TV Recap: Doctor Who – Asylum of the Daleks

Season 7, Episode 1

By Edwin Davies

September 3, 2012

She has both milk *and* eggs.

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The sixth season of the rebooted Doctor Who had its ups and downs. The show has always been inconsistent, so this was nothing new, but for his second season as showrunner, Steven Moffat experimented with a number of ideas which, whilst ambitious, often didn't work. The introduction of stronger serialisation concerning the creepy and mysterious order known as The Silence gave an undoubted drive to the show, as well some really quite startling images, it also made the typical structure of the show (a heady mix of standalone episodes and ones which move the greater plot forward) feel more awkward than usual. It didn't help that the season was split in two, so any momentum built up over the mostly excellent first seven seemed to have disappeared by the time the spottier last six aired.

It didn't help that the mythology of The Silence, their plan and their relationship to The Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song became so dense and oblique that it was hard to follow, and therefore care about, what was going on. The show still nailed its character moments, and its knack for balancing often dizzying plots with rapid-fire, witty dialogue was unscathed, but by the time it reached "The Wedding of River Song", half the excitement it generated was from seeing how Moffat would wrap his sprawling master-plot up, and half from knowing that it'd finally be over and the show would be able to move on.

When, at the end of that (very good) episode, The Doctor decided that he needed to return to the shadows because he'd become "too big" and garnered too much attention, it seemed like an acknowledgement that the show itself had bitten off a little more than it could chew. Scaling things back might be a better approach. That ethos certainly seemed to be the guiding principle behind "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe", the 2011 Christmas special that focused on The Doctor helping a family during World War II. It was a pretty slight affair, and not especially good, but it was nice to see an episode of the show that was unabashedly small in its focus.




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Starting the seventh season by having The Doctor arrive on the scarred, barren world of Skaro, original home of The Daleks, then having him be surrounded by thousands of the motorised pepper pots amongst sets with a grandeur the show has rarely displayed might, in this context, seem like a bit of a regression for the show. After all, we've seen invading Daleks three or four times since Doctor Who came back in 2005, what more could Moffat squeeze out of the concept?

Two words: "Save us." Well, that certainly is novel.

From the moment that the Daleks revealed that they needed The Doctor to go down to the planet they use as an asylum in order to help them destroy it, the episode turned into a pretty great little excursion packed full of twists, surprises and even a few genuinely creepy moments.


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