Doctor Who Season Premiere Review: “Asylum Of The Daleks” (Series 7, Episode 1)

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The ‘Ponds’ No More? 

“Scared? Who’s scared? Geronimo.”

Asylum of the Daleks opened with a truly bonkers pre-credits sequence, swiftly taking us from Skaro to Earth to the Parliament of the Daleks while re-introducing the core cast along the way. It’s a hugely energizing way to get things going, but one introductory element surely gave viewers a bit of whiplash: Amy and Rory are divorced!

It’s a sad and surprising development, and I worry that, given just how well Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have illustrated the love these characters share, some viewers may reject the premise on sight. It is, indeed, disorienting to think these two could ever split up, especially after all they’ve gone through together on the outer edges of space and time, but that does not mean I believe their break-up is inconsistent with prior characterization.

Amy’s personality is, after all, an intensely fiery and erratic one, a perfect contrast to Rory’s less assertive nature. At their best, this complement strengthens the couple, but in darker times, it’s led to communication barriers that are difficult to overcome. I therefore have no trouble believing the given explanation: That Rory wanted to have children, Amy knew she couldn’t and didn’t want to admit the truth (to herself, I think, as much as Rory), and both ultimately found it hard to be around the other when their own faults prevented effective communication.

Just how spectacular was the scene where these sad revelations came out? I was completely floored by the work Gillan and Darvill delivered, by their raw vulnerability and intense remorse. These two simply get better with every episode, and here, they’ve made another incredibly large jump that makes me simultaneously excited to see what’s in store over the next four weeks and sad to know their time on Doctor Who will soon be up.

Moffat’s writing was at its very best here, aiming straight for the heartstrings and refusing to pull any punches. I always felt he failed to explore the fallout of what happened at Demon’s Run in proper depth last season (even if she grew up to be River, Amy and Rory did lose a child), but this sequence alone made up for that issue. It illustrated that as much as Amy and Rory love each other, emotional pain can be cripplingly tough to share, even with the person one trusts above all others. I think that’s an incredibly honest, complicated idea for the show to explore, but one that works entirely because these characters have been so well developed over the last few years, their feelings important to each and every viewer.

The scene also returned to one of the core dilemmas behind Amy and Rory’s relationship: Does Amy love Rory as much as he loves her? It’s a shadow that has hung over this couple for a long time, and one Moffat and company have mined plenty of dramatic mileage from. Introducing it once more, at the outset of the couple’s final arc, feels proper. It’s clear from the way Darvill plays that scene that this is something Rory has needed to confront Amy on for a long time, and given what we’ve seen of their relationship, the moment certainly feels fulfilling. It’s something every viewer has probably wondered, at some point or another.

The beauty of the scene is that Amy’s indignant response feels equally valid, even if it makes less logical sense. Amy has always had a tougher time interpreting and communicating her own feelings, and for that, I can absolutely believe she would think giving Rory up was the right sacrifice to make.

In the end, it was a very foolish thing for her to believe, just as Rory’s insecurities were silly and unfounded. Bringing the characters to this realization is important, a necessary step on what will be their final journey. Asylum of the Daleks operates spectacularly as a high-octane Doctor Who blockbuster, but Amy and Rory’s arc over the course of the story gives the hour much of its heart, and I am amazed Moffat was able to stuff the episode so full and still give these characters their emotional due.

And all that, of course, before we discuss the biggest emotional wallop of the hour, concerning a character we had never met until now…

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