All 2 entries tagged The Impossible Astronaut

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May 01, 2011

The Impossible Astronaut & Day of The Moon (Review)

TV image
Doctor Who - Series 6, Episodes 1 & 2
5 out of 5 stars


I've been stung by Doctor Who before.  Not that it's a giant bee.  Granted, in the past it's been a giant wasp, but that's not the point I'm making.  It's a metaphor.  Stick with me here.

Whilst I enjoyed the last series as it aired (with the odd exception), it never really lived up to the promises of the opening episode: the dreamlike, beautiful and nigh-on near-perfect The Eleventh Hour.

So now there's got to be a little feeling of trepidation for all Doctor Who fans, because whilst The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon were undeniably brilliant episodes, you have to wonder if Series 6 might also be about to peak too soon.  It's difficult to imagine how you can possibly build on an opening two-parter that packs the same huge impact as a series finale.  After all, the Doctor does get killed mid-regeneration in the first ten minutes and my jaw hasn't left the floor since.

However, this being said, what we're watching now is a brand new breed of Doctor Who.  It's clear from the first ten minutes of The Impossible Astronaut that all remaining traces of Russell T Davies's vision of the series have been swept clear away.  To see how much the series has changed, compare these two episodes to 2005's debut episode, Rose, or even Series 4's opener, Partners in Crime.  The tone's changed considerably and the series now has the majestic look and feel of a cinematic feature.  It's almost as if Series 5 was there to bridge the gap between the era of anti-plastic and cute blobs of fat to this new era of cremating heroes, putting companions into body bags and potential accidental infanticide.  It's a stark contrast, and it does feel as if the series is setting its sights on an older demographic, something that sits alongside the openly complicated plot and the liberal use of flashbacks and montages.  Thankfully the unapolgetic optimisim and sense of humour that make the series so enjoyable hasn't been lost along the way - River's dive is somehow a surprise even though it's precisely what you'd expect, and I particularly enjoyed Nixon's little unnecessary fanfare every time he enters a room.

The acting was a huge relief, as the last time Doctor Who tried American accents the effect was worse than an inner ear infection from a flesh eating disease.  Mark Sheppard was a great addition to the Tardis as Canton Delaware - it's a shame he can't stick around as a regular companion, but it's definitely getting a bit crowded in there now.  Matt Smith, Alex Kingston and Karen Gillan were all on form, but really it was Arthur Darvill who stole the show.  I'm so glad that Rory has been made a full companion; out of nowhere he's become one of the most interesting companions to travel in the Tardis, and whilst his relationship with the Doctor is frequently warm, you have to wonder where his jealousy may one day lead him.

However, amidst the performances, the action and truly stunning visuals - everything from the vivid Utah desert and the NASA launch pad to the gothic-horror of the storm-stricken orphanage and The Silence's grimy timeship - there was a tiny nagging thought that the episode might be a case of style over substance.  There is a huge plot hole in the three month gap: why was it necessary for all the Tardis occupents to go on the run in the first place when the President and Canton are still on side, and why were they able to remember their encounter with The Silence at all?  And how did the Doctor know his plan would work when he planted the transmitter on Apollo 11 before Canton had even shot The Silent? But then of course there's the biggest plot mystery of all...

beardsarecool.jpgWhen did the Doctor shave off his beard?

It was also a bit of a break in form for the Doctor to essentially use mind control to order the human race into killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of aliens and to be absolutely fine with Amy, Canton and River all getting trigger happy.  The violence produced a neat resolution and a flashy action sequence, but perhaps wasn't very Doctorish.  Then again, UNIT have been shooting aliens in the faces (or equivalent) for years.

Besides this though, it was a truly exciting and gorgeous series opener and Stephen Moffat has once again proved the great power of tapping into childhood fears to produce The Silence (and their effect on memory) and the astronaut to give children all new nightmares.  And of course, there's that ending (another jaw-dropper) - which tops the list of unanswered questions from this pair of episodes:

  • Who was the girl?  Is she a timelord?  If not, why could she regenerate?  Was she Susan? River?  Amy's daughter?  But even if not...
  • What was the girl's relation to Amy?  Why did she have a photo of her and a baby in her room?  But then..
  • If the girl was related to Amy, why were the Silence doing something to Amy that was implied to be fatal? And then...
  • What were the Silence planning on doing to Amy on that slab?  And...
  • Was that slab the same sort of thing that was in the warehouse?  If so, was it used in the creation of the suit/the girl?  Also...
  • What was the point of the space suit?  It's the ultimate weapon - why let it go wandering off?  And of course...
  • The suit was made from different alien technologies.  Did the timeship even belong to The Silence?  What's the connection between the timeship we saw in The Lodger and the one we see in these episodes?  Do The Silence survive into the 21st Century?  What's their connection to the Tardis freaking out and blowing up?  Will we see them again?  And how about...
  • The woman with the eyepatch?  Was she even real?  That was a truly migrainous-dream moment.  But nothing quite as headache inducing as...
  • Whether Amy is pregnant or not, and by whom.  She seemed to be both - is that like a Schroedinger's cat quantum physics problem?  Events are still in flux?  And could the same therefore be said for...
  • The Doctor's death.  It's still coming.  Was it River who killed him?  After all...
  • We still don't know who River is.  I have a feeling a lot of things will click into place when we work that one out...

