Join the Doctor, his companions Amy and Rory (aka the Ponds) and numerous friends on their latest escapades through space and time where they puzzle an unexpected invasion of Earth, save a spaceship full of dinosaurs, don Stetsons in a Wild West adventure and are even kidnapped by the Doctor's oldest foe. The explosive series concludes with Amy and Rory's heart-breaking farewell a race against time through the streets of Manhattan. Will the Doctor really lose the Ponds forever? There's only one way to find out.
The general excellence of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who continues with Series Seven, Part One, featuring five episodes of whimsy and derring-do by the mysterious time-and-space-traveling Doctor (Smith) and his current companions, the recently married Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill). "Asylum of the Daleks" finds yet another spin on the Doctor's most inescapable foes, introducing a planet where the Daleks put those of their kind who are too deranged even for them--but the episode's emotional core sneaks up on you, even if you suspect all is not what it seems. "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" features (obviously) dinosaurs, but also Queen Nefertiti and Rory's father, Brian (Mark Williams, who played Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter series), a stick-in-the-mud who gets unstuck; Williams is delightful. The series goes Western with "A Town Called Mercy," featuring an alien gunslinger and some thorny and complex moral issues. Even the weakest episode, The Power of Three--an aliens-invading-Earth story that feels like a warmed-over plot from Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood--is redeemed by some bittersweet conversations between the Doctor and Amy. These conversations set up the final departure of the Ponds in The Angels Take Manhattan, which brings back the creepiest villains ever in a multilayered story that's both clever and heartfelt. Series Seven lacks any overarching narrative threads (like the crack in reality of the fifth season) but aims for dense, chewy storytelling. The bonus features are enjoyable little appetizers: brief snippets of Amy and Rory's lives, nifty preludes to "Asylum of the Daleks" and "A Town Called Mercy," and a featurette in which actual scientists (and, pointlessly, a random assortment of actors and comedians) discuss time travel, cloning, and other ideas embedded in the series and whether they'll ever come to fruition. All in all, an enjoyable half-season that will make any fan, and many a newcomer, eager for the other half. --Bret Fetzer