Timely return

There are few things in life less terrifying than wood, fibreglass and a bathroom plunger. Assemble those three elements into a dalek, however, and you will understand why a generation of children spent their formative years cowering behind the sofa in fear.

The iconic villains of the long-running series Doctor Who (ABC1, Saturday, 7.30pm; already available on iView) make a spectacular return in the brilliant season premiere, Asylum of the Daleks, which manages to deliver a fresh take on the daleks and still deeply mine the show's five-decade history.

Plucked out of space and time, the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are summoned by the Parliament of the Daleks, a grand chamber full of creepy, repetitive chanting and party sloganeering. So, think Canberra, basically.

From there they are dispatched to get into the ''dalek asylum'', a planetary dumping ground for wonky daleks whose plungers have given up the ghost. Given the sane ones zoom around the universe trying to exterminate everything and everyone they find, you can just imagine what lies in wait in the asylum. Again, think Canberra.

You don't need a PhD in dalek minutiae to enjoy the episode, but for Doctor Who zealots, this is the McTardis with the lot.

We open with a spectacular visit to the war-ravaged dalek home world, Skaro, and the episode features cameo appearances by a bunch of old dalek models, including the silver-and-blue daleks from the original 1996 serial that introduced them and the tank-like ''special weapons dalek'' from the original series' latter years. (Give yourself extra points if you can spot the black-domed ''emperor's guard'' daleks.) All told, it's a veritable dalek-a-palooza.

There are a couple of key twists, which we'll avoid discussing in detail for the sake of those who have not seen the show, but Steven Moffat's script is excellent, particularly at the episode's heartbreaking conclusion, and Nick Hurran's cracking direction is tighter than the plot of a Scandinavian crime drama.

Which brings us to The Bridge (SBS Two, Wednesday, 8.30pm) and that question often asked among the smart crime-telly cognoscenti: which is better, a Danish crime drama or a Swedish one? The answer, of course, is a co-produced Swedish-Danish crime drama.

The Bridge - original title: Broen in Danish and Bron in Swedish - opens with the discovery of a body on the Oresund Bridge, which links Copenhagen in Denmark and Sweden's Malmo, a town whose only other claim to fame is that it is where Abba's Frida met Benny in 1969. OK, OK, Wallander is down the road in Ystad.

Straddling the two jurisdictions, the crime scene brings together Swedish homicide detective Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) and a grizzled old Danish copper, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia). It's a classic TV partnership: she's all cold and tough and he's all old and tough. Not exactly a love story and you get the impression they're not going to get along.

Cut from the same cloth as The Killing, the critically acclaimed Danish cop drama that has been remade by the Americans in that peculiar way the Americans remake everything that sits still long enough, The Bridge dials up the tension and dials down the mood.

The production design has an almost other-worldly feel, leaving us with Saga and Martin in a sort of perpetual twilight, allowing the story to dance in shadows, literally and metaphorically. As a choice it pays dividends, managing to make this world - damp and dark - somehow unwelcoming and intriguing at the same time.

The best cops on TV since Senior Sergeant Bargearse.

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