Asylum Of The Daleks - 15 Tantalising, Fairly Non-Spoilery Observations

After last night's press screening of "Asylum Of The Daleks", episode one of Doctor Who series seven, it's time to mercilessly stoke your anticipation for the Time Lord's latest rematch with his oldest, deadliest foe...

Steven Moffat is a sly dog. And when we say sly we mean devious. And when we say devious we mean audacious. And when we say audacious we mean “How the hell did he manage that?”

Look for a revisitation of a key planet in the Doctor Who mythos, brought to the screen with some stunning FX work.

The Doctor’s decision to step into the shadows of time at the end of “The Wedding Of River Song” hasn’t been ignored. When this episode begins he’s very much in the past tense, already a figure of legend.

"Asylum" also cleverly riffs on The Oldest Question Of Them All – and makes the very words “Doctor Who” something you want to punch the air for.

The Daleks, we learn, have a concept of beauty. It’s a reliably twisted one, of course. As the Doctor says, “I thought you’d run out of ways to make me feel sick…”

It isn’t quite the suckergasm of a nostalgia-fest that the publicity promised, though the keen-eyed will certainly spot some vintage Daleks lurking in the dank bowels of the asylum. This episode very much returns the spotlight to the bronze incarnation of the malevolent pepperpots, who are here mob-handed. Well, mob-plungered.

There are explicit shout-outs to “Planet Of The Daleks”, “Mission To The Unknown” and “Death To The Daleks”, among other classic series tales.

The Daleks are at their scariest since 2005’s “Dalek” – cunning, surprising and utterly remorseless in their disdain for life. They’re using human slaves again, though in a new and ingeniously horrific way.

Tiny, insignificant but strangely brilliant detail to watch for: the words “Parliament of the Daleks” make Amy’s mouth twitch in a very intriguing way.

Location filming in Spain lends this episode a genuinely cinematic sense of scale, with some impressive mountainside vistas that recall the icescapes of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back .

Some of the imagery in this episode strays into horror movie territory – and chimes with one of pop-culture’s current preoccupations, an area of the supernatural the show has never explored onscreen before.

The events of Demon’s Run, we learn, have ongoing consequences for the lives of Amy and Rory. Parts of this story feel as if the emotional aftermath of last series has finally arrived.

The cast are on superb form, an unbeatable unit you’re already missing next year. Matt Smith seems to have added centuries to his characterisation as the episode opens while Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan will tear your hearts out. Rory also earns an action hero moment.

Pay close attention to the dialogue. What feel like throwaway one-liners may be nothing of the kind. Clever old Moffat.

Seriously, where does she get the milk?

Nick Setchfield

Nick Setchfield
Editor-at-Large, SFX Magazine

Nick Setchfield is the Editor-at-Large for SFX Magazine, writing features, reviews, interviews, and more for the monthly issues. However, he is also a freelance journalist and author with Titan Books. His original novels are called The War in the Dark, and The Spider Dance. He's also written a book on James Bond called Mission Statements.