24/04/2011

Doctor Who Instants - The Impossible Astronaut

This year, for the new Doctor Who eps we’ll be running two sets of reviews.
Doctor Who Instants will be written by me (John) after one viewing only – as the title suggests they are the initial reaction to each week’s episode.
More comprehensive and analytical reviews of each story will follow a bit later. These will be penned by different reviewer for each.
Oh and needless to say, all reviews contain those dratted SPOILERS so if you’ve not seen the ep in question yet, best not to read them till you have.


Let's Impossible!


With the amount of attention currently being lavished on the series by the BBC and the ire that has drawn from some quarters of the profession- `The Impossible Astronaut` has to be good. Luckily it is better than that – it is, to coin a Doctor who suddenly seems such a long time ago- fantastic.

Last year, I felt the show was reaching out for a direction it hadn’t really found. Steven Moffett seemed unsure how far to stray from the triumphant, lively style of his predecessor and how far to follow his natural inclinations. He likes clever stories does Moffett and there is always the risk of a writer being so clever nobody `gets` it. So, you have to applaud his decision to really go for it this year- `The Impossible Astronaut` feels far more like the start of a new era than `The Eleventh Hour` did- it feels entirely new. Even the characters have altered- Amy is less sarcastic and warmer, Rory less befuddled, River Song much more charming and the Doctor himself far more enigmatic.

The plot is jam packed with a season’s worth of pointers, hints and bits we probably won’t remember till episode 11 of something! Moffett has written his best Doctor Who since `The Girl in the Fireplace`. The revelations, twists and dynamics are astoundingly delivered one after another barely giving you time to get over them. Again he’s come up with a memorable villain; the Silents are brilliantly realised and though I think the idea of only knowing the monster is there when you see it has been done elsewhere it adds a tingling element to this story. It gives an edge because you know the characters are not as safe as they think they are. Even the Doctor, for all the temporal jiggery pokery by which he’s assembled the gang - is in the dark.

The episode sees all four regulars give just about their best performances of the series so far. Particularly surprising is the subtlety with which River is played- Alex Kingston can do cheeky easily enough and River does seem to have got on people’s nerves but in this story we are seeing things more from her point of view. We know the `spoiler` she is withholding and we totally understand why. Arthur Darvill too has been given much more to do than look bewildered by Amy’s behaviour. The scene between River and Rory is superbly written and Darvill conveys exactly what Rory is thinking despite hardly saying a word.

As for Amy she has finally become the character I’d hoped she would become as last season developed. Suddenly we can relate to her now and Karen Gillen handles the complex storyline for Amy so well. The whole pregnancy thing- which never leaked out beforehand at least not anywhere I saw- is a real show stopper. All of which allows Matt Smith to calm down a bit. He’s still jumping all over the place and child like with just a hint of menace but similarly to David Tennant, his second season appears to see him settling into the role and not hogging the screen quite so much.


The new cleaner was rather too thorough

There are two scenes that are sure to become iconic – the Astronaut by the lake which looks like an album cover (remember them?) and then where he shoots the Doctor mid regeneration and also the bit where Rory shines a torch across what looks like an army of the Silents. Yet every scene is lovingly delivered and shot, the whole thing looking amazing. Toby Haynes on his fourth episode in a row makes every moment counts and for a 6pm time slot (though I’m sure a later one was hoped for) some bits here will surely unsettle younger children.

It may be premature to judge from one episode, but it looks as if Doctor Who is setting off on a whole new direction. Suddenly the 2005 series looks old fashioned and this is what the series should be like now. If they can keep the balls in the air and the thrills coming then this 2 parter might just be the best ever of the modern series.
words: John Connors

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