It'd be brilliant if answers were forthcoming but...instead, next week, it's an episode about pirates.  It comes to something when something's so awesome you're actually disappointed by the appearance of pirates.  But like I say, I've been stung by Doctor Who before.  Here's hoping that Moffat et al can keep up the pace.

April 28, 2011

And Then There Are Saturdays


I'll be reviewing The Impossible Astronaut in full alongside Day of the Moon after the latter airs on Saturday.  Obviously though, it was briliant.  This truly feels like brand new Doctor Who, breaking free of any established formulas the series has settled into.

Before I get round to my review though, here's a few things that have been puzzling me about The Impossible Astronaut:

CAUTION! Some Spoilers :-)

  • If the man we see at the beginnning of the episode really was the Doctor from the future (not convinced yet...that alien equipment near the end of the episode looked a lot like some sort of cloning thing), where was his Tardis?
  • When River is shooting the astronaut and can't kill it (she can't be missing it, it's wearing a hat), why does she say 'of course'?  What has she worked out?
  • Some fan speculation suggests that River is the astronaut (given what little we know about the circumstances behind her imprisonment) - wouldn't that cause a massive paradox too?
  • I'm also not convinced that the Doctor hasn't worked out what's going on behind his back.  He'll have worked out who his letter was from too.
  • The reappearance of the copycat Tardis console room The Lodger was a welcome suprise - I knew it was coming (it's in the trailer) but I didn't realise it was going to appear so soon, nor so closely linked to The Silence.  The question is though, how do the events of The Lodger tie in at all with the grand scheme of the series.  Confused...
  • Lastly, Amy's pregnancy is a real mystery.  She didn't seem to know about it until after she met the talking Silent.  Are the Silence making it up?  Will it grow up to be a mini Timelord, mini Silent or a mini...Rory?

Also, there's this brilliant theory (via @mikeshaw101 & @zodiaclung) that pinpoints potential sightings of The Silence of weird moments of forgetfulness that might be caused by their presence throughout Series 5:

The Eleventh Hour -

While hanging from the TARDIS, the Doctor looks up into it and for a couple of seconds has a confused look on his face.

When Rory and Amy exit the elevator on the second floor of the hospital, Rory glances behind him at something, but when he looks back towards Amy, he shakes his head like he forgot something. It is about 42:49.

In the scene at the end of the episode where Amy goes into the TARDIS for the first time. there’s one point where she leans back on the console and is looking around the room. The camera is pointed towards her face, so we can’t see what she’s looking at. She looks around with a sort of awe-struck smile, but then her eyes linger over something and her expression turns into a look of horror. She starts breathing really quickly and turns as if to get the Doctor’s attention, but as soon as she’s facing him she just asks, perfectly normally, “Why me?”, as if she’d completely forgotten about what she’d just seen. Also, she flicks a TARDIS button/switch/lever at this point. Accidental Amy or something meaningful?

The Beast Below - At around 9:25 a black figure walks past Amy, she looks confused/scared for a couple of seconds then shrugs it off.

Victory of the Daleks - Near the end after the Daleks escape, the Doctor moves slowly backwards, as he gets near to the green framed window/doorway he looks to his left with a shock. The camera then switches to Amy and Churchill who both stare to the Doctor’s left with a look of shock before Amy continues on as normal with the line “Doctor, it’s OK you did it, you stopped the bomb.”

The Lodger - At 21:47 for a couple of shots Amy looks in the distance or at the screen and gasps, then shouts for the Doctor’s attention but he doesn’t listen. She looks away and shakes it off.

Vampires of Venice - At the end when Rory, Amy, and the Doctor are standing by the TARDIS, the TARDIS door is open and then shuts on it’s own.

The Big Bang - There are cloaked figures behind the Sarcophagi in the museum; a third figure moves out of shot at the edge of the screen at about 13:31

- Source

I think some of these are a bit dubious and I've not had the time to go back through my Series 5 box set and check them out myself (although, on the up side, these are a selection of the best episodes from Series 5 so it wouldn't be too painful).  But if Stephen Moffat has actually succesfully woven the Silence into the narrative so tightly, he really is actually a genius.

An evil, cliff hanger writing genius.  Why are there 6 irrelevant days between Saturdays?

A Little More Sonic

A mostly Doctor Who based blog from Will Thomas , film maker, former library assistant and failed Jedi.


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