Sat
Apr 23 2011 9:58pm

Doctor Who S6, Ep 1: “The Impossible Astronaut”

Sometimes you hear hype about a show, and you dismiss it, assuming that it couldn’t possibly be as good as the showrunner and cast are insisting it is. It couldn’t possibly be that mind-blowing...could it?

When the show is Doctor Who, the showrunner is Steven Moffat, and the cast includes the likes of Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, and Alex Kingston, YES, IT CAN.

Doctor Who is back for another season of adventure! And television is better for it.

**SPOILERS**

Post-honeymoon Amy and Rory noticing that over the past two months, the Doctor has been popping up at odd moments (and in one hilarious painting) throughout history in order to get their attention, as if “waving to [them] from the past.” They get a mysterious invitation in TARDIS blue envelopes giving them nothing but coordinates to a location, and a date and time. Elsewhere, we see River Song get a similar invitation.

The location? Utah in the United States. The Host? The Doctor, of course.

He has summoned them in order to assist him with something very important in 1969, but he doesn’t tell them what. Instead, he distracts them with a lovely lakeside picnic, where he mentions that he’s over 1100 years old. Amy points out that he was just over 900 years old the last time she saw him just before she has a strange vision that she immediately forgets when Rory asks her about it.

And then it happens. An astronaut, whose face we don’t see, comes out of the lake. The Doctor recognizes the astronaut, and tells his friends that, no matter what happens, they must not interfere. He approaches the astronaut as River, Amy, and Rory look on. The astronaut takes out some sort of alien blaster weapon and shoots the Doctor twice. The first shot triggers the Doctor’s regeneration. The second shot happens when he’s in the middle of it. He doesn’t get to regenerate.

The Doctor is dead. Actually, truly dead. An elderly gentleman named Canton Delaware drives up with a canister of gasoline telling them, “I won’t be seeing you again, but you’ll see me.” His friends burn his body, sending it out on the lake in a boat. They mourn. And they go back to their original meeting place at a diner to talk about what to do next. River realizes that their invitations each had numbers on them. Hers was number 2, Amy and Rory’s was number 3. Who is number one? Who else would the Doctor summon if he knew he was going to die? Whom did the Doctor trust most of all?

The Doctor, of course.

Wait, what? I know. The Doctor sent his younger self an invitation, too. Because aside from wanting his most trusted friends to handle disposing of his body, he also wanted them to accomplish something in 1969; something they would need him to do. Now, River and the TARDIS crew need to get Younger Doctor to accomplish whatever it is in 1969 (Older Doctor never told them what that was) without telling him who sent the invitations. He knows they know and that they’re not telling, which places him in an awkward position. He’s not used to not having all the answers. But because he trusts Amy, and she swears on fish fingers and custard, the Doctor agrees to go along. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. in 1969, President Nixon is receiving phone calls from a mysterious child who is afraid of an approaching “spaceman.” A child who is the lynchpin of all the events in this and the following episode, “Day of the Moon.”

Something connects the Doctor, the child, and Canton Delaware to the moon landing. Also to the most frightening alien threat in Doctor Who history. Yes, more frightening than the Daleks. Steven Moffat has outdone himself with The Silence, and they make the Weeping Angels look like characters from a children’s book.

“The Impossible Astronaut” is a brilliant first part to this two-part story. The episode begins with the Doctor’s final death, I spoil that in the opening of my review, and I still haven’t told you about all the amazing twists and turns in the script. That’s how good it is. The build-up to who and what The Silence are is perfect and makes your heart pound, and despite the “timey-wimeyness” of certain plot points, the real joy of this script is the plotting and structuring of it in its present. It’s also a brave script. Moffat has dared to build some huge things into Doctor Who canon; things that a writer with less daring (and possibly ego) might have stayed away from as showrunner. Well, thank God for Moffat’s brilliant, enormous, curly-headed ego because the story is now headed to some exciting places!

And then there’s the American-ness, which was a joy to experience. Despite the good-natured poking fun at our displays of patriotism and our tendency to do things way too big, sometimes you need to see your country from an outsiders perspective to see how beautiful and wonderful it really is. All of the locations were shot so lovingly, and the vibe from the entire cast was that they really enjoyed the fact that they got to shoot this here.

