Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Now, I must explain something before you read on in this article…I am a huge Doctor Who fan-boy. Not just been since ‘New Who’ kicked off in 2005 with the brooding Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, it’s been engrained in my life since I can remember. I was brought up on Daleks, Jon Pertwee reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, Zygon shapeshifters, crap costumes, Fifth Doctor celery nonsense, the irreplaceable Sarah Jane Smith and so much more! It was my childhood, and still to this day every time I hear the roar of the TARDIS and those initiating notes of musical theme; I become that boy sat with his father captivated by that madman Timelord and his incredible time travelling forays throughout time and space.
Throughout these short episode reviews I will not be spoiling everything…but of course to review the series I will have to give some things away…some little, some big! So, if you have not watched the series yet (maybe you should go and do so now? In fact why haven’t you already!?) be warned!
So, with that said, shall we begin?
Doctor Who Series Seven Part 1 has been over now for some time, and with production value, superb visuals, a new beautiful companion, the departure of the much loved Ponds and plenty of Matt Smith being marvellous; it has been one hell of (half) a journey! As usual Steven Moffat has left us with both brilliance and infuriation as his narrative twist and turn throughout time and space.
Episode One – Asylum of the Daleks
We kicked off series seven with the blockbuster opener Asylum of the Daleks, dubbed my Moffat and cast as the most ‘Hollywood’ of series openers; and boy did it deliver in bucket-loads. The aim of this episode was clear…make the Daleks scary once more. These were not the multicoloured pepper-pot-like kiddies toys that people came to expect after the new design was released, these were machines bred out of malice and a need for conquest. Also, the injection of ‘classic Dalek designs within the Asylum, including the seldom used ‘Special Weapons Dalek’, gave older Whovians something to get excited over…
The premise of the story is simple. The eponymous ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ is set on a planet that the Daleks use to dump failed Dalek stock, a place where the Daleks too insane to control by their own kind are left to rot…screaming. The Daleks ingenious plan is to send the Doctor and his faithful companions down to the planet’s surface in order to take down the planets shields so that the ‘sane’ Daleks can obliterate the planet; the new paradigm of the Dalek species wanting to purge the impure through a twisted vanity…Of course this also means the Doctor would be trapped on a planet about to be destroyed…a ‘two birds one stone’ scenario for the Daleks.
The episode isn’t just about the Daleks vs. The Doctor mind you, and throughout this episode we see plenty of deep emotion through the characters, namely the Ponds; who of course will mark the end of their run in Doctor Who this series. The episode begins somewhere odd…the Ponds on the verge of divorce, a superb and heart wrenching twist from head writer Moffat. What makes matters worse is that this slow dissolve is through no fault of their own, as it appears to be Amy’s inability to have children that deals the fatal blow between the once inseparable lovers. Crucial to this is that both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill deliver this narrative beautifully, giving us brutally emotive delivery the likes of which we have not seen from the pair throughout their time in the TARDIS. They sell us the horror that has ripped them asunder right in the middle of certain disaster, and make it the focal point of an episode that some would have thought just another Dalek episode; and right at the end at the precipice of the Ponds giving up hope on each other…Amy finally admits she needed Rory just as much as he needed her…something that Darvill’s tragically loyal character had been waiting to hear since the start.
We are also introduced to the future companion for Matt Smith’s doctor, the wonderful Oswin Oswald played by the equally wonderful Jenna-Louise Coleman; a saucy and sharp witted character with a deep dark secret…the fact she is in fact; a Dalek. I was in awe of this, and with a mixture of shock and strange arousal, my mind was telling me that this was the biggest twist of Doctor Who since Wilf knocked four times in ‘The End of Time’. Superb move, and I can’t wait to see more of Coleman as Oswin and how she works with Smith; early signs read positive with some obvious on screen chemistry.
Finally a note about director Nick Hurran (who also directs ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ this series) who delivers some epic work in this episode. Directing an opener is one thing, directing a series opener that involves Daleks and a new companion is something else entirely; but he does it with consummate ease and brilliance. He embraces the strong production values available too him, making excellent use of lighting, sound and theme, and uses slow paced story telling to ease the Daleks slowly out their hibernation and back to the helm of lethality; whilst keeping intense emotion between the Ponds, The Doctor and Oswin.
It is a combination the above that makes this opener a hit. Not only does it deliver emotionally with the Ponds and give us future suspense and possibilities with the Doctor and Oswin; it makes the Daleks feared once more. Minute by minute we are shown that each Dalek is a lethal beast in its own regard. They feel threatening once more, and that is no mean feat.