SYNOPSIS: "The Doctor is summoned to assist President Nixon in saving a terrified little girl from a mysterious spaceman." (bbc.co.uk)
The only two television series this year that I've been particularly looking forward to have been the return of 'Doctor Who' and the second series of 'Psychoville'. Sadly, the latter is still nowhere to be seen but thank the stars, Matt Smith is back as our intrepid Doctor pal, following the Christmas special. Some spoilers await so I recommend averting your gaze unless you've already watched the episode.
'The Impossible Astronaut' sees the Doctor meet his fate - "I've been running, faster than I've ever run, and it's time for me to stop." Not ten minutes into the first episode the series, we witness the death of the Doctor. As do Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), her new hubby Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the returning River Song (Alex Kingston), all instructed to congregate in America at a specific time and place via letter.
It's hardly surprising though when the Doctor re-emerges alive and well mere minutes after his supposed demise at the hands of (presumably) the titular astronaut. Amy questions his re-appearance - "how can you be okay?!" - aside from this being the first episode of the series, writer Steven Moffat explains this curiosity as the appearance of a younger version of the Doctor. This is a time travel show, after all.
With events unclear, the four seize upon "Space. 1969." - two words the Doctor mutters shortly before his death - and the arrival of a Mr Canton Everett Delaware III. They find him in 1969 with President Nixon (Stuart Milligan), the latter of whom has been plagued by pleading phone calls from a young girl. The Doctor and gang find themselves at the centre of this issue, which is combined with the first on-screen appearance of The Silence.
The Silence are the alien species we often encountered by name ("silence will fall" being a recurring motif) in the previous series, who most notably blew up the TARDIS in last year's two part series finale. Here, they simply explode people (with Dr Manhattan-esque special effects straight out of 'Watchmen') while retaining a rather handy memory erasing function when anyone turns their back on them.
How the Doctor et al defeat this seemingly formidable enemy is an answer that I hope will be teased over several episodes - it would be a shame if the culmination of more than a series worth of hints is blown within this opening two-parter. Speaking of which, with next week's 'Day Of The Moon' to come, we unsurprisingly encountered a cliffhanger ending. Except we actually received two cliffhangers. How do you like them apples?!
I can't imagine that I'm the only one eagerly anticipating next Saturday's developments. A strong opening to the new series and fittingly dedicated to Elisabeth Sladen, a former companion of The Doctor, who sadly passed away earlier in the week.
Watch 'The Impossible Astronaut' on BBC iPlayer until 18:44, 11 June 2011. Tune in to BBC1 on Saturdays for future episodes of the series. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.