“Impossible Astronaut” Review (SPOILERS. Oh, So Many SPOILERS)

WARNING!!! If you haven’t seen “The Impossible Astronaut” yet, do not read this until after you have. I’m gonna get speculative on your asses!

Wowzers. Talk about hitting the ground running. Doctor Who‘s series 6 premiere episode didn’t give its audience any time to breathe, as Steven Moffat & Co. serve up one of the most puzzling and shocking episodes ever. What stood out the most was the sheer scope of the undertaking. It felt like we were watching half of a feature film and not an episode of television, which is due in no small part to the stellar work of director Toby Haynes, who has now directed five (counting next week’s conclusion) episodes in a row. The Utah locations really did add a great deal of realism and believability to the usual fantastical events. The shock of the pivotal scene in act one, which I’ll address in a moment, was perfectly underscored by Haynes’ direction and the pristine lake/beach surroundings. The performances were uniformly good, which is a given by now, and since we know all of the principals very well at this point, we can simply jump into the adventure with them without having to be introduced, something we’ve not had in a premiere prior to this.

Now for the part of the review where I discuss specific things and add my own wild speculation, so just prepare to be wowed (hardly).

-Steven Moffat delivers another of his now-standard time-and-mind-bending stories, this one being a proper mystery with almost none of the action movie tropes that we’ve come to expect (I imagine those will happen next week). By the end of this episode, we know almost nothing and are left with numerous questions that need answering, just the way I like it.

-I liked how we were brought back into the Doctor’s world by having Amy and Rory reading about his exploits in the book and seeing him on TV. Aside from being funny, it makes me think, like they do, that he’s trying to get their attention. I have to assume it’s for something other than the eventual envelope they receive as they surely would have known it was from him anyway.

-The first Doctor we see claims to be 1,103 years old, meaning he’s been traipsing around for about 200 years since we last saw him, yet he looks exactly the same as the second Doctor who says he’s 909. Surely, this will be explained, probably.

-The Doctor has led his companions, plus the older version of Canton Everett Delaware, III to this one specific moment, and only Canton 3 seems prepared for what’s about to happen. The Astronaut appears, though we don’t know who it is, and shoots the Doctor, causing a regeneration which is immediately ebbed when he’s shot again and dies. This scene made me very sad, as I think was the point. We’ve never seen this happen, obviously, as this would be the absolute end of the Doctor’s life. Canton 3 brings a can of gasoline over to burn his body and they load him up on a nearby row-boat and send him burning into the lake.  Now, there are a number of red flags that popped up to make me think this was all a ruse on the part of the Doctor. 1) He tells them in the diner earlier that he’s been running, faster than he’s ever run. This would explain all the popping up in history books in various times and spaces. I think it’s pretty clear he’s been running from the alien in the suit. 2) The alien in the suit appears at the site of the death to watch. I think the death and funeral were all for his benefit. The Doctor wanted to stop running and he knew the only way he could was to die, or for them to think he has died. 3) Canton 3’s appearance at the scene, along with the gasoline he was instructed to bring, point to him being involved in a cover-up and not, like the others, just witnessing a horrible event. He was an FBI guy after all. 4) Lighting his body on fire is a good way to dispose of the evidence, i.e. no way for anyone to examine his body.

-They go back to the diner to see 909-year-old Doctor, and are understandably shocked and annoyed at him, or his future self, for making them watch him die and then have to see him again, younger and totally unaware of what’s happened. I really like the way Matt Smith plays him in this and the following TARDIS scene. He hates it when people know more than he does, especially if it involves him, which explains his combative relationship with River Song.

-They go to the Oval Office in 1969 to help President Nixon and younger Canton 3 with the mysterious phone calls. These calls are being made by a child calling for help. How can the child be calling the President? Why is she ONLY calling the President? And why can she call the President wherever he is? This, surely, has something to do with the omnipresent alien-in-the-suit.

