Doctor Who Recap: Asylum of the Daleks

Doctor Who S07/E01 — Got Milk?

Doctor Who Season 7 got off to an explosive start with “Asylum of the Daleks”. As showrunner Steven Moffat had tweeted earlier on in the day, the premiere episode was a case of: “Doctor!! Daleks!! Divorce!! Soufflé Surprise!!”

First, viewers with long memories were required to suspend their disbelief as the irrepressible Daleks had survived annihilation yet again. This time they wanted to ask the Doctor (Matt Smith) a big favour. Could he go down to their secret prison planet and blow it up? Please?

Of course, these were not your dad’s Daleks. These ones were bigger and more eloquent, and they even had their own parliament complete with a non-armoured Borg Queen Dalek President in a perspex case. They also had some next-gen leather-clad skin jobs who didn’t know they were Cylons Daleks until something (a sighting of the Doctor, for example) triggered their latent programming.

And, in a continuation of the Russell T. Davies reboot, stairs and ladders hold no fears for these super-villains, even though some of them were clearly older models of the type that had me diving behind the sofa in the ’70s. I loved the way their signature threat began haltingly at first: “Eggs …”, “Eggs-stir …” and so on until it became the full-on Dalek war cry of “Exterminate!” (Top marks to Moffat for the “eggs-stir”–souffle concoction.)

So, Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) were on the brink of divorce and she seemed to have a burgeoning modelling career. We didn’t really get much in the way of explanation of why they were on the brink of divorce until Amy revealed that she’s incapable of having children and so had nobly decided to sacrifice her marriage and set Rory free to meet someone else and procreate.

To be honest, that scene felt a little clunky to me. Yes, it was a surprise to see that maybe Amy does actually love her husband rather than just enjoy pushing him around, but of course perennial doormat Rory is going to take her back. I mean, come on… Much as I love Rory (and the vastly underrated Darvill), he’s been punching above his weight for years. There’s no way he’d let Amy get away.

I’m perfectly willing to concede that I may have missed something in the morass of intricate storylines and plot devices in the last season, so Amy’s barrenness may already have been explained away as a consequence of giving birth to River Song (Alex Kingston). But although it felt out of place and awkward, at least she didn’t pull a Martha Jones and declare that she was dumping Rory in favour of trying to get some hot Time Lord action instead.

There were special effects galore and only a wisp of Cardiff in this episode, which also managed to cram in an Empire Strikes Back homage in the Imperial probe/Dalek eye peeking up through the snow. No Tauntauns, though there were some scary renanimated skeletons/zombie Daleks hiding in a crashed ship.

Attentive viewers will have noticed that Jenna-Louise Coleman, the actress playing the next companion was unexpectedly front and centre in this episode. While it’s not unknown for actors to pop up in Doctor Who in more than one role (hello, Eve Myles), it is unusual for a highly publicised addition to the cast to feature so prominently and so unheralded. (The famously spoiler-averse Moffat later thanked the advance screening audience for keeping schtum.)

Coleman was great, and I’m looking forward to seeing her join the series later on in the year.

Lots of critics have offered their theories as to why she was there and what’s her connection to the Doctor. Here’s my tuppence ha’penny-worth: Oswin the souffle-making Dalek-in-denial is the descendant of the next companion, Clara, who is played by the same actress (again: hello, Eve Myles). And the S&M skin job at the beginning was Oswin’s mother, which is why she was able to call the Doctor for help, and why he answered the call.

As for Oswin not knowing she was a Dalek, that’s a device Moffat used before to great effect in the “Forest of the Dead” episodes in Season 4. Remember Charlotte/CAL and Doctor Moon?

So, what’s next for the Doctor? Next week we get Dinosaurs! On a spaceship! Plus a fantastic guest roster boasting the likes of Rupert Graves and Mark Williams. I can’t wait.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw


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