Series 7, Episode 1.
CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS
The Daleks are the Doctor’s greatest foe. They are very recognisable to British audiences, even by people who haven’t seen much of the show. They are a pop culture icon here in the UK. They are definitely a crowd pleaser, you could the equivalent of a band’s biggest hit that everyone expects to be played when they see them live in concert. So whenever a new series of Doctor Who starts, people expect the Daleks to turn up at some point, even if it’s only a
walk on slide on cameo. But that has caused a bit of a problem. The Daleks have become somewhat overused. Some episodes featuring them have come off as an obligatory Dalek episode because people expect there to be one.
I think the decision taken last series to ‘rest’ the Daleks for a little while was a good one, as I was actually looking forward to seeing their return in the opening episode of the new series Asylum of the Daleks. I’d go further to say that’s what I think about the whole series. It has had a longer break than usual, this being the first episode broadcast since last year’s Christmas special. This episode kicked the new series off with a bang and made me realise just how much I missed seeing Doctor Who on television. I think this is probably the best Dalek episode of the entire revived series, certainly up there with past action-packed series finales such as Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways and Army of Ghosts/Doomsday.
We get to see their home planet Skaro and a whole parliament of Daleks. The main plot though takes place in the Dalek asylum, with cracked, rusted broken down Daleks roaming around. They are essentially zombie Daleks. We also get to see charred remains of exploded Daleks after the Doctor reverses a self-destructing one back into a group of other Daleks. The Daleks are dangerous even when they are not fully functioning.
But the main surprise about this episode wasn’t that the Daleks were coming back. Indeed, it was heavily publicised. What they did manage to keep a secret was that Jenna Louise Coleman, who is to play the next full time companion of the Doctor, appeared in this episode. The character will probably appear in a different form or other to what we see of her here. But as for how she is in this episode, she is AMAZING. She’s fun, witty, smart, very likeable, and already looks set to be a great companion. She works well with Matt Smith’s Doctor, and Rory too. In a way it’s a pity that there’s little chance of her appearing alongside Rory again. Here she was known as Oswin Oswald, or “Souffle Girl”, but the name of the companion has been said to be Clara Oswin. They may not be the same person, but there is clearly some connection, but what will it be?
What really got me in this episode though was when we learn the fate of Oswin. When the Doctor found her he realised that she had been converted fully into a Dalek and didn’t even know it. The scene was heartbreaking, partly because over the episode we had got to know and really, really like Oswin. But the way it was told made it all the better. The show has done this sort of body horror thing before, where a human has been converted into a literal killing machine and upon realising that they are unable to deal with it. But it was done so much better here. In Rise of the Cybermen/The Age Of Steel for example we had converted Cybermen, including a woman who was about to get married that day, but in that instance we as an audience could only feel pity for them. Here, we were able to empathise with Oswin, as we found out about it at the same time as she did. They then showed flashbacks to her being converted, which were very scary. They bought forward what a terrifying thought it is. It’s certainly a billion times better a way of doing a ”human Dalek” story than Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.
It’s fair to say that even if Jenna Louise Coleman had only appeared in this episode she would have made an impact on Doctor Who fans. I definitely welcome her joining the show full time.
Other highlights in this episode were that it was peppered with funny lines. My favourite was Rory’s comment that the Doctor’s escape plan was the kind where you only survived 4 seconds longer. There was a good creepy dream sequence scene where a nearly brainwashed Amy sees the Daleks as people in formal evening wear and a ballerina. There was a bit where a crew member introduces the Doctor and Amy to the rest of his crew, only for them to find the crew are all dead. This reminded me of the episode of Red Dwarf where they first meet Kryten, which is one reason I liked it, but it also provided one of those unsettling moments Doctor Who does so well, with the Dalek eyestalks coming out of the rotting corpses.
We also got a tearjerker where we find out that the reason Amy and Rory split up was because since giving birth to Melody/River for some reason Amy is infertile, so because she knew how much Rory wanted to have kids she “let him go” so he’d be able to have them with another woman. While this scene was effective… OK, this is one of those moments in a fantasy/sci-fi series where you can buy all the fantastical elements, but you have a problem with how they handle an everyday situation. If the only problem in the relationship was that Amy is now unable to have children biologically, why didn’t they consider adoption? They have other options other than ending the marriage altogether.
The other nitpick I have with this episode was the ending where the Daleks were all saying “Doctor Who?”. This is probably going to be the series-long arc like Bad Wolf, Harold Saxon, missing planets, the crack in time and the Impossible Astronaut. I have no problem at all with series long arcs, but sometimes, like in this episode, they can overdo the signposting a little.
But overall, best Dalek episode since the revival, fantastic introduction to Jenna Louise Coleman in the show and a great start to the new series.