Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Review of Doctor Who's 6x01: "The Impossible Astronaut"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Toby Haynes

Amy: “Get down.”
The Doctor: “What are you doing?”
Amy: “Saving your life.”

So, after the success of his first year, it looks like Steven Moffat was in the mood to take a gamble and boy, does it pay off. We’re used to lighter, one-part season openers so a darker, two-parter for an opening story this year was definitely the way to go about things.

I know there have been some complaints from viewers that Moffat’s version of the show isn’t high in emotional content or that he overused the timey-wimey elements in his storytelling but with the latter, it’s again used to great and slightly confusing effect and with the former, this story is seeping with emotional bits without diluting the action along the way.

The most interesting thing isn’t the cheeky methods that the Doctor enabled to draw attention himself to his friends or the fact that River basically treats Stormcage as a holiday camp but more the fact that both Amy and Rory have not been travelling with the bow tie wearing alien for a bit.

Setting this story in America was a breath of fresh air too. We’ve had enough openers based in London and while I do want to see a bit more of Leadworth this year, I really loved the epic backdrop that filming in Utah set for this story. I also love the fact that Moffat introduced both the Silence and killed the Doctor within the first ten minutes with aplomb.

The Doctor’s death was interesting – a future version of him was killed by an Apollo astronaut coming out of the water and Amy, Rory and River were put in the unenviable position of having to keep that a secret from the present day Doctor. That wasn’t easy either given how quickly annoyed he became by their twitchiness in the TARDIS.

I loved that it was Amy who had to be the one to get the Doctor to play ball and attend the mysterious summons back in 1969. Not only does it highlight the strength of their relationship but you could just tell during that scene when Amy was swearing on fish fingers and custards that more was going on with her.

Also interesting was that despite four envelopes being passed out, it was actually five people who became crucial to this storyline. The TARDIS team aside, the arrival of loose cannon FBI guy, Canton Everett Delaware III now meant that Mark Sheppard can add another sci-fi credit to his impressive CV but seriously, he’s an excellent character and interacted with the gang fantastically.

It was Canton who actually gave the Doctor a fair chance when the gang broke into the Oval office and spooked Nixon and it was also a relief that he took to the wonders of the TARDIS with reasonable ease but when you have Rory giving you the lowdown, I guess I can see why Canton wasn’t that shocked by it after all.

As for the central storyline itself – there was a little girl hounding Nixon for helping, a killer Astronaut and the even more dangerous race the Silence. When it came to the last of the three, I can’t help but wonder if Steven Moffat will actually be able to make a sinister alien race that could outrival the Daleks for sinister behaviour.

The Silence played on one of Moffat’s strengths – being seen. People forget them when they’re not looking as demonstrated by Amy, Rory, River and the ill fated Joy and maybe it was the BBC ads featuring them but aesthetically, they’re a nasty looking bunch. Plus the lack of mouths doesn’t mean they’re not quick with conversation.

They could’ve easily killed Amy in the bathroom but instead they menaced her into telling the Doctor everything he knows and doesn’t and they only went to attack Rory and River after the latter managed to activate that TARDIS we saw from “The Lodger” and with that, another mystery was nicely set in place.

As for the little girl being the astronaut, that did surprise but I guess the trailer for the next episode more or less proved that if River couldn’t stop that astronaut, then Amy’s shots aren’t going to make much a difference either but I could Amy making her own attempts of rewriting time and trying to save the Doctor’s life.

However the shocking ending wasn’t even the best bit of the episode – I can’t tell if it was Amy revealing that she was pregnant to the Doctor or River giving Rory some pretty deep insight into who she really is but either way, both of those scenes had me absolutely gripped for different reasons.

I’ll admit that in the past I had reservations with River Song once upon a time but now, not so much. I think it’s because Alex Kingston has electric chemistry with Matt Smith but also because River to me, feels less like a gimmick and more of a real character. Seeing her be vulnerable to Rory about her relationship to the Doctor was beautifully acted but it was also a nice counterbalance to the flirting between the Doctor and River as well in this one – which I did enjoy.

