Thus ends The Wedding of River Song and Season 6 of Doctor Who. As our beloved programs starts on its 8 month rest before returning for Season 7 (didn't that just feel like an eternity, even to those who weathered the "Wilderness Years"?)So many questions! So much we had to debate and discuss in the long 8 months which were to follow. The Doctor had admitted to Dorium he had "got too big, too noisy" and that it was "time to step back into the shadows" Indeed, a large number of dedicated fans had voiced that a return to more subtle story telling may be a good idea. My view is that the big season finishes, with the universe saved from disaster, were becoming an all to often occurrence. So what was this new shadowy Doctor going to be like? What of the Ponds? Strains were starting to show in their relationship during Closing Time, with Amy's modelling career taking off and Rory following like a dutiful puppy dog.
As usual with Moffat, the build up to last Saturday's Season 7 first episode was a multi media affair. Moffat is a master at ramping up the excitement and, with Twitter, the media and the BBC website at his disposal he certainly proved this to be the case. We have had leaks, unofficial and official, photos, artwork and those all important Pre Series start trailers. That's even before we got to Pond Life which dovetailed perfectly into Asylum of the Daleks. The trouble with hype is, the more it's utilised, the harder it is for a writer to deliver a story that satisfies and lives up to expectation. Moffat is writing his first ever Dalek story and its the season opener! So, did it live up to expectation? Well....
Oh yes, Moffat delivered a masterful story which featured suspense, real chills and a Doctor that is, in my view the darkest we have ever seen him.
My review will focus on character development but will also feature elements of the plot. So if you haven't seen Asylum of the Daleks please stop reading now!
Having captured The Doctor, The Daleks turn their attention to ensnaring the Ponds and all is not well here either. We have long since expected a break up for Rory and Amy, something that we witnessed first hand during the final episode of Pond Life. Amy seems to have transformed into a heartless, career driven lady. Rory, a bitter, sarcastic jilted man. Nice to see he has grown a backbone though. "I thought you were just standing in front of a camera and pouting" he retorts to Amy when she rushes back to work.
We are mere minutes into the first episode and it is already clear that this Season will be VERY different from what has gone before. Matt's Doctor is brooding, angry and at times full of hate. The Ponds are fragmented, isolated and shadows of their former selves. Yes, there are bursts of humour, very funny moments to be honest. The moment when The Doctor turns to Rory and says "Don't be fair to the Daleks when they are shooting me at a planet" was a standout scene for me. The plot itself is dark as we learn that there is a place where all the insane, battle scarred Daleks are stored, fully armed I might add. This is a place where even Daleks fear to glide. They dispatch the "Predator of the Daleks" (fantastic title) to do their dirty work. Normally you'd expect The Doctors curiosity to take over and he would jump at the chance of this sort of adventure. Not the case! the only reason he agrees to help is the threat of insane Daleks running amok in the Cosmos. Such a different Doctor, weary, resenting manipulation by others and very angry.
As for the Ponds, we learn the truth of their break up and what is at its heartbreaking centre. We can only assume that Madam Kovarian is responsible for Amy's inability to bear children. Here we have classic Moffat manipulation. She didn't give Rory up she "set him free", no dry eyes during this episode! Needless to say, the adventure rekindles their affection and the divorce does not materialise.
Perhaps the most surprising element to Asylum is the introduction of Jenna Louise-Coleman's character. Something we were not expecting so early. Her feisty portrayal of Oswin was brilliant and an excellent accompaniment to Matt's manic, fast talking Doctor. At this stage we do not know how she will return to be The Doctors companion but it will be tremendous fun finding out!
So, as Asylum concludes with The Doctor dancing around the TARDIS, forgotten by the Daleks, repeating "DOCTOR WHO?, DOCTOR WHO?" what do we conclude? The Daleks have regained their ability to scare and chill. The Doctor has entered a new phase and is heading in a direction that I find intriguing, and The Ponds, well, how they leave the series is still a deeply guarded secret. But knowing Moffat, it will pull on heart strings.
Doctor Who is back and its as EPIC and ALIVE as ever!