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TV Review: ‘Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut’
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Doctor Who

Doctor Who
Series 6, Episode 1: The Impossible Astronaut
Directed by Toby Haynes
Written by Steven Moffat
Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, Mark Sheppard, William Morgan Sheppard, Stuart Milligan, Chukwudi Iwuji
BBC America
Air date: April 23, 2011

Like any good companion of the Doctor, we’ve waited too long for his return, but the wait is over. Tonight saw the Series 6 premiere of Doctor Who on BBC America. The beginning of this review is spoiler-free and at the end are clearly marked Spoiler section for those of you who have not yet seen the episode.

Episode 1, The Impossible Astronaut, has a lot of ground to cover in terms of establishing what the overall plot of this new series is. After a quick and humorous check in with Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darvill), and River (Alex Kingston), our heroes meet up with The Doctor (Matt Smith) and we’re thrust right into the thick of what looks to be an exciting and mystery-filled season.

The major plot of the episode focuses on the Doctor and crew traveling to 1969 to assist President Nixon in the search for a little girl that keeps calling the White House for help. Upon their grand introduction into the Oval Office, our travelers meet Canton Everett Delaware III (played by the always wonderful Mark Sheppard) and set off to find this mystery girl.

And then things get a bit wibbly-wobbly.

Without giving anything away, this episode lays the groundwork to challenge our main characters in an emotional way. This new threat is real and more dangerous than ever before and it looks to be one hell of a ride.

The new creatures live up to showrunner Steven Moffat‘s hype as truly one of the scariest Who monsters. They’re legitimately creepy to look at and downright terrifying once you see their true potential.

Moffat’s story certainly isn’t for beginning Doctor Who fans. A prior knowledge of Season 5 is critical to understanding where our characters are and their motivations. As a viewer of Season 5, there’s plenty in this episode to keep me asking questions, let alone someone that’s never seen an episode of the series before. The episode relies on a lot of previous emotional connections to these characters and plays into that connection throughout the episode.

Quick Thoughts:

– I briefly mentioned Mark Sheppard, but he’s put to great use as Delaware. I’m glad he’s sticking around for the next episode.
– While this episode is certainly darker than previous episodes of Moffat’s run, it doesn’t come without it’s hilarity. The opening third is full of humor and some of it continues as the episode gets progressively darker.
– Now that Amy and Rory are all paired up, the Doctor is free to flirt with River as much as he wants, creating some down right golden moments between the two time travelers.
Toby Haynes continues the great directing seen previously in The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang.
– It’s always difficult to write about episodes that are split into two parts, but I feel very strongly about the first half of this two part episode. I felt like the exposition throughout the episode was handled in a way that didn’t drag and added to the overall narrative.

The Impossible Astronaut sets off what looks to be an incredible season of one of television’s greatest shows. I can’t wait to sit down and watch the series as it airs and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you all throughout the season. Now it’s your turn to share. What did you think of The Impossible Astronaut? Sound off in our comments below.

With these reviews, I’m going to be including spoilers at the end. You’ve been warned.

River Song Spoilers

Spoilers

– The Silence aren’t to be messed with. Even though we know little about them, anything that’s powerful enough to kill the Doctor and erase themselves from your mind is serious and legitimate threat.
– Speaking of killing the Doctor, I knew there was something not right about his presence at the start of the episode. We’ve seen Smith tap into various aspects of the Doctor before, but I’ve never seen something quite like the fear he had as he approached the Silent in the water. Fantastic acting on his part.
– While we didn’t find out who River Song really is (that will be revealed in Episode Seven), we did get some clarity as to how exactly her past and future with the Doctor works. It’s weird to know that her future is the Doctor’s past and her past is the Doctor’s future.
– I’m going to say right now Rory is the father of the Amy’s baby (if it’s a baby at all. Part of me thinks that since River was having the same pains that it’s not a baby, but something else entirely), but I don’t understand the larger context of how that would play into the Doctor’s future and/or death. Anyone got some ideas?
– “Code name: The Doctor. These are my top operatives: the Legs, the Nose, and Mrs. Robinson.” “I hate you.”

7 Comments »

  1. This was a great episode and a great premiere for a new season of The Doctor. I do have to say that I don’t think it was a Silent who killed the Doctor. A few things that were said in the episode have led me in a different direction. I don’t want to say any more here, but in the skype chat I participated in, I think we all agreed about who it actually was. I can’t wait until next week’s episode and the rest of the season!!

    Comment by Anonymous — April 24, 2011 @ 3:15 am

  2. It was a great episode. Two things: 1) Haven’t we seen that spaceship command set-up before in a Matt Smith episode last year where he becomes roommates with a guy in order to investigate the thing upstairs? Are they just reusing the same set or is it somehow connected? 2) I’m assuming they somehow “change time” in 1969 because having Matt Smith die like that means he’ll be the last Doctor and I just don’t see that happening. At least, I hope that doesn’t happen.

    …That better not happen.

    Comment by Christine Dunbar — April 24, 2011 @ 5:20 am

  3. Several things to note here, just as someone anonymous:

    1. Do not assume–regardless of what Moffat and others have said–that the Silents are as evil as they appear in this episode. Take a close look at what they appear to be when River first sees them in the tunnels. A lot less like ‘evil’ and a lot more like ‘refugees’.
    2. Also note that the Silent–while yes, it kills a woman–also tells Amy she will/must tell the Doctor everything, including what he can never know. They may be trying to -save- him.
    3. Yes to Christine: That was the “proto-Tardis” from the Lodger episode. Which, if you remember, vanished/imploded at the end of that episode. Who wants to bet it didn’t implode at all?
    4. There are several choices as to who could be in that astronaut suit 7 mins. into the episode. The girl, a Silent, the Doctor and my personal choice–River. I think that moment IS the moment she killed the best man she ever knew…just seen from a later POV in her timeline.
    5. Obviously, this season is about whether time can be rewritten. There is no way that is the end of the Doctor…or at least, not ‘our’ Doctor.
    6. There are two answers to Amy’s ‘pregnancy’. 1, that she remembered she was supposed to say SOMETHING to the Doctor, could not remember it but COULD remember she was sick and assumed pregnancy. 2, that she IS pregnant…and if so, so is River. My reasoning for this is below.
    7. I think there is a strong chance that BOTH River and Amy are pregnant…and that those pregnancies are either where the Silents come from, where the little girl came from, or both.

    Comment by Anonymous — April 24, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  4. I agree that the person in the water is probably River. I also agree with all the other statements you’ve brought up here. I think next week will bring lots of clarity to what’s going on. Although, I’ve already got a pretty good idea of what the hash marks are that we see on Amy, River, and Rory in next week’s episode.

    Comment by William Goodman — April 24, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

  5. Yes a similar setup was seen in “The Lodger”.

    Comment by Anonymous — April 24, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

  6. In the episode where Amy River and the Doctor fight the night angles he asked River why she was in jail she responds i killed a man he asked who she said the most wonderfull man who else thinks the “most wonderfull man is The Doctor”

    Comment by Dantes — April 24, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

  7. And if you want crazy fridge brilliance, Amy was stuck in the TARDIS and Rory was “dead” at the time, so when River/Rory walked into the incomplete TARDIS being built they had no idea it had been seen before.

    Which touches on something nobody has mentioned/noticed: the 1102 yr old Doctor and the 909 yr old Doctor both traveled to Utah in 2011. They both would have brought a TARDIS, and only one went back to 1969.

    So where is 1102’s TARDIS at?

    Comment by FACLC — April 28, 2011 @ 8:39 am

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