Friday, 20 May 2011

32/6x1 The Impossible Astronaut


“Don’t play games with me, don’t ever, ever think you’re capable of that.”

Broadcast Date: 23rd April 2011

My first New-Who review begins the latest series of the show and kicks off in style! We get a nice little reintroduction to the show’s flexibility, it’s fun and it’s characters. As the Doctor gradually makes it into more clothes, we see the Ponds settled back into normal life. My favourite Murray Gold score plays over River Song escaping again and a stunning helicopter shot of America.

As soon as our characters are on screen together the writing is just brilliant, you can tell Steven Moffat cares for these characters and has so much fun scripting them. The Doctor feels different somehow; giving life defining speeches and sharing diaries with River, there’s something odd going on with him. Disappointment strikes as Alex Kingston’s name isn’t burned into the time vortex opening credits, but this is made up for with some great location shots.

Amy spotting the Silence feels forced, like Moffat needs to give us a future link here, all it achieves for me is to feel out of place. The Doctor’s dialogue really feels like he knows what’s about to happen as he gives warnings to his companions. And then the Doctor dies!!! The directing on this is, for want of a better word, rubbish. The whole thing didn’t feel right, the acting was spectacular, but the way it was shot was nothing new, making it lose a lot of it’s emotional value.

Goodbye Leadworth...
After a spot of arson, we return to the café for another fantastic scene, my favourite of this episode. We get that music and a reappearance from the Doctor, this time aged a little younger. Personally I love how we’re finally invited into one of River Song’s ‘spoilers’ and get to take this adventure with her as it happens. I think Moffat’s defining feature on these scripts is his memorable ‘trailer’ lines; there are so many effective lines in just fifteen minutes.

Inside the TARDIS now and I’m happy that Amy hasn’t just gotten over the death, as the audience haven’t. River and Rory seem to accept it quite easily, but it’s right and true that Amy should never get over this. She’s got such a deeper connection to the Doctor than most companions ever have. It’s good to see some scenes with the three companions minus the Doctor, as it feels different and fresh. I really like the interaction between Amy and River here and, later, between Rory and River.

The ‘confrontation’ scene in the console room is amazing, I love the Doctor when he doesn’t know all the answers, he verges on spiteful, especially toward River. He’s unbelieving to all his companions and it puts the Doctor in a very rare situation. Some stereotypical writing during our first scenes with Canton Everett Delaware III, which is very disappointing, but then the Doctor ends up in the White House! How has this not been done before?

"My life in your hands, Amelia Pond"
The Doctor acting discreet is such fun, trying to be quiet and write down information at the same time. I’m not sold on Stuart Milligan as Nixon, he spits out his P words so much they feel forced, bringing me out of the story.

On the other hand of guest stars, Mark Sheppard as Canton is brilliant, I love his voice in this and his attitude toward the Doctor in the initial Oval Office scene. Matt Smith’s acting in this scene is great as well and Arthur Darvill is finally given some good lines to perform here. But Matt in the President’s chair really steals the spotlight here.

I’m not a huge fan of the Silence, especially in these first scenes of theirs. I’ve seen them getting mixed praise, most of the negative coming from their similarities to Moffat’s Weeping Angels. Design-wise, I think they are absolutely stunning. Forgetting them when you look away, however, I’m not sold on and most of the time it just feels like it’s eating up time having to explain them over and over. The open and closed mouth thing is a poor marketing aspect too, as just this week it’s been revealed a character options figure is being released of both. Why? I have no idea.

Canton follows the trail into the police box where everything turns fast paced and fun, giving him to Rory to explain all the sci-fi stuff. Some clever plot points here, with the Hamilton/Jefferson/Adams and River checking the phone lines as soon as they reach the warehouse. The Astronaut gives a poor mans Darth Vader impression and River gets some pathetically obvious lines to spoon-feed the audience such as “definitely extraterrestrial” and “it’s an abandoned warehouse of some kind”.

Promotional shot of 'The Impossible Astronaut'
Apart from some excellent scripting and performance, the fact River and Rory travel underground just feels like it goes nowhere and is there to pad out the cliffhanger a little more. The forgetting-the-silence-once-you-look-away story is getting more boring every time it happens and it continues to happen down here. Some lines about River’s past/the audience’s future keep me gripped, making me disappointed when River finally opens that locked door!

A startling revelation from River, something unknown has happened to Rory and Amy shooting at the Astronaut. I’ve got to disagree with Toby Hayne’s directing again here, as the slow motion effect really doesn’t do anything good for me and neither does Amy’s pregnant speech, as it feels so out of place. A disappointing ending, this first episode doesn’t really prove that Doctor Who is back with a bang, but it does do enough to want me to watch the next episode.

Review To Be Continued In "Day Of The Moon". Coming Soon.

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