Review of Doctor Who ‘The Impossible Astronaut’

Neela Debnath

BB238592@DOCTOR WHO 234x300 Review of Doctor Who ‘The Impossible Astronaut’SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 1, series 6/32 of Doctor Who

Bigger, bolder, better: just three words that sum up the opener for this series. ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ sees Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River Song (Alex Kingston) summoned by the Doctor (Matt Smith) on a new adventure involving a trip to the White House, scary aliens, and creepy phone calls from children.

From the outset the episode exudes an epic quality with sweeping shots of the arid Utah desert and scenes from the Oval Office. It is also the beginning of the journey for the audience who will find out who River is. The chemistry between the Doctor and River is starting to fizz, and the series trailer has already revealed that they will kiss. More romance can only be expected if River’s words are anything to go by; “I’m quite the screamer.”

Then there is The Silence, the terrifying aliens who are forgotten the moment you stop looking at them. Have they always been there and we just didn’t remember? And could they be related to River who first appeared in an episode entitled ‘Silence in the Library’. Could these two silences be one and the same? On top of this, River has said she has killed “the best man she has ever known”, is River the astronaut who emerges from the water and shoots the Doctor dead, knowing that he will die if shot mid-way through a regeneration cycle?

The episode is peppered with references both to previous episodes and things outside the realm of the Who universe but not all of them revolve around River. One of the most interesting references is the appearance of The Silence who are based on the Edvard Munch painting ‘The Scream’, as well as resembling the stereotypical grey aliens with their bulbous heads, big eyes and tiny hands with splayed fingers. They are even dressed in black suits with white shirts and black ties, conjuring up visions of Roswell and Area 51. It is innovative the way in which iconic alien conspiracy theory imagery is married into the Who universe, where it is a given that extra-terrestrials exist, thus re-inventing the genre for Doctor Who.

The other reference worth a mention is the chilling, disembodied voice of a child on the end of a phone line which will remind viewers of the Moffat-penned episodes ‘The Empty Child’ and ‘The Doctor Dances’, where the phrase “Are you my mummy?” was enough to send a shiver down the spine of the bravest grown-up. In this episode, the child’s voice retains its unsettling quality.

‘The Impossible Astronaut’ is crammed with action. In between Amy announcing that she is pregnant, the Doctor getting killed and an edge-of-the-seat cliff hanger where Amy accidentally shoots a child, there is hardly any breathing space. However, the confusion is all part of the fascination as audiences try to make sense of what is going on.

Showrunner Steven Moffat wanted ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ and next week’s episode ‘Day of the Moon’ to feel like a series finale and he has certainly achieved this. There are thrills aplenty and the questions keep coming up with more of the same to follow throughout the series.

Picture: BBC

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  • reverend61

    We’re supposed to *think* it’s River, certainly. But knowing Moffatt it’ll be a little more complicated than that. And we know it’s not a new idea – Moffatt borrows from all manner of sources (as the best writers do), although I think the River / Doctor story perhaps owes more to The Time Traveller’s Wife than it does to anything else. Still, it’s new for Doctor Who, and that’s what counts.

    As to your comments about a ‘crude and most blatant attempt to break into the US television market’, I don’t think the Beeb have been anything but blatantly transparent about that, right from the word go. I don’t see how the American setting and cast in any way compromised the artistic integrity, so it’s hardly a valid criticism.

  • Guest

    I did wonder if the little girl in the spacesuit will grow up (and out… hmmm) into River Song. Have they really got Matt Smith locked into a 200 year contract though? What was his agent thinking?

    I just hope the attempts to appeal to the US audience don’t send the programme the way of Horizon, where they have to repeat the basic information at intervals to allow for the commercial breaks over there and explain everything very slowly.

  • Guest

    Down, Asta!

  • Grant Thomson

    See I disagree… first of all it is too simple for the astronaut..
    There are a few things that don’t add..
    Firstly – why was the doctor waving to Rory and Amy from the past?
    and also 1969 isn’t a fixed point in time so anything can happen.
    My money would be on the astronaut being Rory as he lifts his right hand and shoots him like he shot Amy..
    I think the first time we meet River Song we will firstly find out that she’s the daughter of Captin Jack and also that she’s evil and is the baddie for a series.. with the finale episode being about how the doctor saves her and then she kills him.
    Either way it would be rubbish if the timeline is left this way and the doctor actually dies as matt smith.

  • DeclanAhern

    Sorry for being thick, but could you expand on exactly when The Doctor waved at Amy and Rory from the past?

    I recorded the episode and will watch it again, but reviewing will have more significance when I know the observation that you so kindly made?

  • Guest

    Am I missing something here; because all the reviews I read go on about the masterpiece of writing that Doctor Who has become … whilst I watch each episode (as an intelligent 42 year old that has grown up with Dr Who) wondering what the heck is going on? I don’t even try to work it out anymore because I know it’ll still not make sense and … well, do I really care?

    I dont like this new Doctor or his sidekicks and I don’t care about River (who I believe is probably the future regenerated Doctor!!!!) … I just wish the plots would explain themselves because Im sure kids watching this will have no idea of whats going on (or do they like that sort of thing … he says quoting In The Nightgarden LOL!)

    I think script writers need to focus on something more than the Doctor a) being killed again b) saving the world (AGAIN!) and focus more on him as a person. The Tennant doctor really showed the Timelords heart and soul and I think rather than being led on a theme park ride, we need an actual story. The new Battlestar Galacticca did this expertly; and whilst I’m not saying Doctor Who should follow this line, I do think its time for the show to grow up … which I think will appeal more to both kids and adults.

    Lets have some decent scripts please and less praise for a poor effort so far; all this praise just leads the BBC into a false sense of security … we need to stop watching and get the format changed (and getting a new writer and a more loveable doctor would be 2 good starts!)

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