The salient feature of the first episode of the new series is that the Ponds are not yet gone. This may be a cause for joy or disappointment. I say it not because I don’t enjoy them, merely that I’ve had to navigate the internet for the last month wearing horse blinders to avoid rabid fans wittering on about who the new Companion will be. I don’t want to know. And I had hoped the first episode would decide the issue so I could take the things off.
Playing on this phenomenon, and ever willing to mess with our heads, the cunning Moffat offered up a brilliant candidate in Carmen Girl/Souffle Girl/Oswin, who I took to my heart on first sight. Only to reveal she was a Dalek dream of humanity. So please, if she is scheduled for resurrection, don’t tell me.
Rant over, and I can return to the review. A stunning first episode for Series 7, catapulting the Doctor, Amy, and Rory into a Dalek ship orbiting a Dalek lunatic asylum. An odd idea, given they’re all homicidal nut jobs, but apparently the ones who can’t be controlled have to be locked away. The Daleks have a “concept of beauty” that deifies hatred. Interestingly, it explains the Doctor’s longevity: “Perhaps that is why we have been unable to kill you.”
There are two startling revelations. One is that the Daleks are afraid of something – their own insane soldiers. You can see why. Directed megalomania destroys your enemies, but uncontrolled megalomania threatens the controllers. So the Doctor and the Ponds are recruited to infiltrate the asylum, lift the shields, and allow it to be destroyed. The catalyst for this drastic action is the presence of a crashed starship – if something can get in, the loonies can get out.
The other revelation is that Amy has dumped and divorced Rory. Didn’t see that coming. The act is as unbelievable as Amy’s tearful rationale – the procedure at Demon’s Run prevented her from bearing Rory’s children, something he desperately wanted. Hence “I didn’t kick you out, I gave you up,” though the plot twist did give us more of Dark Amy, who I love to see.
Oswin is trapped inside the crashed starship, cheerfully making endless souffles and listening to Carmen. She is seemingly immune to the nanocloud that makes any alien presence “part of onsite security,” retaining their original form and really believing they have survived, until the Dalek consciousness is awakened. Plus some Dalek extrusions, all the better to exterminate you with. It’s her presence that’s freaking out their Parliament.
This nanocloud idea is a core plot device, replacing love with anger, foreshadowed by Amy’s photoshoot where she has LOVE and HATE written on her knuckles. As Oswin points out, “Doesn’t she seem a bit too angry to you?” To which Amy replies, “Well, someone’s never been to Scotland.” When her protective bracelet is removed, and her consciousness begins to slip into Dalek mode, this is the catalyst for Rory to give her his. On the grounds that “I love you more than you love me.” Cue confession, reconciliation, and confusion to the careful Dalek reprogramming. Of course, the sentimental old Doctor has already surreptitiously slipped Amy his bracelet.
A masterpiece of sleight of hand, distracting us from Oswin’s charmed, souffle-making, Carmen-listening existence at the heart of Hell. I didn’t see this coming either. Truly sad and moving, when the Doctor comes face to face with Dalek Oswin, dreaming her human dream. Intelligent, funny, sexy, I wanted her to be human. And she was, hacking into the Dalek consciousness to make them forget the predator Doctor, while sacrificing herself to allow the Doctor, Rory, and Amy to escape.
A grand beginning to the series. But can the Moff please not drag out the defenestration of the Ponds for too long? Let’s get it over with and move on, so I can return to the internet without self-censorship. And I want Oswin to be the next Companion, even if the Doctor has to bend space and time to breaking point to make it happen.
Update: I just read the Guardian review, thinking it was safe to go out, only to find that Oswin is the chosen Companion. She will join the Doctor at Christmas, after some complicated timey-wimey stuff to explain away her death. So I was prophetic. For the best, perhaps, since I can now relax, freely roam the internet, and enjoy the last of the Ponds.