The best part of the episode, however, is that the characters now feel so lived-in. As wonderful as I thought Series 5 was overall, “The Impossible Astronaut” marks the moment where all of the regulars got into their grooves. Matt Smith showed some lovely range as the Doctor, essentially playing two versions of himself. The scene where he scoffs at River when she asks him to trust her was scathing. Even when he was yelling at Amy in “The Beast Below,” he was never this cold! Arthur Darvill (now in the opening credits! Huzzah!) as Rory is brilliant, and completely a mature man, even as he humorously expresses his concern (fear) of following River into a potentially dangerous situation. Karen Gillan does great work, too, and you believe that the Doctor would trust her completely. Her best work, however, can be seen in the next episode, and I’ll talk more about her in my next review. Mark Sheppard’s performance as Canton Delaware was wonderful, and I hope he guest stars again after this story is over. His delivery of Delaware’s snappy, noirish dialogue was pitch perfect, and the viewer will root for this character immediately. Alex Kingston as River Song is absolutely heartbreaking. When she talks to Rory about the fate she considers “worse than death,” I nearly cried. I also realized just how much River and Amy have in common.

Which brings me to the themes this episode began to explore. Among other things, River’s situation with the Doctor reminded me of what it must be like to love someone who goes on to suffer something like Alzheimer’s Disease. It was devastating to watch River acknowledge that one day, the Doctor isn’t going to recognize her anymore, and that pain is deeply relatable to anyone who’s ever dealt with a loved one who’s suffered some sort of memory loss or dementia. We also saw the Doctor willingly put his life in Amy Pond’s hands. That moment was so profound, because for once the Doctor was willing to not be the smartest person on the TARDIS. It was difficult for him, but he did it. And remember, the Doctor dies when he’s over 1100 years old. To watch the Doctor, a century younger, learn how to let go in that way was beautiful.

There’s so much more to say, but too much relates to part two of this story, which airs next weekend. If you enjoy “The Impossible Astronaut” (and I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it), “Day of the Moon” will completely blow you away. And scare the living crap out of you. As it is, the cliffhanger at the end of this first episode of the season will have you twitching in anticipation.

Welcome back, Doctor!

Doctor Who airs in the U.S. on BBC America Saturdays at 9PM ET.


Teresa Jusino is the Thirteenth Doctor. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

49 comments
NinthWanderer
1. NinthWanderer
I found River's speech especially poignant having just rewatched Silence in the Library/Forests of the Dead and seeing that moment come for her as part of our introduction to her character. Alex Kingston does such a wonderful job playing this relationship-in-reverse.

I have to wonder about the consequences of having the Doctor as Matt Smith die. I'm not really buying that as his true death, because I can't imagine the show not going on if Matt decides to leave.
Ashe Armstrong
2. AsheSaoirse
God, I was so blown away and I kept having to remind myself, "This is the FIRST episode of the season!" Next week will not get here soon enough!
NinthWanderer
3. redhead
Alex Kingston was awesome, as usual. I just love her. The plot was great, the paradox possibilities were delicious, Amy's "I've got to tell you right now!" was great.

it's sad the ep was nearly wrecked for me by the nearly non-stop advertising, behind the scenes bits, specials, and other bits and peices that felt like they should be the DVD specials. It got to the point where it felt like there was more pandering adverts than actual show. like i said, very sad.

I watched the ep on BBCAmerica, I'm interested to know if UK watchers experienced the same thing?
Carol Witt
4. carolwitt


Um, new relevant content for the comment: the credits list the individual alien as "The Silent", so I assume "The Silence" is its plural form.
nat ward
5. smonkey
oops, yep...that "Canton shoots a silence" thing gives away quite a lot..might want to edit that out, being a spoiler for things that only a select few could have seen at the premier.

and as for all those commercial breaks?

How can the entertainment industry expect one to not download things illegally off the net when it is a superior experience to do so. Never mind money or stealing or whatever. Its a better experience to download it without those horrible commercials. You put it up on itunes an hour earlier than the earliest showtime and I'd pay $5. You make me watch it with that kind of commercial interuption and at the very least I'll legally tivo it and skip the ads.

Oh, and thirdly (wow...I'm ranting) wasn't there something about "with limited commercial interuption because of BMW blah blah blah"?
What the heck happened to that? Methinks local cable companies spliced in ads in addition to the nationals.
J'accuse!
Ron Hogan
6. RonHogan
Yeah, for a "sponsored by BMW" hour, there sure were a lot of iPhone commercials there.

But I was more perturbed by the "limited commercial interruptions" line being immediately contradicted by just SEVEN MINUTES of show between the first and second commercial breaks.

On a happier note, I love that they got Mark Sheppard's father to play him 40-some years in the future.
Teresa Jusino
7. TeresaJusino
NinthWanderer @1 - Well, if he's 1100+ years old when he dies in 2011, and The Doctor we're hanging with now is still his 900+ year old self, SO MUCH can happen in the time between now and his death. Wait till you see the end of the next episode. There's something that happens there that I think might be involved in that. :) (I know - I'm a horrible person for flaunting knowledge. Sue me! In two weeks, I'll be just as clueless as everyone else, so I'm going to enjoy it now!)

