The Impossible Astronaut review

Co-written with the lovely Suzanne Walker. You can find her over at Cognitive Recalibration
SPOILER ALERT for Doctor Who, series 6. 

First of all, wow. That was no calm, fun series opener. I’m not going to spend too much of this talking about plot, because I want to see what Moffat does with the second part of this story. Here, he threw an incredible amount of information at us, and while I want to criticize him for that, I think I’ll wait until it’s wrapped up to pass judgement. I also have some huge issues pending with Amy's final statement before the cliffhanger, but I will also leave that till next time.

That said, I have to give him points for sheer nerve. Who kills off the Doctor and ensures that he doesn’t regenerate in the first ten minutes of a season? Yes, this road had been sort of paved by RTD in Turn Left and The Stolen Earth. Yes, in some ways every viewer knows he won’t be dead in the end. But that didn’t stop it from being an incredibly powerful and arresting moment. I sort of cried. The scene where they meet his past self in the diner almost hurts. And the scene in the TARDIS, the companions trying to get the Doctor to trust them instead of the other way around, had incredible acting from all of them. You could almost taste the tension. For once, the audience is in the know, and the Doctor was out, and the reversal of that normal situation is so striking.

And really, the companions are a team now. It has been so long since we’ve had a group like that together, all travelling with the Doctor. When they’re all sitting in the diner, with River and the Doctor syncing their journals, and with their picnic laughing and teasing each reminded me so so so strongly of the Boom Town episode in Season One, with the Doctor, Rose, Jack, and Mickey. For fans of Classic Who, I’m sure there are many more parallels of a TeamTARDIS to draw from that area. And I don’t know how long this team is going to be sustained, as I’m pretty sure Dr. Song will be departing for awhile after this episode ends. But in the meantime, while it’s so *lovely* to see the Doctor surrounded by friends he cares about...and a potentially certain special someone.

I still don’t know what River’s relationship to the Doctor is going to turn out to be. EVERYONE has been screaming “wife” since Day One, but that’s such an obvious connection that it’s got to be more complicated than that. Whatever it is, it’s clear that she is extraordinarily important in the Doctor’s life, and I love the dynamic they’re starting to develop now that he knows her a little bit better. I feel like The Big Bang really worked to break the ice between the two of them, and now--even as he doesn’t know what their relationship is--they are just turning up the chemistry, flirting and joking and dancing full stop. True to their relationship, the chemistry between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston is bizarre, yet it works so perfectly. The dynamic they have with each other, the way they’ve been able to slip so seamlessly into comfortable roles with each other, means that the Doctor’s finally starting to accept the place she has in his life. Which obviously isn’t going to last--I’m still so creeped out by the fact that River says that the Doctor’s “Darkest hour” is the day he finds out who she is. But for now, it’s so lovely that they’re interacting the way they are.

It’s also so lovely that Rory, unquestionably the reticent companion, although he’s still hesitant in some ways, has certainly grown a lot. He hasn’t done anything big yet, but if you ask me, he doesn’t need to. Little gestures are showing me that between seasons, even though they might not have been traveling in the TARDIS a whole lot, he has completely grown into the role of being a real companion. He does a wonderful job of holding Amy back, bringing her to her senses, doing what has got to be done even if it’s incredibly difficult. And while Amy has just sort of accepted River as some strange anomaly who turns up in the Doctor’s life, Rory is the one who thinks to ask her about her personal life. And the conversation that results is beautiful.

At present, I don’t have the skills to even begin to predict what Moffat might do with the second part of the episode, and how on earth (or off it) he’s going to wrap all this up. But I will say that the Silence are up there with the Angels as the scariest monsters this show has given us. I mean, monsters that you forget about? Meaning monsters that basically don’t exist when you’re not looking at them? That’s almost the reverse of the Angels, as many people have pointed out. They look plenty creepy as well--in fact, they look eerily like the famous painting by Edward Munch, The Scream. Maybe that’s just my brain inventing coincidences. Although certainly didn’t invent the ship that looked exactly like the one in the Lodger.

I applaud the Who team for finally making it to film in America--they made wonderful use of the Utah landscape. Not quite as great were the various examples that Brits can’t seem to do America unless its stereotypical American--see school bus, Cadillac, 50s diner, and gun slurs. But I digress, and really I should be thanking BBC America for showing this series on time, for once.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Moffat episode without some clever dialogue:

“Easter Island! They worshipped you there. Have you seen the statues?”
“I’m being extremely clever up here and there’s no one to stand around looking impressed. What’s the point in having you all?”
“Richard Millhouse Nixon. Vietnam, Watergate, some good stuff too.” “Not enough.” “Hippie!” “Archaeologist.”
“I’m going to need a SWAT team ready to mobilize, street maps covering all of Florida, a pot of coffee, twelve Jammie Dodgers, and a fez!”
“Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton!” “Surnames of three of America’s founding fathers!” “Lovely fellows. Two of them fancied me.”

But while we’re always going to have the cleverness, really, it was this one that interested me the most:
“He’ll look into my eyes, and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.”

It’s definitely River that I’m looking forward to this series. Bring it on.