Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Impossible Astronaut: Part one

WARNING SPOILERS: If you've not yet seen this, then please look no further. Finally after much gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts, fandom on both sides of the pond can come together albeit a bit delayed , and on the same day discuss our brilliant and universally admired Doctor.

In order to stretch a bit and  make sure I'm not ruining anything for anybody... I'm going to spend a little time talking about something safe. Sad, but safe. Earlier this week our beloved Sarah Jane Smith aka Lis Sladen passed away suddenly at the incredibly young age of 63 from cancer. She was in my estimation THE companion. Part best mate, part first mate and part Doctor's conscience. Sarah Jane first showed up during John Pertwee's incarnation while working at U.N.I.T.  From that time onwards and till she left us first in her Andy Panda outfit, she became the companion we all loved. Oh we lusted after some, wanted to hug others, and yet others moved us to tears ( Adric), but Sarah Jane was the one we loved, the one we always measured the other companions too. Even in her return, years later with the 10th Doctor, it was hard not to feel the old  stirrings in your heart when she first saw the Doctor and when she finally said goodbye to him. If anything, Sarah Jane had not gotten old, she'd gotten better.  I must admit I was not a huge fan of The Sarah Jane Adventures, but even as a young adult programme it took much of it's character and force from the actress Lis Sladen, who I'm sure loved every second of it and would have gone on another 10 years if she hadn't died. Sarah Jane Smith asked us not to to forget her, how could we? Are our hearts made of stone? I'm not one to cry much or all that often, but last night during the tribute on CBBC, My Sarah Jane,  it was all I could do not to cry, nearly made it too, but then they hit us with that final montage and music. We will never forget you Lis Sladen, RIP and keep the Brigadier company. For an in-depth review of Lis Sladen's life I recommend my mate Keith Telly Topping's article.

Best comment on the night was yer Keith Telly Topping's response to my cryptic status right after Doctor Who finished.....Me: Wellll that was a sizzler wasn't it. Him: It was. Dramatic. Funny. Thought provoking. Mind you, I kept on expecting the hare to break down about every five minutes ... . Basil Brush would be proud.

Enough stalling already, The Impossible Astronaut: Part one  was precisely what it was supposed to be, a part one. If you were expecting to the Lord thy G-d Steven Moffat to neatly wrap up all the tiny details for you at the end of 45 minutes, you are clearly new to this Doctor Who thing. I will go further, while some say it was mehhh and a bit iffy, I was glued from beginning to end. It lasted 45 minutes but it felt like 20. When the credits rolled I went gahh and wanted the week to go by as quickly as possible so it could be Saturday again. This is not mehh telly, this is not iffy storytelling, it is however a master setting up a finish and adding extra layers to that story we've been wondering about for a long time, who is River Song? 

The ep opens with the throw away and yet amusing scene of the young marrieds in their sitting room watching clips of the Doctor waving at them from various points in history. A less practised hand would have been rumbled for padding, but not Moffat, this bit of theatre paved the way to making the Tardis blue card being less important than it actually was. After a bit of sussing, the numbered bit otherwise anonymous envelope yields instructions that only be from the Doctor. Fade to a dessert on planet USA and we have kicked off. Amy Rorry, Song  and the 1103 year old Doctor don't have long to wait for something to happen. And 10 minutes in shots, the Doctor is regenerating, more shots and he's dead. Welllll I for one didn't buy it. Yes he was dead, he got a lovely Viking send off, but like Gandalf the Grey, he was only hiding till later. And Presto, out the bogs comes a 909 year old Doctor. Are you keeping up people? 

Our merry band of very possible related persons now have to save the future doctor from the grisly fate of future Doctor, but can't tell him owt for fear of tearing yet another rip in the space time continuum, and wasn't that a pain the behind the last time? Moffat does well to separate the command and control structure where he usually tells them to jump and they ask why and River Song just ignores him. What with the trio plotting behind his back, Matt Smith resorts to the childish , "what's the point in having you all"  if you're not going to look at how amazing I'm being. At last  a spark of the alien egomaniac we all know lurks in every regeneration since William Hartnell got cross over being less than all powerful. 

