Episode Title: "The Impossible Astronaut"
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Toby Haynes
Previously on "Doctor Who":
The Doctor (Matt Smith) came up with a way to save the universe from The Silence by essentially writing himself out of existence. But somewhere in her mind, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) remembered him and she managed to will the Doctor back into existence on the day of her wedding to Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). Although the Doctor seemed to offer the Ponds the chance to resume their normal lives, they choose to stay with him and help solve the mystery of who sabotaged the TARDIS.
More recently, the Doctor was forced to rewrite a rich old man's personal history when Amy and Rory were trapped on a crashing shuttle during Christmas Eve. Despite the Doctor's relative success, The Silence still awaits our intrepid heroes...
Hundreds of years ago, the Doctor is caught in a compromising position by some very angry swordsmen in London. In the present day, Amy and Rory note that the Doctor escaped from his predicament and that he seems to be intentionality trying to get their attention. They soon get an unsigned letter in TARDIS blue which leads them to a desert in America. Upon arrival, the Ponds reunite with the Doctor and River Song (Alex Kingston). The Doctor explains that he has been running from something, but he needs their help for something in Space, 1969. He arranges a short picnic for his friends and causally notes that he's almost two hundred years older than the last time they saw him.
When an Astronaut walks towards then on the water, the Doctor warns his friends to stay back and not to interfere. He then approaches the Astronaut as it opens its faceplate, but only the Doctor sees who it is. The Astronaut then fatally shoots the Doctor and then shoots him again before his body can regenerate. River attempts to revive the Doctor before firing wildly at the departing Astronaut. As Amy weeps over the Doctor's body, an old man named Canton Everett Delaware III (William Morgan Sheppard) approaches them, holding a gas can to burn the Doctor's body. He explains that the Doctor sent for him just as the others were summoned. Canton also reveals that they will meet him again in the past.
As the remaining trio returns to a nearby diner, River realizes that the Doctor summoned one other person that he trusted implicitly: himself! The group soon realizes that the younger Doctor has no idea that his future self summoned them and they elect to hide the truth about his fate from him. Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor angrily threatens to dump them all back in their respective home time periods unless they come clean. But Amy is able to get him to put his life in her hands without asking why. Finally, they travel back to 1969, where they find the younger Canton Everett Delaware III (Mark Sheppard) meeting with President Richard Nixon (Stuart Milligan).
The Doctor manages to get Canton to trust him long enough to explain the mysterious young girl who calls the President every night wherever he goes. When Amy feels sick, she is escorted to a restroom, where she encounters an alien (presumably The Silence) that causes her to forget it exists every time she's not looking at it. The Silence orders her to tell the Doctor what he must not know, but when she flees, Amy once again forgets. Back in the Oval office, the young girl calls again just as the Astronaut closes in on her. The Doctor and his companions pile into the TARDIS, with Canton joining them before traveling to Florida.
In Florida, the TARDIS materializes near the Cape Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Rory and River investigate some strange tunnels below the compound, where they encounter The Silence and constantly forget them. Upstairs, Canton is knocked out by someone off screen. As the Doctor and Amy search for him, she breaks down and tells the Doctor that she's pregnant. Then the Astronaut enters the room. The Astronaut lifts its visor to reveal a frightened young girl within. But in her panic and desperation to save the Doctor, Amy fires Canton's gun at the girl before realizing what she's done.
"Doctor Who" is ridiculous. And by that, I mean it's ridiculously entertaining.
There were a lot of well placed rumors that the two part season opener would feature the death of the Doctor, so I was expecting that... but not in the first ten minutes! I suspect that the attempt to save the Doctor's life is going to be the major storyline of the season. And when you think about it, killing off the Doctor is perfectly logical. Who do we care about more than the Doctor himself? Amy and Rory both died and came back last season while River died in her first appearance. If it had been any one of them, we wouldn't have been quite as shocked.
But the Doctor is the star of the show and they can't keep him dead forever or just leave it hanging out there beyond this season. I'm sure that Steven Moffat has a brilliant way to get the Doctor out of his own impending demise, but there's not an obvious way around it if that really is the Doctor's body.
I'm sure the identity of the Impossible Astronaut is also going to be a big mystery for the year. But I think there are really only three people it can be. Either Amy, River or the Doctor himself. I also wouldn't put it past the Doctor to fake his own death in order to fool The Silence, who we know were watching the events.
Speaking of The Silence, the design and powers for this new alien threat are intriguing, if not quite on the level of the Weeping Angels (as we were promised). If those creatures really are The Silence, then I don't see what they would have gained by wiping out existence last season. But the visual of the aliens lurking around in suits was really creepy. It was also kind of amusing to see Rory and River freak out and then instantly forget that they had.
From Mark Sheppard's previous roles on other series, I was expecting Canton to be more of an antagonist towards the Doctor. But instead, he was like the fourth companion and I really liked him. I doubt that Sheppard's going to stick around beyond this two parter, but his character really brought a great new dynamic to the show. He even got most of the best lines like "How long has Scotland Yard had this [technology]?" and his awe of the Doctor's "ride." I'm also curious about his story about his marriage being against the law, as the only two that I can think would cause him problems back then would be either an interracial or a gay marriage.
Even President Nixon was really likable in this episode, and I never thought I would type that! But Stuart Milligan made our 37th President seem more human than the real Nixon ever did. At least that's my impression.
Really, there were just great performances almost across the board. Matt Smith was terrific as always as both the older Doctor and his slightly paranoid younger self. Arthur Darvill gave one of his best turns as Rory, who was much less of a bumbler this time. I'm also still very taken by Karen Gillan's Amy Pond, who has been one of the best companions of the current "Doctor Who" series.
However, it was Alex Kingston who surprised me here by actually making me like River Song. Most of the time, River kind of irritates me. But here she shows off a far more vulnerable side, first by grieving for the Doctor and later in her confession to Rory that she dreads the day that the Doctor won't remember her. Those are small touches, but it gives some insight into River that we didn't really have before. And she finally seems like something more than a potential "Mary Sue" character.
I wish there was a way that Moffat could write every episode of "Doctor Who," but this season already looks like it will be one of the strongest.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.