S32 (6) 1 – The Impossible Astronaut
25 January 2013 at 19:22 #1921Craig @craigEmperor
Repeated on BBC Three on 25 January, the Doctor is seemingly killed at the very beginning. Amy, Rory and River mourn him, but all are soon plunged into an adventure with President Nixon and a new monster, the Silence.
You can watch it here until 1 February:
Also contains a namecheck for @jimthefish 😀
You can read what you all first thought on The Guardian here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2011/apr/23/doctor-who-the-impossible-astronaut27 January 2013 at 14:46 #1983Juniperfish @juniperfish
Re-watched this episode yesterday.
I still love it. In fact, I think it deepens now we know more of the pieces of the puzzle than we did on first watch.
In particular I contemplated the loneliness and bravery of River, travelling with her parents and her husband on this adventure at points in their time-streams when only she knew what they all meant to each other. Moreover (we know now) she was forced to witness the murder of the Doctor by “the impossible astronaut”, strongly suspecting that it might be herself in the suit, given that she knew she was in the Stormcage for killing the Doctor (even if, in that time-stream, she didn’t remember the particulars). Again, she unable to share the burden of her knowledge with anyone.
Props to Kingston for carrying all that in her performance, so that it works both as a mystery and as a now-we-know delivery.
I did notice something – when Amy was reading about the Doctor’s adventures in history in the red book at the start, it mentioned that the “mysterious Doctor” was borne aloft in his escape from the Tower of London by a “shining sphere” not by a blue box. The make-shift TARDIS which, we now now, the Doctor and IDRIS built in The Doctor’s Wife resembled a shining sphere.
This happily feeds into the resurrection of the “two Doctors” theory once again and links this Idris TARDIS perhaps to the Lodger TARDIS/ abandoned Silent-inhabited TARDIS…
Mr. Hyde (or perhaps Ganger) Doctor alert! <adjusts blue and red bow-ties with hauteur>27 January 2013 at 15:52 #1991
Agree with Juniperfish (and not just cos she supplied the biccies 🙂 ) It’s been really interesting watching Matt’s series again from the start. It’s a different perspective from watching week to week, when we do sometimes get (just a little!) hung up on the intricate details. It’s a bit easier from a longer perspective to see what are just bigger themes/patterns/threads and what may be genuine loose ends which could still be picked up. I suspect Moffat deliberately leaves some of these lying around so he can pick up again as required (or not) depending how things go – eg the repeated swing scene for Amelia.
I think the time machine in the Lodger, and IA is one of those. OK, it could be budget/time economies – let’s just re-use an old set – but they KNOW that something like that is going to picked up and chewed over, then chewed over again. And again! Or it’s a set designer’s idea of a joke! Same as that newspaper in the Snowmen – why go to all the bother of mocking up a period newspaper – then put a completely anachronistic article in it?
I still think the first 2 episodes of series 6 are among the finest examples of nuWho big budget episodes. It was slammed by a few for being “sloppy writing” but I just love the way the techniques of filming/editing are used to reflect the influence of the Silence. The viewer is in the same postition as the characters – we have no idea what’s going on (LOL), how much we’ve forgotten, or missed. (Why DO I have ink marks on my arm this morning?!)
And I have no problem with the fixed point in time being the Doctor’s apparent death (not his real one).
Re River – she must know everything at this point (opening scenes) in Impossible Astronaut ie the Dr she killed is the teselecta, she’s imprisoned for it, but he’s OK (and she’s married to him). As well as all the other family stuff above. And yes I agree, I think Alex K conveys it well that she knows a lot more than she’s letting on. But presumably this version of River has also had discussion with the Doctor about the way to play this scene ie she’s the one who suggests that they have to destroy the body. Her character also knows that she can’t give even a smidgeon of a hint of what she knows or the game’s a bogey (as we say here in North UK)27 January 2013 at 16:48 #2001
Alex Kingston’s acting was one of the things I noticed when I rewatched. She did a brilliant job – first time, when I didn’t know the ending, she looked to be reacting naturally. Second time, when you know the ending, you can see how much River’s character is controlling things.