Also, I have to wonder...The Doctor travels in time and space. How does he know how old he is? What "years" is he going by?

RonHogan @6 - I also loved that older Canton was played by Sheppard's dad! :)
Paul Oldroyd
8. Paulfrazer
The comments above make me so thankful that in the UK we have the BBC with no adverts at all!

Brilliant episode - best season opener of the "New Series" by far.
NinthWanderer
9. Rord Leith
There's no adverts on the proper BBC, poor confused colonials!
Ursula L
10. Ursula
Also, I have to wonder...The Doctor travels in time and space. How does he know how old he is? What "years" is he going by?

Well, the Doctor travels with the TARDIS, and the TARDIS is pretty much there parallel with his life. I'd guess that the TARDIS has some sort of internal clock, tracking time-experienced-since-first-made. This clock would also work for tracking the Doctor's internal time and aging.

If someone were to put on a standard wrist-watch, and then start travelling through time, the watch would travel with them and calculate time as it passed for them and aged them, however they might travel, and they'd be able to know their biological "age." That's the only measurement that would be relavent to the Doctor.

Although Moffat has said that the Doctor has lost track of his age, and doesn't much care. Which I believe - certainly age in Earth years would not matter much to the Doctor. But once he started travelling with humans, keeping some sort of "age" record to know how his time is passing in relation to theirs would be useful. The actual age in years doesn't matter so much for the Doctor as being able to explain where he is in his life comapared to that of his companions, particularly River, with whom he has to keep track to know how they properly relate at any time.

That doesn't address the question of what sort of "years" the Doctor uses to count his age. Earth years, or some other planet, or some sort of standard "year" defined in some ways for time-travelers the way that standard time and leap-years define time and years for us separate from actual local time and the actual movements of the Earth?
NinthWanderer
11. Smaug's Li'l Brother Puff
After the second break I figured "limited commercial interruption" was intended to mean "limited to BMW commercials." Then, after the second iPhone spot, I realized they meant "interruptions limited to commercials." I saw no PSAs or weather alerts.

I liked what limited content interruptions there were, though.
Ursula L
12. Ursula
An interesting detail - Amy, pregnant, drinking a glass of wine at their picnic, and Rory, with his medical training, having no problem with her doing so.

Is drinking (moderate) amounts of alcohol when pregnant not seen as the utter reckless evil in the UK that it is often presented as in the US?

I know I've seen several US news reports on how numerous French studies show no negative and some positive effects from drinking moderate amounts of red wine when pregnant, and that French medical practice reccomends moderate drinking, but OMG THEY SHOULDN'T BECAUSE DRINKING WHILE PREGANT MUST BE BAD!!Eleventy!!11!
Ashe Armstrong
13. AsheSaoirse
@Ursula: If I had to guess, I'd say a) Rory doesn't know yet and b) one glass would not be devestating. At least, I can't imagine it would. Obviously, drinking constantly while pregnant is a very bad idea that leads to bad things.
Chris Dearman
14. ChrisD
It's good to see Steven Moffat is continuing his one man crusade to ensure no child anywhere will ever go to sleep again.
NinthWanderer
15. TheAdlerian
I didn't think it was that great, and was basically why I've stopped watching the shows related to Dr. Who.

A cheap prop like the space suit is "evil" and doing whatever. The Doctor gets killed, but we know he won't be dying. There's ugly aliens who stand there and scream, look freaky, stupid, etc. How many shows have we seen these elements in already?

In the 70s, you had actual multi-part science fiction stories with some kind of moral, social, or political theme. Since Dr. Who returned to TV I haven't seen anything intelligent in the show and Torchwood was a 1000 times worse. It's shallow and dumb monster stories, which aren't scary because they're shalow.

The only good thing was Matt Smith's calm and cynical acting. He would be perfect for situations that critique society, but that's not going to happen. The current writer sucks and so did Davies, hugely. They need to go back to having different writers per show because that will keep it smart like it should be.
Ashe Armstrong
16. AsheSaoirse
I both agree and disagree with the above post. I definitely would like to see more societal critiqueing. Still, adventuring is good.
Teresa Jusino
17. TeresaJusino
"The Beast Below" - citizens choosing to not see the bad that government is doing

"Vincent and The Doctor" - huge episode that dealt head-on with mental illness in a way that most shows don't

"Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" - dealt with issues of race and class

And that's just off the top of my head.

As for Torchwood - the entire SERIES deals with the fact that it's NOT about the "alien of the week." The aliens aren't the "monsters," WE are. There's social critique all over that show if you're paying attention.

