Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Doctor Who Review: The Impossible Astronaut & The Day of the Moon (2 episodes, one review!)

I bet everyone was wondering where my review of the first episode of Series 6 DOCTOR WHO was last week. Well, due to the fact that it was Part 1 (THE IMPOSSIBLE ASTRONAUT) of a 2-Part episode I thought it would be tough to make a decent review with only half the story told. So after having watched the second part on Saturday night (THE DAY OF THE MOON) I feel confident enough to write my review of both parts.

So, let’s get to the good stuff shall we?

Please note, that due to the nature of the episode and the fact that discussing any part of it will be in some part Spoilerific, please be aware that if you haven’t seen both parts yet this review will likely touch on a few spoilers. Therefore for those people…the episodes were a bang-up way to start a season of DW, and the two episodes combined add up to my fave Matt Smith-era storyline yet and you would be fools to miss it. Go watch them both right now if you can and come back after to read this so you don’t spoil yourself for plot points. Okay? K.

Alright. Those people were duly warned. Now, you lot...let’s get to the episodes and spoilerific points.

Firstly, I love Moffat’s writing, even ten minutes into the first episode we have got some cherry lines and one incredible death that no one was expecting. So, basically it’s like this. A version of the Doctor from 200 years in the future who claims to be 1103, calls Amy Pond, Rory, River Song and an unknown old man to a lakeside in the middle of the Arizona desert…for a picnic. Or so it would seem. Things quickly go south when inexplicably, an Apollo Astronaut shows up wading in the water of the lake. The Doctor tells everyone to “Do nothing, no matter what happens.”, and then proceeds to be shot, start the regeneration process, and is then shot again sealing his fate into proper death. The old man comes and tells everyone they will soon know him well, and that the Doctor said they’d need a canister of gasoline he brought. A Time Lord’s body is a miracle and must be burned to keep it from alien and evil hands. So the TARDIS crew have a Norselike pyre and burn the Doctor’s body (similar to the scene from THE LAST OF THE TIMELORDS where Tennant’s Doctor burned the body of The Master), and that’s just TEN MINUTES in! When we move on we find that the earlier version of the Doctor, the one who is still 907 years old (after A CHRISTMAS CAROL) was also summoned (by himself, though he can never be told this fact) and things rocket of in mystery-solving mode. With the added aspect of River telling the TARDIS crew not to mention that it was actually the Doctor who called them (and his earlier self) to the location as doing so would cause a paradox with the Doctor crossing his own time stream. A Time Lord non-no.

We meet a new big bad in this episode and in true Moffat fashion (see: The Weeping Angels) they are certainly creepy, and may even be creepier than said Angels. The Silence, mentioned all the way back in Matt Smith’s first episode THE ELEVENTH HOUR have finally shown up properly, and it appears as if you forget them the minute you look away from them, and they have been ruling the earth since the “wheel and the fire”. They can also use something akin to post-hypnotic suggestion to make humans do what they want. Creepy n'est pas? Indeed they are. The gimmick later in ep 2 being that the TARDIS crew is implanted with small devices in their hands that are wired to their brains so they can record a message and replay it to themselves once they have forgotten the things. The sudden blinking light in the palm of their hand gave us a few rather chilling scenes, and I love that sort of Doctor Who!

The first episode spends a lot of time setting up The Silence as this ominous threat, and showing us that they steal their technology from others as they can hypnotically suggest anything to people. The Nixon White House Administration is well represented in 1969 where most of the tale takes place, the Moon landing is in the immediate future, and we get introduced to the younger version of the old man summoned by future Doctor, named Agent Canton Delaware III. The crew, VIA instructions from President Nixon investigate a warehouse in Florida near Cape Canaveral looking for the course of a mysterious phone call Nixon keeps getting from a child asking for help. The warehouse seems to be a base of The Silence and below it contains a proto-TARDIS, and more stolen tech.
The episode ends with the Apollo space-suited person (from the beginning, come on...keep up) showing up in the warehouse.  Amy realizes she has a chance to prevent the Doctor’s future death and shoots the Astronaut with FBI Agent Delaware’s gun.

