After watching the returning episode of Doctor Who it feels as though Steven Moffat has reigned himself in on this one a little. Yes, there were plenty of little hints of things to come, such as the new companion appearing on the asylum planet and the symbolic image of the Doctor carrying Amy Pond out of the explosion. But the plot refrained from throwing massive, glaring clues of the who, how, where and when that finale will take place, which the last two premieres had. Unless we’re coming back to the asylum for the Season 7 finale.
While Asylum of the Daleks is quite possibly better than last season’s opener, The Impossible Astronaut, I still don’t think it’s as good as The Eleventh Hour. One could blame that on the fact that there was much more to be anticipated when the viewers were waiting to see what the new Doctor and the new companions would be like. But I actually blame the spoilers. Moffat should really take a leaf from River Song’s little blue book and keep a tighter lock on the spoilers. A lot of the anticipation and tension in the episode was drained by the fact that I already knew before that that Amy Pond and Rory Williams, played by Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill respectively, are leaving after the mid-season episode. You could suggest that I not the read the spoilers but it’s not as though this is some highly guarded secret available only on the dankest, darkest corners of the internet. It’s on Digital Spy. It’s in newspapers. People have been talking about it for months.
That is a part of the point. Release a lot of information and people will discuss and debate the finer details until they’re hyping themselves up for the episode. It’s a clever tactic but it also dampens the effect of other storytelling techniques, such as the use of tension. At no point in this episode did I ever believe that Amy or Rory were going to die. Which is really unfortunate because these are the Daleks. They are the Doctor’s nemesis. They are the Moriarty to his Sherlock. They are intended to be terrifying and absolutely life threatening. Mind you, most of the ones on the asylum were hibernating and only awakened in the presence of an intruder. Much like the Daleks found in the National Museum in the episode The Big Bang, they were not deemed a part of the superior race but at many times if felt as though it was all just a bit too easy. Tricking the Dalek in to self destructing and throwing the alien into reverse was funny and effective but I find it a little hard to believe that one lone Dalek could erase all memory of the the Doctor from the shared consciousness of the Daleks. What is even the point of having a Dalek parliament and prime minister if you’re going to give that much power to one Dalek?
Speaking of that one Dalek, it was actually a surprise to see the new companion so soon. She’s not called Clara as we all presumed but her name is actually Oswin. Although, Clara could still be her first name but more importantly we’ve met her and she’s actually quite witty. Witty in a way that Amy Pond just isn’t. They’re both very flirtatious and independent yet while Amy would have leapt at any opportunity for an adventure, and literally did in this episode, Oswin appears to be a lot more reserved and mistrustful. She wasn’t willing to believe that the Doctor would wait for her. Maybe he wouldn’t have. It’s quite likely that he already knew she was a Dalek given how many times he asked about the eggs. It was a nice switch around and explained how she was more technically capable than the Doctor. Interestingly, even she didn’t make a connection with how she’d magically become a genius when her previous occupation was that of a junior entertainment manager. I did like the conversation Rory had with a Dalek which ended up being a subtle nod towards Oswin’s real nature. Looking back on that scene, it’s notable that she only became aware of his whereabouts after he activated the other Dalek and she only spoke to him after the eggs conversation.
In fact, if you go back to that opening sequence with Oswin the scene where she tries to block out the sounds of Dalek’s forcing their way in becomes a whole lot more sinister. They’re trying to force their way into the mind. It’s her mental barriers that were collapsing night by night. That was the most terrifying part of the episode. It feels as though the corpses with eye stalks were intended to be a ghoulish version of the Daleks but they just looked stupid. They look as though someone attached a plunger to the Vashta Nerada. But hopefully we’ll never have to see them ever again.
The other storyline running through the opening episode is that Rory and Amy are getting divorced. Not on the Doctor’s watch! If only he were real and he could go around saving marriages and relationships. E4 could make a television show out of it and call it something corny like the ‘Love Doctor’. No? Well, ok then, but as expected, the Eleventh Doctor tricks them into revealing their feelings in an honest and frank discussion that probably could have waited until after they were on Earth. Instead, he lets Amy slowly turn into a Dalek so that Rory will do something sacrificial. Then it’s revealed that the Doctor already sorted it and didn’t need the anti-Dalek morphing device in the first place. A bit horrible of him not to do that sooner and I’m not sure why Amy didn’t just mention she had it when Rory offered his but I guess Moffat couldn’t think of any other way to resolve the conflict than to ignore the plot. At least it was sorted in this one episode and wasn’t dragged out over the entire season.
There were a few other discrepancies, such as Oswin being so wildly emotional and flirtatious despite being a Dalek. That might have some part in bringing her back if the Doctor can manage to restore her. Somehow. I certainly hope she won’t just be Flesh doppelganger or an android imitation. There was also no explanation for how she was playing that music. But I actually did enjoy this episode. It really was a fun episode and it was refreshing to watch an episode that was relatively self-contained. It may end up having over arching consequences and results but the return of the Daleks turned out to be rather entertaining even if they weren’t quite as menacing as I wanted them to be.