Doctor Who does and has always done societal critique in a fun way. In the show's older incarnations, however, it tended to be heavy-handed because it HAD to be. Now, I think the show is more successful at doing it without hitting you over the head with it. You don't need someone like Sarah Jane saying Obviously Feminist Things. The critique is clear in the stories themselves.
Michael Grosberg
18. Michael_GR
TheAdlerian: You need to watch Torchwood series 3: Children of Earth. You want social critique? You'll get that, in spades. And then some. Scary monsters? Oh yeah, both human and alien. Just... ignore the deus-ex-machina ending, that kinda sucked.
NinthWanderer
19. TheAdlerian
Michael,

I watched the first two seasons of Torchwood and in the end had to admit the show sucked and that I was torturing my wife by making her watch too. The shows consisted of some weak idea, not a plot, and what I call "Al Pacino Acting". That's where you charge around screaming your lines because they stink and you're trying to make them dramatic.

Doctor Who had the same type situation only it's the Doctor saying funny nonsense. Again, I waited forever for the show to come back on and stopped watching when Matt Smith arrived. I liked David Tennent but really most every single show was stupid. Meanwhile, on Netflix I checked out some Tom Baker episodes just to see if my memory was making them better than they really were, but they were very good and dramatic by miles as compared to what we have currently.

Also, when I talk about social stuff, the old shows would have some kind of culture the doctor would visit and that would be an exploration of some point. It's much the same as Voltaire when he wrote his various adventure stories to discuss philosophical points. I haven't seen Torchwood 3, but I doubt it was thought provoking. Themes like who Captain Jack loves and that people aren't always nice is like cartoon level messages and I've never seen any thing but.

I blame it all on Davies who was good enough to get the show started, but not smart enough to write it. He mentioned that when he was a kid he thought it was scary, but when I was a kid I thought it was a smart. Now it's not.

The irony is the the UK has some of the best SF and Fantasy writers ever like Iain Banks and Michael Moorcock and the BBC ought to be asking people like them and younger writers to come up with scripts to make the show must see.
Christopher Turkel
20. Applekey
I was underwhelmed by this episode but since it's one of two parts, I'll reserve judgement until next week.
NinthWanderer
21. Shazam
Was I the only one who thought the President looked more like Lyndon Johnson than Nixon?
Mike Conley
22. NomadUK
redhead@3: In the UK we have the wonderful, socialised, state-owned BBC, one of the high points of Western civilisation, for which I happily pay my annual licence fee of around £140 or so, and which corporate, capitalist, right-wing bastards like Rupert Murdoch have been trying to destroy for years.

And as a licence-fee payer, it's a bit annoying to me that you lot are now getting the Doctor at the same time as we are. I'm sure PBS — what's left of it — and your other networks won't be returning the favour anytime soon.

Ursula@12: No. Europe does, by and large, take a more sensible attitude towards alcohol in general. Here in the UK we tend to overdo it a bit, I'm afraid, but there you go.

Shazam@21: I thought the same thing!
NinthWanderer
23. Pendard
Having seen both parts together in an advance screening, I feel like it's slightly unfair to split it in half where they did. The first episode basically teases you with a lot of different things that will either be addressed in episode 2 or later in the season. For example, they gave the viewers a little taste of the new villain but then give those viewers a week to catch their breath before trying to scare the be-jesus out of them with episode 2. I feel a little sad that the effect is going to be deluded. But don't get me wrong, it's still going to be awesome.

I've heard a number of people complain about how much advertising there is, and say that the episode felt short. I downloaded it from iTunes and that version is 43 minutes, which means there should be a regular amount of advertising for a one-hour block of television. Which makes me wonder: Did BBC America cut something out? (Or perhaps the breaks were just spaced in a strange way...)

@1 (NinthWanderer) - I agree with you about River's speech, it's heartbreaking how it connects back to "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead." Once they've finished telling River's story, it would be really fun to watch all the episodes in the order she experiences them and see how it holds up (assuming it doesn't get too timey-wimey).

@7 (Teresa) - I've got to agree with NinthWanderer about the Doctor's death -- it has to be averted somehow. Yes, I know that the Doctor has 200 years left to live from the current version to the time the spaceman kills him, and a lot can happen during that time, but one thing that can't happen is he can't regenerate because he was still the Eleventh Doctor when he died. Which means unless time is rewritten, or unless he wasn't really as dead as he looked and can somehow survive his body being burned, either that future has to be reverted to the series would have to end when Matt Smith leaves. Which isn't likely.