Roll on to the Oval Office and President Nixon seems pretty cool for a cold war era politician raised on fear and paranoia. I'm surprised the lot of them weren't hoyed off to Area 51 on the spot. ANY ways, we're soon off to Florida and the source of the trouble. The Grey Amy's been seeing but forgetting since nearly the first frame, is now clearly part of a swarm or colony several centuries old. Now the last time such creatures blanked out minds we struggled to remember, this time the mobile phone is recruited in the battle to save Earth yet again. For a murderous race, the Greys are not what you would call scary in the same way Daleks, Cybermen or the Borg are. It's not like I've gotten jaded or used to uglies from outer space nesting in the bowels of the planet plotting dominion over the Human race, some of them still strike instant fear in me and turn me into a quivering bowl of 9 year old boy. This lot however still don't scare me. Like the somewhat ineffectual Sea Devils of old, these may take some time to get a bit of respect. 

And then the credits roll and we have to wait! Well Not quite, there's a lot more that happened , but that as I said before,  goes more to the story of River Song and the Doctor. Amy is pregnant, River fears something worse than her own death. What could be worse than your own death? Watching Don't scare the Hare? Another series of Candy Cabs? ( yes and yes) BBC One Comptroller Mr Cohen has a lot to answer for. In terms of Doctor who, there can only be one thing worse than River's own death and that has to be the death of the Doctor Himself. " Of course it's you, I understand" takes on a whole new meaning, but then again it could be somebody else entirely. So is River Amy, but older? Is River Amy's as yet unborn child? Will Amy's child marry the Doctor and give birth to River? As we know in Gallifreyan biology and family trees, the Hapsburgs would feel right at home and we cannot ignore any of these possibilities. My money is on Amy being River in the future, though that doesn't square with the statement of River's that they are moving in opposite directions.  If  I follow this line of inquiry much further, my brain will hurt and that is not something I need right now. 

Outstanding performances all around but Rory rises to the top of the pile with some strong moments,  I particularly enjoyed Rory as TARDIS orientation officer and funeral director, in both cases he show he could yet be a big player if he doesn't get eaten, dissolved, vaporized or other wise sent off to the old companion's home.One thing that did surprise me  was that while scenes were shot on location in the USA, the British nature of the programme was never in any danger. It's reassuring that despite being the world's greatest power, the Americans still need Brits and an alien to solve their problems. Some things never change eh? Fandom gets an echo with the spoilers banter and Amy fans will be pleased to see how she has become quite the domestic Goddess. I myself am more into the full figured River Song with her curves and barely concealed sexuality. Like the Doctor said, he likes the bad girls, and they don't get any badder than River Song. 

Something my wife said struck a chord with me tonight as well. RTD and to some extent even THe Lord Thy G-d SM have forgotten the Doctor is an Alien. He's been humanised far too much, he's been allowed to become simply eccentric without the acerbic arrogance of a superior being that finds it hard to deal with talking ants or chimps with calculators. In the old days... (here he goes again), Doctors used to get regularly frustrated at the lack of basic education and skill that humans, even from advanced eras, suffered from. Now he seems to have gone so native it's more like he's the 2000 year old man and can only tell tales of what it was like before the invention of the wheel. And when are we finally going to get stories that explore the vast space that is the TARDIS? It's like they've parked in the reference section of the British museum and  refused to  move an inch further. Perhaps If I say it often enough... from my to G-d's ears. G-d works in Cardiff, so it's not long distance like it used to be. Lastly, these Earth bound stories, are all fine and good, but we need more alien planets, more future times and creepy things in bad suits who are never pleased to see the Doctor. I'm not complaining, just wondering when we will reach for the stars again, just asking. 

In short, I loved the series opener, and look forward to many more stories. Keep em coming Mr. Moffat. I trust in your ability to make these things make sense without robbing us of all that suspense and fodder for discussion. Like Deep Thought, you have guided us from crisis to crisis, but please, no long drawn out Seldon plan, don't wait too long to free Gallifrey and return the Universe to normal service. I thank you in advance.


fatoldtart said...

How did you manage to write the piece about Lis without feeling tearful again? i did just reading it.

Mietek Padowicz said...

I didn't manage is how. She'll be missed.