In general, there’s a lot to like about both of these episodes. “Asylum” is probably the strongest season-opener since “The Eleventh Hour” and it gets to the action quickly with a twist on the Daleks that is novel and still mostly in keeping with the Dalek stories that have gone before. It’s briskly paced and balances humor and action well. It even throws in a remarkably likable performance from Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin that makes her eventual full introduction as a companion something to look forward to.
As good points go, those are all great. It’s the other points that are problematic. The plot, frankly, makes little to no sense and has so many holes as to make full suspension of disbelief nearly impossible for any viewer who has been paying attention. A Dalek prison whose force-field can only be turned off from the inside? That…that’s just dumb. That’s the sort of no thought at all detail that deserves to be roundly mocked. But even that I’m prepared to overlook because it takes a back seat to Amy and Rory angsting about their relationship and whining and Amy approaching Season Two Rose levels of selfishness and self-involvement. Now, I look Amy and Rory, I do. But the biggest flaw with the entirety of the last season was the increasing prominence of the Amy and Rory Show. Starting off with its return is a bad sign.
The other element of the episode that gives me some grounds for trepidation is, actually, Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Oswin. While her appearance was a spectacularly successful secret, it’s been known that yes, she is the new companion and that the new companion is named Oswin. But [SPOILERSS] Oswin is, by the end of this episode, not only a Dalek, but dead. Which means that, when she is introduced, it will either be a cheat, such as a character who just happens to look exactly like a woman the Doctor met earlier, or we’re in for more “timey-wimey” cross-continuity story-telling. Which gives me an uncomfortably familiar feeling, as it’s the same trick Moffatt pulled with River Song. Which, prior to “A Good Man Goes to War” I was okay with, but after that episode…no, no I’m not okay with that sort of thing anymore. At all.
Overall, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is a much more successful episode, despite the stupid, fan-pandering title. “Ha ha, like the meme that came out of that shitty Sam Jackson movie.” Yes, and nothing about that sentence should ever be viewed as a good thing. It was another brisk episode that moved quickly and balanced jokes and pathos fairly well. In many ways it felt like an “old school” story, with the fairly claustrophobic setting, the unambiguously evil villain and the one “really interesting idea.” The only major flaw is that it ended up feeling a bit too crowded, with too many characters splitting too little to do. Riddell and Nefertiti as bonus companions made for an interesting and appealing pair, and the backseat they take to Amy and Rory is understandable, but it did leave them feeling rather wasted. That they also had to take a backseat to Rory’s dad is somewhat tragic, because as enjoyable as the character was, he added little to the show save for the resolution to an arbitrary plot point.