The Impossible Astronaut
First Broadcast April 23rd, 2011 @ 6.00pm (8.86m viewers)
Surely, this episode is the greatest opener to a new series of Doctor Who ever. Starting at an electric place it makes the bold statement of killing off the lead character, decisively and emphatically, shocking the audience at home. Of course, this is only the beginning of the story, one which would continue for the next twelve weeks before finally being resolved. But at a time when media outlets focused on viewing figures, often creating stories in spite of consistency, it was certainly a bold attempt to grab the attention and is perhaps the most shockingly unexpected moment in Doctor Who’s history. This is enhanced by the Astronaut, who’s identity would surely prove crucial to explain events at a later date.
Unlike ‘Daleks in Manhattan’ discussed earlier this week, the cast filmed sequences on location in Utah, America and you can see the difference, the colours beside Lake Silencio are rich, particularly in High Definition. River Song is reintroduced quickly and her chemistry with the Doctor is a joy to watch, for example, her skill at piloting the TARDIS leads to some wonderful dialogue between the two. The relationship between the Ponds also develops with a huge revelation at the end of the episode that verges on the soap opera format but would provide the plot thread on which much of the 2011 series would hang. Running parallel to that plot would also be a new alien creation that would appear in four of the thirteen episodes that season.
The new creatures have a classic Steven Moffat hook. Like the Weeping Angels who only move when observed, the Silence are forgotten when you stop looking at them. Unfortunately, this has led to excruciating numbers of unfunny jokes citing forgetfulness, from official sources as well as fans. It is entirely unnecessary because they are strong enough aesthetically and their presence on Earth is so intriguing that there is no need to add to their mystique. The sequence of the aliens being discovered by Rory is eerie and creepy, something I remember at the time being diluted by the glorious sunshine outside given the earlier transmission slot. However, what is beyond doubt is that the Silence are one of the best monsters of the modern era. The spectacular masks inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting ‘the scream’, coupled with the mysterious ‘man in black’ suit and tie combination, is a recipe for proper Doctor Who terrors.
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory – Arthur Darvill
River Song – Alex Kingston
Canton Delaware – Mark Sheppard
Old Canton Delaware – W Morgan Sheppard
President Richard Nixon – Stuart Milligan
The Silence – Marnix Van Den Broeke
Little Girl – Sydney Wade
Writer – Steven Moffat
Producer – Marcus Wilson
Director – Toby Haynes
Also on this day…..
- The Celestial Toymaker : The Final Test
- World War Three
- Doctor Who Confidential: Why on Earth?
- Doctor Who Confidential: Coming to America