Doctor Who – “The Impossible Astronaut”

Since I just finished watching a number of episodes of Doctor Who during an Easter TV marathon, I figured I’d post some thoughts on the newest episode starring Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, “The Impossible Astronaut”!

First off, I can’t call myself a true hardcore fan of Doctor Who, because while I’ve watched maybe twenty-odd episodes of the show, they’ve always been out of order due to my spotty TV watching habits.  I guess you could call me a “Whovian Initiate” or “Whoob” (Who Noob) or whatever the term is for new fans of the show.

I’ve sampled some of Doctors Nine through Eleven, though, and I love what I’ve seen so far. I’ve also digested a lot of the articles on the Who wiki, so I do have a fairly good grasp of the more obscure bits of trivia. Just be advised that I probably don’t know enough of the mythology to fully appreciate the latest episode.

Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, sporting his "cool" Stetson

Based on that bit of context, let’s get to what I thought of “The Impossible Astronaut”. I’ll try not to include any spoilers, but watch out in case I let something slip – read on at your own peril!

The episode takes place mostly in the United States, and starts off with a big, partially confusing surprise twist. I love Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor, and every time I see him onscreen I feel that he is consistently making the character his own. There was some great interplay between him and Alex Kingston as River Song – I always love a good dose of comic repartee. (I’m still not sure what to think of her line, “I’m a screamer”, but whatever..)

What really grabbed me about this episode were the villains: The Silence. From what I gather, the fan forums are abuzz about these guys, who look a bit like your traditional bulbous-headed aliens but wearing black suits and ties. They have this awesome, creepy power to make people forget they’ve seen The Silence the second the person takes their eyes off them.

Alex Kingston as River Song in the premiere episode

It’s said that the Silence are one of those things that all humans experience , something in the corner of your eye that’s gone when you turn to look. That power ties in really well to something the writers of Doctor Who seem to have built into a core theme of the show: that everyday, mundane experiences actually have a deeper and more fantastical explanation (see the Tenth Doctor episode “Blink”). What’s more, it’s usually something the Doctor has to save us from. Sci-fi works best when it takes everyday life and amplifies it to a larger scope, usually in the future or with an outer space vibe, and that’s exactly what The Silence are doing here.

The Silence were designed by the show’s head writer/executive producer Steven Moffat, who also wrote the episode. The look of The Silence is sign of Moffat’s skill as a sci-fi writer: They’re at once a reference to classic sci-fi and a totally new kind of monster. They look like traditional aliens, but instead of being naked, they wear suits – a visual connection to aliens’ traditional enemies, the suit-wearing government types.

New "Who" baddies, The Silence

To me, it references something mentioned in the episode: that The Silence have been on Earth for centuries. The Silence have absorbed the traits of the government establishment who might have fought them off. This sort of ties back to what I said above. The Silence were always here, always appearing and subsequently erasing the witnesses’ memories.

They’re an omnipresent threat that’s become built into the human experience- something that only the Doctor and his companions can reveal to us and eventually stop. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next with these aliens in the series, and then rewatching the first season with Matt Smith, because apparently Moffat has hidden a number of references to The Silence all through those episodes.

So, that does it for my first real blog post. Let me know what you think of my (likely misguided) opinions in the comments, and add this blog to your subscriptions or RSS feed! I have lots of ideas about how to expand this blog in the future, but it all depends on the readers, and what they’d like to see! Until the next post – and remember: Don’t Blink! (Or turn away from scary suit-wearing, memory-erasing Silence!)

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10 responses to “Doctor Who – “The Impossible Astronaut”

  1. hey I really liked the thing about the silence! i really like doctor who. i have watched to the begining to the end. I found it quite intresting how you relate this to everyday life, how you will notice something out of the corner of your eye, then forget. I am intrested about amy’s pregnancy, and the child in the space suit could be a symbol trying to say she wouldnt be a great mum? if so i disagree. i think i know why the astronaut killed the doctor. because at the end of part 1, amy shot her, and maybe the astronaut takes revenge, and the doctor is saying, “kill me for revenge.” i live is aussie, so i havent seen part 2!
    thanks!
    the doctor.

    • Thanks! I love picking out the different layers of stuff, and the design of The Silence really grabbed me. I just finished watching part 2, and it’s pretty awesome. It brings a lot of loose ends together from “The Impossible Astronaut”, but does pose some interesting questions. I’ll be reviewing the episode here tomorrow, but I’ll try to avoid spoilers if you’d like to read the article before the show airs in Australia. Thanks for the feedback!

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