Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 1 – The Impossible Astronaut
Doctor Who is one of those things that feels like it should be a guilty pleasure to me. It’s sci-fi at its silliest, primarily aimed at children and contains more cheese than one of Wallace and Gromit’s cupboards. But no, for me and many other geeks, it’s not a guilty pleasure because it’s a genuinely entertaining sci-fi show filled with plenty of action, cool looking monsters and lots of sci-fi goodness. Anyway, the 11th Doctor, Amy, Rory and Riversong are back for the sixth series of Doctor Who and the first of a two parter just aired tonight in the UK. However, for the first time in the franchise’s history, it’s being aired for Americans on the same day, right now infact I believe, so they too can learn that Stetsons are cool now.
Without spoiling too much, the four mentioned characters meet up with each other in good ol’ America, and something happens there that means they have to go back to 1969 and to the goddamn Oval Office of all places. A child somehow keeps ringing the President about a monster coming after her. Little do they know that the monster is none other than the person they’re speaking to. That’s right, it’s Nixon baby! Okay, that’s not entirely accurate, but I had to get a Nixon joke in there somewhere, given that he’s in the episode and he’s such an easy target. The actor did a decent enough job of replicating the unique voice the President had, but unfortunately he was a little too fat-faced to make a convincing Nixon. Not to mention Nixon’s eyebrows are hard to match anyway. Still, the BBC probably did the best with what they had. It’s just a shame I couldn’t take him too seriously, since I’ve watched too much of Nixon in Futurama. This is my level of critical analysis people, talking about a minor character who has an amusing voice.
On a serious note though, Steven Moffat, who now effectively runs the show after Russell T Davies thankfully left, wrote the script for this episode and I just love the dialogue he creates in everything he does (He, along with Mark Gatiss, worked together on the brilliant BBC Sherlock reboot). He has the ability to make every character charmingly spoken as hell. Take The Doctor himself for example, excellently portrayed by Matt Smith, now in his second series as the Time Lord. He’s so over the top in the way he speaks and reacts to everyone and everything around him, but it’s written so well that it’s whimsical and fun to watch him ask the President for 10 Jammy Dodgers and a Fez. And the best part is that at the same time The Doctor can be incredibly serious. It’s a combination of Moffat’s writing and Smith’s acting, and it makes it hard not to watch when The Doctor is speaking. He’s almost like a Dr.Seuss character in the way he can be so zany and eccentric, but when a serious moment is needed, the character still works. This is partly because of the Doctor’s long history as a character in general.
It’s also nice to see River Song becoming an ever more prominent character in Doctor Who, because she too is written as charming and witty, and because of her history with The Doctor, they play off each other brilliantly. The fact that both we as an audience and the characters don’t know a lot about her only adds another level of personality to her as well. She’s still a mysterious character and we don’t know why she’s so important for The Doctor. This allows us to immerse ourselves with both the world and the characters as we try and figure out the subtle clues Moffat leaves in each episode. It’s not Lost levels of speculation thankfully, but it’s enough to further engage with the show, and it also provides more conversation with other fans after each episode.
As for Amy and Rory, we saw them develop a lot as characters in the last series, and probably since this episode was the opener, there isn’t a lot to say on their part. Both Amy and Rory encounter the new monsters (I think they’re called the Silence) and there’s a potential plot point created by the former, but aside from that, they’re more or less in the background in this episode as it focuses more on The Doctor and Riversong. I’m sure we’ll get a few Amy and Rory centric episodes in the future. After all, Amy’s Choice was one of the best episodes of the last series.
Speaking of the Silence, they’re pretty damn cool. For one they’re new, and that’s always good, since certain enemies get a bit long in the tooth (I’m looking at you Daleks.) Their main ability at the moment seems to be making people forget seeing them as soon as they turn their backs, which means it’s probably going to be tough to take them down, if it comes to that. Perhaps using a mirror technique like battling Medusa would work? The end of the episode also reveals a plot point that might end up be being pretty important, so who knows if it will be the last we see of them next episode. I like the design of them as well. Most Doctor Who enemies look a bit daft visually, but these guys look menacing, while not looking ridiculous. They’re humanoid in appearence, and their faces are hard to describe, only making them look more alien and threatening. Besides, any monster design that’s probably going to scare children is alright with me. They actually look a bit like Slender Man, and Internet veterans know that’s pretty creepy looking.
Predictably, the episode ends on a cliffhanger given that it’s a two parter, and as usual, it’s going to be painful waiting a whole week for the conclusion. That’s the magic of Doctor Who though. It’s the only thing that’s good about Saturday night television anymore and for a first episode, The Impossible Astronaut was a pretty damn good one. It could have just been an episode where all of the major characters are reintroduced after a long break, but this just gets straight into the thick of it. People who have never seen the show will probably be left dazed and confused, but for us Whovians, it’s business as usual.