Review: Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut (Season 6 Episode 1)
Posted By: Darren Blackburn, U.K. Correspondent
On: April 25, 2011 Updated: 2 years 3 weeks ago
On: April 25, 2011 Updated: 2 years 3 weeks ago
Before going into the review of "The Impossible Astronaut" - as you’ll know well by now Elisabeth Sladen passed away recently. As Sarah Jane Smith, Liz as she was known to close friends, was the first Companion I got to know - I was about 7 when I started watching "Doctor Who." Pertwee’s third Doctor was coming to the end of his five year run, battling giant spiders on Metebelis Three, Baker was waiting in the wings.
At their sides was this cocky young lady who stood her ground facing unimaginable horrors cooked up by the writers of a series that at the time was up against my then personal favourite Space 1999!
If it hadn’t been for Sarah, and more so Tom Baker, I’d probably wouldn’t have become a "Who" fan! Sarah was unwittingly a blueprint for later, strong-minded characters prepared to stand their ground; Ace, Romana and Amy Pond come to mind. She was a devoted fan favourite and it was a pleasure to see her return to the series in "School Reunion," -- okay older but most definitely wiser. Oddly enough, just a week prior to her passing, I was watching old Baker episodes with Sarah as I’d never saw all of them including "Hand of Fear" where she has to leave the Doctor’s side as Gallifrey “isn’t for humans.” Her stuffed owl didn’t crop up in "School Reunion," but her performance won over many new fans eager to explore the old series. Her untimely passing will be mourned for years to come and it was fitting "The Impossible Astronaut" was dedicated to her memory.
Review The Impossible Astronaut
Okay, right down to business!
First episode of a new series and first impression: brilliant stuff as always for a season finale -- 'cause that's the vibe we got from this. Big location: well the USA is big, really big! School bus going down Highway 69 (or whatever the number was) in modern day Utah. Doctor wearing a Stetson - they're cool you'll might expect - before being shot by John Wayne - no we mean River Song….
Major shock moments that throw you for a loop, such as The Doctor getting shot dead! What? The Doctor’s dead? Yes, shot! My new co-partner faints in amazement! Oh, haven’t you noticed? Say hello to Carl Bailey from my home town. He’s my junior apprentice -loves new Who a lot - and I aked him, "Fancy doing some comments for the reviews this year while I’m typing up scripts for Nova 619?" He said yes - so welcome him!
Now, where were we?! The Doctor’s dead! Shot not once, not twice, but three times as he attempts to regenerate - by an 1969 Apollo Astronaut emerging from a lake in the surreal landscape of Monument Valley -- and that happens ten minutes in! And have we mentioned that the other Tardis turns up from "The Lodger?" No? Well read on....
Backtrack to the pre-credit sequence. Newlyweds Rory and Amy get cryptic temporal postcards from their favourite Time Lord, from 17th Century France, naked underneath the skirt of a lady in waiting - that’s hilarious - to breaking prisoners out of Stalag 17, to hanging out with Laurel and Hardy with a fez on his head! As if he’s trying to get his former companions attentions for some Doctory purpose! Then along comes the Postman (not Kevin Costner) dropping of a blue coloured Tardis envelope. Its an invite to travel to the US of A and rendezvous with The Doctor aged 1,103 years. My, he looks good for his age. Botox works wonders!
However, Rory and Amy aren't the only ones who get a summons. In Stormcage, in the 51st Century, River Song gets an invite to go to planet Amercica, as well as ex-FBI agent, Carlton Delaware The Third (played by Morgan Sheppard), who worked for President Nixon. And looking at the numbers on the envelopes, there’s a fourth guest who hasn’t yet turned up! Anyway, River doesn’t like the Doctor’s new choice of headgear and promptly shoots it off (Carl loved that bit!). Amy sees a mysterious figure watching them from afar and while they’re still trying to figure out the significant of the catchphrase "Space 1969" and who that illusive last invitee could be - an Apollo Astronaut walks out of the lake and -- well you know what happens!
The Doctor’s dead! Dead as a parrot. He is an ex-Time Lord. Cold. Defunct. He is no more!!
