Doctor Who 6.1: “The Impossible Astronaut”

Picoreview: Really needed to scale back on the oversaturation of color, and in some ways too clever for its own good–yet solid nonetheless.

Don’t look away from the fold, so you can be sure to remember the spoilers!

First things first, the oversaturation thing–that’s a stylistic decision I’ve been seeing more of lately, and while I’ve been neutral to it so far, I don’t care for it in the context of Doctor Who. I hope this isn’t going to be a hallmark of the season as a whole. I certainly don’t mind Steven Moffat experimenting, because often that way does lie greatness. But in this particular instance, it just makes the cinematography look like it got washed through in Photoshop.

But overall that’s a fairly minor nitpick and not terribly relevant to the important stuff, which is of course the plot.

Moffat really does love him some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey, and that’s very, very much in play here. Generally I approve of this, although with this episode, there were times I felt Moffat was being a bit too clever for his own good. It didn’t quite ring true for me that Amy and Rory would have such an initially hard time grasping the idea that an older Doctor might have recruited his younger self along with them–because after all, these ARE the same Amy and Rory who went through “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” at the tail end of last season, which had much larger ramifications with the entire existence of time and space.

One might argue that Amy in particular was distraught over the shock of seeing the Doctor apparently killed, but still, didn’t quite work for me. Which of course is the other big quibble I have with this storyline–the OHNOEZ THE DOCTOR HAS BEEN SHOT DED scenario. Sure, it’s horrifying to Amy and Rory and River, but c’mon, it ain’t like there’s any actual real danger here that the Doctor is going to be permanently dead. So there’s absolutely no suspense involved, just the question of “okay how are they going to resolve this?”

(I say this fully cognizant that as a 42-year-old woman, I am not the core target audience for this show. Children may well have watched this episode and been quite, quite aghast at the Doctor’s evident death! I’m just sayin’, though, didn’t quite work for me. Made it one of those “Steven, you’re being too clever for your own good” things for my viewing tastes.)

Here’s some of the smaller things that did work for me, though, in no particular order:

  • Amy and Rory having some at-home time; it’s apparently been a bit since their last jaunt with the Doctor, and they’ve had a chance to be at-home, normal married-type people. Which is kind of cool, actually, the idea that they can have a bit of time to themselves before their next adventure with the Doctor.
  • Relatedly, the Doctor slipping them little secret HIYA! signals in various movies and things. Hee.
  • The guards at River’s prison, who apparently have absolutely no idea how to actually keep her there. “She’s doing it again, sir! She’s PACKING!”
  • Mark Sheppard’s role in the story, even if he’ll forever be mostly Badger to me, thanks to Firefly! His character was awesome.

And for bigger things, let’s talk River. I am liking these further clarifications of the ongoing relationship between her and the Doctor–although, is this the first time that it’s been specifically called out that they are moving in opposite directions from each other? Previously, I’d had no indication that they weren’t encountering each other in anything but seemingly random order. I kind of like the “opposite directions” idea, even if it does seem a bit too structured for the way the Doctor moves through time. Dramatically, it has a bit more appeal, I suppose. I did like that at this particular encounter they’re both clearly familiar with one another enough to synchronize their diaries. Very nice touch, that.

And oh, the expression on River’s face as she finally fessed up to Rory that she knows a day is coming when the Doctor will have no idea who she is.

All of this of course raises the question that we should eventually start seeing the Doctor encountering significantly younger iterations of River, presumably less competent, more innocent, until he eventually gets to the point where from her perspective, it’s the very first time they’ve met. One wonders how far this arc of theirs will go and whether it will eventually extend into whatever time the Twelth Doctor will have on-camera… or whether it will finish playing out during Eleventh Doctor episodes. It’s an interesting call just because so far, the actress who plays River hasn’t looked particularly different in any of her appearances, and I wonder how much younger they can make her look.

And, of course, we have some new and intriguing aliens! I’m aware of the tie-back to “The Lodger”, but now of course that episode’s got more sinister ramifications after what we’ve seen here. Sinister overall, even, despite the fact that the scene in the ladies’ room in the White House, when the alien attacked the Random Passerby Woman, made me think “OHNOEZ A DEMENTOR!” And despite the fact that “aliens you stop remembering as soon as you look away from them” plays for me mostly as a variation on the theme we’ve seen with the Weeping Angels: i.e., aliens it’s dangerous to look away from. Again, Moffat being a bit too clever for his own good, or perhaps not quite clever enough.

I really did rather like the creepiness of them, though, despite my quibbles. And I’m very curious about the speech the alien gave to Amy about how she must tell the Doctor what he must know and what he must never know. And how this is all going to play into the Silence.

All in all decently entertaining–nothing that’s blowing me away, mostly because of the non-existent shock value of OHNOEZ THE DOCTOR IS DED! My favorite line: “I’m being extremely clever up here and there’s no one standing around looking impressed. What’s the point in having you all?”

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