This review may contain spoilers.
Filming in America suits “Doctor Who” and “The Impossible Astronaut” was bigger, bolder and more exciting than ever.
From the very beginning, it is clear that this would be on a scale of any other episode the series has offered, showcasing some spectacular vistas of the Utah desert. Utilizing a tirade of sweeps and pans designed to capture the grandiose of this adventure, the episode very quickly captures an epic quality.
Following a string of invites, the core-four reunite by a lakeside in Utah. And, after sharing stories of their travels, an Apollo astronaut emerges from the lake and kills The Doctor (Matt Smith).
What follows next is an incredibly well thought out adventure for the remaining trio, who are team up with a younger version of The Doctor for a daring mission to help President Nixon solve a terrifying mystery.
Last season, showrunner Steve Moffat tried to make the series scary, but it was the more comedic episodes that really let Smith shine as The Doctor. Fraught with peril, “The Impossible Astronaut” introduces monsters so chilling they give the Weeping Angels a run for their money and expertly walks the line between bizarre comedy and a chilling ghost story, allowing nothing but the best of Smith on-screen.
He’s outlandish and funny (but also deadly serious when it comes to a crisis), Smith offers a fantastic performance that casts aside any lingering doubts over his casting: he is The Doctor and he is marvelous.
Helping the tone along is Murray Gold, whose score perfectly captures the blockbuster events as they unfold. With a Western-twang to the orchestral symphonies, the score itself feels more American in every way possible. From The Doctor’s funeral to the materialization of the Tardis inside the Oval Office, Gold’s work is, well … pure gold.
Plenty of mystery, an abundance of comedy and whole lot of action, “The Impossible Astronaut” is a marvelous return for the series … one that leaves you with bated breath for “The Day Of The Moon.”
Points Of Interest
1. Is Rory still an Auton? If so, is Amy Pond now pregnant with a Barbie/Ken doll?
2. The final death of The Doctor idea (while not exactly acceptable since it is his show) does help underscore that although he can re-generate as much as he needs, he does have a limit and his actions can have consequences.
3. “The Impossible Astronaut” was dedicated to the memory of Elisabeth Sladen.
Again, while sticking with the landscapes, the scene as the remaining trio say their final goodbyes to The Doctor was gloriously directed by director Toby Hayness and was made all the more poignant thanks to the natural beauty and colors of the waterside.
The Silence are terrifying and are easily the scariest Roswell-themed aliens to have landed on the small-screen. They have an eerie presence that sends shivers down the spine and will no doubt have younger viewers watching from behind the settee. Moffat wonderfully merges half a century of Area-51 conspiracy theories with “Doctor Who” monsters in an almost tongue-in-cheek style, with The Silence clad in plain black suits and made to look scary.
The Russell T. Davies era was no stranger to historical stories but Steve Moffat really has a flare for period pieces. He has a genuine knack for capturing the romanticism of the era and “The Impossible Astronaut” is no exception.
Also worthy of note is Mark Sheppard, who is an absolute legend and easily takes over his every scene.
And, as another little note in the developing mystery of River Song, it was brilliant to see her reaction to seeing the Doctor alive and well.
What Didn’t Work
Although the death of the Doctor is touching, even mesmerizing, it was without a doubt the weakest element to the episode. Taking the Doctor out of the equation created a mystery that the three companions must solve but at the same time twisted the chronology of the series just enough that a paper-thin excuse is expected.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“The Impossible Astronaut” was written by Steve Moffat and directed by Toby Hayness.
“Doctor Who” airs Saturdays at 6 p.m. BST on BBC One and 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.