Jex does get a good line in though when he says we all carry our prisons with us. DEEP, MAN.
Hello fellow Whovians and welcome back to another season of bowties, Ponds, and perception filters. We left series six with Amy and Rory off the TARDIS (but still in our hearts), River Song married and mischievous, and the Doctor having faked his death like the wily regenerating Tom Sawyer that he is.
So what have these crazy kids been up to since then? We have a lot to cover: Daleks, Dinosaurs, and Cowboys—oh my! Feel free to mention anything I miss in the comments.
Doctor Who 7x1: Asylum of the Daleks
What Happened? The Daleks abduct the Doctor and snatch Amy and Rory—who are on the cusp of divorce—transporting them into their oddly diplomatic-looking Dalek Parliament to beg for their help (not exterminate the living daylights out of them, as they are so wont to do).
Why? There’s a weakness in the forcefield of the Asylum, which is basically a prison planet for all of the Extra Evil Daleks. With the aid of nanogenes, Daleks now have the ability to hollow people out and turn them into humanoid Daleks, adding another level of danger to the mission, so it’s layered. Like nachos.
So the Daleks send our heroic trio inside the Asylum to shut down the forcefield so that they can destroy it. A tech-savvy soufflé-slinging shipwrecked survivor, Oswin, helps them navigate the Asylum, Amy nearly avoids being turned into a Dalek puppet, and Amy and Rory confront their relationship crisis.
Unfortunately, not everything ends in hugs and happy endings. When the Doctor reaches Oswin he is dismayed to find out that she’s been fully converted into a Dalek. It’s a crushing moment as Oswin herself realizes the truth, but she doesn’t give into Dalek hate and anger. Instead, she turns off the Asylum forcefield and releases the Doctor, asserting, “I am Oswin Oswald. I fought the Daleks. I am human. Remember me.”
Oswin, gurl, something tells me we will not forget you or your awesome red dress any time soon.
What was totally awesome? I forgot how much I missed this group of space vagabonds. And yeah, I’ll say it: Oswin. Though some of her dialogue may have been a bit tired to us supernerds who are familiar enough with Steven Moffat’s other writing credits, I’m always happy to see a strong, competent female character on a show. I also appreciated the re-invention of the Dalek conflict without having them pull Earth out of orbit or raising the stakes to be universe-wide as has happened in the past.
Best character moment: When Amy realizes that the Doctor has orchestrated the breakthrough conversation between her and Rory, she sees the Doctor on screen. He looks back at her and pointedly adjusts his bowtie as a reference to their earlier conversation about repairing a relationship isn’t as easy as fixing a bowtie.
What could have used a little more sonic? While I adore Rory and Amy, I had a hard time believing their breakup/makeup (give the tensions a few episodes to naturally peak, yo, if you’re going to include it). I’d also prefer it if we quit storylines where Amy’s mind or body is manipulated for a while.
Rating: 4 out of 5 fezzes.
Doctor Who 7x2: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
What Happened? The Doctor is in Egypt, 1334 BCE, with none other than Queen Nefertiti (henceforth referred to as Nefi). He’s all, “I’ll text you later” and she’s all, “Not if I have anything to say about it,” and then he gets a psychic paper summons and boom, we’re off to 2367 CE, aboard some sort of military defense ship that is targeting a different huge spaceship that is hurtling toward Earth. If it gets too close, it’ll be missiled to bits. Time to intervene! But the Doctor needs to assemble his own group of Avengers first.
For reasons not entirely clear, the Doctor stops by 1902 to pick up John Riddell and then swings by casa de Pond to get Amy and Rory, who happen to be with Rory’s dad, Brian. Maybe it’s more like the Brady Bunch than the Avengers? Anyway, most importantly, there are DINOSAURS. ON. A. SPACESHIP.
We learn that a soulless black market trader, Solomon, crashed on the ship a long time ago. Then it was a Silurian Noah’s Ark. With his sassy sidekick robots (Sass-Bots), he methodically killed all of the Silurians and planned on trading in the Dinosaurs for some mad cash but wasn’t able to fly the ship, sending him back on a collision course with Earth.
In a desperate ploy to get his way, Solomon kidnaps Nefi (with some seriously rapey undertones) and tries to escape. But he don’t get far. Rory and Brian are able to fly the Silurian ship, and the Doctor re-routes the incoming missiles so they bomb Solomon’s ship—once Nefi is off of it, of course.
What was totally awesome? Guys. GUYS. Full disclosure: I really liked this episode. It was totally fun, quippy, and most importantly, it let everyone shine. Amy was showing the kind of smarts and scrappiness that allowed her to survive all those years in “The Girl Who Waited,” and Rory was a mix of hilarious and generous, showing off his nursing acumen.
It also featured a veritable roll-call of awesome British guest stars: we had Rupert Graves (AKA Detective Inspector Lestrade in BBC’s Sherlock), Mark Williams and David Bradley (Mr. Freakin’ Weasley and Argus Finch of Harry Potter, respectively), and the Sass-Bots were voiced by David Mitchell and Robert Webb (of Brit sitcom Peep Show). It was like condensing the 2012 London Opening Ceremonies into 45 minutes, with the exception of the guy who created the Internet.
