[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]
I want to briefly consider a question about last Saturday’s Doctor Who episode, The Impossible Astronaut. But the question itself is so spoily that I wont ask it here above the fold.
So please read on only if you have already seen The Impossible Astronaut, and you know what happened.
Still with me? Good, OK. I am sure you already realised that I want to consider the problem of who killed the Doctor. I mean, we already know that an impossible astronaut did it (clue’s in the question), but since the astronaut suit completely covers the actual perpetrator, we don’t know who did it.
(I should have posted this earlier in the week to allow time for a good discussion, but there it is.)
So who was in the suit? Who are the candidates?
This perhaps makes most sense dramatically, and fits in well with Moffat’s wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey approach. It seems that the new series has cheerfully cast aside the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, so the idea of the Doctor meeting himself is not a deal breaker. (Not that it ever stopped Old Who from staging stories like The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, The Six And A Half Doctors, etc.)
Does the Doctor have a motive? Not clear: the killer would obviously need to be from earlier in his own timeline than the version that he killed, which would of course mean that the 1100-year-old Doctor who we met first in TIA knew what was going to happen because he did it himself. But why? (Motive is going to be a problem for pretty much all the candidates.) Could it be that in the missing 200 years the Doctor got split somewhere, as in Journey’s End, and that one of them needed to be disposed of to restore normality? That would be a little cold.
Ah, River bleedin’ Song. I am in general a big, big Moffat fan, but I do not understand what he sees in this collection of mannerisms passing as a woman. Who knows why she ever does anything? Or in what order? I don’t know whether it’s the writing or the casting, but River is one character who just doesn’t work for me.
Anyway, she is the logical front-runner because we already know that “I killed the best man I ever knew”, and that’s why she was imprisoned.
Why why why? I am pretty sure that the girl in the space-suit at the end of the first episode was not Young Amy (or Amelia, as we call her), so there’s nothing to tie her to the eponymous I.A. And yet something in me feels a sort of inevitability that it will turn out to be Amy simply because she, of all the supporting cast, felt it most strongly when the Doctor was killed. It would hurt her more to do it than it would hurt the others, and I think Moffat is a sadist in that way.
I only mention Rory because he’s on the scene and it would be remiss to overlook him. Of all the supporting cast, Rory is the one who, were I the Doctor, I would most trust to Do The Right Thing however much he didn’t want to; and so, if I were the Doctor and needed someone to kill me, Rory is perhaps the person I would ask to do it.
That bloke, you know the one?
You know, the ex-FBI agent with the funny name that the Doctor walked in on in the Oval Office. So far, it’s not clear what his role is in all this, but we know that many years later, the Doctor will send him to the place of his death to supply the fuel for his cremation, so at some point he is definitely going to be a part of it. Could he be both the killer and the immolater? And again: why?
The little girl?
She turned up only at the very end, in the spacesuit. We don’t know who she is (unless I misread her face and she is Amelia), nor what her involvement is. We don’t know why or how she’s been phoning the president directly every night. And since we also don’t know what the deal is with the see-them-then-forget-them aliens, we might speculate that she is something to do with them.
What does it all mean?
You know, I really have no idea. Back when I surveyed the possible contents of the Pandorica, most of the possible answers made some kind of sense to me. And back when David Tennant broke off his two-parter in mid-regeneration at the end of The Stolen Earth, Andrew Rilstone listed six possible explanations for what was happening (none of which turned out to be true, naturally).
But this time I am at a loss to come up with a single explanation of it all that makes sense, that ties together the Doctor’s death, Amy’s pregnancy, the Immediately Forgettable Aliens, That Bloke You Know The One, the girl in the spacesuit, and so on. Usually the puzzle set by two-parters is: which of the candidate solutions will turn out to be the right one? But this time, Moffat is asking us, and himself, a harder question: is there any solution?
I can only assume that the answer is yes; I hope, I really hope, that when it comes, it makes sense.