Doctor Who 6.01 The Impossible Astronaut - Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston
Doctor Who 6.01 The Impossible Astronaut - Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River Song (Alex Kingston) © BBC 2011

In Doctor Who – Season 6 Episode 1 a set of TARDIS-blue envelopes sets in motion a reunion, a death and then a kind of re-run of the reunion where the Doctor is the one kept in the dark, as is the audience…

If there was any doubt that we are in the video age then this episode dismisses that doubt. This is so full of one-liners, seemingly innocent comments and mysteries that it takes a few viewings to get anything like an idea of much was missed first time around! And then there’s the hope that this jumble of events will start to make sense when watched again after the second part has been seen.

For there is no doubt that this is the first part of a story, and I can see why the press previews of this two-parter showed both episodes, because in no way does this segment stand by itself. I hope – oh I hope – that the concluding episode will join with this to create a satisfying whole.

Doctor Who 6.01 The Impossible Astronaut
The Astronaut: An angel of death, or something else…?

In my mind there is no doubt that writer Steven Moffat is a genius of plot construction and witty dialogue, and that’s what gives me hope that this jumbled first episode will pay off. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the beast that Doctor Who has becomem with the hero Doctor always coming out on top, the big underlying “but what about…?” question this episode poses provides little dramatic tension because no one really believes – particularly with Moffat – that things are what they seem, or that they won’t be resolved. Of course when they will be resolved is another matter…

So, the dramtic impact was perhaps not as great as it might have been, although for younger viewers unaware of the longevity of the Doctor and the programme they might have believed what they saw. I didn’t, which was probably why the funeral ship scene seemed rather matter of fact, and Amy’s sudden burst of sadness in the diner seemed out of place.

I could have done without some of Moffat’s favourite ‘tricks’, most of all the child who rings President Nixon. The gas-mask child in WWII Britain some series back was a neat idea, but disembodied voices (also in the Library episodes and last year with the Angels) are becoming old hat. And speaking of the Angels, their power was to move when you looked away, so this time the idea that if you look away you forget what you saw is a bit too close a variation of the Angels. But then again, it is a great idea and well executed.

Doctor Who 6.01 The Impossible Astronaut
On location in Utah, but it doesn’t look like it here…

The much-touted US locations seemed under-used, and mostly familiar from the trails, but I go back to my hope that the next episode will put that to right.

But what a delight to see William Morgan Sheppard appear as the older Canton Everett Delaware III – I still shiver at his portrayal of a soul hunter in Babylon 5. This was a rather brief appearance, so surely he will be back for the second episode. Please…

Doctor Who 6.01 The Impossible Astronaut
What plan is the Doctor hatching?

I’ve already watched the episode a few times, and it is growing on me, which is fine and dandy. I just hope that the general viewing public stick with the following episodes. They’re being asked quite a lot.

The Doctor starts to regenerate, with no explanation to the audience what this means. Has the series really become such a part of our lives that this, Song being in prison, and other ‘facts’ need no explanation? Hmm…

Lots, and lots, of questions to be answered; such as why did Amy suddenly have an urge to tell the Doctor her news, and, not least, why was Laurel and Hardy in widescreen?

Roll on episode 2…

[Rating: 3]
but will this rating need to be changed after the next episode…?

Jan Vincent-Rudzki

UK editor of Film Review Online