Doctor Who returns! After a year away (give or take the occasional Christmas special), they’re back with a five-episode run devoted to finally getting rid of the Ponds. Yes, they retired into a blue house last series, but that wasn’t dramatic enough, so they’re being yanked back for a proper heartbreaking send-off.
Oh, and the Daleks are back too. And… other stuff. (SPOILERS, obviously. Watch the episode on iPlayer before continuing.) So, was that any good?
Daleks Exterminate All Plot Elements!
Well, if nothing else, it was packed. They divorced the Ponds, introduced the Dalek asylum, introduced new companion actress Jenna-Louise Coleman out of nowhere, then annihilated all three elements in the final scenes.
As a result, the episode whips along. Writer Steven Moffat has declared repeatedly his aim to make the Daleks scary again, and he succeeds at times. There were tense scenes – the moment where the Doctor breaks down in “intensive care” particularly works, simply because we never see that from him.
On the other hand, the episode is so packed with companion drama that the Daleks are kinda sidelined. Hell, readers of this review are probably thinking: “Stop banging on about Daleks! We only care about the Ponds and Jenna-Louise Coleman!”
So I’ll move on. After I’ve pointed out it was awfully nice of the Daleks to bring the TARDIS with them to help the Doctor escape, even though they didn’t need to.
Jenna-Louise Coleman in: Asylum of the Companion!
Coleman has a whole showreel here as Oswin, demonstrating classic Who companion emotions: panic, banter, and heartbroken crying. No doubt aimed at reassuring worried fans that, yes, the Ponds are leaving, but the replacement is going to be good, so keep watching!
And fair enough, worked well enough on me. The Coleman storyline was probably the only one of the three here that felt fully developed, rather than a little rushed. I did feel sad at Oswin’s fate, and the idea of the companion being a genius rather than the usual starstruck random is an interesting change.
Amy & Rory Pond – OMG Divorced!
But, yes, that does mean I wasn’t entirely digging the Ponds storyline. Perhaps because Moffat clearly wanted the “OMG they’re divorced!” moment, but didn’t really earn it. And no, Pond Life doesn’t count as “earning it”, because Pond Life didn’t earn it either – four episodes of variable jokes, then “Holy crap, something is wrong!”.
Which is annoying, because if he’d played them as simply “having problems” rather than “OMG divorced”, it might have worked. Gillan and Darvill pulled off the big emotional scene though, it’s amazing how much this show can get away with purely on the basis of actor chemistry and my investment in the characters, but as a whole, divorce plotline a bit rushed.
Still, as a whole, the ideas were there, really did like the Oswin storyline, episode as a whole genuinely exciting and enjoyable, and I’m still curious how they’re going to get rid of the Ponds. Yes, issues with the divorce stuff, but at least they’ve ditched it quickly. Next week: dinosaurs on a spaceship. Cool. But in the meantime – what did you think of all that?