Warning: this feature contains potential series 7 spoilers.
After almost nine months off air Doctor Who is once again gearing up for transmission.
With five episodes – kicking off with the intriguingly titled, Asylum of the Daleks – slated to air from late August, the BBC has released a new 90-second trailer to promote the upcoming season.
But what does the trailer contain? And how much does it tell us about the episodes to come?
Daleks, lots of Daleks…
After a brief shot of the TARDIS tumbling through space, the trailer cuts to the Doctor (Matt Smith), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy (Karen Gillan) being captured by a fleet of what appear to be Dalek saucers.
From there, our intrepid trio are whisked up into what appears to be some sort of court filled to the rafters with more Daleks than we’ve ever seen.
Interestingly, these are not the much-derided New Paradigm variations which debuted in 2010’s Victory of the Daleks, but rather the classic bronze and gold models of the Russell T Davies era.
Clearly the New Paradigm Daleks haven’t been completely ditched as there are several red ‘drone’ models present in these scenes, but whether they make more than a token reappearance remains to be seen.
However, what is clear is that this opening story is about restating core Dalek values. After the firestorm surrounding their fumbled relaunch two years ago, that seems both wise and necessary.
Dinosaurs on a spaceship
Mass Daleks aside, it would seem that most of the money shots in this trailer have been taken from the Chris Chibnall-penned second episode, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.
From the impressive shot of Solomon’s (David Bradley) outer space pirate ship, through to the snarling shapes of what looks like a pack of hungry T-Rex, episode 2 seems to be every inch this season’s visual effects extravaganza.
Intended by Chibnall to be more of a ‘gang show’ than most other Who stories, we get brief glimpses of Rory’s Dad (Mark Williams), British explorer Riddell (Rupert Graves) and Queen Nefertiti of Egypt (Riann Steele) who all appear to be aiding the TARDIS trio in this seemingly madcap adventure.
Before the trailer ends, we’re bombarded with shots of Solomon’s visually impressive, but rather goofily voiced robot henchmen, the Doctor being chased along a beach by some pterodactyls and, finally, the rather wonderful image of the Time Lord riding a Triceratops through the bowels of a spaceship.
It’s not clear what the story for this episode will be, but from the brief snatches seen so far it certainly looks like Dinosaurs… is a definite throwback to the action-led episodes of the RTD era.
Guns at the ready!
While much of the teaser trailer shown back in the spring played up footage from Toby Whithouse’s wild west-set A Town Called Mercy, this trailer seems to feature far less from that particular story.
However, while we do get to see the obligatory highly cinematic shots of the Doctor riding a horse, wearing a stetson, and engaging in a High Noon-esque showdown with a cyborg gunslinger, it’s a dialogue scene taken from this episode which makes the biggest impact.
In a seemingly tense exchange between the Doctor and Amy, the clearly flustered Time Lord is invoking the names of the Daleks and the Master to damn his own mercy and justify what would appear to be his own ruthlessness. Amy seems unconvinced by his argument and says this is clearly what happens when the Doctor travels alone for too long.
These five episodes mark the end of the 11th Doctor’s time with the Ponds, but they’re structured in a way where the Doctor intermittently drops in on the couple and whisks them away on adventures rather than travelling with them on an ongoing basis.
As a result of this, tension has clearly built up between the Doctor and Amy and the Last of the Time Lords does seem to have been changed by the events of the last series. Is this exchange paving the way for the Ponds’ full-time departure or is it seeding the notion that once again the Doctor needs to find himself a new, full-time companion?
Either way it certainly hints at some of the ongoing character strands at work within this shorter run of stories.
Down to the Asylum
Later in the trailer we see the Doctor and Amy (but not Rory?) fired down a tunnel of white light towards a snow-capped world.
Judging by the hexagonal pattern surrounding this planet, this is some form of Dalek force field and it would suggest that this is the site of the aforementioned Asylum of the Daleks. But what’s inside this Asylum? And why have the Doctor and Amy been sent there?
Adding to the mystery is the quick glimpse we get of a rather old-school Dalek (it appears to be a Genesis of the Daleks model) firing at what looks very much like a modern example of Skaro’s finest as the Doctor ducks out of the way of the blast.
Is this Asylum a place where Daleks of every shape and size are being held captive? And if so, why are they being locked up by members of their own race?
New York, New York
It’s already widely known that Amy and Rory depart from the show in the fifth and final episode of this run during a battle with the Weeping Angels in New York City.
While the footage we get from that episode is minimal, what we do get to see are: an establishing shot of Time Square, flashes of a new, cherubic looking Weeping Angel blowing out a candle, a decayed ‘classic’ Angel posing menacingly and a rather enigmatic shot of a trilby-wearing River Song (Alex Kingston).
With the production team usually avoiding screening the season finale in advance, it’s hardly a surprise that footage from the later episodes is being kept strictly under wraps.
However, perhaps more of a surprise is the seeming lack of any footage from the fourth episode of the series. An old school Earth invasion story told with a twist, this is another Chibnall-penned adventure and features not only the return of Rory’s Dad, but also UNIT for the first time since 2009’s Planet of the Dead.
But domestically scaled stories are not what this trailer is selling and it’s clear that the ‘blockbuster every week’ format is being pushed very hard.
Is this a response to the criticisms of the more knotted and internal series 6? It’s hard to say for sure, but I doubt those criticisms have fallen on deaf ears.
In addition, the Doctor himself appears to be a little more haunted, fallible and vulnerable than he has been in the past couple of years. As great as Matt Smith has been playing the Doctor, he’s rarely been given the opportunity to grapple with the sort of complex emotional material that his two predecessors were given on a regular basis.
Certainly the final scene of the trailer, where the Doctor emerges into a room of ruined Daleks while holding the body of a seemingly out-cold Amy, is the sort of direct, emotive and iconic image that the show hasn’t really dealt in since Russell T Davies’ departure from the show.
On first glance, all of this augurs well for the series to come and it would appear the short production break has reinvigorated the production team. However, what remains to be seen is whether the departure of Gillan and Darvill will pack the punch of previous companion exits or whether this truncated run of stories is merely marking time before the show’s 50th Anniversary season next year.