Sunday, April 24, 2011
Whenever I come to write my thoughts on Nu Who, I'm always aware that I might be in the minority. Brief statii posted on Facebook bring a cavalcade of comments as to how I am wrong, how I didn't 'get' it and so on, but generally when I post my thoughts here, I get nice comments and people saying that they're glad I said what I did as they thought the same and felt somewhat bludgeoned by the rest of fandom for not thinking as per the collective ... So I'll do as usual here, and pass on my thoughts and feelings about the opener for Season 6 (or Season 32, or Season 11.2 depending on how you're counting). This year I managed to stay pretty much completely spoiler free - so I had (and have) little clue as to what to expect. So 'The Impossible Astronaut' kicked off with no expectations at all. First of all, the title. It's rubbish. From what we saw, 'Silence Falls' would have been better, or maybe 'Space 1969' ... 'The Impossible Astronaut' sounds more like a novel or comic story ... but then that's what we were presented with, a story which seemed to be more at home in any media other than television. We kick off with the Doctor at various points in the past: being painted naked; in some wartime tunnels; and dancing on film with Laurel and Hardy. All very nice, but what was the point? To attract Amy and Rory's attention? Why not just call on them ... it's not very Doctory. And another thing, for all this episode's bleating on about not being able to change the past, that's all the Doctor seems to do - inserting himself in people's past and changing how the future will pan out. Anyway, he sends Amy and Rory and River Song (who seems to be in a jail or something but is allowed to leave by her captors?) invitations to America to meet with him by a lake ... and the first clue is that he says he is 1103 years old, but last time Amy saw him he was 908 ... so some 200 years have passed for the Doctor. But then a car arrives bringing an old man bearing a can of petrol .. and the Doctor talks with an Apollo astronaut down by the lake who then seems to kill him ... and then while he is regenerating kills him completely. But we're used to all this by now ... regenerations that are not, events which are not what they seem ... even in the Pandorica episode the Doctor was apparently killed ... but wasn't. I wonder if the production team know the story of the Boy who Cried Wolf (or should that be Bad Wolf?). So all this outpouring of emotion from Amy left me cold ... seen this before. Got the t-shirt. And as usual the music was awful. Murray Gold seems to have a sledgehammer approach at times, and the choral stuff here really annoyed me. And the plot now starts to twist and turn. The Doctor's body is burned (so he does seem to be really really dead), and the old man - Canton Everett Delaware III - has another of the invitations, numbered 1 to 4 ... so who had number 1? Surprise! It is the Doctor ... this time aged 909 - so just a year after last meeting Amy and Rory ... but he doesn't seem to know who River Song is yet ... Spoilers! So they head to 1969 to where the TARDIS seems to want to go - to the 8th April to be precise, and the Oval Office, where President Nixon is troubled by a strange child who keeps phoning him for help. He has called in ex-FBI man Canton Delaware (which number we're not sure of) to assist him and before long the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River are all embroiled in the mystery. Amy meanwhile is seeing alien creatures which she then forgets about, and, feeling sick, heads for the toilets where she encounters it again. She works out that once you can't see it any more you forget about it and so takes a photo on her phone. The creature tells her that she must tell the Doctor what he must know ... but what that is, is somewhat obtuse ... that he died? The creature is quite spooky but is overused - scary is half seen in the shadows and background, not in plain view in a toilet. And is it only me who thinks it looks a bit like the Headmaster from the Pink Floyd video for 'Another Brick in the Wall'? It kills a woman in the toilet for no apparent reason other than to establish that it is a threat, and then Amy rushes out - immediately forgetting it. So how did the creature expect her to tell the Doctor anything? Come to that, why doesn't it tell him itself? All this creeping around ... what's the point? No-one could ever reveal its presence as everyone forgets it the moment they can't see it ... The Doctor figures out that the calls from the child are coming from a warehouse about 5 miles from Cape Kennedy ... because the kid mentioned three names when asked where they were and who they were ... this borders on the mcguffin for me. A convenient hook to bring the Doctor to a place where there are all manner of alien gadgets and tech just lying around. River investigates some underground tunnels, and, apart from lots of the forgettable monsters, she finds a locked room with some sort of control console in it. This looked to me like the alien craft from last year's 'The Lodger' to me, but it's function is unknown as the alien creatures move in on Rory and River. Meanwhile upstairs, Amy admits to the Doctor that she is pregnant. What a time to pick ... and immediately one is asking, so is the Astronaut her child? Is River Song her child? Is the Doctor her child? But then River is complaining of feeling sick as well, so is she pregnant too? Is her child the Doctor? Or even Amy? It's all timey wimey wibbly wobbly stuff. So the Astronaut appears again and the suit is revealed to have a child in it (and it would be impossible for a kid to fill and operate such a suit, but never mind) and Amy shoots it with Canton's gun ... And we crash into the closing credits. There's some lovely dialogue in the episode. I liked all of River Song's musings on her life with the Doctor, running in different directions (in case you had forgotten this) but it just served to confuse things more really. You have to keep remembering that River cannot remember any of her past (as far as we are concerned) adventures, and the things she goes on about haven't happened yet as far as we are concerned. It's all a little cerebral for a kid's teatime show really. And that's another of the problems I have. Personally I *like* Doctor Who to be thought provoking and exciting and horrifying. 'The children's own show which adults adore'. And yet ... and yet we have a magazine aimed at 5 year olds (Doctor Who Adventures), lego sets, activity books and novels aimed at the 8-10 age group (or younger) ... there's no merchandise except perhaps Doctor Who Magazine which is aimed at the older age group. So the show is actively courting and cultivating fans who are young kids, and then presenting material on the show itself which they could never follow or understand! Heck the merchandise is aimed at people who were not even born when Christopher Eccleston saved Rose from the Autons! It's food for thought. And so while I'm looking forward to see how this story pans out - and kudos to Steven Moffat, I have no idea at all what might be going on - I am strangely ambivalent about it all. I like my Doctor Who to have a plot, to excite and engage on a level more than just wondering how the characters would react and so on. There are too many shows out there which are unwatchable for a single episode because they are all about the backstory and not about the viewers and presenting an entertaining hour of plot and excitement. Many shows start life as a series of great stand alone stories but then, as they beome popular, alienate all but those who have watched every episode, by making the mistake of thinking that the characters and backstory is more interesting than the plots - The X-Files, Buffy, Supernatural all made this mistake, and recently I've tried to watch episodes of Warehouse 13 and Witchblade and come out the other end having no idea whatsoever about what the show was about - it was all about backstory I didn't know and characters I didn't care about. I really, really don't want Doctor Who to go down that route.