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Doctor Who pulls off a stunning surprise in season premiere (SPOILERS!)

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Those tuning into the season premiere of Doctor Who on two continents Saturday night were hit with a casting surprise. (Spoilers ahead — don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

Jenna-Louise Coleman, unveiled with much fanfare earlier this year as Matt Smith’s new co-star after the Ponds (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill) are due to depart mid-season, showed up rather earlier than advertised. Once said to debut in this year’s Christmas special, Coleman made her first appearance instead in the early minutes of “Asylum of the Daleks.”

Coleman played Oswin, a mysterious young lady trapped on a planet of insane and outcast Daleks, the Doctor’s oldest and possibly most alien foes. As the officially declared new companion for the Doctor, we’re sure to see her again — but her fate at the end of “Asylum” may complicate the timeline of her involvement in typical Doctor Who fashion.

The surprise is all the more amazing considering the episode was shown several times at preview events attended by many fans and members of the media and blogging community, all known to be a well-connected lot on social media.

Coleman thanked those fans for keeping the secret:

“Boo! Hello! Hope we gave you a good surprise! Thanks to all the fans who kept it quiet and made it so! More to come… watch this space!”

Doctor Who head writer and executive producer Steven Moffat added:

“I hope you all got a nice surprise when Jenna popped up in Doctor Who several months early. If so, that surprise came to you courtesy of the frankly magnificent ladies and gentlemen of the press, and of the many Doctor Who forums and blogs too. This show has been seen at four separate screenings, across four different countries and yet not one person gave one spoiler. From all of us on Doctor Who, a heartfelt thank you for helping us tell our story.”

In addition to the new cast member, “Asylum of the Daleks,” in beginning the seventh series of Doctor Who since the show returned to television in 2005, also debuted slight typographical changes to the opening credits, including a refreshed but still familiar logo. The storyline presents relationship issues for married couple Amy Pond and Rory Williams, as well as a new paradigm going forward in the Doctor’s relationship with the evil Daleks, whom he first encountered in 1963’s first season, when the Time Lord was portrayed by William Hartnell. Indeed, I believe it’s the most significant shift in the Doctor-Dalek conflict since 1975’s “Genesis of the Daleks” starring Tom Baker, an episode that introduced the Daleks’ ruthless creator, the scientist Davros. Only time will tell what it all means.

Up next: “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship!”

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