“Asylum of the Daleks” (07.01, 2012)
Written by Steven Moffat (Past Episodes: “The Empty Child,” “The Doctor Dances,” “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “Blink,” “Silence in the Library,” “Forest of the Dead,” “The Eleventh Hour,” “The Beast Below,” “The Time of Angels,” “Flesh and Stone,” “The Pandorica Opens,” “The Big Bang,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Impossible Astronaut,” “Day of the Moon,” “A Good Man Goes to War,” “Let’s Kill Hitler,” The Wedding of River Song,” “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”)
Directed by Nick Hurran (Past Episodes: “The Girl Who Waited,” “The God Complex”)
Show runner Steven Moffat has long been the best writer on the show, but he faltered badly last season with the rather weak “Let’s Kill Hitler” and the awful “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe.” Add in the faltering of his other series, Sherlock, and this episode, and it looks like a very disturbing trend rather than just a couple of uncharacteristic misfires.
The episode opens with a series of surprises—the Daleks, sporting a never-before-seen power to disguise themselves as humans—surprise the Doctor with a rather artless trap and then the Ponds are getting divorced on earth. Then, we get something interesting: the Daleks order the Doctor to “save the Daleks” and we cut to a woman protecting herself from the Daleks while she fails in an attempt to bake a souflee. While it isn’t the case immediately, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t already know that Jenna-Louise Coleman was the new companion, and her introduction is quite excellent. She’s immediately likeable, interesting, and different from the other companions, which is all you can ask from the introduction.
The plot from then on is a bit obvious and a bit dull. Moffat seems to be building the episode based on a twist ending that isn’t really a twist for anybody who is paying attention. Meanwhile, he drags us through another fight between the Ponds that makes no sense (like all of their fights) and we all know has the inevitable conclusion of them making up. The humor is still good, but it’s also quite rare, only popping up a few times in the entire episode.
There was still some fun to be had here, but it wasn’t anything special, and there were some real groaner moments (“Eggs?” And they even repeat that groaner moment!). My worries about this season are definitely not assuaged.