Title: Asylum of the Daleks (Season 7 Episode 1)
Original Airdate: September 1, 2012
Synopsis: The Doctor, along with Amy and Rory, receives an SOS from a friend that her daughter is trapped in a Dalek asylum on the planet Skaro—the Daleks’ home planet—and decides to investigate, only to get trapped in the labyrinthine asylum and have to find a way out before a sinister Dalek virus takes hold.
Review: The series (season to us in the USA, but since it’s a British show I’ll just use their jargon) 7 premiere of Doctor Who was quite a big one, but not in the way we’ve been spoiled in seeing since Steven Moffat took over as show-runner and Matt Smith took over as the Eleventh Doctor; this opening was much different.
As usual, it was scripted by Moffat which generally means that it will be nothing short of extraordinary—see Moffat’s last four years in the film and television industry. This time around however, it did not set up a series-wide story arch, give us any cliff hangers, or introduce any new recurring characters—or so the episode has led us to believe.
**Warning: Spoilers Follow**
The episode opens with the voice-over (isn’t it just so nice to have Doctor Who back after over a year of waiting!): “First there were the Daleks. And then there was a man who fought them. And then in time he died. There are a few, of course, who believe this man somehow survived and that one day he will return. For both our sakes, dearest Hannah, we must hope these stories are true.” After which the Doctor immediately gets a message from an old friend, Darla, whose daughter—the above Hannah—is trapped on planet Skaro in a Dalek Asylum. Cue Eleven’s charming pessimism of the situation, then cut to half way around the Galaxy to have a look at every Whovian’s favorite couple: the Ponds. Unfortunately, since the events in series 6, all has not been well for the Ponds:
Rory walks onto a fashion shoot where Amy is modeling—the career which was referenced in the series 6 episode “Closing Time”—and the proceeding exchange follows:
Rory: You have to sign these.
Amy: And then we’re not married?
Rory: Just like magic.
Amy: Can’t chat. Working.
Rory: Really? I thought you were just pouting at a camera.
It seems the love that lasted two thousand years has finally hit it’s rough patch: not surprising considering throughout the introduction of the couple, Amy has been secretly lusting after—or perhaps even in love with—the Doctor, and Rory has been insecure with the romantic triangle that none of them want to be involved in. It seemed that through the latter half of series 6, this triangle had dissipated, and it had, but so had the Ponds’ marriage. And then, just like that…they’re whisked away to Skaro, where the two are met by the Doctor, and the trio must yet again get themselves out of another debacle.
The message that sent the Doctor there was a trap, as the girl he was meant to save was merely a Dalek in disguise. And then a great discovery: the Daleks have a virus that can slowly change humans into Daleks!!! Not to worry, the Doctor is always prepared, and has special wrist bands to keep this from happening, only Amy loses hers, and the virus takes hold. Now the trio has not only the escape from Skaro to worry about, but if they don’t escape fast enough, Amy will become a Dalek (sounds a lot like the Weeping Angel plot from series 5, hmm…).
Throughout the episode there is a mystery girl who calls herself Oswin and who is holding out in a fort, but can see all of the Doctor’s actions. She is snarky, attractive, intelligent, and witty. Basically, she’s all the things the Doctor looks for in a companion. So in exchange for helping him and his friends escape, Oswin asks the Doctor to come save her, which he attempts to, until it is revealed she is a Dalek. What is interesting about this is that Oswin is played by an actress named Jenna-Louise Coleman, who just so happens to be confirmed to be played the next companion after the departure of Amy and Rory later this season.
To sum it up: the trio escape, leaving behind Dalek Oswin, and Amy and Rory end up back together—Amy had filed for divorce and left Rory because all of the time travel they’d been doing had made her barren, and she didn’t think Rory would love her anymore if he found out (c’mon the man waited outside of a giant prison box for you for two thousand years, Amy, you think the fact that you can’t have kids is gonna make him leave now?!). There were interesting plot points, such as the Doctor sacrificing his anti-virus wristband to save Amy, and there was the return of the Daleks, obviously. As series openers go, it was the weakest of the Moffat/Eleven run, however it also is the first one that can stand alone and did not set up a series-long story arch. Instead this episode took a classic villain and introduced the new series in a classic style, but left that lingering mystery of what the rest of this series will contain that only Steven Moffat knows how to do.