She keeps Amy away from the Tessalecta Doctor, comes up with a quick explanation about why the Doctor’s body needs to be incinerated and stops Rory and Amy from blurting everything out to younger Doctor. One of the things that fooled me the first time is that River does appear genuinely upset – but when you think that Amy and Rory are her parents, it becomes clear. She’s upset because she knows how much this is going to hurt her parents – and she can’t tell them anything. Yet.
No wonder she gives the Doctor that whacking great slap.27 January 2013 at 17:32 #2005Juniperfish @juniperfish
Dammit – I can’t resist… Hmmn well this has exercised my mind. You say that River in The Impossible Astronaut knew how it would all play out, including Tesselecta Doctor.
I’m not so sure. River tries to shoot the astronaut and then when her shots have no effect she murmurs “Of course not” but to herself – she’s not putting on a show for the others here. So the first time it plays out, I don’t think she knows for sure that the astronaut is her. She knows she is in the Stormcage for killing the Doctor, but she doesn’t know how it happened.
In The Wedding of River Song this dialogue, about River not being able to remember the murder, indicates that in “Version 1 of the Doctor’s Death” River had no memory of herself in the suit:
River: I tried to fight it but I can’t. It’s too strong.
The Doctor: I know. It’s okay. This is where I die. This is a fixed point. This must happen—this always happens. Don’t worry. You won’t even remember this. Look over there.
River: It’s me. How can I be there?
The Doctor: That’s you from the future. Serving time for a murder you probably can’t remember. My murder.
River: Why would you do that? Make me watch?
The Doctor: So that you know this is inevitable. And you are forgiven. Always and completely forgiven.
The thing is, because River is clever, she found a way to re-write time, so that the second time around she does not shoot the Doctor, she freezes time instead and then he has to go on a quest to undo that freeze (which is causing the universe to collapse) and in doing so he works out the Tesselecta Doctor solution.
So, the second time it happens, then the-River-shooting-the-Doctor remembers it all and promises the Doctor she will go to the Stormcage for him, to cover up his faked death.27 January 2013 at 18:26 #2009
she murmurs “Of course not”
I’ll give you she may have forgotten the incident (timey wimey brain-wiping complicated life) but I’d argue that that’s the point she remembers. Maybe she doesn’t remember because it’s a less significant incident than it appears, because it’s not actually the death of the Doctor, it’s just when he drops out of sight. It would have happened a long time ago for the River in IA, maybe 30 odd years before. The River in IA is older River (she’s done JimtheFish… is she still in the Stormcage? (I’ll need to go back and check that!)). The slapping can be explained by her being angry that he’s made her and the Ponds witness it – she wouldn’t know there were witnesses. She wouldn’t necessarily recognise the scenery – her younger self would only be focussed on the Doctor.
We don’t know what prior instructions River got with her invitation – we only assume it’s the same as the Ponds, but we don’t know if there was anything extra in her envelope. We do know that Canton got extra instructions.27 January 2013 at 18:32 #2011
And then there’s Joy. She bugs me.
Apart from the scene being a cheeky gag* about the Silence being killjoys <groan> it does hint that the Silence care more about individuals than their role as machiavelan invadors would initially suggest. (ie there would be other ways of letting us know her name was Joy if it was just for the gag)
*(Other scenes set up just for the joke – the poor guys at the beginning of the Snowmen (“I said I’d feed you – I didn’t say who to”)27 January 2013 at 19:05 #2013
No, both Joy and the guys at the beginning of the Snowmen do have a bigger purpose than a joke. They’re establishing for the audience that these are not nice aliens.
In a sense, the Silence may have a point about the Doctor – he’s genocidal. But since we see a Silence kill someone for just the fun of it (‘Why did you kill her?’ ‘Joy’), we know they’re the worse option.
