I am so confused. Whenever Steven Moffat gets cute and clever with his writing, I usually end up scratching my head wondering what the hell is going on – not really a good thing.
This post is ripe with spoilers so if you haven’t seen “The Impossible Astronaut”, go watch it, then come back. I’ll wait…
The season premiere of Doctor Who had almost as much fanfare as the premiere of Game of Thrones on HBO. This was due in no small part to the fact that, for the first time in the shows history, they were filming in the US. But the gorgeous landscape of Monument Valley wasn’t enough to distract me from what came to be a short-feeling, confusing episode.
The episode begins with Rory and Amy settling into their life together while the Doctor is off having adventures in the past that seemed aimed at simply getting their attention. One day, they receive a ‘TARDIS blue’ envelope – inside are coordinates and a day/time. Cut to the prison where Doctor River Song is being held. She, too, has received an envelope with coordinates. Turns out, those coordinates lead all of them to the Utah desert where the Doctor is waiting for them. He is 200 years older than the last time we saw him, clocking in at over 1100 years.
The Doctor tells them they’re soon to be off to 1969, but first, the gang has a picnic on the beach (lake shore, really), during which Amy spots an odd looking alien up on the rocks, but when she looks away to tell the Doctor, she immediately forgets. A moment later, an astronaut steps out of the lake. The Doctor tells his friends that he must go and greet the astronaut alone and that, no matter what happens, they can’t interfere. To their horror, the astronaut shoots the Doctor. This kicks off the Doctor’s regeneration.
Then the astronaut shoots the Doctor again, interrupting his regeneration and ending his life forever. Another person who was invited, Canton Everett Delaware III, appears. He was told not only to come to this spot at this time on this date, he was also told to bring gasoline. Together, they give the Doctor a Viking funeral. River realizes that the envelopes were numbered, 2-4 – so where is number 1?
Turns out, envelope number 1 was delivered to a younger version of the Doctor – the one who is 909 years old, and now it’s up to his companions to convince him to travel to 1969, to find the younger version of Canton Everett Delaware and unravel the mystery of The Impossible Astronaut.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again – Steven Moffat does weird things. I know that he is this massive Doctor Who fanboy, and that he has written some of the best episodes – but when he gets clever, or when he thinks he’s being clever, I get lost. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.
The story felt rushed but empty. Once again, Moffat has created a new, creepy alien race with a similar ‘power’. Like the Weeping Angels who can only move when you look away, these new aliens can only be remembered when you’re looking right at them – look away and you instantly forget.
From the death of the Doctor, the team travels to the White House in 1969 where they meet President Nixon and Canton Everett Delaware as a young man (cleverly played by Mark Sheppard as a young man, and his father, W. Morgan Sheppard as an old man), who has been recruited by Nixon to investigate strange phone calls from a little girl that follow him everywhere he goes. This leads them to Florida, to Cape Kennedy Space Center, where they find alien technology lying around and ancient tunnels underneath.
As I said, it felt rushed. The commercials didn’t help. We’re used to commercials in our shows in America, but in Britain, they air without commercials. As a result, the commercial cuts felt awkward – just when something would happen, cut to commercial. And those breaks were frakking long, too. I clocked em (cuz I’m a nerd). They took 5 commercial breaks during a 58 minute long episode (sans end credits) and those commercials totaled a whopping 15 minutes. That means the episode itself was 43 minutes long, which felt short for an episode of Doctor Who. Add to that the abrupt ending and I was not happy. It felt short and disjointed.
I was also amused that ‘Doctor Who was brought to you with limited interruption by BMW’. 5 commercial breaks was ‘limited’? I’d hate to see what would’ve happened had BMW not paid for that sponsorship…
A standout moment was Any Pond mourning the Doctor’s death. I thought Karen Gillan did such a good job.
My overall feeling is agnostic. I’m interested in seeing how they tie things up next week, but as it stands, my excitement for the new series has been dulled by this episode.
Okay – let the comments begin…