-Amy, feeling sick, goes to the bathroom and sees the alien-in-the-suit and then witnesses, via another poor soul, that people only remember them while they’re looking, and when they turn around, they forget. These are some scary-ass aliens creatures, not the least of which because they can scream and make people pop. These are, apparently, “The Silence” we’ve heard about. Now, we’ve been told all last year, at several points, that “Silence will fall,” which we’ve generally taken to believe that something horrible called Silence will take over everything and whatnot, but what if it means they will fall like the Roman Empire fell? Perhaps, then, the Silence falling is a good thing as it means they wouldn’t be around anymore. Eh, eh? Food for thought. The Silence tells Amy she must tell the Doctor what she knows she must not.

-Based on the things the girl says, the Doctor determines that the calls are coming from a place a few miles away from Cape Canaveral, where NASA is located. In a series of underground tunnels, River and Rory investigate and find, and subsequently forget, a nest of Silence and eventually reach what looks for all the world like the TARDIS-like ship from last year’s “The Lodger.” River also says earlier that worse days lie ahead for her. When Rory asks her about it, she says she dreads the day when the Doctor no longer recognizes her, given the nature of their out-of-sync relationship, and that it will likely kill her. (IT DID!! [kinda]) They are then set-upon by Silence and it looks as though Rory might again die.

-On the surface, the Doctor, Amy, and Canton 3 investigate the stolen space suits and stuff and eventually Canton hears something and runs after it. Amy remembers she has to tell the Doctor something, and that it’s very important. They find Canton knocked unconscious. Amy tells the Doctor she’s pregnant just as the astronaut appears. Without thinking, Amy grabs Canton’s gun and shoots it, trying to save future Doctor, but fails to notice first that it has lifted the visor to reveal the little girl inside.

Now that’s a pretty intense cliffhanger and we’re left with the following questions, or at least I was: 1) Is the girl in the space suit really a little girl? 2) Are we supposed to infer, because of what Amy had just revealed, that the little girl is Amy and Rory’s daughter? 3) How could a little girl be walking around in a full size astronaut suit? 4) Is the space suit actually a TARDIS, which might explain the presence of the console room and “iconic” image released a few weeks ago with the Doctor, Rory, and Amy AND the TARDIS in the visor? 5) I hope this isn’t the case, but is River Song the child of Amy and Rory? 6) Since both Amy and River complained of stomach problems, does that mean River is also pregnant? 7) Is the little girl in the suit the same person as the person in the suit who shoots the Doctor? (I doubt it) 8 ) Have I run out of questions? Maybe for now.

I guess we’ll just have to wait to see if any of these questions/predictions I have come true, or are even relevant. For now, we’ll have to be content with the BBC 1 trailer for part two, “Day of the Moon.”

Amaze-balls, right? Can’t wait. Feel free to share your thoughts, impressions, and weird theories in the comments section.

-Kanderson will fall…asleep
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  • Firsti……say…who’s that astronaut coming out of the water?…i’ll just head over and introduce myself….zzzzzzzAAPPPPP!! ARRRGGHHHHHHH!!!

  • Something that I keep thinking about is the future doctor.
    Why was he driving around a station wagon? Where was his TARDIS?

    Oooo if River is their kid that would be some twist.

  • Kyle: outstanding write up! i hope this becomes a weekly nerdist entry.

    Additional question: Isnt Rory a robot? How the heck could Amy be pregnant? Correct me if im wrong but the human Rory did die and get sucked into the rift last season. The rory that exists now was created out of amy’s memory and while he ended up mentally returning to the same person he was, i thought physically he’s still a robot (spent 1000 years watching the pandorica).

    im also going crazy trying to figure out how Moffat will write his way out of actually killing the 11th doctor before regeneration?

  • @Three toes of Fury Rory is human again, Amy brought him back just like she did the Doctor and her parents. Not sure if he still remembers all 1000 years but he did state at the wedding he remembers being plastic, so he may still retain the memories.

