I’ll admit, now that I’ve looked back at them, season six has some major flaws that I overlooked on first viewing. Namely, that they kind of messed up River Song. I still like the character in general, but how they handled her time in jail and why she was there and her overall motivations … that I didn’t like very much. So I went into the season premiere with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s still really early in the season of course, but the season 7 premiere is getting me hopeful for the upcoming episodes.
Asylum of the Daleks looked at what defines humanity and what humanity can overcome. We see three cases of humans being forced to lose their identities and their freedom through the nanotechnology of the Daleks. Perhaps a small part of me through the Daleks were acting just a little too much like Cybermen, but the general idea of them slowly being turned into something as sick as a Dalek is certainly intriguing. The fact that what saves both Amy and Rory is their feelings for each other is appropriate for their characters if not a bit obvious. The best part of their storyline was that Rory finally brought up this suspicion that has been hanging in the air since they first were introduced in the show — that Rory might love Amy more than she loves him. The point might not be moot after the premiere, but I appreciate the show actually vocalizing it and confronting it, especially since Mr. and Mrs. Ponds’ time on the show is coming to an end.
For me, the cusp of this kind of Doctor Who episode is whether or not they can establish the rules of the specific sci-fi in the episode and stick to those rules. Sometimes the episode can fall apart if it doesn’t properly explain these rules, especially if it’s a new concept like nanotechnology that turns living or dead humans into Daleks. And my big qualm with the episode is that except for Amy’s quick delusions and memory loss, we don’t see Amy or Rory get closer to being Daleks. I wish we could have had more of a transition so that their eventual defeat of the programming had more gravitas.
I also wish their marriage issues weren’t more or less resolved within the first episode because it made their almost divorce seem trite. However, I knew beforehand that they were on the edge of getting divorced and I was curious as to what drove them to dissolve their marriage and honestly … it made sense. One of the hardest things to wrap my head around with last season was the idea that while they did technically get to see their child grow up, Amy and Rory never got to be real parents to River — they were completely deprived of that. Amy’s intense bitterness about that very fact showed up in the last finale with her wrath toward Kovarian, so to then discover that she can never have children again … yeah, I totally understand how that could splinter a marriage. Again, if anything that weight on them should have taken longer than an episode to be resolved, but maybe it isn’t totally resolved yet. We’ll have to see with the upcoming episodes.
Honestly, the best part of the episode was Oswin. Oh, dear Oswin. She really did charm everyone in less than an hour only to be taken away from us. It was pretty damn clever and her reveal as a Dalek was something I just wasn’t expecting (even if I also raised an eyebrow at the fresh eggs). Her willing to keep her humanity was absolutely beautiful and the fact that they kept showing Jenna-Louise Coleman as a representation of her mind helped us see just how charming the actress is. Oh, and if you didn’t realize it, Coleman will be playing the new companion later in the season, which means we know how much we have to look forward to when she become a regular cast member. I actually couldn’t remember if the new companion’s name was going to be Oswin, so for a while I wondered if the Doctor was going to travel time and space with an actual Dalek … that certainly would have been uncharted territory. But no, Coleman’s companion is reportedly supposed to be named Clara. So, this begs the question — why was Coleman playing another character? What connection does Oswin have to Clara? A friend of mine has guessed that Coleman will be playing a different character in every episode until the new companion is introduced, which would certainly be fascinating. Either way, this is no coincidence. Even the last breaking-the-fourth-wall look right into the camera screamed of something bigger going on.
Oh, and the Daleks don’t know the Doctor anymore. Pretty bold, Moffat. But of course we’ve been told quite a few times even since the 2005 restart that the Daleks were destroyed for good … I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again.