As for the Doctor's age, you're correct that he has seemed a little bit fuzzy about what it actually was in the past. The Second Doctor couldn't say exactly how old he was in "Tomb of the Cybermen" (400 or 450), the Fourth Doctor gave a much higher number in "Pyramid of Mars" (750) despite the fact that he was accompanied by various humans between the two episodes and never had time to age that much, the Seventh Doctor gave his age as 953 in "Time and the Rani," and the Ninth Doctor referred to "900 years of phone box travel" in "The Empty Child," suggesting it had been around 900 years since the TARDIS got stuck in that shape and the Doctor was about 1,300. Then the Tenth Doctor said he was 903 in "Voyage of the Damned" and it's been pretty consistant since then: 906 in "The End of Time," 907 last year in "Flesh and Stone" and 909 this year (meaning two years have passed for the Doctor since "A Christmas Carol"). So, yeah, I think it's safe to say he doesn't know his real age and he's just guessing.

@12 (Ursula) - I don't think Amy knows she's pregnant when she's drinking the wine. I think the creature put the idea in her mind to tell the Doctor that -- I'm not sure whether it's true or not. People have pointed to Amy's moment of nausea after she sees the creature in the Oval Office as proof that she is, but River is also nauseous after she sees the creatures in the tunnel. If she's pregnant too then Doctor Who is turning into Days of Our Lives!

@15 (TheAlderian): Sounds like Doctor Who isn't your thing. But from what you say, I think Torchwood: Children of Earth would be. I don't like the first two seasons of Torchwood much either. But I have to say, whatever the complete opposite of "jumping the shark" is called, Torchwood did it in Children of Earth. That's some of the best and darkest social commentary I've ever seen in a sci-fi show. I even disagree with Michael_GR about the ending being bad -- I thought it was perfect and heartbreaking. It sounds like you should stop watching Doctor Who, but check out Children of Earth before you go.

@21 (Shazam): Their Nixon didn't look perfect, but he looked at least as much like Nixon as their Churchill looked like Churchill last year.
Jenny Thrash
24. Sihaya
Well, of course the 11th Doctor's final death is going to be avoided eventually, even if not in this particular duet of episodes. The Doctor's diary is about half as thick in this episode as the diary in "Silence in the Library." The Doctor and River's diaries are equally thick, as a matter of fact. This moment represents a midpoint in their relationship.
Also, by the time of "Silence," River has gotten used to identifying the Doctor even when she's never seen his face. She's the first one to speak when they run into each other, and the words she confidently utters are "Hello, Sweetie." She's so used to spotting him, in fact, that she is nonplussed when he can't identify her. She just assumed that she will meet this face again/ had met this face before. River's going to call a few different generations "Sweetie."
James Whitehead
25. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
I have to say that my family and I did enjoy the season opener when we watched it on Saturday night. And yes ChrisD, my nine year old son was under the blankets when the monster came; hey, they creeped me out. ;-)

I thought the Nixon was OK and that the voice seemed to get better as the episode moved along. I do agree that River's discussion with Rory was well done and very evocative.

@22NomadUK, 140 pounds/anum approximately? Really? Damn that's good. I think I pay that in 2 months of cable bills. :-( Don't let Murdoch, et al win. Commercial television sucks, period. PBS cannot afford to purchase Dr. Who anymore, unfortunately.

Regarding Amy drinking the wine, an occassional glass of wine won't do the child any harm. Continued normal drinking during pregnancy can lead to serious complications, however. Still and all I think the European way of looking at drinking is a lot smarter than the US'. My parents are both English & have never understood the puritanical way of looking at alcohol that Americans generally have.

As for Torchwood, wasn't a big fan of the first season. Captain Jack wasn't nearly the same character as he was on the Dr. Who episodes. Might have to check it out again if they've improved it.

Finally regarding Dr. Who's message: I've always believed that the overarching theme was that "good isn't dumb" (thanks Dark Helmet). The Doctor never needs photon torpedoes or blaster rifles 'cause he's smarter than the enemy & figures out how to stop the 'bad guy' without the usual shoot 'em up. The Doctor uses those 'little grey cells' to great effect and implication is that that is what we all should be doing.

I am often suspect by messages/meanings/social commentaries from TV shows as they are more often than not heavy handed in application. Sure you are given a 'grey area' to mull over, but it is the writer's grey area and you are lead to that conclusion.

Kato
NinthWanderer
26. Pendard
@24 (Sihaya): Agreed, River's met at least one Doctor other than the Tenth and Eleventh -- there's no other way to interpret her comment, "I hate when you go all baby-face," in "The Time of Angels." As for recognizing the Tenth Doctor in "Library," she says in "Angels" that she has pictures of all the Doctor's faces but doesn't know the correct order.