  • Wow, you had a completely different read on this episode than we did. In that it appears you actually liked it.

    Now, days later, my husband is still randomly shouting “God, I am SO disappointed by that Doctor Who,” and I certainly don’t blame him. Nothing actually happened. He died, but then he wasn’t dead, which adds up to zero in my book. (Although: Easter reference?)

    But here’s where I say something that makes everyone discount everything I’ve said before: I cannot stand River Song. I’ve put in entirely too much time trying to figure out why I have such a problem with her, and here’s what I came up with: River Song thinks she’s smarter than the Doctor. Who else do we know who thinks they’re smarter than the Doctor? The Master…Davros…enemies in general. So now this irritatingly smug woman comes around and we’re not supposed to categorize her as an enemy? I don’t buy it.

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    @Three Toes
    Yeah, what Chad H said. When the Doctor blew the Pandorica up, everything reverted back to normal and then when Amy brings the Doctor back, Rory remembers everything, including the 1800+ years he spent as a Roman Auton.

    That’s too bad you guys didn’t enjoy it, but I can see where you’re coming from. I really didn’t like River Song in the Angels 2-parter because she was incredibly smug, but it seems like each time we see her, she’s had fewer adventures with the Doctor and is each time less secure about it. The scene between she and Rory in the basement, to me, really redeemed a lot of her perceived hubris, given that we know how worried she is about the day that inevitably comes.

  • What got me thinking was if the Doctor actually died at the beginning, then that means the eleventh Doctor is the last Doctor… So, he can’t actually have died… it must be some kinda trick.. it must!

  • The Doctor knows who is in the suit… so it could be some sort of monster, or River Song, or even himself? Is the little girl really a little girl or some sort of lure like we saw in The Lodger? I really hope River Song isn’t Rory and Amy’s baby, though I had the same thought.

    I really loved the tension in the TARDIS when they all knew something he didn’t. Matt Smith did a great job of revealing just a tiny bit of the Doctor’s darkness (the whole “Don’t play games withe me.” YESSSSSS). I love the cheeky, witty Doctor and all, but a bit seriousness to remind us who we are really dealing with was excellent.

    Can’t wait for next week!

  • Does anyone else think that the Doctor that was killed was the Doctor that just came from crying and giving River Song his sonic because he was going to die? Huh? Huh?

  • Amaze-balls is right!

    Archaeologists. The Nose. Who. No-one writes for this Doctor quite like Moffat. In the same way that no-one quite wrote for the previous Doctors like Russell T. Davies. (Although I did think that ‘A Time Lord’s body is a miracle…’ line was *very* RTD.)

    I loved the way Matt Smith played the 1,103 year old Doctor, complete with his own matching TARDIS diary. I’m happy to think of him as that age there, no need to explain away the lack of physical wear and tear.

    But the future TARDIS problem? Oh so exciting. Ever since Astrid’s name was released (and that was a bit of a damp squib) I’ve been ready and primed for a walking, talking machine.

  • I don’t think Amy is really pregnant. I don’t think River is Amy and Rory’s child. She just watched the Doctor die and is trying to save him by doing anything she can. Praying on the hope that the Doctor won’t endanger her and her child by blindly running into danger. I could be wrong but I hope I’m right.

  • I’m trying not to speculate as it makes my head hurt. Oh the various plot things rolling around in that episode – it’s enough to make my head explode!

    Like @ChadH said, I don’t think Amy is really pregnant. Because the stomach problems have affected River, too, and it seems to have something to do with the Silence creatures (were they scary or what?). I believe the Silence creatures want the Doctor to think that Amy’s pregnant and they made her say that (remember the scene in the bathroom?)

    But I don’t know. Hopefully, we’ll have some answers next week. Which, I’m sure, will be filled with lots more questions, too.

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    Oh, that’s just what I call the Silence. It looks as though he’s wearing a suit and tie. I think knowing they’re Silence before the characters do is kinda shitty, personally. Feels a lot like BBC just branding so they can get a toy out.

