Saturday 23 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

Space 1969

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut
Airdate: April 23rd 2011. UK. BBC1

Warning: If you’ve not seen this episode yet, well... as River Song would say herself... “Spoilers!”

Okay then people... here we are again. The first episode of a new series of Doctor Who is always a good feeling. You may remember that, after the blistering whirlwind of Christopher Ecclestons and David Tennant’s various series... I was kinda disappointed with the first season of Matt Smith’s tenure in the show.

I went on about the fact that all the actors were perfect in their roles and, although I love Karen Gillian’s Amy Pond with a passion, I still think she overshadows The Doctor somewhat... and that’s pretty hard to do because Matt Smith is no slouch in the “energised personality” stakes himself but that was one of my main grouches of “Series Five”... that and the fact that it wasn’t half as clever as it wanted to be.

Now then... I’ve heard some pretty good and completely unspoiler related feedback to the first two episodes of the current series which started today from the preview audiences... so I guess my excitement levels were well up when the episode actually started. How could it possibly live up to my impossible expectations though...

Well it did a pretty good job actually. It wasn’t the scary story that everyone said it was... at least not yet (it’s a two parter so maybe all the scariness comes in part two) but it did have a lot of the elements that I wanted to see plus a spooky, and frankly pretty much expected, reference back to the The Lodger episode in the last series. I wasn’t sure of that at first but I just went back to The Lodger and had a quick peek at the “ship” which was disguised as the second floor in that episode and it was the same ship and control panels which was using spooky electricity to power it that Rory and River discovered in tonight's episode... so it looks like we’re not quite done with last years storylines yet. Guess that’s why James Cordon’s coming back then?

But where was I? Oh, yes... elements in place. We have a post wedding Amy and Rory and Amy reveals near the end that she’s pregnant. That may or may not have some importance in the oncoming events is my guess... maybe she’ll name her daughter River, perhaps?

And speaking of River... Yep! Alex Kingston is back as one of the more intriguing and possibly controversial semi-regular companions of recent years and she’s as amazing as ever. There’s a wonderful bonding moment between her and Rory where she’s explaining her convoluted timey-wimey relationship with The Doctor and she tells him of her fear of meeting The Doctor when he’s never met her before and expecting that when she does she’ll die. And, of course, the audience watching have already seen that story a few years back... and she did indeed die when he first met her. Very touching and a nice reminder to get everyone back up to speed.

Other elements? Well you have time travelling anomalies all round... including a trip back to 1969 which is all related to the moon landings (or seems to be) and some very nice TARDIS-blue envelopes containing invitations from (presumably) The Doctor and sent to River, Amy and Rory, a new character who we meet both for the last time and then for the first time...

And one to The Doctor.

From himself.

From the future.

Which explains the big... not so much "shock" element but certainly the introduction of a big problem for our favourite time travellers companions. The problem is, you see, that not long after re-teaming with his trusty companions... the Doctor is killed by an astronaut rising from a lake. Killed and then properly killed again while he’s trying to regenerate and then cremated by his faithful travelling buddies.

Now of course this wasn’t exactly a surprise (did anyone really not think that was going to happen when he started talking to the astronaut... he knew what the outcome of that little meeting was going to be)... but surprise or not, it was a good move by writer Steven Moffat to use this as a punchy start off point for the series. Just keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t deteriorate as last year’s episodes did.

And of course, The Doctor then turns up alive and well, as you knew he would, in a younger incarnation of himself and the others are all supposed to act like they’ve not seen him killed a short while ago and yet still convince him to go to 1969 where his older self was positive they should go.

Nice little conundrum to start the series off in style... and then you had the monsters, known as The Silence I believe, although they’ve not actually been named in the series itself as yet... I’m pretty sure, as I said above, that we’ve seen them before in The Lodger. The Silence, as I will now continue to refer to them until I stand corrected by any unexpected surprises the rest of this series may throw up, are typical Steven Moffat creations. He likes the things which creep around where you can’t see them and they’re already there. Vashta Narada, Weeping Angels... he’s very good at it and has given a very memorable and lasting set of creations to add and enrich the fascinating tapestry of this show. The Silence have a brilliant defence mechanism... when you see these alien beings you can react and fear them and engage with them (whether that’s a good idea or not) and as soon as you turn your head and look away (much like our friends the Weeping Angels in a kind of inverted, filtered way) you’ve clean forgotten about them. You don’t remember them and you have no idea what you were just going on about in all probability... until you see them again. Or maybe some gut instinct in your tummy (possibly growing there) senses them perhaps... oh, bugger. I’m reaching there, arent I?

So yeah... not exactly scary monsters this time around (not like his past creations) but certainly an interesting foe and with some unique traits which make them hard to attack but also, I’m guessing, leaves them more open to being defended against... I just can’t be bothered to work out how you do that yet. I’ll wait until it comes up I guess! I'm a bit worried they've already played the "Oh my gosh they're on us"... looks around... "It's okay, the coast is clear" card one too many times than I care for myself but, hey, I can live with that as a plot device.

We also have everybody’s least favourite president, Mr. Nixon himself and a brilliant new character played by Mark Sheppard who I loved when he played the lawyer in the last few seasons of Battlestar Galactica a couple of years ago.

Al the pieces of the puzzle are in play and I don’t know what happens next. We’ve been seeing an unshaven and presumably third version of Matt Smith’s incarnation of The Doctor for quite some time now on the trailers and it looks like next episode is where he comes in to play. And it seems like River Song is going to become very important to everybody at some point soon in the series... and hopefully that’s not just the usual Songian tease we keep on getting since the character first started appearing.

This was, I have to say, a pretty good episode and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that as the second part plays out it doesn’t let down the set up promise of the first... as these things are liable to do sometimes. I don’t know where they are going with this...

One thing I do know though and that is this. People would be mad to think that the set up from this episode, which in itself seems to be a continuation of events started in The Lodger episode from last season, are going to be neatly tied up in the next episode... I think the events that have taken place in this story are going to linger around for at least the rest of this series... or possibly for a few more years if Moffett and co aren’t feeling that kind.

Looking forward to the next one!

This episode started with a little dedication to the recently deceased but very much loved Elizabeth Sladen who sadly passed away a few days ago. This was very welcome and, perhaps the BBC might put a dedication to the, also fairly recently deceased, Nicholas Courtney up in a future episode? U.N.I.T members are dropping like flies these days and they’re all very much missed by fans and friends everywhere.

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