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An explosive new season dawns on 'Doctor Who'

By Gordy Stillman

Section: Arts

September 7, 2012

Last Saturday, Doctor Who premiered its seventh season since being revived in 2005. It’s the story of a humanoid alien known as ‘The Doctor.’ He is the last of his species, the time lords, and fittingly, he travels through time and space. The Doctor has appeared in several different incarnations, the current variation portrayed by Matt Smith. The Doctor is accompanied by two companions: Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and her husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). As might be expected of an alien main character that is more than 900 years old, The Doctor has many enemies. His oldest and arguably most dangerous foes are a race of mutants known as Daleks, a race consumed with a desire to exterminate all life that is not its own.

The last season ended with The Doctor leaving Amy and Rory in order to explore on his own; it also ended without a single appearance of the Daleks, who are considered the doctors oldest and most iconic foes. Season seven begins with The Doctor, and the recently divorced Amy and Rory, becoming captured by the Daleks. Immediately, The Doctor begins to question why he’s been captured and not killed. Although the Daleks have repeatedly tried to kill The Doctor, this time they need his help. For reasons not very well explained, the Daleks must destroy their asylum planet with The Doctor’s help—an unusual request from his enemies. In the process, The Doctor interacts with self-professed genius Oswin Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) a new character who helps him navigate the asylum from her barricaded room, in the hopes of rescuing her and escaping the planet safely.

Like any great series opening, this episode firmly established the story that the writing team plans to unfold in this series. In series five, the story revolved around cracks in the universe. Series six concerned the death of The Doctor and seeded many possible stories for series seven. Series seven’s premiere makes it fairly clear that the series will be built around the prophesized ‘Fall of the 11th’ and its relation to the first question in the history of the universe, as foreshadowed by the previous series: “Doctor who?”

Additionally, the premiere raised many questions as to how the season will progress in relation to the expected story arc. For instance, when the focus of the story shifted to a politician that wanted to destroy The Doctor, references to his character, Mr. Saxon, were seeded throughout the season. Every episode had some degree of reference, whether it was a flyer saying ‘Vote Saxon’ or just a passing reference by a secondary character. With an arc about ‘the first question’ it will probably get very boring if in each episode, someone asks, “Doctor who?” While I have faith that the season will be good, it’s rather unnerving that this could be a continuous arc.

At the same time, this season’s arc has exciting potential. From the day I first watched the show, I questioned both why it was called “Doctor Who” and why the lead character is simply called ‘The Doctor.’ Until the end of season six, the most that could be said about the topic during the revived series was the occasional character questioning The Doctor, which he usually ignored.

“Asylum of the Daleks” does its job as an appetizer, whetting the appetites of fans for what should be an epic season. Though little is known about the rest of the season, it will include the permanent departure of Amy and Rory in an episode set in New York City featuring recurring enemies known as the Weeping Angels, who are perhaps the most terrifying creatures of the “Doctor Who” universe. If the premiere is any indicator, it’s sure to be a very interesting season.

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