Best character moment: We have a tie. First is when Amy geeks out at meeting Nefi and asks for a high-five. Secondly, when Brian hilariously pulls a collapsible trowel from his pocket without missing a beat to dig on the beach. Says volumes about what kind of a Dad he is, and fits with what we know about Rory.
What could have used a little more sonic? Look, I love Rupert Graves as much as the next girl, but his character didn’t have a whole lot to do besides exist as an example of old-timey sexist mentality and a comedic foil/love interest for Nefi. Especially since she’s initially like, “you’re not good enough to bedazzle my dress,” but I guess Opposites Attract.
Rating: 5 out of 5 fezzes. What sealed it was the ending, when Brian asks if they can travel somewhere, and he chooses to sit in the TARDIS, sipping coffee while gazing down on Earth from space. It perfectly captures the whimsy that has kept the show going for 50 years.
Doctor Who 7x3: A Town Called Mercy
What Happened? I was thinking the other day that I’d like to see a cyborg John Wayne. WISH GRANTED. Some space cowboy terminator is on a killin’ spree but instead of going after Sarah Conor he’s all about finding the Doctor. Who, naturally, avoids any and all warnings and walks into the small town called Mercy. For those of you plotting these episodes on Cartesian spacetime planes, we’re in Texas shortly after the Civil War.
“Anachronistic electricity? Keep Out signs? Aggressive stares? Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?” the Doctor squees. He must have the same Doctor Who Episode Bingo card that I do.
Turns out a different alien doctor named Kahler Jex crash landed by Mercy some years back, and the cowboy assassin, nay, Gunslinger, is after him. The town sheriff, Isaac, is really protective of Jex and I thiiiiink he has a little crush.
Jex is running from a sordid past in which he turned people on his war-torn home planet into cyborg killing machines. I think the Doctor will be pretty okay with that.
I mean OF COURSE HE WON’T BE. The Doctor is furious with Jex and hauls him out to the town perimeter with all but a bull’s-eye on his forehead for the Gunslinger. This moment reminded me a lot of scenes we got during David Tennant’s run: lots of rage and self-righteousness. That’s not a knock, I may have been one of the few who liked those angsty moments.
Amy reigns the Doctor back, and he’s willing to let Jex in again but it’s too late—the Gunslinger has come a-knockin’ and it is time to pay the cybernetic piper. Jex seems to accept his fate, but sheriff Isaac blocks the shot and dies to save him.
The Doctor sets a shootout date with the Gunslinger at noon and takes Jex back to jail to protect him for the night. They talk about atonement much like many freshman philosophy students, with the Doctor scornfully saying “You don’t get to decide when and how your debt is paid.” Jex does get a good line in though when he says we all carry our prisons with us. DEEP, MAN.
Morning comes and the town awaits the shootout (was that clock on the bank a Back to the Future reference or what?). The Doctor sonics his way out and distracts the Gunslinger to let Jex escape. Jex is like, “Thanks! Now I’ll kill myself” and dies in the self-destruct blast of his ship, facing his past actions and giving the Gunslinger the ending he wanted, but not the way he wanted it.
Bummed, the Gunslinger’s about to self-destruct too, but the Doctor gives him a reason to live as the new Marshall of Mercy. Because America is a land of second chances. And we accept your tired, your weary, and your half-men-half-machine-guns.
What was totally awesome? They hit the classic Western tropes pretty well, culminating in a shootout at high noon. The overall themes of guilt and redemption were solid. And let’s not forget the fact that we got a cyborg cowboy assassin, so…yahtzee.
Best character moment: I’m just going to give this one to Matt Smith for the whole episode. I really enjoyed watching him pal around with Susan and poke at Jex’s spaceship as much as I found his boiling disgust with Jex compelling.
What could have used a little more sonic? Hard to put my finger on it. I think Jex himself? He was one part Bond villain, one part Hannibal Lecter with his psychoanalysis, and then…one part remorseful and redemptive? The last part just fell kind of flat for me.
Rating: 4 out of 5 fezzes. Loved the sets and location and the overall Western theme, but it just didn’t quite pop enough to be a classic. Not sure if that is due more to the resolution of the Jex plot with his suicide or the fact that Rory and Amy really didn’t have much to do.
So What’s Next? Crazy Theory Corner (spoiler free):
Look, y’all, it’s pretty clear that the Doctor can’t travel with the Ponds forever. It’s part of the blessing and curse of this show: Companions and Doctors have a relatively short shelf-life. The Lingering and Awkward look the Doctor exchanges with Amy in “Dinosaurs” and the way Amy and Rory ask to be dropped off at home at the end of “Mercy” suggests their arc is coming to a close.
What do you think? Will the timey-wimey powers of the TARDIS reverse Amy’s infertility and send them back to Earth with babies? Or will something more sinister keep them from future travels? Which has been your favorite episode so far? If you have any spoiler-y comments, please make sure to mark the SPOILER ALERTS as appropriate.