Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 1- The Impossible Astronaut

Originally written for ace tellysite TV Pixie

In my preview last week, I tried to guess what this inaugural episode of Doctor Who would involve, based on little more than a preview clip of the Doctor wearing a Stetson and looking moderately John Wayne-ular. My predictions were almost right, although sadly Amy wasn’t dressed as a slutty nurse. Also, the Newport branch of Lidl didn’t make an  appearance (although I strongly suspect the scene in the Oval Office was filmed in Penarth Town hall).

I also reckon I was right about the aliens too and that ‘the Silent’ were indeed played by teenage boys from a nearby Cardiff housing estate with surly expressions: it’s just you couldn’t see their faces under the terrifying rubber masks they wore- all grey cartilage and snouts, like the inside of a cheap sausage roll. Urgh.

I also predicted that the Doctor would save the day by diddling around with time, causing the Universe to explode a bit as a result. Well, the time-diddling did happen (to an extent) although he didn’t exactly save the day, unless by ‘save the day’ you mean ‘confuse and bewilder the audience’.

Yep, the Doc’s untimely demise at the hands of the ‘Impossible Astronaut’ was the first strange event in this devilishly convoluted and fast-paced episode. From the moment that Apollo spacesuit lurched out of a Utah lake in 2011 (looking more incongruous than Jeremy Clarkson at a Friends of the Earth convention) I felt like a drunk hamster in a glitter-filled washing machine: exhilarated, confused, bedazzled and a bit sick. At times, the whole episode seemed like a Guinness world record attempt to see how many surprises and plot twists the producers could fit into 43 minutes.

One thing’s for sure though: the Doc is definitely dead, shot and killed in the middle of his regeneration cycle, according to River, meaning that there’ll be no new body for him. The scene where the Time Team try to get their head round this idea was oddly reminiscent of Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch:

River: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with ‘im, my dear. ‘E’s dead!
Amy: (weeps) No, no, ‘e’s uh,…he’s resting.

There’s no get out of jail free card here; the Doc really has died. However, in true Steven Moffat, time-juggling style it’s revealed that the Doctor by the lake is some 200 years older than the confused, slab-faced youth who comes wandering out of a diner toilet a few minutes later, much to the others’ surprise. His future self is very dead, but his pals can’t tell him what they’ve seen in case, you know- the Universe explodes and suchlike.

This theme of secrets and lies proves quite apt, as their quest for answers leads them to 1969 and President Nixon, who needs help to figure out the source of some very creepy phone calls he’s been receiving from a small child who claims to be afraid of the ‘spaceman’ (presumably the scary astronaut figure from the lake rather than, say, the 1996 hit single by Babylon Zoo).

The small-child-in-a-spacesuit might be scary, but ‘The Silent’ are spooker still. I really think they’re one of the finest creations since the Daleks: forget metal robots with bits of bathroom equipment stuck to them, there’s nothing more sinister than a creature you forget about the moment you take your eyes of it. Although I would really, really appreciate it if science could find a way to apply that phenomenon to, say, Michael McIntyre. Or possibly Justin Lee Collins.

Despite being more alarming than a herd of Charlie Sheens, the episode still managed to shoehorn in some lighter touches. I particularly liked the Doc’s comment while quaffing wine: “Urgh wine’s horrid! I thought it’d taste more like the gums.”

The gags made a potentially bleak series opener far more entertaining, although that kind of thing doesn’t work in all walks of life: I’d advise you not to try cracking out the knock-knock jokes to liven up your mum’s funeral. People don’t like it, even if you wear comedy fake glasses and a jester’s hat.

Another thing that made this episode shine was the interesting questions it raised: enough to keep a convention worth of die-hard Whovians in home made Dalek costumes debating solidly for at least a day and a half. The most intriguing and notable piece of series 5 continuity was River’s discovery of the TARDIS-like time engine from The Lodger plonked in the middle of a network of subterranean tunnels. I half expected James Corden to appear and do some kind of sinister moustache twiddle, but instead all we got was a poignant, moving speech from River about the complexities of her relationship with the Doctor. Tsk. BOR-ING.

In that respect, The Impossible Astronaut seemed more like a season finale than an opener, which is understandable given the lack of closure offered by Series Five. The Dream Lord in ‘Amy’s Choice’ was an enigmatic figure, we weren’t told why a time machine was parked on top of that terraced house in the Lodger and the whole ‘Silence Will Fall’ theme was never really explained. All in all, it was an intelligent, dark and exciting start to the sixth series (or the 32nd if
you’re being pedantic).

Bring on the next episode which, if my predictions are correct, will involve some kind of dramatic twist, a degree of time-jiggery pokery, the discovery that everything was, in fact, a dream and James Corden in a bikini doing the Macarena.

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

2 Responses to Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 1- The Impossible Astronaut

  1. Lucie says:

    Awesome Hils – loving it. Bring on Ep 2

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