Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6 Premiere The Impossible Astronaut

by Amy Yen

I must have really missed Doctor Who. I know because all of the callbacks in “The Impossible Astronaut” — from “Hello sweetie” to “fish fingers and custard” — all elicited the same gleeful reaction from me. And why shouldn’t they? Here’s a show where stetsons are cool.

Part 1 of the series 6 premiere is classic Steven Moffat, packed full of extremely creepy monsters, timey-wimey puzzle pieces & clever, clever lines. And while the spacemen (presumably, although it is never actually said, the Silence from last series) are terrifying (you can’t remember them unless you’re looking right at them) & the Doctor recruiting his past self & his companions to…do what exactly?…is both fun & scary at the same time, the best part of the episode to me was the full fleshed out, completely wonderful relationships between the four leads.

The Doctor & Amy are the same as ever, with a full series of complete trust in each other under their belts. Even as the Doctor flirts outrageously with River, he reminds her that he can never truly trust her (cold, even for him). But he will trust Amy.

“My life in your hands. Amelia Pond.” This is nothing new. His life has been in Amy Pond’s hands before & nothing has changed between them. What is new & surprisingly fun to watch is where Rory fits in to all this. With many complaints that Amy & Rory spent very little of series 5 acting like people about to get married, here, they do. Rory has also clearly grown up quite a bit since the last series…he even catches on quicker than Amy about what has to be done. He & River talk logically, maturely, about the clues in front of them, while Amy is still too devastated to think straight. It’s impressive. He’s impressive. And it’s nice to see him develop as a companion on his own, rather than just as an extension of Amy.

It’s also Rory who gets from River the straight answer about the “far worse day” she’s dreading so much. It’s not just that she & the Doctor keep meeting out of order. It’s that they’re essentially meeting in the opposite order. Which means the day is coming when she will meet a Doctor that has no idea who she is. Of course, we’ve already seen this, their adventure in the Library. But it’s heartbreaking hearing it from her. Because it’s taken a little while to love River Song (her, and not just the idea of her), but as she corrected the Doctor’s movements in the TARDIS (“Just admiring your skills, sweetie”), it is hard not to.

More random notes on “The Impossible Astronaut”:

  • I loved Canton Everett Delaware III. I’m a little predisposed to it, having enjoyed genre TV staple Mark Sheppard as Crowley on Supernatural, Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica, Sterling on Leverage, Valda on Warehouse 13 & a million other things, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him so well used here in what is reportedly just a guest role. But Canton is a companion, both officially (he is invited to travel in the TARDIS & even gets Rory’s awkward orientation) & spiritually (he delights, rather than panic, in the face of the impossible). I didn’t think of it until later, but what’s brilliant about him is he is our companion introduction — a plot device that reintroduces the wonders of the TARDIS to the audience (think Ten mouthing along with Martha, “It’s bigger on the inside!” “Is it? I hadn’t noticed!”). Usually this is accomplished when the Doctor invites someone new on board, but since this is the first series since series 2 that does not introduce a new full-time companion, we get Canton as a stand-in.
  • “We’re in a box that’s bigger on the inside that travels in time and space.” “Yeah, basically.” “How long has Scotland Yard had this?” HA! I’m really sad Canton is not recurring now. Also, not a bad American accent, Mark Sheppard. It’s kind of funny that he uses his British accent on all his U.S. roles & here, on the quintessential U.K. show, he plays an American.
  • So, the Doctor’s “waving” at Rory & Amy through history books was pretty much the most hilarious thing of all time. I mean, the painting, with the cherubs & the trident? SERIOUSLY.
  • “What face?” “The ‘he’s hot when he’s clever’ face.” “This is my normal face.” “Yes it is.” So, the Doctor flirts now? This one does, it seems, mostly with River Song (although the line about Jefferson, Adams & Hamilton was pretty funny…wonder which two fancied him?).
  • “Human beings. I thought I’d never get done saving you.” Really, so many good lines in this episode.
  • Not one, but two “Doctor who?” lines in this episode. Interestingly, neither of them are answered with “Just The Doctor.” Also, Canton gets to say the “bigger on the inside” line. The Doctor wasn’t even paying attention, so it didn’t even make up with Rory not saying it.
  • Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Eleventh Doctor’s Theme?
  • Nice callback to the Master’s funeral pyre with not being able to leave a time lord’s body up for grabs.
  • “A lot more happens in 1969 than anyone remembers.” Right, like Ten & Martha Jones getting stuck for three months while Sally Sparrow fights off the Weeping Angels.
  • The spaceman kind of looks like an Ood.
  • Utah is gorgeous. Makes me want to go there, which I can say is a new feeling.
  • Amy is pregnant. Wait, really?
  • So, I’m reading a few reviews that are criticizing the episode for being overly mythology-heavy & inaccessible to the casual viewer. They are not wrong. If you’re watching Doctor Who for the first time, this is probably not the episode to do it. There’s not even a previouslys to catch you up on how the blue box is bigger on the inside, who River Song is, how time can be rewritten, etc. But as a fan of Fringe, the most mythology-immersed show on TV right now, I have to say, accessibility is overrated. The serialization, the mythology, the call-backs, that’s what makes this episode so damn fun. If you want to know what’s going on, go back, start with “Rose,” like I did.
  • In memory of Elisabeth Sladen. Goodbye, our Sarah Jane Smith.

PS: So Part 2 of the premiere, Day of the Moon, looks incredible:

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