Also, it's not impossible that River met the Tenth Doctor sometime between "Library" and "The End of Time." There's no rule that there has to be an episode about every meeting, and her surprise that the Doctor didn't know her would make more sense if it wasn't the first time (from her perspective) she had met that incarnation.
NinthWanderer
27. zcam
Whoa, it's gotta be River that shoots the Doctor, yes? She's in prison because of killing a man, someone she once rather wistfully described as "the best" or something like that.
David Goldfarb
28. David_Goldfarb
I agree Moffat has clued rather heavy-handedly that River is in prison for killing the Doctor himself. Then again, he might be going for a double-cross where he's trying to make us think that but it isn't actually true.
Jenny Thrash
29. Sihaya
Pendard@26, I agree that it's not impossible that they met when Ten went on walkabout, but the something about the Doctor's attitude towards her in "The Time of Angels" leads me to feel he hasn't. I honestly can't put my finger on it, though.
NinthWanderer
30. Pendard
@27 (zcam): In some ways it would make sense if River was the one who shot the Doctor, in some ways it wouldn't. When the Doctor approaches the spaceman, he says, "It's all right, I know it's you," prompting the spaceman to raise his reflective visor (though it cuts away before we can see the face inside). That hints that whoever's in there, we would recognize them -- there's no reason to hide the face from us otherwise.

On the other hand, River seems surprised to see the spaceman in the lake. Since this River had to escape from prison, she has presumably already committed the murder she was jailed for (though not necessarily), so she would know what was about to happen. Even if she was pretending to be surprised, I doubt she'd try to shoot her past self as she made a getaway. She'd create quite a paradox if she hit herself.

To muddy the water just a little more: after River fails to shoot the spaceman as it goes back in the lake, she ambiguously murmers, "Of course." Seeing the spaceman murder the Doctor has made sense of something for her -- it could be the Doctor's strange behavior during the picnic, or it could be something else that she knows from one of her past adventures that's still in everyone else's future.

Here's one theory: This version of River, who's in jail for murder, doesn't know who she killed yet -- she's been arrested for a murder she hasn't committed yet. When she says "of course," she might be realizing that the spaceman who murdered the Doctor is a future version of herself. Anything's possible with time travel...
NinthWanderer
31. TheAdlerian
Someone said that "Dr. Who is not for me" and I mean seriously, did you read what I wrote?

I know a lot about the character and been a fan since I first saw the show in the 70s when I was a child. As a fan it's extremely annoying that nearly all of the new shows are fluff. I can recall plots from the 70s shows because they were good stories that were had to forget, but I can't recall any outstanding plots from the current programs. It really gets on my nerves things were more advanced in the past than they are today.

Additionally, I assume that most of us at this blog like plots and complex stories since we're readers and not primarily TV people, so where's the demand for quality. Dr. Who is now a show designed for a ten year old. It should be something the whole family can enjoy.

Anyway, I LOVE Dr. Who as a concept and for what it was and should be.
Mike Conley
32. NomadUK
KatoCrossesTheCourtyard@25: Not to worry about the bargain that is the BBC licence fee. We make up for it by paying about $9/gallon for petrol.
NinthWanderer
33. Pendard
@31 (TheAdlerian): I did read your comment, and I should have said, "Sounds like Doctor Who isn't your thing ANY MORE." Sorry my meaning wasn't clear.

I've seen nearly all of the '70s DW serials too (every Tom Baker story and all but a half-dozen of the Jon Pertwee serials) and you're right, it was very different back then. I happen to disagree that the modern version is less complex, more youth-oriented, or "fluffier" than it was, and maybe all of the Classic Who moral, social and political commentary you talked about was lost on me, since I'm not British and wasn't alive in the 1970s -- but I'm not inclined to argue about what amounts to personal taste, since one person's opinion is just as valid as another's.

If you don't like the creative direction that Davies and Moffat have taken, at least you have the consolation that "this too shall pass" and the show will eventually take another creative direction. Enough people like the new version that DW is sure to outlive Steven Moffat's involvement. Maybe the next guy (or girl) will take it in a direction you like again, and make the show closer to the way you feel it "should be." I hope that's the case.
James Whitehead
34. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@32NomadUK, Yikes! I had forgotten the 'petrol' price in the UK was so much. It does explain why there aren't many "bloody great big American cars," as my uncle would say, there.

'Course one of my cousins does tell a great story about some local buying a Hummer & trying to get it up a few lanes in my father's hometown in Northern England. Not really suited for the area, I guess. ;-)

I also started my Dr. Who with Tom Baker, through PBS reruns (a good reason for federal funding of PBS if I ever heard one). ;-) I have enjoyed the new Dr. Who's as much as the old ones and can't say I see the new series being any more 'fluffier' than the old ones.

Don't forget that Dr. Who is first & foremost a children's show for the BBC. 'Course the best kid's shows are the ones the adults can watch along with them and enjoy.

Kato
NinthWanderer
35. Lesley A
Just a note about Children of Earth - when it was first shown on the BBC, it was compulsive viewing. It really was the best thing on TV all year, and everybody was talking about it, even people who never, ever watch SF.
NinthWanderer
36. TheAdlerian
Pendard,

I just read that this episode was the lowest rated ever and "this too shall pass" could mean the show will pass, and that's not what I want. I believe the decline in ratings can be traced to the show being silly, loud, and fluffy.

