Doctor Who 7x01: Asylum of the Daleks. (SPOILERS!)
Is it bad that I'm now kind of wishing that Jenna Louise Coleman (Oswin) isn't the new companion? Not because I disliked her or anything like that, but purely because I'd find it funny if the entire photoshoot/announcement/etc turned out to be a complete fake-out. The Doctor Who team tried to do that with one of the previous companions (Donna, maybe?) but in reverse, although the casting info got leaked early so everyone knew it was her anyway. I just enjoy the idea of them being able to pull one over us, although of course there have been tons of photos of JLC in the newspapers and so on so I can only assume that she'll be playing a different character (Oswin's... identical twin...?).
As for the actual content of the episode... I have mixed feelings. The latter half of last season was kind of a mess, and starting off this season in what felt like the middle of another storyline may well have been a mistake. Amy and Rory's divorce, an adult and complex topic, was handled and wrapped up in one episode, with the entire problem being solved purely by the Doctor leaving them alone together to talk it out. I feel like we've already been through this kind of conflict several times with Amy and Rory, and it seems pointless to rehash yet another variation on the same old song right at the beginning of a new season. The issue of Amy's infertility was handled convincingly by the actors, but the fact that it was introduced and then cleared up withing about ten minutes cheapened it entirely. As a card-carrying sap I was 100% onboard with every hackneyed emotional cue when Amy and Rory predictably reunited at the end, but up until then I was unimpressed by the decision to throw in a break-up subplot for what may or may not have been no good reason at all.
Regarding the Daleks, well, this show needs to cut down on them. I didn't feel any real sense of threat at any point during the episode, partly because the danger level inspired by the Daleks has gone way down. Daleks are tricky to include in the first place because they're near-indestructable killing machines and the Doctor and his companions are squishy humanoid pacifists, making it less and less convincing every time the Doctor defeats them. And in this particular episode there were several moments where a character would just sort of stand there while the Daleks failed to kill them. When the Doctor was first told that he was being sent down to a planet full of "insane" Daleks, I thought this was a brilliant idea because what would seem insane to a Dalek? Love. Compassion. A desire for peace and debate rather than war and genocide. I assumed that the Doctor was going to be confronted by something almost incomprehensible to his mindset -- Daleks who are deemed unfit by their race because they can feel something other than hatred. But instead what we got were more of the same Daleks we've seen since forever, except these ones had been mouldering in a soggy dungeon so they were too rusty to kill anything properly. The end result was a repeat of what we've encountered in multiple earlier Dalek episode: miraculous escapes all round, and the Doctor yelling about how much he hates Daleks -- which is beginning to pall a little. Particularly since the Eleventh Doctor was originally a fresh start to counteract the tragic, rageful, post-war darkness of the previous two incarnations.
The revelation that Oswin was a Dalek was brilliant -- especially if you're a kid, I should think, and therefore less likely to have picked up on any of the foreshadowing. Honestly, I'd have loved it if the Doctor had freed her instead of leaving her to die. I think we're getting to the point now where the Doctor's hatred of the Daleks is making him seem bigoted rather than the grieving war veteren he was in earlier seasons. It seems weird to complain about "bigotry" against Daleks because they're so obviously written as beings of unadulterated evil, but what we basically had here was the Doctor being sent down to an "asylum" full of mad and/or traumatised aliens, and then tricking one of them into blowing itself up before blowing them all up. And these are the only Daleks in the universe who weren't any threat to anyone else. Hopefully the whole memory-wipe thing will mean that we're due a Dalek-free period for at least the rest of the season, because the way this Doctor is written is a far cry of the kind of compassionate, violence-avoiding characterisation I'd prefer. It would've been excellent if Oswin had been set free in her new Dalek form and proved to the Doctor that not all "Daleks" are 100% bad -- but c'est la vie.
Perhaps if one or two of the Daleks inside the asylum had seemed like more of a threat then I would've been more taken by this episode. As it is, I give it a solid 6/10 but wouldn't rate it as a season opener, particularly when compared to the epic mystery and emotional hook of "The Impossible Astronaut" (an episode which unfortunately never received the payoff it deserved). Aside from the sudden launch into emotional conflict between Amy and Rory, this seemed like a mid-season filler episode. For me the main high points were the visuals (almost movie-level in parts, building on the increasing quality of the special effects in the previous two Moffat-led seasons), and the handful of little jokey Doctor Who moments like Rory's bafflement at the Daleks calling out "Eggs... eggs... eggs-ter-min-ate".
Oh, and a little postscript regarding Oswin. I don't look at Doctor Who spoilers AT ALL so I haven't much clue about Jenna Louise Coleman's involvement outside of a couple of publicity photos, but I'm pretty glad that the Oswin character appears to have died a death. She's great for a one-off episode, but maybe not so good for a full-season run. I love the idea of a genius who has the ability to hack a bunch of Dalek supercomputers but chooses to be a cruise-ship entertainment manager because she's so naturally perky and that's what she enjoys. I LOVE IT. Doctor Who companions are one of the very few roles where I can accept Butlins levels of enthusiasm and Blue Peter-esque behaviour in what is generally regarded as a high-quality sci-fi show, but I don't really trust Steven Moffat with this type of material. When Oswin first appeared I was already a little "uh-oh", because here was a stunningly beautiful woman who'd been trapped in an escape pod for a year and was wearing a cocktail dress and had shaved her legs?? I mean, I can explain that away by her being just so mind-numbingly bored that she got dressed up for herself now and then, but I was still relieved when it turned out she wasn't trapped in an escape pod after all. Under a prolonged period of Moffat's direction, I can only imagine that such a character would have quickly veered off into Manic Pixie Dreamgirl characterisation.