He’s back, and it’s about Time, said the old segue for the TV Movie, but with Steven Moffat in charge of Doctor Who, it seems that this is more and more the recurring theme. This Eleventh Doctor has completely rewritten the rule book with regards to what he can and can’t do, and this has a few affects on what happens within the structure of the series.
His Bill and Ted approach is I suppose the Moff’s version of RTD’s deus ex machina, but to me it’s just as big, if not a bigger, cop out.
Right back to Blink, we could see the Doctor manipulating Time for his own ends, something that, say, the Fifth Doctor wouldn’t have done, not even to save Adric (I know, I know), now though, whenever there is a tight spot, the Doctor folds, creases and wrings out temporal wibbly wobblies like there is no tomorrow – literally – which gives him a contradictory Times Champion versus Nothing That Happens Can’t Be Changed head scratcher. The ending to The Big Bang is such a pain in the arse – a spectacular, brilliant, infuriating pain in the arse – that it completely sold the old concept of Who down the river. Again, I choose my words carefully. By A Christmas Carol, he was at it again, hoping through Time and changing the course of one man’s history. Of course, this isn’t a new thing for the Moff, the King of the Recycling, as it is a direct lift, again, from his short story from Decalog 3, Continuity Errors. All his stories for the new series – with the exception of The Empty Child, feature Time in one way or another, which shouldn’t be surprising for a series about a Time Lord, but in many ways undermines the entire fabric of the show. Time cannot be rewritten, the first Doctor scolds Barbara, not one line! By A Christmas Carolshouty Amy Pond is looking all sexy and absolutely insisting “Time can be rewritten…” See what this Time War has done?
To The Impossible Astronaut and you will not be surprised to hear that things aren’t much different. Any semblance of a linear plot is thrown out for one of the Moff’s zen diagrams in Time Travel when the Doctor – but not exactly who you think – meets up with Rory and Amy as well as River Song. The fact they aren’t together at the start should be the first big clue, but as events unfold – events involving President Nixon, the Whitehouse and some very familiar aliens to X Philes out there, things take a deadly turn and by the end everything is thrown at this episode. Of course, with this blasé attitude to Time Travel, the Moff isn’t going to let a little thing like death get in his way, so the whole thing, as per, folds back on itself. There is a definite feeling, much like as I stated during the The Eleventh Hour review last year, that we are watching both the Prologue and Epilogue at the same time. Fankwankagey, though, this is off the scale, and many less cynical than I will burst with squee.
The cast, as you would expect, are blisteringly good. River is more serious than every before, Rory is calmer, still a geek, but much more settled, Amy has stopped that SHOUTING thing she does, at least sometimes, but as always, it’s Matt Smith who just dazzles. The Eleventh Doctor is a lot darker in this episode – a lot – but shows that gawky awkwardness of being all elbows and knees which we all adore. Matt has settled now, he IS the Doctor, and the authority he oozes is palpable.
Toby Haynes has been let loose in the toybox, of course, and the episode has a scale and gradios uncommon forWho, making it very cinematic. It works perfectly, because it’s about a small group in large trouble, and the size of the sky helps to indicate this. This is a situation that not everyone is entirely comfortable with, and Haynes does a great job in showing this without actually signposting it. See everything, the Doctor says. Especially his bow tie.
Add to that the operatic quality of Murray Gold’s amazing soundtrack, for once perfectly at home in the Utah desert, and we have an iconic, if not altogether Whovian episode. It has all you would expect from the Moff, both good and bad. But at least now he seems to be getting a better handle on the relationships.