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October 13, 2015

'Doctor Who' Season 6, Episode 1 Recap

by Mike Moody, posted Apr 24th 2011 12:40PM
doctor who s06e01['Doctor Who' – 'The Impossible Astronaut']

Grab your fezzes and Jammie Dodgers; The Doctor is back for more mind-boggling, timey-wimey fun!

It's been four months since we last saw Amy, Rory, and our beloved Doctor zipping through time and space and bending our little nerd brains with perplexing plots and paradoxes. And judging by the first half of the Season 6 premiere, 'Doctor Who' is making up for lost time by cranking the drama (and the complexity level) up to eleven.

It was a challenge, but not a chore, trying to keep up with all the tricky time–travel tidbits built into this incredibly compelling season opener. The tone of the episode grew gloomier and the characters grew more desperate as the minutes ticked on. But, luckily, 'The Impossible Astronaut' delivered a lively and joyous opening sequence before leading us down a very dark and strange path.

A lot of shocking and memorable stuff happened before the hour was over, but the opening sequence was one of my favorite parts of the premiere. It was funny and fast-paced, and the expert cinematography established an epic and cinematic tone, look and feel that, as far as I could tell, is new to 'Who.'

We learned that Amy and Rory had been living together Doctor-free for two months. But the Doctor was acting "deliberately ridiculous" from afar, trying to attract their attention. (He even made a quick cameo in Rory's favorite Laurel and Hard film, 'The Flying Deuces.') Out of nowhere, the cute married couple and River Song received letters from the Doctor, stuffed inside TARDIS blue-colored envelopes, asking them to meet him on "some planet called America," or in Utah, to be exact.

Yes, seeing The Doctor leaning against a 1950s Edsel, wearing a Stetson, and gazing at the vast Utah desert was quite exciting. This was the first time that 'Who' has filmed on location in the United States, and the stateside scenes didn't disappoint. The Doctor was having a blast goofing around in our fine country, and even River Song arrived in the West with a smile and her guns blazing.

Things soon got serious as The Doctor said, "I've been running faster than I've ever run. And I've been running my whole life. Now it's time for me to stop." What a brilliant way to kick off a bold new series arc! I mean, really, does it get any more intriguing than that?

doctor whoThen things got really serious, pitch black, in fact, after The Doctor announced that he was taking his pals to "Space 1969!" After a nice picnic, our man in the TARDIS marched to his "death" at the hands of what seemed to be an out-of-place Apollo astronaut. The death scene was shocking and disturbing and – even though we know he's not really dead – completely heartbreaking. It was hard to look at The Doctor's lifeless body lying on the ground, with Amy's tears falling all over it. He didn't even get a chance to regenerate.

But a younger version of The Doctor, Our 900-and-some-odd-year-old Doctor, appeared in the diner shortly after the Old Doctor's Norse-style funeral. Fearing for his safety, the gang decided not to tell him about his untimely death.

I liked how everyone was withholding information from The Doctor here. As we know, he can't exactly change his own destiny or timeline himself, and he's not supposed to know any big "spoilers" about his future. Giving the companions a big secret to hide from The Doctor really changed how everyone interacted with him, and The Doctor took notice of this shift right away. He didn't like it one bit, and he only agreed to trust Amy after she swore on "fish fingers and custard."

I also liked how The Doctor seems more vulnerable than ever now. We witnessed his death, and people are now hiding things from him. He's not exactly the cleverest guy in the room anymore, and it makes him seem a lot less superhuman and, perhaps, more relatable.

The bit about The Doctor not being able to trust River Song was especially compelling. It spoke to the heart of his screwy, out of sequence relationship with her. It also had me wishing that River would break her "no spoilers" rule and give us some answers about who she really is and what she knows about The Doctor's future. But, really, all we need to know to care about Miss Song is that she loves and respects The Doctor, and she fears the day when she'll meet him and he won't recognize her face. This seemed to be a call back (or a call forward?) to the events of the Series 4 ep 'Forest of the Dead.'

Anyway, we learned that River and The Doctor's timelines are flowing in opposite directions, which is all kinds of sad when you think about it. I'm not sure if I want to see these two "hook up," but it's fun watching them flirt and trade insults and knowing glances.