As for Amy being pregnancy – how could this not surprise anyone? The episode wasn’t subtle about the hints – weight comments, clutching stomach, etc but if you’re gonna have a married couple travel in the TARDIS (or back again), then this is a storyline that was probably always going to surface one way or another.

As for theories, I’m going to be totally controversial and assume that a) the baby’s father is Rory and b) the baby could possibly be River but it could also not be as well. Both are valid theories, mind but with this revelation now out in the open, does this mean that Amy and Rory’s time travelling days are about to end?

Also in “The Impossible Astronaut”

The tribute to Elisabeth Sladen at the start of the episode was lovely but where was the one for Nicholas Courtney? Hopefully we see one next week.

Rory: “Hey, nice hat.”
The Doctor: “I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool.”
River: “Hello, sweetie.”

I know she’s still a recurring character but I’m beginning to wish they would add Alex Kingston’s name to the opening credits whenever River appears.

The Doctor (to Amy/Rory/River): “I’ve been running, faster than I ever have and I’ve been running my whole life. Now it’s time for me to stop.”

Older Canton: “I believe I can save you some time. That most certainly is the Doctor and he is most certainly dead.”

Amy and Rory didn’t seem to be living in Leadworth when we first saw them and the Doctor was getting his painting down naked and hanging out in Nazi Germany as well.

Amy: “What do we do, Rory?”
River: “We’re his friends. We do what the Doctor’s friends always do – as we’re told.”

River: “This is cold, even by your standards, this is cold.”
The Doctor: “Or hello as people used to say.”

The Doctor who was killed by the astronaut was 1103 but the Doctor we then met was 909 and hadn’t done Jim the Fish with River. I loved the Easter Island stuff as well.

The Doctor: “Swear to me. Swear to me on something that matters.”
Amy: “Fish fingers and custard.”
The Doctor: “My life in your hands, Amelia Pond.”

Nixon: “You are my second choice for this, Mr Delaware.”
Canton: “That’s okay; you were my second choice for president, Mr Nixon.”

Canton talked about getting married being a crime – closeted homosexual or interracial marriage? Also Mark Sheppard’s father, William Morgan Sheppard played the older Canton first seen in the episode.

The Doctor: “These are my top operative – the legs, the nose and Mrs Robinson.”
River: “I hate you.”
The Doctor: “No, you don’t.”

Silence: “Joy. Her name was Joy. Yours is Amelia. You will tell the Doctor.”
Amy: “Tell him what?”
Silence: “What he must know and what he must never know.”

This episode managed to get in reference to two founding fathers fancying the Doctor, two Doctor Who jokes and a Star Trek reference. Bravo show. Oh and Laurel And Hardy. Can’t forget that too.

Canton (re the TARDIS): “It’s bigger on the inside.”
Rory: “You get used to it.”

The Doctor: “Shout if you get into trouble.”
River: “Don’t worry, I’m quite the screamer. Now there’s a spoiler for you.”

Standout music: Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”. I’ve been addicted to that song for months now, so thanks show for that one.

River (to Rory): “I live for the days I see him but I know that every time I do, he’d be one step further away. The day’s coming when I look into that man’s eyes, my Doctor and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.”

Amy: “Doctor, I’m pregnant.”

Chronology: July 1969 for most of the episode but also around 2011 for the first quarter of the episode too.

As a season opener, “The Impossible Astronaut” is a sumptuous feast. Gorgeous location shots, a fantastically mind bending storyline, beautiful character interactions and growth (except for Nixon, who is underused here) and one creepy as hell monsters with the Silence. Without a doubt, the best opening episode the series has done since 2005.

Rating: 10 out of 10.


Anonymous said...

Amy's stomach pains weren't so much a clue, given that River also exhibited them after seeing the Silence. A TV Tropes commentator said that Rory did too, though I noticed no such thing.

shawnlunn2002 said...

Rory and River did the same thing but I think Amy did it more than once and the episode had been building up to the pregnancy reveal.

Anonymous said...

She saw them more than once, though. So it's kind of like a semi-red herring. Obvious pregnancy sign - other people do the same thing - pregnancy announcement.

Of course, since she said that under suggestion, I wouldn't be surprised if she's not pregnant. Not that I've made up my mind.