Doctor Who – “The Impossible Astronaut” Preview

Warning. There aren’t any plot spoilers. But if you are a COMPLETE spoiler-phobe, I would suggest not reading this.

Last night was SPACE’s “Doctor Who” sneak preview screening of the first episode of this season. I got to see the brilliant writer Rob Shearman again, a friend I made in Cardiff when I was there for the Whoniversal Appeal academic conference in 2008, and whom I see all too rarely. (The paper I presented there is slated for publication later this year).

The screening was held in a private hotel with very plush chairs, and hosted by none other than the brilliantly bow-tie attired Ajay Fry (no relation) and Teddy Wilson. They are both very pleasant, engaged, articulate, and this time, well dressed gentlemen, and I always really enjoy our conversations. The rest of the SPACE team was also there, and they were, as always, wonderful. The PR people did a fabulous job with the event, and there were even chocolate lollipops that turned the inside of our mouths TARDIS blue!

The screening was dedicated to Elizabeth Sladen, who we lost a few days ago to her battle with cancer at age 63.

I’ve been forbidden from posting spoilers, but I will tell you that the episode is exciting and I had to resist clutching at Rob and burying my face in his shoulder when the bad guys showed up. I needed a sofa of my own to hide behind. Holy crap, talk about successfully tapping into childhood fears!

 If this episode is anything to go by, our Doctor has gotten cheekier, sassier, and has begun to grow into his own. This is reflected in Matt Smith’s performance – he seems to fit into the Doctor’s skin better, and that internal kernel of Doctorness that I felt was missing from his performance last season (with the exception of The Elventh Hour and the two part finale), has grown and begun to shine in his eyes.

We know that the Doctor was once a father, so it’s safe to assume that he had to have had a romantic and physical relationship with someone at some point, and that seems to be coming back around. It’s both nice to see the Doctor mature as a more rounded character, but still a little weird and icky for me to think of him as a potentially sexual being. He’s so paternal and asexual to me – he knows about sex (he is friends with Jack, he can’t not), and he makes jokes about it (“Oooh, fifty seven academics just punched the air”), he loved Rose and kissed her, but I still can’t help but think of him as a non-physical romantic.

He hugs, he dances, he cries and runs and laughs, and he loves bigger and harder than anyone else in the universe – the thought of him turning all that energy, physicality and attention to one person in a romantic and sexual sense isn’t gross so much as it is ODD for me. It’s not that I’m all “Ew, gross, the Doctor is kissing someone!” It’s just that I can’t imagine the ability to love JUST one person that strongly, and I wonder how River Song can remain strong within it.

And my eternal wish for the return of Susan Foreman seems one step closer to being realized. (It’s always bothered me that the Doctor has a GRANDDAUGHTER and he just drops her off in the 22nd Century and NEVER SEES HER AGAIN. I mean, dude, she’s your GRANDDAUGHTER. Go visit.)

The flirting between the Doctor and River Song was cute and on the nose, with just enough innuendo thrown out for the adults watching. However, perhaps it skews the show just a wee bit too far away from the target audience (possibly at the risk of boring them), because so much of the show seems to be about developing the adult relationships. It would be fine, if it wasn’t at the expense of the action, but it is. There are long moments of talking and I wonder if that’s at all entertaining to the children in the audience.

   I haven’t been a big fan of River Song since her reappearance after her death, though I adore Alex Kingston.  But this episode really worked for me because Moffat has stripped away her Mary Sue tendencies and made the show centre on the Doctor it was named for. I find I really like River when she’s not the black hole of the plot.

And she has a beautiful speech about what it means to be a time traveler and have a connection with another time traveler, and while I teared up and really felt that it was just so spectacularly written and performed, what really hit me was that it was exactly the sort of thing Sarah Jane Smith would have probably said. It hit me again that Elizabeth Sladen was gone, and then I was glad I’d had the foresight to be wearing the waterproof mascara.

I have no complaints about Arthur Darvill (except that he hasn’t asked me on a date, yet) but there were times when Rory turned into Captain Exposition and that rubbed me a bit wrong. Rob and I had a bit of a  “discussion” about that at the bar afterwards, and I suppose it just comes down to choices in writing style. Things I would have left un-pointed-out for emotional impact, Moffat chose to point out, which Rob liked. And that’s okay. I’m really warming to Karen Gillian, too, and I think it’s because I like this new, married Amy better. She’s more stable, less mouthy for the sake of trying to sound clever, and more real. Karen seems to be inhabiting Amy rather than just reciting her lines.

It was REALLY wonderful to see Rory and Amy being all couple-y, especially since TV is not filled with enough functional marriages.


My only complaint was that there was a very emotional, important moment that is meant to be OH MY GOD RIP YOUR HEART OUT PAINFUL and the filming choices made it happen very remotely, visually, which unfortunately made it also emotionally remote. I didn’t FEEL the moment the way I could have, the way I WANTED to. There was a lack of immediacy, of intimacy, of being involved, and I think it robbed the moment of the resonance and beauty it could have had.

The screening was followed up by a quick quiz round – I got stumped on a few questions, but won a Doctor Who ball cap for knowing the original, changed title of Neil Gaiman’s episode. It’s a quality cap with an embroidered Doctor Who logo. I just wish it had the SPACE logo on the back of it, instead of BBC America’s. It’s also, like, an adult extra large and seeing as I have to shop for my eyeglasses in the children’s section, you can guess how well it fits. It’s okay, I have a little cousin who is a rabid fanboy, and he will love the hat to pieces.

All in all, it was, as ever, a lovely evening with SPACE, the hosts of InnerSPACE, and Doctor Who. I can’t wait until you guys all see this one. Geronimo!

The new season of DOCTOR WHO premiers on SPACE: THE IMAGINATION STATION at 8pm on SATURDAY APRIL 23RD.

JM FreyDoctor Who – “The Impossible Astronaut” Preview