The Oval Office bit, with The Doctor demanding to be treated like the brilliant adventurer he is, was funny and clever ("Oh look, this is the Oval Office, I was looking for the ... Oblong Room."). Genre vet Mark Sheppard was full of spark and wide-eyed wonder as Canton Delaware. It was fun seeing Rory trying to explain how The TARDIS worked to the ex-FBI Agent, who, like Billy the Kid in 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure,' was dealing with the oddity of time travel with the greatest of ease. (Station!)

doctor who the silenceThere was a fair bit of horror here with the debut of The Silence, the creepy new baddies that have a talent for editing themselves out of people's memories. I like these guys so far. They're pretty damn scary, and they remind me of The Gentleman from 'Buffy.' (Anything that recalls 'Buffy' is a plus for me.) The vaporizing effect in the bathroom kill scene was quite cool and intense. I'm looking forward to seeing The Doctor come face to face with these guys very very soon.

The episode, as expected, ended with a cliffhanger as Amy told The Doctor that she was pregnant. Pregnant! She also shot a gun at a small child, which can only lead to more very bad things.

We were also left wondering about Rory's fate, as The Silence were closing in on him and River, and it looked like they started shooting their deadly sparks in Rory's direction.

Oh, and the underground alien control room looked almost exactly like the one discovered in the Series 5 ep, 'The Lodger.' And the idea that the alien tunnels run under the surface of the entire planet is ... troubling, to say the least.

Kudos to showrunner/writer Steven Moffat and his players, especially Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston. This was a promising start to the new season. Moffat is putting a new spins on his usual tricks, but this story still feels fresh, fun and engaging.

Other thoughts:

- Loved seeing Old (dead) Doctor and River talking about all the adventures they've had together. He even keeps a journal like she does.

- The Old Doctor and Our Doctor were the same but different. Matt Smith, again being brilliant, really conveyed the sadness in Old Doctor's heart.

- Amy was privy to the first Silence spotting in Utah, and she came face-to-face with one in the White House restroom. It looks like creepy things aren't done stalking The Doctor's latest companion, but why did they reveal themselves to her first?

- "A lot more happens in 1969 than anyone remembers." Indeed.

'Doctor Who' airs Saturdays at 9PM on BBC America.

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Danielle Davis

river song says that she was in prison for killing the best man she ever knew(or something along those lines). then when she shot at the astronaut she said "ofcourse not" because her bullets didnt kill the astronaut. was the astronaut her?

May 03 2011 at 12:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The girl in the astronaut suit reminded me of the little girl in The Silence in the Library episode where River Song dies, especially the astronaut suit. The old Doctor said "oh it's you" just before she shot him... I wonder if there's any connection.

April 25 2011 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Loved the episode! I never thought of it.... Could River Song be an older Amy Pond?
I just don't know.

April 25 2011 at 11:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Does anyone else think that River Song is really an older Amy Pond, or perhaps Amy's daughter??
They took to each other instantly, Amy was the one who suspected that River and the Dr. were married (at some point), they think alike, Amy got a diary like River's on her wedding day and River told Rory about meeting the Doctor as a child and his always being in her life. Rory knew that this was what happened Amy when he said that he understood.
It was sad when River said that one day she would meet the Dr. and he wouldn't know her, and that it would kill her.... and it did, and we already saw it.

April 25 2011 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

dont get me wrong...matt smith is still my favorite doctor. he is just brilliant actor

April 25 2011 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i dont get it when the older doctor died when hes supposed to become Valeyard like it was mentioned in the older series --The Valeyard is a fictional character from the long-running British science fiction television series, Doctor Who. He is described as an aspect of the Doctor from between his twelfth and final incarnations as depicted in the TV show or regenerations in the novelization of the story. In the serial The Trial of a Time Lord, comprising the whole of Season 23 of the series, the Time Lords appoint the Valeyard as prosecutor at the Sixth Doctor's trial, hoping to have him executed - thereby removing the sole witness to their near-destruction of life on Earth.

April 25 2011 at 2:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin Garcia

I liked the episode overall, and loved the timey-wimeyness of it all... though something felt a bit off about it, though I haven't got my finger on it just yet.

I'm wondering how Utah ties into all this..

oh... and Station!

April 25 2011 at 1:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When they were talking about whether or not to tell the doctor underneath the bridge on the Tardis you could see the Doctor's legs. I think the Doctor knows all about his death because he could hear them talking about it.

April 25 2011 at 1:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Loved this ep! It was simultaneously one of the most compelling and creepy...ooh, and I got chills with that opening scene in the Utah desert.

April 24 2011 at 8:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Craig Ranapia

"Oh, and the underground alien control room looked almost exactly like the one discovered in the Series 5 ep, 'The Lodger.' "

At the time, I thought it was unlikely to be a throwaway conceit that someone (or something) was trying to build their own Tardis, just as he's trying to figure out who (or what) could make the real thing explode. For someone who can travel through all of time and space, The Doctor can be remarkably clueless about what's going on right under his nose. :)

April 24 2011 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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