Paul’s First Doctor Who Episode: “The Impossible Astronaut”

Despite my love for BBC’s programming (though I’ve sadly missed the majority of the latest season of Primeval), I’ve never, in my life, seen a single episode of Doctor Who. I’ve always been curious about it, but, for no particular reason, just never got around to watching the damn thing, despite everyone telling me how great it was. I know that the guy who plays the Doctor swaps out every couple of years (though I’m not clear as to if it’s written that way, or if it’s just actors moving on to new things), and that the newest Doctor is played by Matt Smith, who I’m not sure if the fans love or hate (I guess it depends on the fan).

I also know that the last season was run by Steven Moffat, taking over for longtime showrunner Russell T Davies, and that Moffat also created the latest BBC series Sherlock, also something I’ve wanted to see but just haven’t gotten around to.

Well, Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott talked me into watching Doctor Who. The guy (Slott, not Who) camped out ALL DAY to watch the premiere of the show in a movie theater, along with hundreds of other fans. I mean, I can’t think of a single TV show I’d do that for … sure, maybe a new Star Trek show or maybe even the premiere of Supernatural, but even then, only if the cast and crew would be there. But there aren’t a ton of TV shows airing now that, I feel, have earned the die hard loyalty that I, as a fan, would love to give something, and that, at least it appears, Doctor Who fans feel for their show.

So…I decided to give the good Doctor a shot, watching the sixth season premiere (the second season with Smith as the Doctor), part one of the two-part “The Impossible Astronaut.”

Major Spoilers from here on out, by the way….

Not knowing much about Doctor Who, I decided to not really research it going in. I find that, unless I’m terribly confused by going in blind, I can be pleasantly surprised the less I know. So…to be honest, I didn’t even know that the Doctor was a time traveler, that his phone booth thing (the Dalek) was like a mini-city inside, or…well, anything. So for the first fifteen minutes or so of the season premiere, I was lost. I didn’t know what was going on, who the characters were, how they all fit together, or really much of anything.

Still, I’m not a complete blubbering idiot, and the episode was well-written enough that, after the initial confusion, once the story really picks up, you’re likely to catch up pretty quickly. While, at the end of the episode, I still wasn’t clear on the history these characters had together, I was intrigued enough that I decided to seek out the fifth season on Netflix (not streaming, sadly).

I really, really enjoyed “The Impossible Astronaut, Part One.” I like the concept of the Time Lords and, primarily, Smith’s portrayal of the titular character. I think he brought a lot of fun to the episode, a ton of great lines, and just really enjoyed every moment he was on screen. I also really enjoyed Karen Gillan as Amy, the Doctor’s sidekick, who’s mighty cute, I might add. I think there’s a tremendous amount of chemistry from all the leads, and, don’t crucify me for saying this, it was almost like watching a British, time travelling Buffy.  Why do I say that? Well, we saw a pretty sweet looking monster (something I’d imagine seeing in a Buffy show), and tons of great and witty dialogue. I know Who came first, so it’s like that shows like Buffy were more inspired by it than it by them, but I can see how fans of one would also be fans of the other. I enjoyed the monsters of the episodes, who seem to be space aliens of some sort, but who were really damn creepy looking.

Also, any time Mark Sheppard is in something, I’m pretty much hooked. He played Crowley in Supernatural for the last two seasons and, basically, just kicks ass.

I liked the concept of the show, and the fact that the Doctor died in the first fifteen minutes, only for his younger self, along with his “Scooby Gang” to investigate why. I like well written shows that don’t talk down to their audience just to make it more accessible and, though it took me a little bit to understand what was going on, once I caught up, I was hooked.

What didn’t I like? Well…gotta be honest, even though I caught up, for a season premiere, it would have been nice to have some type of “Previously on…” segment that caught the uninitiated up, especially as a lot of folks will be watching the series for the first time with this episode. Despite the fact that I enjoyed the episode, I have to believe that I would have enjoyed it more had I known more about the characters. (Update: Apparently, I watched the British version of the episode.  Supposedly, the version aired in America had the recap I’m looking for. Bleeding Cool here complains about it.)

Also…that ending? Meh. But I don’t think that’s specific to Doctor Who – it wasn’t so much that the ending was confusing (it was) or a cliffhanger (which it also was) … it was more in the way it was edited that it felt too sudden, and the credits were rolling before I had really gathered what was going on, and didn’t feel quite the impact that I think was intended.

Still … for those on the fence about giving Doctor Who a shot, go ahead and give this season a try. With most of my American TV shows coming to their season endings, it’ll be nice to scratch that “geek itch” on a weekly basis. Besides…not like we have much in the way of Sci-Fi stuff in America worth watching anyway, right?

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