Doctor Who 7.01 "Asylum of the Daleks"

A tv review article by: Steve Morris

And so we return to Dr Who for five more episodes, and so we also return to a world where people start articles with the words "and so". Previously… the world thought the Doctor was dead, after he was shot by a girl in an astronaut suit. But he was actually living inside his own robot, so he survived, and then he went into space and hung out with Bill Bailey and saw a woman made of stars. He had a delicious Christmas dinner, and started to enjoy his newfound anonymity.

Now you’re caught up, let’s move onto "Asylum of the Daleks", the Steven Moffat-written return for the series. The premise for this was absolutely delicious, promising us that we’d get to see a whole new side of the Daleks than before: the absolutely crazy ones who were so scary they had to be locked up. We also got to see what may have been a new sidekick in the form of Jenna-Louise Coleman. And to top things off, Amy and Rory returned for the adventure. Spoilers from now on, guys.

Which is why, shock, it was such a shame that the episode was a let-down. The premise was so inviting that it was always going to be tough for Moffat to make it work. And indeed he struggled madly, never giving us a real reason to be scared of these new, insane Daleks. The Daleks have always been so insane, and their voices so maniacal, that the ones seen in this episode simply couldn’t match them. There was nothing to add to the previous craziness, which deflated any sense of terror we were meant to feel. Putting chains and a hospital setting around some dusty, malfunctioning robots does not make them scarier. It makes them more faintly ridiculous and impossible, and it didn’t feel earned that they elicited fear from the Doctor and his companions.

The directing wasn’t quite sharp enough to get past the slightly flat writing of the Daleks, either, with a confined set which didn’t offer any surprises or tone in and of itself. Instead of a creepy setting like the hotel from last season, this seemed very simplistic and basic. If it looks like Rory is wandering around a small metal corridor, no amount of writing will make viewers think that he’s in a vast, planet-wide asylum complex. The episode couldn’t convey scares in the writing, directing, or set direction.

In good news, Matt Smith continues to portray a fraying Doctor with ease, and Coleman made for a light, breezy alternative to the aging (in the show!) Amy Pond. Amy seemed gruffer than usual, perhaps in order to differentiate her from the new, brighter female character. Whilst the final twist which revealed that the Doctor was too late and Coleman had already been assimilated into Dalek-hood was… perhaps a little obvious, Coleman still played it with so much warmth that it was hard to bear watching. This was a cruel twist which finally gave some meaning to an episode which otherwise was light on story and thinning-out in terms of dialogue.

Moffat had less to offer the cast, meaning Rory continues to get short shrift and Amy had less fun things to do. The series is now starting to feel a little creak in the bones, which appears to be deliberate from Moffat as his cast prepares for a switchover, but still doesn’t help the momentum. While there were some nice moments in this episode – mostly from Coleman – the rest of the episode was narrow, confined, and not scary enough. Hopefully things will pick up, but "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" seems like a *crazy concept* episode which may not offer anything beyond the title.

But hey, David Bradley! So at least that’ll be fun.

Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.

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