If I was a betting man I think tonight is the night where a lot of families will be gathered around the TV watching Doctor Who as the BBC’s flagship sci-fi show returns for another series. This time around the fourteen episode series has been split up with this run consisting of five episodes. We’ll then we treated to the usual festive special in December and more Who in the early part of 2013. I’m hoping this has given writer and current man-in-charge Steven Moffat more time to come up with new ideas for episodes, though one suspects he may’ve been working on some upcoming Sherlock at the same time. For starters we’ve got an old favourite as The Doctor takes on The Daleks. Yes those wheeling contraptions with the sticky-out eyeholes have become a staple of the series over the years and though they have changed in form during Doctor Who’s history they remain the reason that many fans of the show watch the show from behind their sofa.
Personally I’m a fan of Matt Smith’s Doctor, more so than David Tennant’s which I know will be seen as a controversial decision, as I find he treads the right line between quirky and serious. Here The Doctor has been pulled out of retirement, after he faked his death at the end of the last series, to journey to The Daleks’ home planet of Skaro though instead of wanting him dead they need his help to fight the more rowdy of their breed that they had chained up in an asylum. As The Doctor needs companions Amy and Rory are also somehow teleported to the planet before the trio are dumped into a snowy wasteland and have to fend for themselves. Asylum of The Daleks differs from other episodes featuring the tin contraptions as there is a mind cloud that is turning humans into Daleks and wouldn’t you just now that Amy Pond is the person who is quickly being transformed out of her body with The Doctor constantly trying to get her to feel emotion in order for her to stay in her current form. This is tricky as at the same time he is having to swerve past many Daleks that he has fought in the past but luckily he has help from Oswin the entertainment officer on The Alaska Ship that crashed a year ago. Oswin is also aiding Rory who has been split up from the other pair and has to contend with a number of Daleks on his own though as always he does everything in the best way that he can.
It seems though that we have to make the most of Rory while we still have him as he and Amy will be departing from the series after episode five. It’s not a brilliant start for the pair as in their opening scene together we see that they have separated with Amy now inexplicably working as a model while Rory seems to have let himself go a little bit. Being reunited with The Doctor means that they have to sort out their differences especially when Amy learns that she must not let her anger replace her love or she’d be permanently transformed into a Dalek. Thankfully they talk through their issues namely that Amy can’t give birth and she knows that Rory’s always wanted kids but after this conversation they decide to reconcile which makes me think that instead of marriage counselling a lot of warring couples would be better off facing certain death on a distant planet.
Watching Asylum of the Daleks I did get some brief moments where I thought ‘haven’t I been here before’ with Amy wanting to kick-ass before having to cope with the fact that she may transform into another beasty while everyman Rory has to fend for himself it just felt a little tired. Thankfully that sense didn’t last for long mainly due to the design of The Daleks’ dystopian home planet which had an incredibly eerie feel to it and I was fully sucked in by the episode after the scene in which The Doctor is bought before The Dalek parliament. The asylum itself is also created in a sort of neo-realistic style with plenty of windy corridors and small rooms that you wouldn’t want to be trapped in with a very angry over-sized pepper-pot. Moffat’s surrealist style is best exemplified by a scene in-which Amy is in a trance and views a bunch of Daleks as a group of people dancing and waving while a young ballerina prances round in front of her. This seemed like an odd scene to insert but one that I quite enjoyed. As with last series the three lead actors did all they could to make the scenes as convincing as they could with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill displaying their winning chemistry once again as Amy and Rory Gillan and Darvill do such a good job here that it makes me wonder what Matt Smith’s Doctor will do without his married companions when they leave the Tardis for good.
Despite having some repetitive moments I rather enjoyed Asylum of The Daleks and thought it provided good Saturday night sci-fi entertainment with some well-produced set pieces and reliable central performances. Several scenes including The Ponds reconciliation, The Doctor in front of The Daleks and the revelation about Oswin all stuck with me after I’d finished the episode which I feel is the mark of a good programme. My one concern is that younger kids may find this one a bit too scary what with over-sized Daleks as well as a fairly horrific scene involving the revelation of what happened to the crew of The Alaska I would steer the youngsters away from this if they’re easily scared. Having said that I feel that kids today are more desensitised to scarier scenes than they were back in my day and in fact it may well be the parents hiding behind the sofas once the number of Daleks on screen start to multiply.
Contributed by Matt Donnelly Follow Matt on Twitter