Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Nick Hurran
Opening episodes don’t come much barmier and bonkers than the 2012 return of Skaro’s finest in the first story of Series 7. Asylum of the Daleks may well feature every kind of Dalek ever, along with some you’ve possibly never seen before, but if you think this is some simple “spot the pepper~pot game” for forty five minutes then you’re way off the mark. ++RE~CA~LI~BRATE!++
Steven Moffat’s debut Dalek tale [what about The Curse of Fatal Death? – Ed.] finds The Doctor, Amy and Rory reunited at some unspecified point in the future from last year’s Christmas special in the most unexpected of fashions. The Daleks need Team TARDIS to visit their asylum and take care of much~needed housekeeping. Despite their protestations, our triumphant trio of time travellers find themselves surrounded by a menagerie of the hateful Skarosians who didn’t quite make the grade… ++RE~JECTS!++
And all this happens in a blisteringly fast~paced opening (perhaps a little too chaotic for my own liking but exhilarating nonetheless). The meat of the story is the relationship between The Doctor, Amy and Rory (with new facets to explore and shocks to digest); but there’s also the race in time to save The Ponds becoming further infected by a most unpleasant affliction. And there’s also a Dalek bump~inducing mystery to be solved at the heart of the asylum… ++IN~VES~TI~GATE!++
The cast are on top form, particularly Arthur Darvill who gets a real chance to shine with his trademark Rory humour coupled with a soupçon of sheer tragedy thrown in for good measure. The guest cast are also terrifically memorable, impressing greatly (the preview screening did not include end credits so I can’t give props to them as I don’t have their names). ++IN~TER~EST~ING!++
Nick Hurran, who did such an amazing job on The Girl Who Waited and Night Terrors, reaffirms his role as one of Doctor Who‘s truly great directors, flipping from the mundanity of earth life to the dank deep Dalek dungeons with ease and style. Real fear is injected once more into the sink plungers, becoming a new kind of entity; unnerving for us adults but I imagine pretty terrifying for the younger audience. ++GRAB~A~PILLOW!++ [That’s enough, thank you – Ed.]
For those paying attention, there are some familiar Steven Moffat tropes raising their collective thematic heads, such as characters communicating extensively through screens (and the use of screens themselves) along with the notion of virtual life and death. SteeMo packs a Pandorica full of gags in there but uses the love of the threesome to tell the story and drive the drama. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of classic Russell T Davies where monsters and catastrophic events were merely the backdrop to an even better and more engaging tale.
Asylum of the Daleks is a cracking series~opener but it’s also a top~notch story that works incredibly well as a stand~alone episode for new viewers (not that anyone reading this will be). Dalek fans will be fascinated to see just how it furthers their myth and adds to their lore, whilst some may be disappointed at the lack of “every Dalek ever” action (not me though, it has to be said). Whether or not Asylum has reverberations for the future is yet to be seen and wonders if a return for the Daleks will be sooner, rather than later. On this form, I’d be more than happy to see them again in the near future.
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