By C.J. Bunce
Diehard Doctor Who fans will already know this, so this is more for you almost-diehard fans–If you watched this weekend’s explosive (or “explodey-wodey”) Doctor Who season premiere episode “Asylum of the Daleks,” you might have missed that the character Oswin was played by actress Jenna-Louise Coleman, and if you haven’t been paying attention you further might have missed that she will be replacing the Ponds as the new companion to Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor by year end.
If you had known this your watching experience may have gone something like this–Wait! Isn’t she the new companion? She looks familiar. Did we know she was going to be in the first episode? Which then went to: Hmm… I’m not sure I like her. Then, hmm… she’s really quick and witty. Smart. Sassy. And by the end of the episode you feel guilty to so quickly give up your loyalty to the best companion ever (yes, Amelia Pond) for someone with the name.. Oswin Oswald? But wasn’t the new companion’s name supposed to be Clara? They wouldn’t do something so low and wrong as having the same actress play two parts in such a short timeframe, right? Questions, questions.
The truth is this was all a big surprise by Stephen Moffat & Co. kept nicely under wraps. No sneak previews revealed we would be seeing Coleman so soon in the season. But with such an incredible character it would be horrible to have her play a different character in the same season, right? Right? But this is Doctor Who, so there must be umpteen thousand ways to go back or forward in time (or something, and… just… undo it!) to get the 11th Doctor back in touch with Oswin so the partnership can begin. Why back in touch? Because, sort of like Doctor Donna in the library, the new companion isn’t who she thinks she is, but… is… a… DALEK!
OK, at least we’re supposed to think she’s a Dalek, and may be an ex-Dalek or pre-Dalek by the time all this comes together. All we’ve heard is that by season’s end Amy and Rory are off on their own in this season’s episode “the Angels Take Manhattan,” that Matt Smith is around for about another season and the new companion is Clara or now maybe Oswin Oswald, entertainment officer on the spaceship Alaska, which has crash-landed on the Asylum of the Daleks. (Who knew the way to take out the Daleks was playing Bizet’s Carmen really, really loud?). But Doctor Who rumors are usually wrong, and even straight from the horse’s mouth the BBC has said Matt Smith is not leaving the role of the Doctor next year (huzzah!).
Although she started a bit babbly bordering on annoying, Coleman’s performance soon became just funny and brilliant, returning over and over to making burnt souffles, and eggs, and egg-sterminations, all for a reason, all hinting at what was there all along. Of all the ideas and introductions in the new Doctor Who world from the 9th Doctor forward, this was the most exciting introduction of a new companion, and the episode was full of neat twists and turns. Amy and Rory signing divorce papers? Say it isn’t so! Yet Moffat’s script gave us exactly what we need, knowing we have to say goodbye to Amy and Rory soon–give us something to distance the audience from the Ponds and start a new trail for a future storyline with this new, fresh face.
Think of the possibilities, now that the 11th Doctor has been left to help the Daleks. How will partnering with a current or ex-Dalek help him deal with the Daleks in general? Can he build some compassion for his mortal enemies? And with Coleman’s rapid-fire dialogue and Matt Smith’s equally zippy phrases you could probably fit double the story in the normal chatty space aboard the gool ol’ TARDIS.
Coleman seems so different from the recent companions Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy–in a good way. If her first episode is any indication of her future with Doctor Who, our verdict on Coleman as the new companion is…give us more!