Courtesy of doctorwhotv.co.uk

After a nine month hiatus, “Doctor Who,” a show about a 900-year-old alien, the Doctor (currently played by Matt Smith) who travels around time and space in a blue police box saving the world with his friends (called companions), finally returned to television on Saturday, Sept. 1 with the episode “Asylum of the Daleks.” With all the hype surrounding the return, it seemed impossible for the episode to live up to expectations for the show. Happily though, this was not the case.

Steven Moffat, current lead writer and executive producer of the show, is known for his complex storylines that can take entire seasons (or more) to resolve. With this installment, however, he returned to the idea of a stand-alone episode, and it was one of his more brilliant ventures.

After all the confusion surrounding last season, which culminated in what many consider to be a fairly lackluster finale, this was a return to the “Doctor Who” fans know and love. Entertaining, full of action and humor, and just a bit heartbreaking at the end — “Asylum” had everything the show is when it’s at its very best.

The biggest surprise was the introduction of Oswin Oswald, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. The announcement had already been made that Coleman would replace both the Doctor’s current companions come Christmas, so her surprise appearance in “Asylum” was a special treat — as was Coleman’s performance.

She was charming from the first moment she appeared: cheeky, brave and all at once endearing. She was also completely flawless in the final moments of the episode when her character met a tragic end. Oswin Oswald, the girl who was human to the very last moment — viewers will be anxiously awaiting your permanent arrival to the show, not to  mention interested in the mystery as to how Oswin will be brought back.

Which brings up the issue of the Doctor’s current companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, played by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill respectively, who are leaving this season.

Amy and Rory have always been fan favorites, which is perhaps why Coleman’s character was introduced early — introducing new characters immediately after the departure of other popular ones rarely works out well for “Doctor Who.” This episode was a bit of a letdown as far as the married couple goes, despite brilliant acting from Gillan and Darvill. The episode focused on their marital problems, which, besides allowing for some heart-wrenchingly sweet interactions between Matt Smith and Gillan, didn’t really make much sense.

In the course of the series, Amy and Rory as a couple have persevered through many challenges. Yet Moffat chose the idea that Amy can’t have any more children (a fact that was never mentioned before or after this scene) to be the problem that dissolves their marriage — a very poor choice in the writing.

Not only did it completely disregard River Song, played by Alex Kingston, as their child, it also seemed like a strange topic to be arguing about. Rory was willing to stand outside a giant box for 2000 years, but neither of them figured out adoption? It was odd, to say the least, and didn’t sit well with their typical characteristics. However, the reconciliation scene was exceptionally well done, with Gillan once again reminding the audience that she’s more than just a pretty face and Scottish quips.

Smith, as the Doctor, was also sublime in this episode.  He played both sides of the coin beautifully — his interactions with Coleman’s character, particularly in the very end, reminded the audience that at times the Doctor can be so very human, bringing out the softer side of the character. However, we still got the typical, cocky Doctor fans know and love throughout the episode, keeping it from getting so sentimental it was no longer fun.

“Asylum of the Daleks” was an absolute treat, with action and special effects balanced out nicely with the relationships between characters and drama. Moffat, as well as the cast, did a terrific job at keeping everything cohesive, despite the fluctuations between comedy and tragedy within the episode, not to mention the interactions with old and new cast members.

With the added bonus of a special sneak peek at Coleman, it seems unlikely that any “Doctor Who” fan would have walked away disappointed.

Howard is a member of the class of 2013.



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