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Published on April 25th, 2011 | by Joe Siegler

The Impossible Astronaut

This weekend brought us the first proper new episode of Doctor Who since last Christmas Day. There are always questions when a new season starts. What it will be like, what its theme will be, etc. After watching this first episode, I’d say we have more questions than usual.

Still, it started out with the usual fluff pieces that an episode 1 sometimes starts with. In this case, it appears to be the Doctor messing with Amy & Rory in time. The Ponds are seemingly settled into married life, and run into the Doctor in history books, in television (Rory has an affinity for Laurel & Hardy), and in one case, the Doctor getting himself in trouble seemingly over having a portrait done of himself which would fit in quite well in Cam & Mitch’s bedroom from Modern Family. This goes on for a little while, until the Doctor meets up with the Ponds & River and they have a picnic in the USA (with some gorgeous filming). That’s about where the light fluffy pieces end.

During the picnic, what I assume to be The Impossible Astronaut arrives. Someone, whose face the Doctor sees, but we don’t gets the Doctors’ attention, but is where the “big event” The Moff promised us. The Doctor willingly goes down there, and gets shot. He starts to regenerate on the beach, and then the astronaut shoots him again, killing him in the middle of regenerating. Now this is a Doctor who is about 200 years older than the Doctor we last ran into. He says he’s 1103 years old, and the last time we ran into him, he was 908. So what happened to the Doctor in the intervening couple hundred years that would make him want to just willingly give up his life like this?

We find out that the 1100 year old Doctor sent an invite to the 909 year old version of himself, who has now teamed up with Amy, Rory, & River after some strong dialogue scenes where River refuses to say who she is and the team reacting to the Doctor being there when he was supposed to be dead. Eventually the team makes it to Washington DC in 1969, and help Richard Nixon try and track down a little girl who had been calling Nixon asking for help as she was afraid of a Spaceman. The scenes with the Doctor & Nixon are quite good. It contains some of the better funny dialog bits. Especially the part where the Doctor refers to Amy, Rory, & River as “The Legs, The Nose, & Mrs. Robinson”. Don’t want to give away all the jokes, but my six year old loved the mention of the fez.

Doctor Who: The Impossible AstronautIt’s around here where we get introduced to The Silence, although they’re never referred to that on screen. We find out the big thing about them that as soon as you turn away from a Silence, you instantly forget about them. That gives them a huge tactical advantage to get you killed, as you’d stop running away from them. The pre-series leadup billed them as “scarier than the Weeping Angels”. I’m not so sure I buy that, except they seem to hang out in places that accentuate the “scary” of their character. Their voice seems to work for “scary” as do the camera angles used. They’re not as immediately scary to me as the Weeping Angels were first time out.

The Doctor and his team (along with Canton 3) discover the location of Nixon’s little girl, and while there, find a hideout which appears to be used by several Silence. Also discovered is what appears to look like the inside of the spaceship that was the “upper floor” of the flat in The Lodger. Another interesting point about that is that the ship in The Lodger used fake voices asking for help to lure people in. That appears to be the same thing here. Wonder how that plays out in the Part 2 resolution.

We also get a revelation at the end of the episode that Amy says she’s pregnant. Another “well, how will that affect everything” moment.

As I said earlier, this episode is full of questions. However, it had a few (not too) scary bits, some funny bits, and some strange time play with the characters and situations. Typical Steven Moffat. Granted, this is part 1 of 2, and it’s also part 1 of 13, so a lot of it will be setup, but still. Be interesting to see what grows out of this episode going forward. To quote Roger Ebert, “Thumbs up!”

A few interesting “notables” and “questions”:

* The book that Amy Pond is reading in her flat with Rory has a picture of a hot air balloon. Tethered Aerial Release Developed in Style, anyone?
* The school bus that drops Amy and Rory off for their meeting with the older Eleventh Doctor had a “51” on the side of the bus. The place that the Doctor is seemingly incarcerated in during Episode 2 has an “A-51” on the back wall. Area 51? Are the bus and the place the Doctor is being held connected?
* Who is the little girl? Is she River Song, or Amy’s future daughter? Or both?
* Who was Richard Nixon’s first choice for the mission he gave to Canton Everett Delaware III?
* How will the picture Amy took of a Silence on her cell phone come into play?
* Will we ever find out about River’s “spoiler” to the Doctor that’s she’s quite the screamer? Heh.
* The Doctor uses Tegan’s old catchphrase of “Brave Heart” when talking to the younger version of Canton.
* The older Canton Everett Delaware was played by the real life father of the actor who played the younger version of the same character.

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6 Responses to The Impossible Astronaut

  1. avatar TimeChaser says:

    My response to this first episode: “Fantastic!”

    Since we don’t see the astronaut’s face the first time, I’m pretty sure Moffat’s gonna pull a switch on us, and it won’t be the little girl.

    As for the whole future-Doctor-being-killed-thing, obviously the Doctor has some deeper plan working with all of this, and will find a way around it (otherwise his entire future with River won’t exist). The big question is, will this be resolved in Part 2, or not until the end of the season?

    There’s a lot going on here, a lot of questions being thrown at us, but frankly I prefer it that way. I don’t mind more questions than answers right now, otherwise what’s the point of answering everything at the very start of the season? Bring on the mysteries.

    • avatar doppelbock says:

      Ah…but you forgot about the 193-year gap thing. The Doctor we saw at the lake could have lived a whole lifetime with River before the episode even begins. From the 908 year-old Doctor’s perspective, most of his history with River is still in the future, but the older Doctor could have lived through it already. The Moff’s too clever to leave an out like that. Not that I believe he’s really killing off the Doctor.

      So, was the Doctor in the fluff bits the 908 y/old version or the 1103 y/old? Will we actually get to see him pick up the Stetson? Questions abound!

      • avatar TimeChaser says:

        True, but I think it’s been established that River has met several future incarnations. In TotA, when she says “I’ve got pictures of all your faces”, it has to be from Eleven on. She didn’t recognize Ten, not realizing he was from a time before her knew her. And she couldn’t have meant any of the “faces” from Ten to One, because he’d never met her before TotA.

        So, yeah, there’s my ranty explanation. :P

  2. avatar Rich Higton says:

    I reckon the little girl in the space suit is being made by the silence. The same as the people at the top of the stairs in the Lodger who call for help so that they can get the Alien TARDIS working.The alien TARDIS is there again so it makes sense.

    • avatar TimeChaser says:

      Or perhaps they stole the ship, and it’s searching for someone to free it from them?

  3. avatar Carn says:

    Certainly one of my all time favorite episodes and I really like the Silence too. Certainly creepier than the weeping angels (who I always found too silly to be scary, except for when we finally see them moving and that I found a bit unnerving). So many things I loved in this episode particularly the vast amount of fun lines and the scenery and sets. Hell of a way to start off a new season and a great cliffhanger too.

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