DOCTOR WHO remains “Impossibly” good.

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April 30, 2011
5:18 p.m.

Last weekend was the Sixth Season premiere of DOCTOR WHO, the long running and quite awesome SF series, rebooted by the openly gay Russell Davies and now staring the very fetching Matt Smith. In this review of the opener, writer David O’Neil reviews that season premiere and suggests what we have to look forward to with this weekends second episode. –Jody

In the sixth season opener of Doctor Who, the series hits its highest note since its return back in 2005 -even though not much happens in the characterization department. And it also takes the phrase “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey” to the stretching point as we see who dies in the first ten minutes ofThe Impossible Astronaut that series showrunner Steven Moffat eluded to in the many interview.

So we open a few months after the fifth season finale (and somewhere between there, we know the Doctor visited Sarah and Jo Grant in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode The Death of the Doctor and then Christmas Carol episode). Four, TARDIS colored envelopes have arrived for four people: Rory and Amy get letter number 3, while an imprisoned River Song ends up with number 2.

Inside each are coordinates that lead them to the deserts of America, Utah to be exact, where the Pond’s and River Song meet up with a Stetson wearing Doctor. While having a picnic near to a lake, Amy looks off into the distance where she sees an alien of sorts, one that appears to be dressed in a suit. Distracted by Rory, she looks away and promptly forgets seeing anything.

Then, as an old man arrives above them, the group also notices what appears to be an astronaut coming out of the water. The Doctor (who happens to mention his age before this begins, and is somehow 200 years older than the one they previously encountered) tells his friends to stay where they are and joins the emerging astronaut. A brief discussion happens, and then the astronaut shoots the Doctor. And before he can regenerate, the astronaut shoots him again, and kills him.

While this is going down, the old man comes to them with a gas can, and reveals –via a numbered 4 TARDIS blue envelope- that he was supposed to here as well. He also tells them his name, Canton Everett Delaware III (played by veteran character actor W. Morgan Shepard), and that while this will be the last time he sees them, however, they will see him again.

After sending the dead Doctor off into a boat that is aflame, the trio return to the diner they stopped by before the picnic (and where the Doctor mentioned something about Washington D.C., space and 1969). Amy is shocked, and while so is Rory and River, both believe that something is going on, something that the Doctor planned. Then Rory notices a TARDIS blue envelope with the number 1 sitting on a table, and as they investigate, the Doctor himself emerges from back.

It is here, we the audience and the companions realize that this future version of the Doctor sent everyone –including his younger self – a message. Realizing that they cannot reveal to this Doctor the fate of his future self, Amy, Rory and River journey with the Time Lord to the White House, circa 1969, where Richard Nixon is president and where a mysterious voice of a girl on a phone is making the president very uneasy.

There they encounter a younger version of disgraced former FBI agent Canton Everett Delaware III (played by, in an inspired bit of casting, Battlestar Galactica’s Mark Shepard, the real-life son of W. Morgan Shepard). It is at the White House, also, where Amy is confronted in the bathroom by the alien she saw at picnic, an alien who knows the Doctor, knows about Amy. We also realize, via a White House secretary who dies at the hands of this alien, that once you look away from these creatures, you forget about them (though Amy does take a picture of it with her mobile phone, but forgets about after she leaves the bathroom).

Given an opportunity to explain themselves, the Doctor figures out where the girl is calling from and heads to a warehouse near Cape Canaveral in 1969. There they find dead phone lines, and a bunch of mysterious tunnels that are under the earth. Both River and Rory investigate, where they both see the aliens –and forget about them – and break into a room that resembles the same room encountered in last season’s The Lodger.

Meanwhile, as the Doctor, Amy and Canton investigate the warehouse, they discover a mixture of alien technology and modern day (well, 1969) space material.  Then the mysterious astronaut from the future arrives. As the Doctor tries going towards it, Amy tells the Doctor she is pregnant –why this is important now, is never revealed. As the astronaut divulges himself to be a little girl. Amy, hoping to change the future by killing this astronaut in the past, picks up Canton’s gun and fires.

So, we are left with some cliffhangers here:

1.       Amy pregnant?

2.       Rory being engulfed by the same electrical power by the unfriendly aliens that took out the White House girl.

3.       And is Matt Smith the last of the Doctor’s? I mean, the series is about time travel, and though the mantra this version is becoming “time can be rewritten,” will they be able to dodge whatever paradox that sort of misfired in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang?

The Silence –as they’re credited – appear to have been Earth for some time, and in the trailer for next week’s episode, we hear the Doctor saying that this is not an invasion. The episode itself is genuinely creepy, often funny (“let’s see if anyone tries to kill us and work backwards”) and well performed. The production values are at its best, the location filming in Utah gives scope to the series that it may lack when trying to tell such of an epic story.

For the first time since its return in 2005, I get a sense that Moffat is really trying bring back some of the edge, the scariness the series once had in the early 1970s (which does not discount Russell T Davies, as I always felt the first season of the revival was its best), by giving us a complex story arc that requires its audience to pay attention, yet does not alienate any new viewers.

Still, the episode is all set up for next weeks conclusion, which means we get no more of look into Rory or Amy’s life as a married couple (though Rory seems to like Laurel and Hardy comedies), or who River Song is and why she does what she does. I’m hoping that the next 6 weeks of episodes (cause the show will go on hiatus after episode 7, returning in September for the final batch of 6) are just as much character based as they are set up for the season finale.

DOCTOR WHO airs weekends on BBCA.


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