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TV review: Doctor Who's Asylum of the Daleks
Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in Doctor Who. Image: BBC
The long-awaited return of Doctor Who after an 11-month break of regular episodes. Showrunner Steven Moffat's Asylum of the Daleks begins a five-episode run of "blockbuster" episodes before the show bids adieu to companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill).
Lots of funny and exciting sequences, but the best was probably the cruel final twist of the story, which I still daren't spoil...
There weren't many big issues or shortcomings here, although I'm not a fan of the way Amy's life without The Doctor (Matt Smith) simply reverts to being a perfume model. From police kissagram to photographer's glossy muse? Um, girl power.
The series seven premiere heralds the return of Doctor Who's most famous adversary, the despotic Daleks.
Steven Moffat promised to restore the fear-factor of the show's iconic villains, which has been trickling away since series one's Dalek, and Asylum of the Daleks certainly managed to undo recent creative missteps (not least the obscurity of the controversial "hunchbacked" models introduced in Victory of the Daleks).
"Steven Moffat promised to restore the fear-factor"
In this adventure, The Doctor, Amy and Rory are captured by human "puppets" of the Daleks.
They are transported to a distant mothership to face their Parliament which, it transpired, needs The Doctor's help destroying a planet containing insane and irreparable Daleks.
It's luckily unheard of for inter-Dalek killing (Dalekcide?), as that would be blasphemy.
Asylum of the Daleks was essentially Who's version of Escape From New York, with The Doctor and his companions beamed to the asylum to disable the planet's protective shield and usher global destruction.
In stark contrast to series six's premiere, this was pleasingly straightforward in its narrative and unfussy execution, but never once boring or uninspired.
A romp through time and space
Moffat's lauded for his craft and has evolved Doctor Who into a smart and stylish sci-fi drama (dispensing with many of his predecessor's creative flaws), but he's also capable of hanging himself with too much rope.
Series six was a mess half the time (just recap River Song's story linearly if you disagree) and Moffat had to publically defended himself from claims Who had become "too complex" for children.
It's interesting that he's decided to start this year with five standalone stories. Maybe, deep down, that's an admission things got out of hand last year.
The premiere ebbed and flowed nicely and despite a simple story, it still delivered a handful of unexpected surprises. Who predicted the impending divorce of the Ponds between episodes, for example?
"the biggest surprise was the introduction of new companion Oswin"
But the biggest surprise was the introduction of new companion Oswin (Jenna-Louise Coleman), who worked parallel to this adventure as the sole survivor of a spaceship crash-landing.
Witty, sexy, intelligent, loquacious; she was a typical Moffat-penned woman (sort of Amy without the weirdness), and I look forward to the show explaining Oswin's inevitable comeback given the seemingly close-ended climax.
For now, it was just brilliant to be duped in this way.
This was the best Dalek episode for years and an entertaining way to start a new series, while cleverly offering a smart transition from the departing Ponds to the inbound Oswin. The best thing about Asylum of the Daleks? It left you asking questions, but without a sick feeling the answers will be specious or dumb.
- Verdict: An extremely enjoyable adventure; the perfect way to open the seventh series.
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