We've had to endure endless rumors and delays in announcing the air dates plus frustration knowing that once it did return, 2012 would only have five episodes plus a Christmas special, but finally Doctor Who has returned for its 7th Series, once again featuring Matt Smith as the Doctor. I have to say that it has been worth the wait. In my opinion, Asylum of the Daleks is probably Matt Smith's best performance to date as the Doctor: I think he's really made the role his own. The Daleks are truly, properly scary and the episode has a flavor to it that in some ways harkens back to the classic series. I'm not sure if Murray Gold is still doing the music for this season, but there's something subtly different about the music in this episode. I like the music in the previous seasons, but this music works extremely well in enhancing the mood of this story.
In a previous post, I mentioned the Pond Life prequel mini-series that was posted online a part per day in the week leading up to the premiere. This showed snippets of Amy and Rory's day to day life in the months between the end of Series 6 and the start of Series 7 as the Doctor pops in on them and disrupts their lives. This prequel mini-series didn't really add much to the episode, but was just good fun and a teaser for the upcoming episode. Apparently there was another prequel that was only made available to Amazon Prime subscribers and iTunes Season Pass subscribers that is actually a prequel to the events in the episode (I've also heard it's available on Zune, but I am unable to confirm that). It has been posted on YouTube, although I highly recommend going to an official source to view it.
In the description of Asylum of the Daleks, it mentions that Amy and Rory's relationship is "in meltdown" by the time Series 7 starts. Pond Life showed this but really didn't show why, although one was left to assume it was due to the Doctor's interference in their day to day lives (even though we saw no escalation of tension between them during the mini-series). This was finally addressed in the episode and the real reason comes out and it has nothing to do with the events of Pond Life.
Asylum of the Daleks has several interesting twists... Previously we've seen glimpses of the Dalek hierarchy with the Dalek Supreme and the Emperor Dalek: in this one we have the Parliament of the Daleks and the Dalek Prime Minister. We also see a new kind of human/Dalek hybrid unlike either of the ones we'd previously seen in The Evil of the Daleks or Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.
Probably the biggest surprise was the appearance of Jenna Louise-Coleman, the actress playing the new companion who is to be introduced in the 2012 Christmas special. Considering that there have been multiple pre-screenings of this episode, I'm shocked they managed to keep this quiet. The BBC even posted an item thanking fans and the press for keeping this quiet. It's unclear if this is the same character as the new companion or just the actress playing another role although reports from the pre-screening in New York seem to indicate that Oswin Oswald is somehow the same character, rumored to be named Clara, although it's unclear how. It will be interesting to see where they go with this. If she is the same character somehow, perhaps she's another Zoe Heriot? :) When the Daleks were trying to get in and she cranked up the music to drown them out, was it just me or did the lyrics sound a little like "Come Save the Daleks..." which is what the Daleks had chanted to the TARDIS crew in the Parliament scene? ;)
Several months back, it was revealed that the production team was trying to get their hands on every model of Dalek used on the series since it began. This episode featured those Daleks. Some were seen in the Parliament scenes while others were seen in ICU where Oswin mentions survivors of Spiridon (Planet of the Daleks), Kembel (The Daleks' Master Plan), Aridius (The Chase), Vulcan (Power of the Daleks), and Exxilon (Death to the Daleks). This was a very nice touch. :)
I'm wondering if there will be any ramifications down the road from the Doctor giving Amy his device that protected him from the nanogene cloud. Although it's mentioned that he didn't need it because he is a Timelord. It was also a very nice touch how the Daleks were chanting "Doctor Who?" at the end of the episode. In all, a very good start to the season. I'm really looking forward to this season. The bar has been set... can the rest of this season keep up this momentum? :)