What a fantastic start to the new series! Asylum was a boost of confidence that the Dr Who team can deliver a story that made sense and didn’t try to do ‘too much’ in one episode. Having said that, they packed a lot in, and it felt longer than its allotted 45 minutes, achieving the ‘mini-blockbuster’ feel we had been told to expect.
The publicity for the episode focussed on the promise of ‘every Dalek ever’, but the real focus was that of Jenna Louise Coleman’s surprising and tragic appearance as Oswin Oswald. This is Stephen Moffat playing with our minds - he might have stopped big story arcs this series, but that doesn’t mean he avoids throwing a googly. Rumours are that her name (when she becomes a companion) is Clara Oswin, and if thats right, the Moff is showing us that there is a connection. Can’t wait to see how that unfolds! As for Jenna, it was a great debut, and I love how new companions are now ‘weaved in’ to the timeline, rather than just leaping straight to “ooh look I’m in a box thats bigger on the inside!”.
The Economist was critical of this story, calling two geniuses ‘self-congratulatory’ but I disagree. There was a lot to love, especially the Daleks being scared of their own kind, but not realising that Oswin had been reducing the Asylum to load of clapped out hulks muttering ‘EGGS’.
It wasn’t entirely free of “eh?” moments. The divorce of Amy and Rory seemed un-characteristically sudden. Watching the Pond Life episodes, things were all hunky-dory up to July, but then in the space of a month, they’d split up? After everything they’ve been through together, the reasoning for this seemed weak, and was there just to provide an emotional means for Amy to avoid the nanogenes taking her over. A bit like how quickly River Song turned from psychotic killer to the Doctor’s saviour in ‘Lets Kill Hitler’.
If you have the iTunes season pass, there is a prequel to this story that really should’ve been part of the episode, or at least available on the BBC site. Never fear, it’s on YouTube:
I liked the back-reference to Psychic Projections in this, something that featured heavily in one of my favourite classic series stories, ‘The Awakening’. Hopefully these bits don’t put off people new to the series.
So, a fantastic start! Less expectations about the next one (‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’) though…