So, after giving him a Viking funeral (same as the 10th Doc did for The Master in Last of the Time Lords) - off to console themselves at a deli. But before they’ve taken a sip of that coffee - who turns up with the fourth envelope and gets a slap by River? Have a guess (Carl’s confused now). I tell him, this is a younger version of the 11th Doctor, only 909 - 1 year older than last year’s model (Carl’ gets it now! Have you?). Yes, its another Steve Moffat twisty timey-wimey plotline! Future Eleventh Doctor is dead, but that doesn't mean he hasn't figured out a way to prevent his death from possibly happening. Time as you know can be rewritten! But don’t let the present Doctor know, he might not be happy to know his days are numbered!
Tracing the life history of Delaware 3rd, the Tardis arrives in the oval office of President Nixon to meet him and Delaware's younger self, played by Mark Sheppard; see how they did that?! That's bloody surreal seeing the Tardis in the Oval office -- well it would if it wasn't cloaked! It's here we find out that the President has problems; he's getting mysterious phone calls from a little girl who is being terrorized by a Spaceman (hmmm?) and he's determined to find out what's going on. The Doctor offers his services in exchange for some jammy doggers and a fez, and its off to the Cape where the phone calls are coming from.
That's before Amy gets a scare. It's in the simple setting of a White House bathroom where we get to meet a member of The Silence. Moffat's new scary monsters - and boy they're unnerving. We loved them! Like the Weeping Angels with their ultimate defense mechanism, The Silence have their own unique ability. As long as you look at them you can perceive they exist, you can remember they exist, but turn away and you forget they're there, you forget they exist - and by that, The Silence have been existing on Earth and other planets without interference for millennia, pursuing their sinister as yet unrevealed agenda -- which of course involved blowing up The Tardis last series! Have to say, for Monsters that are supposed to be silent its a shame they speak! And worse, you need a hearing aid to figure out what they’re saying!! Just standing there, all out of phase zapping White Office secretaries into bits was more than impressive (Carl loved that bit) and its refreshing to see the Who creative team come up with something very unnerving! Nice suit!
And speaking of tardi - that other Tardis from "The Lodger" turns up, buried in The Silence's underground network of tunnels -- whether they actually the owners or The Silence are simply lodgers remains to be seen. That's if we can remember what we wrote...what....I'm playing backgammon naked with a French Maid and a Goose...and Carl’s repairing his friend’s computer...
I've just got an envelope tucked under my door, it's blue and marked No.8. I'll just open it. It's a message from Future Carl! It's the rest of this review! It says that after Rory and River find the other Tardis and River explains she's missing the Doctor, her Doctor, because every time they meet she knows him more and him less - and very soon she going to have to tell him who she is. But as the first part closes, the Spaceman turns up, and we see that inside the Spacesuit is a little girl, the girl who has been making the phone calls to Nixon - and what does Amy do? She shoots her in the head! Bang! Dead! Astronaut dead as a dodo means Future Doctor won't die - but as you'll gather its not that simple!
In Confidental - Moffatt reveals that the scene of The Doctor's death is a key aspect of this years arc. It shows that a Time Lord can die. He can't live forever. His fate now lies with his more youthful self and his faithful companions - the mystery of River Song and the schemes of The Silence will play out over the next 12 episodes - and, oh yes, Future Carl also mentions that Amy is pregnant! Who's the Father??? Spoilers!
Overall, great episode. Actors on forms as always, as Matt pushes the boat with his interpretation and we get further used to the new dynamic of Mrs. and Mr. Pond nee Williams. Alex is beautiful, but better still are those lovely shots in Utah which my young companion says is his favourite country! But on the downside a bit wordy, bit too complicated and unless you happen to see last year’s series there’s no recap - you’re in at the deep end right from the beginning!
Oh, I've just realized I haven’t forgotten anything. I just got hit by an Easter bunny. We can't wait for the next episode of this thrilling climax to Series 6! Will Amy find out whose the Daddy? Did Amy hit the Astronaut with her bullets? Will The Doctor cash in his pension? Who is that bearded Doctor at Area 51? Why has Amy got tally marks on her face? Will River shoot at us as I’m wearing a baseball cap and Carl hates dresses. We don’t know. Find out this Saturday!
-Darren and Carl