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The Impossible Astronaut: River and the death of the Doctor

The sixth season of Doctor Who is now officially underway! In fact, we’ve already reached the mid-season cliffhanger summer break. Because I now have at least three months with no new Doctor Who episodes, to keep myself from falling deep into depression, I’ve decided to go episode by episode and give you my thoughts. DISCLAIMER: There will be spoilers (potentially from episodes later than the one I’m reviewing) so if you haven’t seen this series yet/ you want to eventually get into Doctor Who, DO NOT READ ON. Seriously. It’ll ruin everything. Doctor Who is way more fun if you allow the show the suspense it requires.

So now, the Impossible Astronaut.

I thought this was a fantastic way to kick off the new series. It was charming and funny, as the Doctor is known to be, but it was also adequately dark and mysterious. I mean, good God, the Doctor dies before the first ten minutes are up. 200 years in the future, of course, but still. And it’s not just your usual Doctor death, as in he comes back to life soon after. The astronaut kills him in the middle of his regeneration cycle so there’s NO WAY he can be alive.

This leaves us with a few things right off the bat, then. First, of course we’re going to see this death situation resolved by the end of the season. Otherwise, this first episode would effectively end Doctor Who as soon as Matt Smith decides he’s done with it. And, of course, the writers have no intention of stopping Doctor Who anytime soon. So I’m not particularly worried about this whole death thing, more curious to see how Stephen Moffat pulls it off. My theory is that, because of the major Flesh plot twists (which I’ll talk about in later reviews), the Doctor who is killed in this episode is just a Flesh clone. Because Amy says “River, he can’t be dead. This is impossible. Maybe he’s a clone or a duplicate or something.” I would argue that this is major foreshadowing.

You could argue “But Bri, Canton says right after that that it’s totally the Doctor.” And you’d be right. But if you remember correctly, the whole point of The Almost People (episode 6) was that the Flesh were just as real as the people they were created to duplicate. So, hypothetically, the dead Doctor from the first episode could be Flesh and the real Doctor.

The second thing this death thing brings up is- who kills him? [CAUTION MAJOR SPOILER] We know from A Good Man Goes to War that River Song is Amy and Rory’s daughter Melody Pond (“The only water in the forest is the river”), and thus we ASSUME that River Song is the little girl that makes random appearances in the next few episodes. Assuming that River Song is the little girl, we also know that she’s been somewhat trapped in this space suit (the very same one that kills the Doctor). This leaves us with the assumption that River Song, as a little girl, kills the Doctor.

However, I don’t think that’s true, for a couple reasons.

1. River is way too freaked out by the fact that the Doctor is dead. We know from previous episodes that River has known the Doctor since she was a little girl, so it stands to reason that she would remember killing the man she loves, especially if she witnesses herself doing it years later. Clearly, River is appalled by said death, so I doubt its River in the suit.

1. (a) Yes, yes, I know that River says she’s in the storm cage because she killed a man, “the best man I ever knew.” And with all the assumptions from the space suit and the little girl, people automatically assume she killed the Doctor. But this doesn’t make sense because of the above reasoning, and…

2. River Song doesn’t recognize the space suit. This comes up in the second episode, The Day of the Moon, when she, Rory, and the Doctor are rooting around in the Silence’s stuff. She’s analyzing the space suit and wondering at the fact that such a little girl managed to force her way out of the suit. Now, either River is a REALLY good actress, she honestly doesn’t remember doing it, or, my guess, SHE’S NOT THE LITTLE GIRL. Because…

3. It would be way too obvious. So River is Amy and Rory’s daughter. Weird, yeah. But I don’t think she’s the little girl. Now that they’ve revealed [most] of her true identity, even though they’ve been building it up as if she’s the little girl who broke out of the spacesuit and whatnot, I think it’s a little too convenient how everything is fitting together.

So that means that someone else killed the Doctor, after taking control over the space suit. Just because the little girl was at one point wearing a spacesuit and just because River is Amy’s daughter doesn’t mean that she is still wearing a spacesuit when the Doctor is killed by one or that the little girl who escaped from the spacesuit is River. Whew.

*edit* HOLY CRAP. So I just read Kyle Anderson’s review of this episode over at (which I’m surprised I hadn’t done earlier) (I’ll reference him a lot in later installments) and he brought up an interesting point. He seems to have some of the same qualms with River being the little girl in all these episodes (ie she didn’t recognize the spacesuit and she looks genuinely upset at the Doctor’s death), which leads him to this little bombshell:

The scene in Stormcage at the beginning of this episode where River looks really surprised and wistful about seeing Rory. This is what I think: River, at that point in her life, hadn’t seen Rory in a very long time and I believe that’s because Rory is the “Good Man” whom River kills. She says she kills “The best man she’s ever known,” and that HAS to be her dad, the Last Friggin’ Centurion. The whole series has been making us think someone’s talking about the Doctor but are actually talking about Rory. It only stands to reason that this is just the last instance of it. While I don’t want to see Rory get killed, it will probably be in some heroic fashion and it will inform River’s whole life and relationship with the Doctor and Amy.

AAAAAAAH. River kills RORY?? God, I hope not, but still, I also hope SO. My feelings about Rory are complicated, but HOLY CRAP. HOLY EFFING CRAP. Think about it. It totally makes sense, right? RIGHT??

Other than that, the Silence are creepy, I love Canton Everett Dellaware (mostly because the actor was in Battlestar Galactica and he was awesome), and it was a fun, suspenseful episode to kick off the new series. More reviews and speculations to come.

One thought on “The Impossible Astronaut: River and the death of the Doctor

  1. I know it’s crazy and not entirely logical, but I’m still convinced that River is the little girl in the spacesuit and that she kills the Doctor.

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