TARDIS File 06-01: The Impossible Astronaut

TARDIS File 06-01: The Impossible Astronaut

The Big Idea… The Doctor recruits Amy, Rory, River Song and an ex-FBI agent…to witness his death and then go to the Nixon White House. In that order.

What’s So Great…

  • The first 10 minutes. Which starts out funny, becomes intriguing, then very intriguing with the arrival of the astronaut and then…HOLY ****!!! IT SHOT THE DOCTOR AND THEN KILLED HIM WHILE REGENERATING!!!
  • The aliens are deeply, deeply creepy…and their ability to wipe out the memories of anyone who see them make them even more unsettling
  • Arthur Darvill steals the show in every scene he’s in. Rory is magnificent when he finds himself having to take charge disposing of the Doctor’s body. He’s funny when he gets stuck on orientation detail with Deleware and he’s quite sweet trying to befriend River
  • River Song becomes ever more interesting, especially with the revelation that she actually experiences the Doctor in reverse order to how he experiences River
  • The Doctor takes over the White House: 100% pure awesomeness. Give that man his jammy dodgers and fez…

Some Quick Bits of Trivia: The older Canton Everett Delaware is played by W. Morgan Sheppard (better known to many as Blank Reg from the 1980s sci-fi series Max Headroom), who is father of Mark Sheppard (better known to many as Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica), who plays the younger Deleware. This story marks the first time Doctor Who has been filmed in the US (aside from photographing backgrounds for Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks) with location work filmed in Utah in November 2010. The episodes were co-produced for the first time by BBC Wales and BBC America.

Things to Geek Out About…

  • The Doctor is shot while regenerating, killing him outright. Holy cats!
  • Amy gets the Doctor on-side by swearing to him on “fish fingers and custard”, the first time the Doctor met young Amelia in The Eleventh Hour
  • The Doctor (and River) make the TARDIS land invisibly, which previously occured in the 1968 story The Invasion
  • River’s musing that her death will happen when the Doctor doesn’t recognize her at all is pretty much what happens in Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead
  • The Doctor tells Canton, “Brave heart”, his comforting words of choice for his companion Tegan back when he was in his fifth incarnation
  • Poor Joy keeps asking the alien if he’s wearing a mask from Star Trek, and pays the price for that…

Did You Notice… The chamber Rory and River enter has a time engine as previously seen in The Lodger?

Not To Complain, But… Richard Milhous Nixon seems remarkably sedate and friendly…and clean-shaven.

All Things Considered… OK. That’s one way of getting our attention. Kill the Doctor, then have him regenerate and really kill him.

Everything in The Impossible Astronaut pretty much is overshadowed by the first ten minutes. Which is hardly surprising as the first ten minutes is about the most gut-wrenching roller-coaster ride we’ve seen Doctor Who do thus far. It lulls us into a sense of false security with fast paced vignettes (we loved the Laurel and Hardy cameo) and charming character pieces and then pulls the rug out from under us by not only killing the Doctor but then bringing a younger Doctor back into the picture. 

This leaves us with two stories happening: the first is the Doctor on a very exciting and funny (“They’re Americans!”) adventure in the White House and an alien lair at Cape Kennedy. The second is with River, Amy and Rory as they collude to not tell the Doctor of his imminent death and try to figure out a way to prevent it from happening. The link between both, we suspect, is the mysterious Astronaut and the very, very, creepy aliens.

Part of the problem with this episode is the puzzle it creates is so utterly compelling it can’t really be evaluated until we see the solution to the puzzle. Who is the girl? Who are the aliens? How does it all tie in with the moonshot? Will the Doctor be saved in future by next episode, or will it be a part of the season’s story arc? And what is River all about? We’ll see if any of these questions are answered next week.

Line of the Week:: “These are my top operatives, The Legs, The Nose, and Mrs. Robinson.”

TARDIS file prepared by Graeme Burk

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