  • @Tim I know right I really could tell he was drained like he was 200 years older, and then meeting the 909 year old you could tell what those 200 years did to him. I think he just came from telling River his name and giving her his sonic. Not the river there, but future River who meet the 10th Doctor.

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    You are aware of the big alien creature that spoke to Amy in the bathroom and blew up the annoying lady, right? And all the aliens in the underground bunker?

  • Last night, I re-watched Silence In the Library/Forest of the Dead, and I loved every minute of it. Either Alex Kingston is just that good of an actor, or Steven Moffat told her everything right then and there about this character he had created before they filmed the episode. I know that the actress NOW knows the most, but did she then? You can see in her performance there that, just as she said to Rory, she knew that when the Doctor didn’t know her, it would be her last encounter with him. She even begs the doctor to please tell her he knows who she is, which of course he can’t.

    So yeah, everything’s coming around quite nicely. If you need a good Doctor fix between now and Saturday, go check this episode out again.

  • I have a theory that River Song IS the Doctor in a future/parallel incarnation. Hence the smugness, knowing his real name, being able to operate the Tardis, etc. Who else would he/she flirt with that adoringly? The first time she meets him (in his time line, in the library) she tells him she will one day be someone he trusts completely, and in this episode she points out that he sends invitation #1 to himself because he is the only one he completely trusts in the universe. I am guessing she is also the one in the spacesuit, maybe having gone back in time to ensure he took the steps to meet his own death because something becomes derailed along the way (wibbley wobbley timey wimey blah blah).

    That’s my crackpot theory, anyway.

  • Great right-up Kyle! (going to follow you on twitter right now!)
    Just did the same, Nathaniel! Watched SitL/FotD last night for a River refresher (and because I have been converting my friends into Who fans mwahaha!), and I just love how it connects to the show now. She mentions the crash of the Byzantium, and I know they prob did the s5 spisodes based on that alone, but I still like seeing the pieces fit together like that. Alex Kingston is awesome, I’m glad she’s still around. I know some people don’t like her, but hey, she’s not in every ep!
    I’m withholding my comments on Impossible Astronaut, because I’ve seen the second ep and the two just blur together into one super episode, I don’t want to let something slip. As River would say…SPOILERS! lolz

  • Don’t know if this is answered in part 2, but I don’t think the Doctor sent the invitations. I think it was Canton Everett Delaware III. If you notice when he arrives at the lake side, River Song compares her invite to his. Pay attention and you’ll notice his envelope isn’t open. How did he know where and when to be there.

  • I am not one to speculate on river’s identity, but i have had a strong feeling that her fate is tied tightly to Amy’s. With the doctor’s death, we know that river has pictures of “all his faces” but does not recognize number 10, that makes me think this is not the final doctor, and could be a ruse to trick the silence. matt smith is a good doctor, but not good enough to be the last. as far as liking river i sort of have a captain jack attitude towards her, i like her the more i watch, though i think that this might have something to do with the benjamin button style timeline situation(just more wibbly wobbly) that the more she knows him the less he knows her, and his death does not fit with that, and there is no way that she is the doctor or a time lord, the doctor would know by now. if stephen moffat kills the doctor for good, i will be pissed, but time can be re written, if not on the main event it might be able to branch off in another direction, only time will tell. if the doctor dies completely, so will my faith in good television. (and no restarting the series like the star trek or batman movies, that crap wont work with the doctor)

  • @Kyle. I see why Chris Hardwick and others spoke highly of this premiere cause they got to see both parts. This defenitely left me wanting to see the 2nd half

    @Evan I see what you did too. Clever, Hopefully Kyle catches on.

  • Lots of timey-wimey business in this one. That chamber River & Rory entered was definitely similar to the phantom 2nd floor in “The Lodger”. Odds are The Doctor isn’t the only one dabbling in time travel.