KT makes her return to Raked.
DOCTOR WHO: 6.01 “The Impossible Astronaut”
Showing up at a party to find your friends looking like the original cat who swallowed the canary is bound to put a damper on things—but that’s where we find the Doctor about 10 minutes into this episode. And sure enough, this is a much more somber season premiere than we’re used to with this show. It’s also a much bigger story, and, as part one of two, we don’t begin to understand what’s going on yet
Neither does the Doctor, who is not at all used to being deliberately kept in the dark by his own companions. His complaint that there’s no one around to watch him being brilliant—because they’re all conferring just out of earshot—is comic, but he’s quite serious about his point blank refusal to trust River. She hasn’t done anything to warrant it today, but the little he and we know about her is pretty dicey. Amy, though, he’ll trust, especially when she swears on fish fingers and custard.
Little does he know, of course, that his friends are trying to follow clues dropped by his future self, who in turn was being more distant and secretive than usual. He seems to have gathered the three companions and his former self by means of TARDIS-colored invitations, and seems to have the moon landing in 1969 on his mind.
We don’t go straight to the moon, though—if you’re in a story about secrets and trust and time-travel, where else would you go but the Oval Office under Richard Nixon? Happily, we get a rather more plausible Nixon than the Churchill we got last season. We also get an ex-FBI man played by the fabulous Mark Sheppard of Firefly and BSG. (To me, there’s something slightly surreal about hearing his—I believe—real American accent in the midst of British actors when I expect him to sound like Badger, but I’m well aware that this is all in my head.)
The appearance of four people with British accents in the middle of the Oval Office causes plenty of amusing confusion designed to distract us from the fact that we still don’t know what’s going on. I think one of the more daring aspects of the episode as a whole is that by the end of part one, we don’t yet have any solid idea of what the goal of the story is. There’s no set destination or group of people who need to be saved (discounting the mysterious girl on the telephone) or crisis that must be averted. Really, we’re left hanging onto a handful of plot threads, and I can’t begin to tell you where I expect them to end up.
- There’s that mysterious little girl—assuming she is a little girl—in the astronaut suit who calls Nixon for help in 1969 and later wades out of the water to raygun the Doctor in 2011.
- There are the Roswell-esque aliens that make you forget them as soon as you look away—or blow you up if you’re too persistent.
- There’s Amy’s announcement that she’s pregnant. And if a baby puts a damper on your average sitcom, I can’t imagine ever introducing a baby into a run-for-your-lives show like this. Will this be the first kid raised in the TARDIS—the first kid stuck in day care while his parents run around with the Doctor? Or, more likely, is this an early warning that Amy and Rory—the first companions since Rose to get a second season—will be leaving the TARDIS before long?
- And of course there’s the general puzzle of the Doctor’s death. Did he really gather his friends together knowing he was going to die? Is there a trick here somewhere, or are we going to have to undo that? Given that this would keep the show from re-casting the role through regeneration, I can’t believe that this timeline will stick. Either there’s a trick, or Amy is going to win the “time can be re-written” argument she’s having with River. It may take us the rest of the season, or at least the rest of the half-season we’re getting this spring* to sort this out.
* Change in the usual schedule: as I understand it, we’re getting seven episodes in the spring and the other six next fall.