That was a cracker of a way to end the episode, and to be honest my only complaint would be that I WISH they had of run the next episode the following night or something, instead of making us wait a whole week. I can honestly say that annoyed me.

You would expect the second episode, THE DAY OF THE MOON, to be more forthcoming with answers wouldn’t you? Is it? Well, yes and no. It answers a few things and then throws two of three huge doozy mysteries at you, one of which occurs at the end and I am pretty sure left every single DOCTOR WHO fan’s jaw on the floor. Episode two does answer some of these things, as it gives us our answers about what the Silence are and how they can be fought (as I mentioned above with the blinking messages), how they sleep, how long they have ruled behind humanities' collective back, and how they are for some reason trying to build a copy of the TARDIS (the same proto-TARDIS we saw in the Series 5 episode THE LODGER). Also raising the question of why they for some reason keep an abandoned orphanage open to seemingly protect a little girl (who was in the Spacesuit Amy shot at, and missed). There are some little things (lady with metallic eyepatch in a phantom window in the wall that appears to Amy and cryptically says “No, she seems to be dreaming” and then disappears) that messed my brain up and make me excited for the future of this series, simply because I don't have a clue about them.

Matt Smith is bang on the Doctor role now. If he didn’t own it last year he does now. His Doctor-isms and traits are now all firmly in place (Things being Christmas, I wear a ______ now…_______’s are cool, TARDIS blue, corner of your eye ect.). Time is spent in the two-parts showing us that Amy is no Rose Tyler or Martha Jones, and that the Doctor is merely her best friend, and Rory is the one she loves with all her heart. That said, Arthur Darvill (Rory) is starting to show me why he makes such a great second companion now. Last season, so much time was spent slowly revealing he was actually an Auton that when he finally started behaving as a proper companion to the Doctor (instead of being a new Mickey Smith, pining after his woman who loves the Doctor) we had already reached seasons' end. So it’s nice to finally see him fill the role more. show us his acting chops that go beyond love-sick boyfriend. I think particularly his scenes with River Song show us that. Love those ones. Speaking of, Alex Kingston as River Song is, as always, perfect. She chews scenery and enjoys a healthy life as one of fans favourite Doctor Who companions. This series is no different and with the added tease that we WILL find out the nature of her “worst day” when she kills a “good man”, I for one am excited about that. See my previous crackpot theories post about who I think River actually is.

Toby Haynes, who also directed last seasons two-part finale as well as the 2010 Christmas episode once again proves to us why he is adept with Moffat’s material. Nothing feels extraneous in the either episode and I was really impressed by the overall assembly of the story. The ending, with that big twisty mind-f*** especially is well placed and directed.

So, what are some extra things I should tell you?

One: Go back and watch the Series 5 episode THE LODGER. More than just the Proto-TARDIS from THE DAY OF THE MOON show up in that one. The Silence are actually in that episode as well! They are actually IN the TARDIS with Amy as the Doctor is living in the flat. She sees them twice and forgets them when she looks away both times. Go ahead, watch it, I am totally right. There are two moments when Amy shouts at something in the TARDIS and then gets back to normal.

Two: The little girl. Who is she? Oh, I have my theories, but I’d rather not spoil that here.

Three: Murray Gold’s score is once again GORGEOUS!

Four: Is there significance to the envelopes being “TARDIS blue” beyond the obvious? The Doctor mentions that they are such twice…hmmmm.

Five: Mark Shephard (BSG and Firefly) as Canton Delaware III is goddamned brilliant in the role!

Six: America is well represented here and everywhere they shot is really nice as a backdrop for the story.

Seven: The Dwarf star alloy bricks/perfect prison at Area 51? Oh what gorgeous special effects on that. LOVED it.

Eight: Jenny, The Doctor, The Master, The Rani…who?!?!? Arg, I love this show!

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