“The Impossible Astronaut”
Writer Steven Moffat
Director Toby Haynes
With four mysterious envelopes and a humerous opening montage, The Doctor’s latest companions are summoned to the beach for a picnic. But an ominous warning and a spaceman’s arrival changes everything, as The Doctor is soon mysteriously and violently killed. The group soon realizes there’s another envelope, someone The Doctor must have trusted as much as he would himself. Lo and behold, they’re soon reunited with…The Doctor, himself! Journeying to America, the companions must accompany The Doctor on his mysterious mission to 1969, but are torn as they cannot allow The Doctor to know he is destined to die after this adventure.
The Series 6 opener, “The Impossible Astronaut” suffers only from the inevitable comparison to it’s Series 5 counterpart, “The 11th Hour”. Where “11th Hour” was full of quick action, twisty turns and a freshly invigorated Doctor, Series 6 opens with the cast settled into their roles. As such, the story is based very much on the reactions of the characters to the action around them, and less on the character’s themselves. There’s a certain bizarre quality to Smith’s Doctor upon first arrival (quickly explained by the revelation that this Doctor is expecting death), but even after that he seems somehow off, more alien and distant than usual. Furthermore, the “death” of The Doctor feels like a bit of a cop out. Yes, it was surprising that he died, and seeing the actual funeral hit home that it actually happened, but I was never wondering how the group was going to rebound from this; I was simply wondering when The Doctor would inevitably pop back into the picture. Fortunately, the writers appear to have known we would be thinking this, as he returns a scant five minutes later. I’m not a huge fan of Amy’s end of episode reveal either, as it feels a bit forced if only to add more suspense for her character arc this season.
However, this is not to say “Impossible Astronaut” is a bad story. Taking place in America (and filming on location for the first time in Doctor Who history), the story is a frightening turn, with lots of creepy monsters in the shadow and an alien invasion that seems to have already occurred. The characters are in top form, River Song is more lovable than ever (and will immediately send fans screaming back to their Series 4 box sets to watch “Silence In The Library” and “Forest of the Dead” after the premiere; Lord knows I did!). Furthermore, the first American companion is a hoot to see how he plays with the decidedly British cast.
As mentioned before, the only flaw with “Impossible Astronaut” is that it can’t hold a candle in terms of sheer thrills and excitement to it’s premiere predecessor, “The 11th Hour”. This is still a top notch Who story, however, and one that definitely needs to be watched, but I was disappointed that I never really had a “In a word: run” moment like there was last season. However, Moffat again shows that he excels at writing a horrifying and mind blowing cliffhanger, guaranteeing that we’ll be back next week for the continuation of the premiere.