Similarly with the snowmen – if we didn’t see them kill people, we wouldn’t know they were dangerous. Basically, all they do for the rest of the episode is stand around and look menacing.9 March 2013 at 11:46 #3091WhoHar @whohar
They are showing TIA and DOTM on the big screen here in Aus. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to rewatch. Sounds like fine acting from Ms Kingston which also means fine writing from Mr Moffat.31 August 2013 at 19:21 #16854
Ah – the start of series 6, and a timey wimey murder mystery with the Doctor as the apparent victim. So much set up here, and I still love the idea of the Silence. The casual nature of Joy’s dispatch after the light humour of the entire “forgetting” thing.
I really hope that Mark Sheppard could be courted back at some point to play Canton. Or even his dad, Morgan, for an extended look at old Canton. I was actually stuck at inlaws who have been diagnosed Time Lord intolerant when it was first shown, and I can remember watching it on a really small portable in a Caravan. Not the best circumstances, but I can remember being really excited at the end of the show. A great cliffhanger as the threads to Florida find Amy, the Doctor, Rory and River (a great team) really in jeopardy at the end.
Like the wine the Doctor spits out, it’s a fine vintage this one.31 August 2013 at 20:17 #16856
The Confidential for the Impossible Astronaut. SMs comments that surely as a Time Traveller the Doctor knows his own grave is out there takes on a new meaning after “Name of the Doctor” and possibly shows ideas for Trenzilore were fermenting even back then?31 August 2013 at 23:46 #16865
@phaseshift – Yes, I think he definitely had Trenzalore in mind when he was writing this episode. It’ll be interesting to find out, when Mr Moffat retires from producing Who and
cashes in his pension planwrites his book on his time as producer, exactly how far in advance stuff was planned.
It was certainly left open that we could see Canton again – there’s over forty years available between 1969 and 2011. The only problem with Mark Sheppard is that he’s really, really busy. If I recall correctly, he had to juggle quite a lot of stuff to be able to do this two-parter – and he juggled it because he wanted to be in Doctor Who very badly indeed.
This really is an excellent episode, though; however many times I watch it, it’s never boring, not even when you know how the Doctor gets out of his ‘death’. And I think @scaryb‘s post #2009 above is quite right – River didn’t really know where and when she was when she was in the astronaut suit, and she didn’t realise her older self had witnessed the Doctor’s ‘death’. Until the moment the astronaut comes out of the water.1 September 2013 at 00:48 #16869
You do have to love Marks entire “I KNOW who could play an older me… my dad”, because he knew his dad regretted having to turn down a role in the Pertwee era due to other commitments (his dad having appeared in the eighties version of Day of the Triffids and Babylon 5 as a Soul Hunter probably informed his son that genre was the true way to immortality, and his son made it an artform. 😉 )
Just to touch on your original theme of repeating memes, I think this and a couple of thoughts on RTD recently have made me appreciate how long Moff and RTD have been dwelling on their respective ideas. In the Faces blog, I revisited the Virgin New Adventure Novel Damaged Goods (writer RTD) in which the Seventh Doctor encountered the Tyler family on an estate, and saw a woman trapped at the heart of a Gallifreyan N-form (basically a giant stompy robot) wrecking havoc (cue thoughts of The Next Doctor).
Moff first postulated the idea that the label “The Doctor” had been bequeathed to space and time because of the actions of the Doctor on an internet platform. The Story of Amy/Mdm Pompadour is so similar (although one has the benefit of “the slow path”) it’s breathtaking. Although details change, I’m sure, the fundamental ideas are really long standing, and perhaps the power of the new series? When those ideas and views of what the Doctor is/are run out, perhaps that is the time for a well deserved rest?
I have to admit, if SM writes his experiences of the show in a “Writers Tale” kind of way, I’ll be at the head of he signing queue.
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