Monday, 25 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut ( review with spoilers )



"Hello darkness my old friend
I've come to talk with you again"

Team Tardis are back, reunited after months apart, and all bringing secrets with them. Four Tardis-blue envelopes have been delivered to the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River, inviting them all to a picnic in what Rory calls "Nowhere: middle of... ", otherwise known as the Utah Desert.


But, unfortunately, there's little time for hugs, wine and reminiscing about Jim The Fish and Easter Island, or planning a trip to "Space:1969", because the time travellers are soon confronted by the bizarre sight of a NASA astronaut emerging from a lake in the middle of the desert. And promptly
( SPOILERS! ) killing the Doctor. Before the remaining Time Trio have had a chance to, er, blink, the astronaut has returned to its watery home, a mysterious old man has helped them cremate the Doctor's body, and they're standing in a diner, arguing what to do next, when.....
the Doctor walks back in.

( There was something else, but I seem to have forgotten it..... )


"Because a vision softly creeping / Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains
Within the sound of ( )"

( Nope, forgotten it again..... )

In true Steven Moffat, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey style, it turns out that the dead Doc is a future version of the 11th Doctor, and his companions resolve to find out what he wanted them to do back in 1969, but without telling "their" Doctor of his fate. And he's none too happy about all these secrets. They soon find themselves back in 1969, at the White House no less, where they meet up with a younger version of the old guy from the lake, President Nixon himself and...
somebody else. ( Give me a minute. It'll come to me..... )

The Doctor: "Oh, a lot more happens in '69 than anyone remembers. Human beings: I thought I'd never get done saving you."


Bloody Hell! Look at that thing above! It's the Silence! How did I forget it? Must be my age.....

This really is a cracking episode. Whereas before the pattern was to start a new series with a "fun romp" ( only with monsters and killing ), this time Moffat has gone for creepy and complex. Which is fine by me! The secrets being kept by the Tardis crew add new subtleties to their relationships. Who did River murder? Does Rory know about ( SPOILERS! ) Amy's baby? Did the Doctor know he was going to his death? ( By the agonised look on Matt Smith's face it certainly seems so. ) This dark turn of events is brilliantly played by the regulars, all of them raising their game, particularly Arthur Darvill, showing us the beginnings of a depth to Rory that hasn't been apparent before.

The whole episode has an expansive, filmic quality, especially in the Utah scenes. Top marks to director Toby Haynes for creating such vivid, memorable images as the Apollo astronaut wading out of the lake, or River looking damn sexy with a six-shooter strapped to her hip, or the Doctor lounging in the Oval Office, surrounded by CIA agents with itchy trigger-fingers.

And, of course, the Silence must rank as one of the creepiest Doctor Who monsters ever. The concept that you forget the alien's existence as soon as you look away from it is inspired, and leads to some incredibly tense scenes as River and Rory explore underground tunnels filled with Silence. ( Yeah, I mean filled with aliens called the Silence, not filled with a lack of sound. How are we supposed to write about this stuff, Mr. Moffat? You're not making it easy for us. ) And that scene in the White House toilet? Brrrr!! I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.....

I'll have to knock off half a mark for the story being just that little bit too exposition-heavy, but otherwise a fantastic start to the new series, so.....

4 and a half Bow Ties


"Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows"

Soundtrack: The Sound Of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
( of course! )

13 comments:

Booksteve said...

Nicely written, sir! (Love the Fury logo, too!)

cerebus660 said...

Thanks for the kind words, Steve!

That is a great pic of Nick and Natasha, isn't it? I can just imagine a SHIELD strip drawn by Paul Gulacy, guest-starring the Black Widow and Shang Chi & co. And written by Doug Moench of course. *Sigh* I can dream, can't I?

Booksteve said...

Is that Natasha? I assumed it to be Val, his sixties significant other with the similar hairstyle. Can't imagine the Widow taking such a submissive pose.

cerebus660 said...

You could be right, Steve. I'll have to study the picture very closely ;-)

Atlanta Roofing said...

It’s interesting how quickly they forget that there are sounds and aliens here in the tunnels. It’s almost as soon as they notice them, they forget them. They come upon a locked door. River mentioned to Amy that there was a worse day coming for her. River says that it was when she first the Doctor. He knew all about her. She says that they are traveling in opposite directions. Every time they meet, she knows him more and he knows her less.

Steve W. said...

I loved it too. Easily my favourite season opener since Who first came back six years ago. At my advanced age, I really can't be doing with all that running around, and so appreciated the more complex approach to story-telling.

PS. I think it's Val too.

Steve W. said...

PPS. Thank you for commenting on my blog. :)

Edward said...

The press are trying to make something of the fact that the episode attracted fewer "live" viewers than previous first episodes. To which "the weather, stupid" has to be the answer. I thought it was a very promising start to the season and the first cliffhanger in a while to make me wish the next week away!

cerebus660 said...

@Atlanta roofing: Thanks for commenting. Er, do I call you "Atlanta" or "Mr. Roofing"? ;-)

@Steve W: I've heard a couple of people ( adults ) saying they didn't understand the latest Who, but my son ( aged 11 ) got it, no problem. I think it's good to see Moffat and co. going for a more complex story now and then. And, in fact, episode 3 ( the pirate one ) looks like it might be the more traditional "romp".
And, like Booksteve, I'm sure you're right about that picture being of Val not Natasha. Don't know why I thought it was the Widow. Talk about advanced age...

@Edward: Thanks for commenting, mate! Apart from the scorching weather, the other big problem was the scheduling: 6:00 is far too early! But, of course, the addition of "time-shift" viewing will bump up the ratings as it always does.
Hope you are well, Edward. Good to see some activity over at Lost In Barnwood!

Mickey Glitter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mickey Glitter said...

River is emerging as my favorite modern-day Doctor Who character quite smartly, probably because she's the oldest one on the team these days and because I like to think after a day of chasing and being chased, she's as likely to rummage through the TARDIS looking for ibuprofen and an electric blanket to soothe her aching muscles. Because that's what I do more and more often these days. =) Also, her hair. I ADORE HER HAIR. Because mine is straight as a pin.

cerebus660 said...

Yeah, her hair's always the first thing I look at ;-)

But I agree - River is such a great character ( and always gets the best lines! ) but I get the impression that this will be her last series...

Mickey Glitter said...

That would be a great loss, if River left. =(

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