There’s a whopping Big Surprise in this new episode, and no, it’s not the return of Davros or anything along those lines. Doctor Who’s creative force Steven Moffat begged everyone lucky enough to be in the audience at the BFI – tweeters, bloggers, loose-lipped fans and especially members of the press – not to reveal his secret in advance of transmission. “Please. Just. DON’T!”
His plea worked last year for the long-awaited revelations about River Song in Let’s Kill Hitler, and Moffat is hoping he’ll be heeded this time around. Well, we at Radio Times certainly won’t spoil anything major for you. And I hope no one else does. But what can I tell you?
A few weeks ago a Doctor Who insider promised me that Asylum of the Daleks was “destined to be an all-time classic” and, on tonight’s evidence, I cannot argue with that.
It’s dazzlingly written, of course, by the Moffmeister, and stunningly directed by Nick Hurran (The Girl Who Waited, The God Complex last year, and the coming fifth episode, The Angels Take Manhattan). Expect action-packed spectacle, genuine eeriness, even suspense, which is hard to allow for in such a tight script.
Each of the five episodes this autumn, Moffat told me at the after-show party, is intended to be “like a blockbuster movie, condensed into 45 minutes, with all the dull bits left out”.
Details! Details! I hear you cry. Well, there’s a breathtaking glimpse of Skaro, the Daleks’ war-ravaged home planet. And the Daleks now have a parliament, which looks massive and is surely styled after the Powell & Pressburger view of heaven in the classic 1946 movie, A Matter of Life and Death. Also, they stun the Doctor with an extraordinary request.
Yet again Moffat manages to show the Time Lord’s arch adversaries in a new light. Several new lights – most of which are better left under wraps. However, the gorgeous gold Daleks return to the forefront, with those nasty, bumper-car Paradigm Daleks (widely slated in 2010) relegated to the background.
We also see lots of old Daleks models going right back to The Evil of the Daleks (1967) – “insane, battle-scarred” creatures who have been dumped in a gigantic asylum out in deep space. But be warned: they’re covered in grime and dust, so it may be impossible for you to spot your favourite.
Hardcore fans of trivia will delight in references back to the earliest episodes. Who thought the planets Kembel (from The Daleks’ Master Plan) and Exxilon (Death to the Daleks), among others, would get a name-check after so many years!
Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan are all on top form. The 11th Doctor becomes ever more unknowable; anti-heroic Rory is the fall guy (literally); while Amy seems more of a hard nut than before. But why? Are the Ponds stagnating or deeper than they first appear? Tears before bedtime are guaranteed but – relief! – also some phwoar moments for Karen’s fans, as we glimpse more of Amy’s modelling career (following on from last year’s Closing Time).
There’s a thrilling confirmation of the mystery at the heart of the series. I daren’t say any more about that. And among my favourite lines are: “These are the Daleks who survived me”, “Wrong way up!” and, best of all, “Eggs”.
Look out, too, for a tweak to the title sequence – it’s the same “colonoscopy-in-space” effect but with a bluey-green tinge and a redesigned logo. The Moff tells me that there’ll be a special logo and title fonts to match all five episodes.
Oh, and what else..? Well, there’s that Big Surprise. Still scratching my head about that one…