25 April 2011

The Watcher: Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 1

With DOCTOR WHO, a show I hold more dear than any other, I will be doing specific episode editions of The Watcher for this series. Hopefully the visuals and writings will entice readers to check out the series, and I will be a happy blogger for making one new fan of DOCTOR WHO. And now, with the first new episode since Christmas, the series returns with its 32nd (or sixth) series!

Transmission date: 23 April 2011 (BBC One/BBC America)

Plot: The Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song receive blue envelopes that bring them to the Oval Office in 1969 as the U.S. faces a extraterrestrial crisis.

Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill. Guest starring Mark Sheppard., Alex Kingston Written by Steven Moffat. Directed by Toby Haynes.

I cannot put into words how utterly ecstatic I am DOCTOR WHO is back, baby! Unfortunately, because Moffat is both evil and brilliant at the same time, we'll only have seven episodes transmitted from now to the end of June, with a two month break where the final six will resume in mid-September. Not in love with the idea, but if the cliffhanger of episode seven, titled as of this post "A Good Man Goes to War", is as good as Moffat is hyping it up to be, then all will be totally worth it. Alright, now let's talk about "The Impossible Astronaut"! Also, worth noting, this is going to be spoiler heavy, as I'm writing this with the understanding one has already watched the episode and is ready to talk about its awesomeness. Alright, then...

The episode begins fast and furiously, with the first major jaw-dropping shock and stroke of brilliance hitting us six minutes in. Can I just say, holy freaking crap? More on that in a second. Alright, timeline-wise, two months have passed since the married couple Amy and Rory, living comfortably in their own house (!), have last seen The Doctor, who has been a bit of a mischief as of late, it seems [loved The Doctor in the movie waving!]. Amy and Rory receive two blue envelopes with a time, date and location, as does River Song in her maximum security prison from the future. The three come together in Utah, [also loved The Doctor and River syncing their TARDIS diaries] and that's where shit hits the fan.

Mind you, all of this happens in a span of three minutes. With a episode only 43 minutes [as opposed to the series 5 premiere "The Eleventh Hour" clocking in a 1:01], I would actually quite encourage padding the opening with a few more scenes. No matter, it still works.

Moffat treats us with a surprise reminiscent of the WTF? conclusion of "The Stolen Earth", but we're lucky in regards that we don't have to wait a week to see the exciting conclusion. A astronaut appears in the middle of the water, and The Doctor instructs his friends to stay where they are and not to interfere under any circumstances, and walks over to meet his doom. The astronaut fires at The Doctor with a green blast [made me think of the spell Avada Kedavra], and as he begins the regeneration process, is blasted again, dead. All 1103 years of the Time Lord known as The Doctor...killed by a freaky astronaut thingy.

Wait? 1103? Last time Amy and Rory saw him he was 908 (see: "Flesh and Stone")! Well, that's where the gorgeous, brilliant twist comes in. Amy, Rory and River were summoned to that location, date and time, as was someone else, the #1 person The Doctor trusted - himself, the 908 version of him. The four are reunited in a grill and the rest of the story stems from there. The companions make the decision not to tell The Doctor of what happened to him - well, future him - and beg him to continue the mission Future Doctor began: 1969. And this leads them to two powerful forces that may or may not be connected.

However, before I continue, here's some musings: now, the 1103-year old Doctor is still the Eleventh incarnation, which I understand for purposes that they can't exactly cast some random dude to be a future Doctor. Not to mention the fact the Eleventh Doctor died, as in permanently, therefore with the end of Smith it would be the end of WHO. So, obviously, Moffat is going to have to stop that from ever happening. He's no stranger to paradoxes (multiple instances in Series 5), so he should be able to make all the timey wimey stuff work.

The 908 year-old Doctor, along with his Companions, board the TARDIS. The Doctor knows something is up with them, that they're withholding something from him, and it ticks the Time Lord off a bit, but he puts his trust - and his life - in their hands. It's a great moment where The Doctor trusts his Companions completely, or more accurately, Amy. The jury is still out on River, and deservedly so. In the final minutes of "The Big Bang", she tells him that when next they meet, everything will change. Here's hoping episode two, "Day of the Moon", sees this foreshadowing fulfilled.

"I’m up here being clever, and there’s no one standing around looking impressed! What is the point in having you all?!"

Enter 1969. Classic DOCTOR WHO - the perfect mix of comedy, drama, and the scary, all in one beautiful package.

The TARDIS materializes in the Oval Office, and this time with a new trick! Or, at least, new to this series: cloaking ability! The Doctor steps out of the TARDIS, sneaks up to Canton Delaware III (Sheppard) talking to President Nixon about these strange phone calls the President receives - the voice of a scared little girl. Nixon turns around, sees The Doctor, and gets rammed to the ground [ 'River! Turn her blue again!'].

He's able to persuade them to let him figure out what's going out, discover the source (he says five minutes; takes longer), and then (eventually) bring them there. But first, Amy is feeling a little sick (and later, River does), which may or may not be after effects from seeing a member of The Silence (from before, at the picnic before The Doctor died). So she goes to the bathroom and runs into something quite unexpected...

