Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks preview


Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks preview screening

National Film Theatre, London

Tuesday 14 August 2012

The new series of Doctor Who was premiered last night at London’s National Theatre, with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner attending a Q and A afterwards. Other guests in the audience included writer Chris Chibnall, writer and actor Mark Gatiss and former companion Nicola Bryant.

Introduced by Head of Drama Ben Stephenson as bigger than ever, the first episode – Asylum of the Daleks – looked tailormade for the big screen, and fans without a widescreen HD TV would be urged to upgrade now. The BBC’s budget cuts did not seem in evidence with a combination of breathtaking special effects, intricate set design, location filming on a mountain and every Dalek ever seen. This is the most stunning and thrilling season opener in the show’s history, bar none.

Exec Producer and episode writer Steven Moffat urged the audience to divulge nothing of the plot, and this is certainly an episode packed with surprises that every viewer should experience for themselves. I will say that Moffat ensures each member of the regular cast gets some real emotional scenes amidst all the running, and there is a pleasing amount of humour in the script, culminating in a final scene that almost, but not quite, breaks the fourth wall.

Beyond that, you’ll have to wait for the official broadcast. No confirmation of that date was given, but I would place Saturday 1 September as the most likely date. Titles for the other four episodes in this opening run were confirmed in a Coming Soon trail – and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, A Town Called Mercy, The Power of Three, and The Angels Take Mamhattan all look as if they will live up to their blockbuster titles (in case you’re wondering, Episode Four focuses on the Doctor’s relationship with the Ponds, and features those mysterious black cubes).

In the Q and A that followed, moderator Richard Bacon pumped the assembled cast and crew for details of the 50th anniversary. Steven Moffat was delightfully evasive, confirming he had recently broken bread with David Tennant, but stating that as a friend (and fan) of many former Doctors, too much could be read into this. Despite that answer, there will be significant disappointment now if at least one former Doctor doesn’t make an appearance next year, maybe in a special episode screened on the exact 50th anniversary, 23 November 2013, which falls on a Saturday.

I asked Moffat how he squared the demands of long term fans and more casual viewers. His response was that those two camps were rapidly converging, and that Doctor Who was almost becoming an essential component in the British DNA. He later talked at length about fans complaining on forums, but said that every fan wanted the show to be popular with the masses so it could run and run.

There’s certainly no sign of this juggernaut ending soon, and while this ‘Year of the Ponds’ will end with Amy and Rory’s departure, we know a new companion will be cleaving to the Doctor’s side come Christmas. This as yet untitled episode, set in Victorian Britain is shooting nights at the moment with Richard E Grant in the main villain’s role. And then the 50th anniversary year will unfold in ways we can, as yet, only imagine.

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