The Doctor is in: An impossibly brilliant start to season six

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Whovians everywhere donned the bow ties and fezzes on April 23 to celebrate the return of British sci-fi phenomenon Doctor Who. The sixth series took off at full speed with “The Impossible Astronaut” most of which takes place in America. Fitting to the setting, the episode premiered in the UK and the US on the same day instead of the usual two weeks apart, and became BBC America’s highest-rated show ever.

PREVIOUSLY ON DOCTOR WHO

Viewers who tuned into series five last year caught the Doctor in a time of transition.
The classic series, which originally ran from 1963 to 1989, was renewed in 2005 by Russell T. Davies, picking up with the Doctor’s ninth regeneration, portrayed by Chris Eccleston. After one season with Eccleston, and three with David Tennant as the Doctor’s tenth regeneration, Davies turned over the reigns to veteran Who writer Steven Moffat.

Moffat made his debut as head writer last year with Doctor Who’s fifth season, and a cast of almost completely new actors. The character of the Doctor, a 900+ year old Time Lord, had just regenerated, as he does any time he is dying, and the role was passed from David Tennant to Matt Smith.

Smith’s charmingly quirky Doctor and his companions, the sassy Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), her husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and occasionally, the illusive River Song (Alex Kingston) traveled through time and space in the TARDIS, braving everything from the Weeping Angels to the very end of all existence.

Season five varied between excellent and lukewarm episodes, but very literally ended with a bang with the Pandorica story line, a second, universe-restoring big bang and loose ends promised to be tied up soon — and according to River Song, that’s when everything will change.

After the traditional Christmas special, Who fans had to wait four months to see what the Doctor and his companions would get into next.

THE IMPOSSIBLE ASTRONAUT

Leave it to Moffat to make the wait worthwhile by providing fans with one of the most mind-boggling Who stories yet.
Part one of the season opener, “The Impossible Astronaut,” kept viewers on the edges of their seats, and those who have not seen it yet should brace themselves for emotional whiplash.

It’s not advisable to be drinking anything within the opening seconds of the episode, because it may end up all over your TV or computer screen.
But don’t get comfortable with the Doctor’s string of goofy antics, or with the warm reunion with his latest three companions.
Ten minutes in, Moffat manages to kill off a very important main character. But thanks to the “wibbly-wobbly” state of time, the episode carries on with all the main characters, and the secret of the ominous astronaut hanging overhead.

After the appearance of the astronaut and the sudden death, the four time-travelers must go to 1969 America, during Richard Nixon’s presidency.

The president has been receiving mysterious calls from a child, warning him about monsters and a space man. The Doctor and his companions stumble into the Oval Office and set off to find the child, with the aid of former FBI agent Canton Delaware (Mark Sheppard).

Viewers also catch a glimpse of one of the many horrifying monsters promised to appear on the show this year.
Ghastly, skeletal-like aliens in suits referred to as the Silence begin appearing to the Doctor’s companions. The catch is, the Silence are only remembered when they are perceived.

The Silence were alluded to in the previous season, and are sure to play an important role as the story progresses. Because Amy, River and Rory all forget that they’ve seen them, they are in constant danger.

In the midst of the secrets, allusions and potential peril, relationships develop and are put to the test.

The Doctor and River Song, who have been meeting each other in the wrong sequence of time since Tennant’s days, increase their flirtatious banter, further suggesting the romantic nature of their relationship, which is still partially shrouded in secret. Amy also has a secret of her own, but as she and Rory are newly married, it may not be as hard to guess as River’s back-story.

Moffat, who proved to be a big fan of two-part episodes in the last season, gave viewers a cliffhanger that will have kept them asking, “What in the world is going on?” all week. The episode reached its climax with the Silence, the astronaut, the child, a gun and no answers until the next episode.

WHOISMS

GALLIFREY: Home planet of the Time Lords, destroyed with the Dalek Empire in the Time War by the Doctor himself.
DALEKS: The most infamous of the Doctor’s enemies, appearing throughout the show since it originally began in 1963. Daleks are mutants from Skaro, encased in mechanical armor. Known for “exteriminating” their enemies.
TARDIS: Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. The Doctor’s means of travel through time and space, “borrowed” from his people on Gallifrey. It is disguised on the outside as a blue police box, but is much bigger on the inside.
SONIC SCREWDRIVER: The Doctor’s multipurpose tool for scanning, unlocking, tracking, remote control, etc.

GOODBYE, OUR SARAH JANE

The premiere was dedicated in loving memory to Elisabeth Sladen, who passed away on Tuesday, April 19 at age 65. Sladen was known for her role as the Doctor’s companion, journalist Sarah Jane Smith.

NEXT TIME

Tune into BBC America Saturday, April 30 at 9 p.m. for part two of the episode, “Day of the Moon,” followed by “Doctor Who in America” for behind the scenes of the Doctor Who cast and crew’s time in the states