By Sasha Debevec-McKenney
Because I follow @BBCAmerica, I ended up at an advance screening of the first two episodes of the new season of Doctor Who. I will never doubt the usefulness of Twitter again. For those of you who don’t watch it, Doctor Who is a long-running British sci-fi show that chronicles the adventures of The Doctor, a Time-Lord (that’s his species—he’s an alien), and his companion (currently Amy Pond) as they travel through space and time saving the universe’s citizens from danger. The show has been on intermittently since 1963, with the actors rotating every so often. Even though I’ve only been watching it since 2006, I am completely in love with The Doctor. Sometimes I wish his spaceship, The TARDIS, would show up in my front yard.
Naturally, when @BBCAmerica tweeted they would be showing the season premiere two-parter in Chicago to the first two hundred people who emailed in, I immediately RSVP’d. Fast-forward to Wednesday, April 20, my boyfriend and I sitting on the floor in a movie theatre lobby at 6 p.m., three hours before the scheduled screening. (I thought it was worth it; he did not.) Doctor Who fans are serious creatures and can often cite and quote from episodes that aired long before I was born. Don’t believe me? The first people in line, who were full-grown adults, had arrived at the theatre at 2 p.m. Although their dedication was more hardcore than mine, I now consider myself a genuine Whovian; that lobby floor was not comfortable.
To the Beloit Doctor Who fans who spent time chalking “Bad Wolf” and “The Angels have the phonebox” all over campus, know that all of that work will be rewarded come Saturday at 8 p.m. when the first episode, “The Impossible Astronaut,” airs. I’m sorry that you have to wait a full week for the second episode, “Day of the Moon,” to resolve some big questions, but know that I feel (some of) your pain. Even after seeing both episodes, I still can’t tell you the fate of some of the two-parter’s main characters. The episodes set up a storyline that I’m sure we’ll all have to wait until the finale to understand. Despite that cliffhanger feel, I am completely satisfied about what I saw on Wednesday night. Steven Moffat, who wrote the episodes, did not disappoint—he’s the renaissance man of British television. The man writes relationships, flirting, and love better than anything I’ve ever seen. But somehow, he also manages to terrify the audience and be clever at the same time.
At this point I should say that I am a Steven Moffat completist and have seen pretty much everything he’s ever written, all of which you should watch. I think Doctor Who has thankfully gotten darker, less maudlin, funnier, and all around exponentially better since he took over as head writer and executive producer. I think Matt Smith is perfect as The Doctor, funky face and bowtie included. And even though her Scottish screams of “Doctor!” are a little wearing, I am grateful for how brilliantly Amy Pond’s story has been woven into the plot. She’s not just along for the ride—she’s there for a real reason, a fact that will become even more evident in the sixth season. Even River Song and Rory get substantial screen time that shows they are more than just side-sidekicks. They are three-dimensional characters that have heart and lives outside of their time in the TARDIS. You will feel even more connected to them after you watch these episodes, I promise.
The season openers have plenty of classic Doctor Who moments, one-liners, and a villain that isn’t CGI and doesn’t look like a puppet. In fact, The Silence (read into that what you will, Who fans—I’m not going to spoil it) look like Dementors who took off their hoods and wear suits. Classic suits, too—did I mention that both episodes take place in 1969 and, even better, in America? I know that might sound gimmicky, especially if you remember the Tennant-era episodes that took place during the Depression and were awful. But it really works this time! The Doctor wears a cowboy hat. What more could you want? But back to the 1969 thing, which relates to my favorite thing about “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon,” which is that Richard Nixon is one of the main characters. If you know me, you know I have a soft spot for U.S. Presidents, and seeing Nixon step out of the TARDIS nearly stopped my heart. Yeah, I’m that much of a nerd—and for The Doctor, I’m willing to admit it. Doctor Who rewards its fans (of which I am living proof), and if the new season keeps the same pace I saw at the screening, then you’ll probably see me chalking “Bad Wolf” on College Street more than once.