I’m going to take off my objective reviewer hat for just a second to reiterate something that was begged of all press and attendees at Saturday night’s screening. There will be no spoilers in this review. None. Nada. Before the screening we were warned by two separate BBC America press agents, Matt Smith, and Caro Skinner to not reveal any of the surprises in the premiere episode. After the screening finished, the first thing Matt Smith did was beg the audience to say nothing. No tweets, no blogs; nothing to spoil the surprises for other fans. To ram home the importance of his request, he asked for a show of hands: who of the 1100 fans would prefer to have experienced the episode not being spoiled? Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a hand not raised.
It says something wonderful about the Doctor Who fandom that the major twists in the episode have not been leaked. I was surprised, shocked, and then thoroughly impressed that Moffat had kept certain things from us.
But then again: this is Doctor Who and he’s Steven Moffat – are any of us actually not expecting to be punched in the face by his twists and turns?
I didn’t think so.
Moffat has said in multiple interviews that these five episodes, that Matt referred to as “the fall of the Ponds,” were going to be movie scale epic. Yes there will be a general arc, but each one could stand on its own as a mini-feature. If episodes 2 through 5 are anything like “Asylum of the Daleks,” he won’t be wrong.
As if to drive the point home, we have a shining new opening sequence. Each of these 5 episodes will have a specific design. I went in knowing this, and nervous that it would be weird – it wasn’t, so have no fear fellow cynics.
Early on in the episode we get a gut punch worth of feels; it’s revealed in the most normal of scenes, but earned plenty of “aww”s from the audience. We’re then tossed headfirst into the action of the episode – this was all before the title sequence rolled.
And then we see the daleks. We’ve been promised more daleks than ever before; daleks of every shape and size and nature. And we get them. I almost wish the trailers hadn’t shown the massive forum of them screaming “save the daleks!” because even having seen it already I was rewarded with serious chills. I can only imagine what it might have been like without knowing anything.
To do this thing properly – to not spoil you and not cheapen the visceral experience that this episode provides – I really can’t say much more about the plot or map of the episode. I will however give you a couple of teasers to help you get properly excited.
*I took notes during the screening of specific moments I wanted to share with you. Reading through them today was a personal Da Vinci Code mission trying to figure out all of my scribbles. Writing in the dark is hard.*
The daleks, whom I sometimes wish would speak less, were properly menacing. And a bit snarky – early on they got a really good burn on the Doctor. During our press interviews, Matt mentioned that he felt they got the design of the daleks a bit wrong the last time we saw them, and that this episode helped return the legendary aliens to their proper status. He was not wrong. We also get a bit of new, and awesomely horrifying dalek technology.
The cinematography was phenomenal. In their early review Digital Spy called the episode reminiscent of Carpenter’s The Thing. I see their classic reference (they have a point), and raise them a fantastically strange sequence that screamed David Lynch and Twin Peaks (or for younger fans, a very specific episode of Buffy).
There is a take to camera that is PERFECT. I am incredibly touchy when it comes to breaking the fourth wall in television, most often I find it fails and rips the viewer from the show. This one does nothing but send shivers down your spine and give you hope for the future. (I really am waxing poetic here, aren’t I?)
The heartbreak I mentioned from the beginning is mirrored closer to the end, and this time it made me cry. Not gross “Doomsday” sobbing, but tears nonetheless.
I’m sort of afraid to say any more about the episode itself – I truly think going in to Saturday knowing next to nothing is the best way to experience it. After the episode finished, the audience gave an incredibly long and raucous standing ovation for Matt, Karen, and Caro; it was well-deserved. A truly great premiere adventure, and beginning for the end of the Ponds. Get ready for Saturday, it’s really going to be a ride.