‘Doctor Who’: ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ spoiler-free review

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‘Spoilers’ is a word so intrinsically linked with Doctor Who that it has become a common catchphrase with fans wishing to avoid news of upcoming episodes, as well as River Song’s refrain. However, we’ll endeavour to provide a review of the Series 7 opener – which we were fortunate enough to see at the BFI in London last night – that is spoiler-free (beyond anything officially announced by the BBC). We also can’t recommend highly enough that you avoid any of the spoilers which will inevitably appear on forums over the next few weeks.

As an episode, Asylum of the Daleks is as bold an opener as The Eleventh Hour or The Leisure Hive. That is not to say it’s all change – this is still the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory facing down the Daleks – but the production team’s intention to provide big, movie-style ideas for each story this year comes through loud and clear.

After the dense plotting of the last two series, this standalone approach enhances the new beginning. Of course, a story with an army of past Dalek models must have references to the series’ past. This one is certainly full of spectacle, set pieces and salutes to the history of the Daleks, but the narrative hangs together well on its own merits.

Matt Smith continues to be an excellent Doctor, which should not be surprising to anyone by now. He is once again able to exercise his talents for comedy and emotive drama – as well as getting to sink his teeth into a side we’ve never seen of his character before. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are equally impressive, demonstrating why Steven Moffat now refers to Amy and Rory as ‘veterans.’

The Doctor’s condition of being ‘dead’, Amy’s modelling career and Rory’s indefatigable loyalty are all addressed but, crucially, are developed beyond what we already know of them. The relationship between the characters – both at the beginning of the episode and through it to the conclusion – is a believable extension from Series 6. Not only this, but the ‘Coming Soon’ trailer at the end of the episode reveals we can expect further developments in the trio’s dynamic.

In line with the ‘blockbuster’ edict, the ever epic house style of Doctor Who has been kicked up a notch. In particular, much of the direction paid homage to a currently popular film style. This is not a criticism, however; this apt choice really bolsters the atmosphere of these scenes. The main settings each feature a very distinct aesthetic.

In spite of this new B-I-G approach, the narrative is not weakened by the slight change of tone. The story supports the spectacle, and so the spectacle supports the story. The lead up to the trailed “Who killed all the Daleks?” moment is a great example of this: arguably melodramatic in isolation, this moment makes perfect sense within the episode.

Asylum of the Daleks is a promising start to the new series and a confident restatement of the series’ direction in the wake of the events of The Wedding of River Song. Whilst intricate arcs may not be a concern this year, the ‘Coming Soon’ trailer certainly confirmed that the we’re going to be getting plenty of bang for our buck.

Airs at 7.20pm on Saturday 1st September 2012 on BBC One.

> Order Series 7 Part 1 on DVD on Amazon.

Watch the Series 7 trailer…

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