Before I start this episode review, I just wanted to let people be aware that it contains massive spoilers about the fates of Rory and Amy, so please be warned. Also because of the dense and in-depth nature of this week’s plot line, I have broken it down to its bare essentials. Enjoy.
Rory and Amy find themselves in a bit of an impasse. They don’t know whether they should carry on traveling with The Doctor or just knock it on the head and get on with their average lives on Earth. Suddenly the world is covered with small black boxes, which have appeared out of nowhere and appear to be safe. Months pass with the boxes just becoming a part of everyday life until after a year has passed since they arrived, they start to become active. The Doctor, who has been keeping tabs on them since they landed, is being helped by the newly reformed UNIT lead by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewarts daughter Kate Stewart, which is now more a scientific group with military power behind it.
We join The Doctor, Amy and Rory in the Wild West (they missed their intended target, the Day of the Dead festival by a sizable margin). Turns out that the town they have entered is stuck in a force field that will let no food or weapons in but will let people cross over. The reason for this is because on the horizon there is a teleporting cyborg called The Gunslinger that is out for revenge against the Doctor. No, not our Doctor, but a Doctor called Kahler Jex, who seems like a nice guy. He supplies the town with medical supplies and electricity by using his advanced alien ways and the power from his crashed spaceship.
The Doctor returns and straight away he is in a spot of bother. Following a distress call from Skaro he is set up and kidnapped by the Daleks as well as Rory and Amy who are now having severe relationship woes. In fact they were just about to get divorced! They are summoned to the parliament of the Daleks which they expect to be the end of their lives. Instead the Daleks say two words. Save us.
The Daleks have a problem. They have a planet; a planet that’s a prison full of insane and imperfect Daleks. The Daleks find it offensive to actually kill any form of hatred (which these Daleks have in spades) so they leave them on this planet. The planet however also has a problem (it’s not a good day to be a Dalek hey?); a ship has crashed landed there and there is now a small hole in the force field which means Daleks can now get out. The force field can only be turned off from the inside!
Another problem is that the Daleks are to bloody scared to send anyone to sort it! They have no trouble sending the doctor and co down there mind which they do by shooting them at the planet! So, their mission is two fold. They need to survive long enough to turn off the force field letting the Daleks blow up the planet and they need to rescue the trapped and quite brilliant Oswin who is stuck on the planet too (hers being one of the ships that crashed landed there). To make matters worse there is a nano bots in the air that turns anyone who encounters it into a Dalek hybrid, which sucks for Amy as she loses the wristband she was given to keep the nanobots out. Will Amy turn Dalek, will they rescue Oswin and will they manage to escape the planet of Daleks before the Daleks blow it up?!
Right from the start this episode grabs you and does not let go. The Doctor is made to look a dark and brooding character mostly seen in shadow on the walls. This Doctor is all business but bitter, a man who does not want to be the adventurer he once was. This adds an amazing amount of tension to this first opening scene. This follows through most of the episode with the Doctor near the end becoming more like the Doctor we know from series past. So a lot of this episode involves the Doctor finding the joy of actually been the Doctor again. It’s also about rekindling relationships with Rory and Amy needing a disaster like this to get them to open up about their feelings and actually tell one another they love each other. This first episode is also a historic one been the first episode shown in the UK, Canada and the U.S. at the same time!
The last series lost some of its magic near the end. The Doctor got very moody and the fun seemed to go from it. The series lost its way with a mix of topsy-turvy time travel stories, romantic sub plots and a general lack of fun! Writer Stephen Moffet is still finding his feet with the doctor I think. Some episodes were spot on, some not so much. For this episode he has streamlined it down to the basics. Daleks the old favorite are the bad guys, Doctor and co run about trying to stop a disaster. And it works. Basic approach really gets you gripped into the story again.
An episode called the Asylum of the Daleks is always going to conjure up scenes of grandeur. This is a more low key affair. Aside from the numerous Daleks at the start from all different time frames there are only a handful of Daleks at a time. In fact this episode plays a little like a zombie flick, enclosed spaces, Daleks popping out around corridors, etc. Again this thinned back approach works so much better than the special effects heavy last series.
There are some incredible scenes here to (SPOLIER ALERT). Rory getting trapped in a hall full of insane sleeping Daleks who wake up very slowly (very much like a scene from The Birds), the doctor and may finding a crew member who does not know he is a Dalek, zombie Daleks, an amazing scene in intensive care with Daleks surrounding the Doctor and a great end scene which is very much like Jacobsladder. The shock to this episode is the reveal of Oswind been an actual Dalek with a human mind who still thinks she’s human and one of her final acts being to wipe the Daleks memories of any knowledge of the Doctor.
This reveal caught me off guard but the signs are all there if you look for them! It’s actually a touching scene which tugs at your heart strings quite a lot. Jenna-Louise Coleman is a very engaging character in this episode, very witty and funny as well as been very smart. This is her first appearance but she will return in the Christmas special. Her sacrifice leads to the final scene with the Daleks completely confused about who is on their ship shouting “Doctor Who” while they make there get away! It’s a great little ending to a nicely laid out episode.
Sure there are some ropy bits especially Rory and Amy talking about the nanobots sucking out love (don’t ask!); the big hole in the plot of why build a planet you can only get access to from the inside and then dump Daleks on it if you are going to blow it up in the end anyway! But overall these are minor problems. The main thing is it’s a lot of fun which the last series lacked. Overall a great start to the new series and I cannot wait for episode two. Here’s a sneak peek of it.