The Silence. Finally we're introduced to The Silence. First introduced in "The Eleventh Hour" as a prophecy to The Doctor by Prisoner Zero (and, may I ask, why on earth would Prisoner Zero, who has been hiding out on Earth for a year at that time, know a single thing about the Pandorica?), the Silence has echoed its way throughout Series 5, culminating in the destruction of the TARDIS in "The Pandorica Opens" for reasons unexplained (thus far). I gotta say, not what I expected. Yes, absolutely, The Silence are friggin' frightening creatures, not only by design but also execution. The chilling scene in the bathroom is a testament to their creepiness and power. However, for something called The Silence, I did expect them to be...well, silent. Guess that's what I get for taking things a little too literally.

The Silence in the bathroom sequence was awesome - especially the super cool Dr. Manhattan-like implosion of the poor bathroom lady. It is also revealed they power to make people forget they saw them. As the episode progressed, we also saw the TARDIS-in-work that was the central problem in the Series 5 episode, "The Lodger." I love how all these little elements are connected! Makes me giddy, like Moffat has one big, master plan. I still am interested to see what they want with The Doctor, why they are so interested in him, what did all the ominous "Silence Will Fall" statements made by fellow aliens in the last series really mean other than sounding all freaky like, what do they want with their own TARDIS, were they the alien party who landed at Amy's house (as seen in "The Pandorica Opens"), and who was the rather freaky male/female/hybrid voice that said "Silence Will Fall" (also in "The Pandorica Opens") if The Silence speaks all shallowy? A lot of questions, and I don't expect all of them to be answered, but The Silence has successfully intrigued me, freaked me out, and I can't wait to see how big of villains they become for our dear Doctor. Oh, and are they tied to the other storyline with the astronaut and the missing girl?

And yes, I want me a Silence (Silent?) action figure. Pronto.

So The Silence reveals itself to Amy, tells her to tell The Doctor what he must never know and all that jazz - they really have some sort of interest in our dear Doctor. But, of course, as soon as she leaves she forgets what the hell she needs to say. Meanwhile, The Doctor figures out where the phone call originated, and voilia! The adventure begins. I also loved The Doctor's invite to Canton Delaware: "Canton, on no account follow me in this box and close the door behind you!" Finally, The Doctor gets that no matter how many times he says 'don't follow me', the people close to him will do just that.

More freakiness, drama, and funny. The Doctor messes around with spacegear, River tells Rory of her greatest fear - the day The Doctor will look at her and not have a clue as to who she is [although that is a long friggin' way off; their relationship is still quite knew and hasn't even been realized yet, so the event that she speaks of, 'The Forest of the Dead', is still years and years away; at least it technically should be] - and the spaceman from the opening six minutes reappears, and Amy takes fate into her own hands.

She fires the guns. The Doctor yells in slow-mo-like "NOOOooooo!", and cut to credits. Ugh!

Why, or why, couldn't the episode be longer? Why?

Ah! Wait, missing one last thing: this really important thing Amy feels compelled to tell The Doctor: well, she's pregnant (and not by me...bollocks). Truth be told, sort of expected, but also, sorta doesn't make sense. Now, I will be frank, I know what I'm about to say in regards to logistics in a science fiction show about a 908-year old aliens popping in and out of time and space is sorta dumb, but it irks me. Rory Williams, the human Rory, died last series in "Cold Blood." The Rory Williams of "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang" is an Autons, created by the Alliance of the Doctor's foes. I also understand that when all is said and done, the Auton Rory Williams retains the same memories of the human Rory and acts very human, he's not, and should not have the ability to knock Amy up. It's also a little sad to think that Rory never 'got' his girl - he died before he could marry her. What Amy married is a substitute that isn't Rory. Again, I know I'm over-thinking it, but I thought it worth bringing up. Cos I need a life. Yep.

The script by Moffat is, as expected, brilliant, full of time travel and humorous lines and dramatic turns, but feels very incomplete (even in a part one of a two parter kind of way). Toby Haynes continues to show off his cool visual style as director, showcasing the beauty of Utah in the opening minutes [see: the funeral shot; wow]. Having directed the last three episodes, Haynes is proving himself as a powerful direction with a true cinematic style, and is no doubt instrumental in the epic quality the series boasts.

And with that, "The Impossible Astronaut" concludes and another week-long wait is placed before me to suffer through. I am excited as Hell with what Series 6 promises. Last year was fun and wonder and excitement, this year looks same with the fun, but edgier and darker, and I'm all for that. As Moffat said in a interview recently, I believe it was something akin to, "Who is The Doctor?" So this year we'll see The Doctor pushed to his limits, it seems, as he faces off against The Silence and, perhaps, himself.

Overall, "The Impossible Astronaut" definitely felt like the first half of a two-parter. It went by far too quickly. I expect (or rather, hope) "Day of the Moon" will be longer and include more material to make this story shine. Or, maybe, this is just one part of a larger season-long arc? Whatever. I'm in love. I'm ecstatic. DOCTOR WHO is back, and it looks like it's going to be a great ride!

Grade: B+

Final Note: I probably won't write reviews this long for each and every episode; I'm just really giddy right now. Cheers!


Matt S said...

I have heard great things about this series. Great review! You write very well

Time Lord said...

Thank you, Matt S.

Watch this series. You will fall in love...forever.