I can think of two shows that Dr. Who should look at. The first is the latest Battlestar Galactica and the second is Lost. BSG took on ideas that had to do with the mideast which is the idea of "real people" and infidels who should die, in spite of them being just like the real "chosen people". That was great and it had some odd heroes like Baltar. Dr. Who needs to go from a action comedy to a drama that takes on large philosophical concepts illustrated by visiting societies stuck in one of our problems.

If BBC can't find intelligent quality writers in the UK (come the hell on!!) then it should do the Lost thing where you have tons of pointless drama and action going on that is at least mysterious. Aliens and statues standing around screaming is just weak and heinous.

I don't know how fans of this show are so blind, it's fanboyish stuff I'm seeing here like it's all gold when it's not. I seriously hate the "if you don't like it don't watch it" stuff and that fine for a show like Glee but Who is supposed to be intellectual. That's the point of the character.
Steven Halter
37. stevenhalter
I agree that this isn't really a final death scene for the Doctoras it seems quite unlikely that he would live for another 200 years without regenerating during that period. So, a Doctor 200 years older would not look like he currently does. Then, of course, there are many alternate timeline ways in which he could not be really truely dead.
NinthWanderer
38. Iain Parkes
Having watched the original series's, I have to say that they were made for the time they were filmed in, but compared to modern TV standards they are too padded out, fake and generally the standard of acting wasn't so hot. Still, Loving the modern show and blown away by the first episode of the new series!

As for the final death scene for Matt Smiths Doctor, I am happy with it! Let it be the final death of that timelord!

Remember though, that as a result of "Journey's End" there is still a copy of David Tennent's Doctor running around - half human with only one heart (Like the first Doctor.....) and we know that a scene filmed showed the Doctor giving Rose's Doctor a small piece of "coral" from the TARDIS so that he could grow his own TARDIS. (The clip was included on the Series 4 DVD boxset.)

So, it isn't impossible for Tennents Doctor to regenerate again (even if he doesn't think it himself (AKA The Doctor's Daughter...) into a different Doctor 11......

Just one possibility, I am sure there are cleverer ones out there! lol!
James Whitehead
39. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
Not sure I'd like Dr. Who to model itself after the remade Battlestar Galatica series. I enjoyed it at first but by the end the third season I started rooting for the Cylons to put the colonialists out of their own misery. Also, never felt that the writing was that sharp, clever, deep, or intellectual. To me anyway, it was often predictable and unrealistic.

And Lost collapsed under it's own weight & lack of an endgame by the creators. If you really think the show has fallen so far and is in need of some inspiration, I would say that Babylon 5 would be a better choice of a show for them to emulate. Just not the hanging around a spaceport bit obviously. ;-)

As to the ratings not being very good, well I don't concern myself with ratings. It's not a good sign sure but look at all the reality shows that do very well. Do those shows speak to the quality of the show or the quality of the viewer?

Kato
Tim Cottrell
40. Wolfbrother87
The Impossible Astronaut may have not had great figures but it was really nice Easter Saturday evening (6pm) in the middle of a four-day weekend people were probably making the most of.

As a more positive sign, Matt Smith is the first actor to get a BAFTA Best Male nomination for playing the Doctor.

Wolfbrother Out!
NinthWanderer
41. Pendard
@36 (TheAdlerian): Like Kato (#39) I disagree that Doctor Who should be more like Lost or Battlestar Galactica, but as I said I don't have any interest in talking anybody out of their opinion. One person's opinion is worth as much as another's.

However, in terms of ratings, you are mistaken. Final numbers for "The Impossible Astronaut" haven't been released, but when you compare its overnight ratings to numbers from last season, you'll see that "The Impossible Astronaut" tied or beat every episode of last season with the exception of last year's premiere, "The Eleventh Hour." And as Wolfbrother87 (#40) started to point out, the drop in viewers compared to last year's premiere reflects the fact that "The Impossible Astronaut" was shown in an earlier timeslot when fewer people were watching TV at all. Although overall numbers for the UK premiere dropped (6.5 million for "The Impossible Astronaut" as opposed to 7.7 million for "The Eleventh Hour"), "The Impossible Astronaut" did slightly better than "The Eleventh Hour" in terms of audience share (37%, as opposed to 36.8% from last year). "The Impossible Astronaut" won its timeslot, had higher ratings than any BBC One show that day, and got an 88% approval rating in a poll of 5,000 viewers. On this side of the ocean, it got the highest ratings in the history of BBC America. More than 18 times as many American viewers tuned in for "The Impossible Astronaut" as watched the premiere of "The Eleventh Hour" last year (1.3 million, as opposed to 71,000). So I don't think you need to worry that the show is declining in popularity or that it will be canceled.
NinthWanderer
42. Joe Robinson
Please tell me that by the end of the series, this inadquate death for the Doctor will be rectified and that he comes back, whether it be through wonderful timey-wimey manipulation or otherwise. That would suck. It's in Steve Moffat's style to have a significant events occur at the beginning of the series and have great exposition on it, and that's fine provided that by the end we have the larger picture, but if the Doctor were to definitely be dead and that an astronaut coming out of a lake in the middle of a picnic and zapping him dead even after he's attempted to regenerate... well, that would make for awfully displeasing and unrewarding television.

