I suppose a spoiler alert would be in order, yeah?
I spent my Saturday night cowering in the fetal position, screaming expletives at my television screen and cursing Steven Moffat. This is typical behavior in the Speller household once “Doctor Who” returns. The season opener premiered on BBC America this past weekend.
So, if you’ve heard people talk about “Doctor Who” and you’re still unsure of what they’re talking about, go to a wiki or something. I’ve spent several days trying to sum it up in a brief and non-boring way and I’m simply unable to. The show is about the Doctor, a 900-year-old alien who travels the universe in a blue box that’s actually a time machine. You with me?
Yeah, the idea sounds a little rough when you put it in the simplest terms, but it seems that, in order to explain the show, one has to leave the room for countless parentheticals, elaborations and frantically waving hands to make sense of things.
And now on to this week’s episode, “The Impossible Astronaut.”
The season opener was written and produced by Steven Moffat, a lifelong fan, who took the helm of the series last year.
Moffat tends to weave his stories thick; you’ll find traces of this opener in episodes as far back as the second season. He threw the audience for a loop in making viewers believe that the end of last season was a happy one. Where we left off, the Doctor’s companions Amy and Rory (Played by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill) were married, the Doctor was brought back into existence using the power of Amy’s memory and things were happy and wonderful.
“The Impossible Astronaut” begins with three Tardis blue envelopes numbered two, three and four being sent out. Each note is unsigned, but contains a map and a date asking the recipient to show up in the Midwest United States. Upon arrival, Amy and Rory (who received envelope number two) met up with River Song, the mysterious time traveler (played by Alex Kingston) who received envelope three and knows the Doctor from the future. It’s time travel and it’s confusing, okay?
When they finally catch up with the Doctor, he admits to sending the envelopes and the group enjoys a picnic together and it’s all really adorable until the Doctor is killed by someone in an astronaut suit. Yeah, shot twice: once to knock him down and start his regeneration process and a second time to actually kill him.
I won’t go on about how I think the image of the 1960s spaceman killing the doctor comments on the way scientific advancements can impact and harm the science fiction community and stifle the imagination -— but it’s an awesome image.
There we are, 10 minutes into the episode and everything seems to be fucked, royally. The title character is dead and cremated in a Viking funeral and everyone is suspecting he knew what was coming. A new character is introduced. Canton Delaware III (played by character actor Mark Sheppard), shows up at the time of the Doctor’s death with the fourth envelope and helps with the funeral matters. Amy, Rory and River head back to a diner to drown their sorrows and they run into yet another person invited to the Doctor’s self-planned wake: The Doctor.
At the diner, a much younger and very much alive Doctor arrives, completely oblivious to the fact that his friends had just witnessed his death (isn’t time travel awful for your brain?). The team reunites and the companions are shaken, but they don’t tell the Doctor what they witnessed because there’s some kind of intergalactic “Fight Club”-style rule about not telling a person how they die (much like how the Doctor knows how River dies, but can’t tell her). They proceed to follow the Doctor back to Nixon-era United States, investigating some mysterious phone calls the infamous president was receiving.
This is where we’re introduced to the newest monster -— one of the scariest Moffat has come up with in a while — called The Silence. They look like Roswell-style aliens (with their strange shaped heads) they wear suits and speak in creepy whispery voices. Also, when you look away from one of them, you’ll forget seeing them.
They’re creepy and they give you amnesia. Not good.
So a lot is going on in this episode because that’s the way Steven Moffat works. There’s a surplus of action and plot points introduced and every other scene is a reference to one of the past seasons. In fact, those on the fansites are already chattering away about the potential meaning behind the opening joke scenes with the Doctor running around a Laurel and Hardy film. Things are busy. Things are crazy. Things ended on a freaking cliff-hanger and I threw my remote across the room in a rage.
The final scene has Amy shooting someone donning a 1960s era astronaut suit. We don’t know if it’s the same astronaut that killed the doctor earlier or not, we just know that the living Doctor is deeply startled by the shooting.
As it’s only the first episode, there’s not a lot to go on. Come next week, we’ll hopefully have some answers for you whovians (wholigans or whatever you’re called).