TV REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut’

“We travel in different directions, every time we meet I know him more and he knows me less”
-River Song

There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and Doctor Who. The longest running sci-fi show in TV history returned this week with the premiere of the 6th season of the revamped run that started in 2005. This episode marked several firsts and introduced what might be the scariest monster the show has ever thrown at us.

For the first time ever the show shot principle photography in America, Utah to be exact. Also for the first time BBC America is airing the episodes day and date with the British premieres. All of this while we are getting a returning Doctor and companion for the first time in the new era of the show. With such an historic start excitement has been breeding a ton of hype for start of the season. Does “The Impossible Astronaut” live up to it?

In a word, yes. In seven words, holy god damn hell yes it does. “The Impossible Astronaut” delivers on nearly everything we have come to expect from the Moffat/Smith run. It has excitement, rich production values, humor, a well crafted story and the scariest monsters yet. I am going to get into some spoiler territory from here on out so if you haven’t seen the episode yet, I urge you to go do so immediately and then come back and read this review.

The episode basically starts with the death of the Doctor. Boom, yeah it goes there. This isn’t some cheesy death either. The way it is handled has weight, we all know the Doctor isn’t gone but the supporting cast’s reaction to the event is so real that we feel it too. Then it is discovered that the Doctor we see die is actually a future version, and the Doctor of this season’s time era shows up with the same invitation as the others. The companions decide to keep the impending death a secret from this Doctor, which will no doubt come into play as this story is completed next week, and probably over the whole season as well.

Once the Doctor is convinced to trust the word of his friends and blindly follow the summons back to 1969 we get into the meat of the episode. As I mentioned this is the first time the show has shot principle photography in America, and Moffat isn’t shy about taking full advantage of the location. The Tardis materializes in the oval office to give the Doctor a one on one with none other than tricky Dick himself.

Apparently the POTUS has been getting strange phone calls, and as the US doesn’t have a resident time lord the commander-in-chief recruits an ex-FBI agent to solve the mystery. The Doctor being the friendly chap that he is takes on the assignment and even brings along the fed to help out.

What really takes this episode to the next level is the first appearance of Moffat’s new big baddy, the Silence. There have been references to the impending arrival of the Silence dating all the way back to season 4. With such a long lead up time, these villains really need to embody all of the threats and whispers that have been building up. Mission accomplished!

Everything about the Silence is beyond creepy and the threat that they pose is as menacing as the Daleks or the Cybermen have ever been. The gimmick of the Silence is that anytime you look away from them you lose all memory of seeing them. In only one episode they have already toyed with this angle in interesting and compelling ways and based on the scenes from next week there are even more wrinkles coming soon.  The most frightening prospect of this new evil presence is that they might have been around for a long time. We will soon know exactly how deep their infiltration into the Doctor’s world is.

It is always hard to judge part one of a multi-parter, there are to many variables that are still in motion for me to know how much I truly like story. One thing is certain though, this episode is an incredibly worthy opener that illustrates almost every element of Doctor Who that makes the show so great.

Score for Doctor Who – The Impossible Astronaut:

4.5 out of 5*

*I reserve the right to adjust the .5 up or down once the second part airs 😉

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