I can, however, hope. Time can be rewritten, can it not?
Teresa Jusino
43. TeresaJusino
Joe Robinson @42 - I don't know that any death for The Doctor would be "good enough," though. The way you're describing this one, however, makes it sound as if he didn't have control over it. It's not as if the Doctor was killed by this random astronaut. He led his friends there, because he knew this was going to happen, and it had to happen for reasons yet unknown. So it's a powerful death to me.
Ursula L
44. Ursula
The Doctor's death doesn't need to be reversed in any way for the show to continue. They've already set up the potential for 200 years worth of stories with Eleven, with the death still taking place literally and exactly as we saw it.

The issue would be if Smith wanted to leave the show, the death scene with him in it precludes a new regeneration. That's why they'll have to fix it, because they're not going to take away the plot-option of regeneration and keeping the program going even when the lead actor wants to leave the show.
Steven Halter
45. stevenhalter
Ursula@44: Exactly. Now, if they had used some random actor who told them he was the Doctor and then died, it would have had a more "realistic" feel to me.
NinthWanderer
46. Nightsky

But I was more perturbed by the "limited commercial interruptions" line being immediately contradicted by just SEVEN MINUTES of show between the first and second commercial breaks.



This is why I quit HuluPlus almost immediately: their idea of what constitutues "limited commercial interruptions" and mine are worlds apart. A pity, because otherwise I could get behind a service like HuluPlus.
NinthWanderer
47. Bee
Perhaps at some point in his next 200 years, the Doctor learns a way to choose the body he regenerates into, and when his time comes, he chooses to incarnate as Eleven once more? (That makes a lot more sense to me than River having a book of pictures but only ever seeing the doctor as two of them. Especially given the babyface comment.)

I wondered at first why he'd then choose to be with Amy and Rory out of all the companions he's had, but of course there's an obvious reason (if there's any rhythm and rhyme to Moffat's handling of time loops): he knows it has to be them, because he remembers the invite he's sending himself.
NinthWanderer
48. Eric Saveau
@TheAdlerian -

I may as well pipe up as a long-time Doctor Who fan who started watching with the Fourth Doctor as an adolescent in the Seventies: I find the new Doctor Who to be, with a very few exceptions (Daleks in Manhattan, The End of Time, and Victory of the Daleks are the ones that come immediately to mind), consistently marvelous and engaging and thoughtful and quite smart. The difference between then and now strikes me as being primarily one of faster pacing and higher production values. In the first Eccleston episode I found him to be the best Doctor since Tom Baker, and by the second I marked him as best ever. The subsequent actors have further improved the depiction of the character in their own ways, and have not failed to move and delight me. When the Doctor was shot and killed last week I broke down in tears.

Though Torchwood's first two series were uneven at best, I'll echo other commenters here in saying that Children Of Earth was one of the most incredible and terrifying things on television in the past decade. I'll further echo their raised eyebrows over the thought that Doctor Who should take its cues from Lost and Battlestar Galactica. Though I loved new Battlestar Galactica it is a very different kind of show from anything that Doctor Who has ever been, and though it started strongly and brilliantly its denoument was a rather lazy mess salvaged only by the characters of Adama and Roslin, who always rang true to me even when the rest of the series finally hollowed itself out. I can't comment on Lost as I've not finished watching (though I of course haven't been able to avoid spoilers).

This is my considered opinion. You are certainly free to disagree, but there is nothing "blind" or "fanboyish" about it, nor, I suspect, in the views of those with whom you are frustrated in this thread.
NinthWanderer
49. mitzy Moo
Come on, guys. It's entertainment. If you want serious stuff, watch the news. Me and my family, we want a show we can watch with the kids, that scares them in a fun way like the daleks did my parents when they first appeared. The autons and the weeping angels are pretty terrifying. In your mind you know they aren't real, but you're still going to watch those mannequins and statues.

I'm sorry the Doctor died, if he really did. But I know he really didn't die because, for pity's sake, HE'S THE DOCTOR!!!

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