Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

So, I’ve been a bit busy giving the blog a facelift (it’s still not quite right) and until now haven’t gotten around to doing a quick review of the new Doctor Who episode on Saturday night. It was the boldest opening episode since the show’s 2005 return, remarkably dark, complex sci-fi for all the family at teatime.

The tone was set within the first five minutes. Amy Pond, her husband Rory and the intriguing time traveller River Song were all invited to the Utah desert where they met the Doctor, now two centuries older than we last saw him. As usual, he compares notes with River to see where they are in their timelines, and it seems they’re now a lot more familiar with each other (remembering a trip to Easter Island, River says “They worshiped you there! Have you seen the statues?”). They go to a lake from which someone or something in a spacesuit emerges and shoot a calm, expectant Doctor and then shoots him again in the middle of regeneration, apparently killing him for good. After giving the Time Lord a Viking funeral, his distraught friends realise that one more person got an invite to the wake – the Doctor, our 909 year old Doctor. “Even for you, this is cold”, River says to him, although she could be addressing Moffat himself.

It’s established that Amy, Rory and River cannot let the Doctor know what they saw, a secret which instantly changes the dynamic within the group in an interesting way – for the first time, the Doctor is not all-knowing, both his friends and us in the audience know something he doesn’t. There was plenty for Whovians to get stuck into during this episode, from the reappearance of the ship from last series’ The Lodger to the identity of the girl in the spacesuit.

Steven Moffat has created some of the most chilling and clever monsters in the programme’s 48-year history, such as the Weeping Angels who can only move when you blink and the Vashta Nerada, flesh-eating microbes that exist in the shadows. The Silence, alluded to throughout the previous series, were introduced here and they’re just as clever – creatures that exist all over the planet but you forget as soon as you turn away. Their appearance is just as scary, a sort of cross between the Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Munch’s The Scream.

Another of Moffat’s creations in the limelight during this episode was River Song, played by the fantastic Alex Kingston. Besides camping it up as usual (“I’m quite the screamer. Now there’s a spoiler for you.”), there was added depth to her relationship with the Doctor, where both of them meeting at various points in time. She revealed to Rory that the one day she’s dreading is when he doesn’t recognise her, which we’ve already seen back in the David Tennant era.

Matt Smith, meanwhile, was continuing to prove himself as an excellent choice for the role, adding a little more mystery and unpredictability to his childlike, bowtie loving Doctor. Karen Gillan gave her strongest performance yet as Amy Pond and Arthur Darvill’s Rory was welcoming light relief in an increasingly dark episode. Battlestar Galactica’s Mark Sheppard was a fine piece of casting as FBI agent Canton.

Overall, it was a great start to the series. It seems that last year Steven Moffat was settling us in gently to life after David Tennant and Russell T Davies and now is finally starting to bring us his own vision of Doctor Who. If the opening episode is anything to judge it by, this sixth series of “New Who” looks like being the best yet.

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