Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Impossible Astronaut"

It has been a long wait, but the sixth series of Doctor Who has finally attired. “The Impossible Astronaut” is the first episode of the show to be filmed in the United States, though some establishing shots have been filmed here sans actors. There has been a big push as of late to get Americans more interested in Doctor Who. BBC America will now air the latest episode hours after the BBC, not months as before. Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, and Karen Gillan have made promotional rounds stateside. One would think all the stops would have been pulled out for the series premiere to be approachable and exciting for new, American viewers. One would be wrong.

Which is not to say “The Impossible Astronaut” is a bad episode. It is, however, bogged down in a lot of backstory from recent series that the audience is expected to automatically know. I do, mind you. Most fans are. River Song has been introduced before, we know she is traveling backwards in time so that the doctor is less familiar with her each time until he does not know her at all in the fourth season’s “Forest of the Dead”. We are familiar with something dangerous out there called the Silence. We know it is eventually going to destroy the TARDIS. We recognize a control panel discovered in this episode as being identical to the one in “The Lodger.” We know all these things, but a new viewer does not, and the poor guy or gal has to be scratching his or her head right now.

River, Amy, and Rory receive invitations to meet in Utah in 2011. When they all arrive, they encounter the Eleventh Doctor, but he is 200 years older. He is there to meet with someone rising out of a lake wearing an astronaut suit. He warns the three not to intervene in the meeting no matter what happens. Intervention becomes difficult to resist as the astronaut, whom the doctor recognizes, murders him, then disappears. The three sadly create a funeral pyre as the Doctor wished. They are joined by a fourth invite---a retired former FBI agent.

A short time later, they encounter the 900 year old version of the Doctor in a diner. He is headed to 1969 after being prompted to strange goings on involving aliens. The three opt to keep his eventual death a secret from him. (yikes. He was very cross at Amy last season for keeping a secret from him. She has not learned.) In 1969, they wind up at the White House. Richard Nixon, who looks more like Bob Dole, has been receiving phone calls for the past week from a mysterious little girl begging for help against aliens. Nixon called in Canton Delaware, a younger version of the FBI agent mentioned above, to handle the matter.

Yes, Canton Delaware. Just to let you know he is an American. I guess Jimmy Applepie would have been too contrived. Delaware is played by the great Mark Shephard. I am always happy to see him show up to play the anti-hero characters he does so well. Maybe it is because I am in an X-Files mindset, but I cannot help but think his outcast status with the FBI and apparent expertise with aliens makes Delaware a Fox Mulder homage.

There are aliens afoot. They are big-headed, black suit wearing critters all over the place. One can only remember them when looking directly at them, so they remain a secret even though Amy, Rory, and River encounter one or more at several points. Following clues, our heroes wind up in an abandoned warehouse in Florida where the little girl’s phone calls allegedly originate. There is an alien spaceship below the warehouse. It has been there for centuries. River and Rory are captured by the aliens as an astronaut appears to the Doctor and Amy above. There is a little girl inside the suit. Amy, believing if she kills the astronaut, she will save the Doctor from the future, shoots the little girl with Delaware’s gun as the cliffhanger.

A couple points. One, amy reveals she is pregnant. I assumed that would be the eventual case. Her giving birth would present an easy way of getting her and rory out the TARDIs without any drama once their time on the show is up. But now I assume the child is significant to the plot. I have mixed emotions about the possibility of a ’special’ child being at the center of a storyline. Two, the Silnce aliens shtick of being forgotten once a person is not looking at them feels like a variation of the Weeping Angels. Has Steven Moffat lost his sense of originality? I certainly hope not. I am holding out for big surprises in the remainder of the sixth series.

“The Impossible Astronaut” is decent, but unusual for a series premiere. There is very little action. The script is dialogue intensive, yet still fails to explain much of the backstory a new viewer really needs to know in order to get up to speed. There is obviously much set up for the series arc to add to the confusion. I am going to stick around for the payoff, but I am curious how many less dedicated fans will. There is not a heck of a lot of reason offered up here to do so.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment