- 27 April 2011
- By John Howell
New Doctor Who head writer Steven Moffat wasted no time launching season six in new and unexpected directions. If the first episode The Impossible Astronaut is anything to go by, it's going to be a wild ride. Matt Smith returns in his second season as the Doctor (looking older than ever) along with Amy Pond and Rory, now husband and wife, the prison inmate River Song from the Doctor's future, US President Richard Nixon, and a chilling new memory-eating, suit-wearing villain known as The Silence.
The Doctor has sent four invitations to various individuals to meet him in the US where he tells them "I've been running for my whole life, now it's time for me to stop. And tonight I'm going to need you all with me." After a dramatic series of incidents, which give away too much of the plot to describe here, the Doctor and his team end up in the oval office with president Nixon in 1969. Nixon is receiving strange untraceable phone calls from a young girl and the Doctor and his team (after proving their worth) along with a former US government agent lend a hand. The entanglement with his future/past(?) wife River Song are fleshed out in more detail, Rory's character continues to develop (moving away from just being an amiable side kick) and the Doctor's past and future seem to be on a significant collision course.
The appearances of the astronaut from the episode's title are excellently done, and the villain of the piece, The Silence, is simultaneously engaging and frightening. Perhaps this new villain will rival the Sontarans or Cybermen of old? The way the creatures wipe memories when people look away reminded me of the compelling blinking angel stories from the last two seasons.
While this is the first of two parts, I get the impression that Steven Moffat is going to continue many of the story threads started here throughout season 6. This is a good approach I think - wrapping up stories in one episode has always appeared contrived and clunky to me (unless they're very well done), which is why shows like the recent Battlestar Galactica and past linked Doctor Who episodes The Key to Time worked so well.
Apparently the first episode rated very well in the US, but badly (relative to previous season openers) in the UK. Perhaps the presence of the US angle with President Nixon simultaneously appeared more attractive to Americans but was a turn off for the British audience? Either way, all the signs indicate that season 6 will be a dark, complicated journey with plenty of twists along the way.
As I was about to post this article, I read that Matt Smith has been nominated for a Best Actor award at the upcoming BAFTAs (the British Film and Television Awards). This is the first time an actor playing the Doctor has been nomimated. Benedict Cumberbatch, the lead of Sherlock (another show written by Steven Moffat), was also nominated for the same award. Steven Moffat must be very pleased! As a fan of both shows, I'm happy if either wins.
The second Doctor Who season 6 episode, Day of the Moon, will be shown 30 April in the UK. I can't wait.
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