sat 13/07/2024

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks, BBC One

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks, BBC One

Steven Moffat's promised 'weekly blockbusters' get off to a dramatic start that is anything but obvious

'Doctor Who': Daleks spell danger for the Doctor, Rory and Amy

As everybody but the most casual of viewers knows, the titular character in a certain long-running BBC sci-fi series is not “Doctor Who” but merely “The Doctor”. Yet Steven Moffat - showrunner and second most talented writer to come out of Paisley - seems to be having a bit of a love affair with those two words.

As the credits roll on Asylum of the Daleks it’s those two words that echo from, well, whatever every Dalek uses to speak; their kind having forgotten the man they called their Predator thanks to a well-timed piece of computer hackery the likes of Julian Assange would kill for.

As an ending, it echoes where we last - Christmas special notwithstanding - saw the Doctor (Matt Smith, pictured below right): presumed dead, the words of Dorium ringing in his ears: silence must fall when the question is asked. The unfortunate Dorium, now little more than a blue head in a box in some forgotten storage facility, called “Doctor who?” at the hooded, retreating figure, which makes one wonder...

Well, nothing. Moffat has claimed that this year - or part-year - leading up to what we have been promised will feature the heartbreaking departure of companions the Ponds (played by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill) will be a series of “blockbusters”: no tangled story arcs, no tales dragged too thin over dreary two-parters. And yet this idea of the power of memory, carried over from last season, seemed to crop up at several strategic points over the course of this first episode - a classic case of Moffat misdirection? Or me reading too much into it?

As a stand-alone mini-movie, Asylum of the Daleks got off to a great start. We had epic visuals - whether it was the interior of the Dalek Parliament populated with what the producers have claimed to be every Dalek in existence, or just Gillan fresh off the plane from 1960s New York furthering her modelling career with the aid of a hairdryer-as-wind-machine. We had the central love story, narrow escapes and at its heart a trite little easy-to-tie-up story of a damsel in distress needing rescued. And what a damsel - Oswin is, or so she claims, whatever is the word for “total screaming genius that sounds modest and a tiny bit sexy”. Jenna Louise Coleman played her smart and funny, and ...

Yes. That Jenna Louise Coleman. The same one who, we were told, will show up in the Christmas special as the Doctor’s new companion; a character who, depending on which reports you read, may or may not be named “Clara Oswin”.

And, just like that, Doctor Who reminds us that no stories in this universe are obvious. If you too were still reeling from the discovery that, somewhere between the domestic bliss of those “Pond Life” skits that have been airing on the Doctor Who website in the run-up to the series premiere and now, Rory had decided to serve the girl he waited 2,000 years alongside the Pandorica for in full costume-shop Roman centurion garb with divorce papers, the unannounced appearance of the actress set to play the next companion probably blew your mind.

Of course this being Doctor Who, there were plenty of moments of pure cheese to sob along to between the action sequences - once you came to terms with the slightly ridiculous idea that the Amy Pond Peril of the Week this episode involved the character being "rewritten", molecule by molecule, by tiny robots who would “subtract love and add anger”, the character’s apparent jeopardy leads to some beautifully acted moments between Gillan and Darvill (pictured above with Dalek). After insisting to her “raggedy Doctor” that a broken marriage isn’t “one of those things you can fix like you fix your bowtie”, it turned out that it kind of is, in the universe of Doctor Who. Typically, Darvill also got some fantastic comic moments - his confusion, for example, between “eggs” and “exterminate”; although it was a joke that rang tragically later on.

In the end it was too much to expect that, even this soon into a new run, everybody would have a happy ending - leaving the viewer with unanswered questions. Certainly, how and where Coleman will reappear in the show is a hot topic already. Could she cross paths with the Doctor at an earlier point in time? Is the new companion a descendent of Oswin? Will we instead be subjected to some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey storyline involving a character being brought back to life using the power of memory? Is this forum the best place to speculate? Probably not.

Next week: dinosaurs. On a SPACESHIP. You’d be mad not to, surely.

Watch the series trailer below and prepare to get excited


Congratulations on the excellent season opener. There are now many expectaions for the other four episodes. If Stephen Moffat is the 'second most talented writer to come out of Paisley', is Ian Rankin the first? Or does Ian Rankin not come from Paisley?

I'm hoping the most-talented Paisley writer is John Byrne :)

I'm from Paisley, boys, that was pure facetiousness. John Byrne is an excellent shout ;)

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