé.
Tight, well-scripted scenes, devious Daleks and a serious surprise – and The Doctor and co haven’t even started their rescue mission yet. From the moment the team are dumped onto the planet, the action goes off. The Doctor and Amy find a ship load of corpses, Rory finds himself surrounded by dead-looking Daleks, the corpses wake up (aaagh, zombie-Daleks, or Dalek-Zombies?), the Daleks wake up (“You want Eggs?” asks Rory, before realising just what they are saying – when the Moff is on his game, it’s all funny until someone is about to get seriously hurt). There is some absolutely first class running around corridors; who couldn’t love a wrecked, creepy corridor filled with barking-mad, well more-so, Daleks? Amy, continuing her proud history of really getting dumped in the shit, loses her anti-nanogene band and starts turning into a Dalek. Rory gets flirted with and The Doctor uses the naturally destructive drive of a Dalek to blow the crap out of a load more Daleks.
All of this cracking rushing around is punctuated by the sharp, flirtatious tongue of Oswin, and debutant Jenna Coleman certainly rises to this great material. Gillan and Darvill excel, bringing Amy’s usual fury and Rory’s seeming numptiness over, yet with an edge defined by their painful marriage breakup. They broke up, not because they hated each other, but because they hated to let each other down. After Series 6’s hysterics, this is how to show how people love each other; by showing how they act and letting the actors do their work, we don’t have to get beaten round the head with it.
Smith has it all; he flirts, he despairs, he sympathises, he despises. The Eleventh Doctor is flying, the action lets him cut loose with all of his physicality and their situations make him show off just how smart he is. With one twitch of his tie he figures out what’s wrong with the marriage, and with another he fixes it.
The twist, where we learn that Oswin has been turned into a Dalek, is not a huge surprise; it’s been signposted from the start that her situation is not what it seems (“Is no one else wondering about the milk?”), but it’s played out superbly, gives us our hook for the season and lets Oswin go out with a killer line and a look to the camera of pure molten sauce: “Run, you clever boy, and remember.” Oh boy, will we remember…
“Asylum Of The Daleks” is a spectacular return to form. The bad memories of Series 6 and the even worse memories of “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe” are swept away by a tide of demented Daleks and fantastic dialogue. Here’s a link so you can re-live the best lines: http://www.planetclaire.org/quotes/doctorwho/series-seven/asylum-of-the-daleks/.
A new companion debuts and dies in the space of an episode, our two current companions are reunited and recharged and Matt Smith takes command of Doctor Who all over again. Is there a word for total screaming genius that sounds modest and a tiny bit sexy? Doctor? Oswin? Smith? Jenna? Take your pick, there’s so much sexy genius on display here. The soufflés collapsed but this episode rises to a glorious 9/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes