On Friday, the BBC released another trailer for the sixth season of Doctor Who, this one specifically for the season opener, “The Impossible Astronaut.”
That emotive piece of background music, by the way, is “Tristan” by Two Steps from Hell.
Another quick observation before I do a speculation/spoiler jump.
I am not sold on Stuart Milligan’s Richard Nixon in that short clip. The voice just isn’t right. He’s far from the best Nixon — without a doubt, that’s Billy West in Futurama — but he’s also not the worst screen Nixon — surely that’s Dan Hedaya in Dick.
Still! It’s less than a week away! I think I can be okay with a middling Richard Milhous Nixon in Doctor Who
The death of River Song would be very interesting, seeing as how we’ve already seen her death in “Forest of the Dead.” Much like the third Doctor’s premature regeneration in Lawrence Miles’ Interference Book 2: The Hour of the Geek, River’s premature death would have serious repercussions on the timeline.
However, that’s the very reason I dismiss the possibility of River’s death. It would be a fan service moment. Yes, for viewers schooled in geek culture and genre conventions, revisiting a three year-old plot point would be fascinating and exciting. But for the casual family viewer that Doctor Who is targeted toward, a fan service moment is exactly what you don’t do. River, in my opinion, is safe.
Rory! Rory has already died twice (in “Amy’s Choice” and “Cold Blood”), so Rory may be the most expected death, much like South Park‘s Kenny. This is precisely why Rory is unlikely to be the shock death in the opening two-parter — it wouldn’t be any sort of shock.
Amy? I can’t come up with a credible reason why she can’t die in the opening two-parter. I take that back — there is a credible reason, in that Team TARDIS has been seen filming together for the past eight months or so. But I can’t come up with a good narrative reason, based on what little we know, for why Amy would be the one to die.
However, I do have a credible narrative reason why someone else can die in the opening two-parter — the Doctor.
Last autumn, during The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ story “The Death of the Doctor,” the Doctor and Clyde have a brief conversation while crawling through ductwork about how many times the Doctor can regenerate. “Five hundred and seven,” the Doctor snaps.
A friend was utterly incensed by this. “Time Lords only have thirteen lives,” she said, with all the conviction of a new fan who knew some of the lore of the old Who with all the certainitude of religious gospel. “I want a final season of Doctor Who, with the Doctor facing certain death, trying to escape his fate. 507? We’ll never get that. None of us will be around for Doctor 507.” In short, she wanted an endpoint. She wanted Doctor Who to be more like American genre television, with a story arc and a grand finale. A throwaway line like “507,” which is how I took it, took the endpoint away from her. She wanted a final Doctor, she wanted to see what the Doctor will do and what the Doctor will become if he knows that his permanent death is a very real possibility.
Given Steven Moffat’s penchant for non-linear, timey-wimey narrative structures, the death of the Doctor in the season six opening two-parter could give us exactly what my friend wanted.
We’ve seen a bearded Doctor in the BBC trailer for the sixth season, right at the very beginning.
Matt Smith also mentioned in an interview several months ago that there are two Doctors running around in the upcoming season.
It’s entirely possible that the bearded Doctor could be a future Doctor, perhaps a prisoner of the United States government.
If we see the future Doctor die — and he doesn’t regenerate — we have an endpoint for the Doctor’s life. We know it’s going to happen. With a timey-wimey narrative, it’s possible that even the Doctor knows it’s going to happen. What does the Doctor do when faced with that knowledge? What does he do when he recognizes that he really and truly is mortal and that his end is coming?
That‘s territory that Doctor Who hasn’t mined before.
Well, outside of one or two novels, like Lawrence Miles’ Alien Bodies. But that’s not important.
If that’s the story Moffat wants to tell, I see the obvious out. “Time can be rewritten.” Moffat has been setting up that story — first in “Flesh and Stone,” then “The Big Bang,” and finally and especially “A Christmas Carol.” He’s rewritten time on a small scale, a single episode. Could Moffat rewrite time on a massive scale, an entire season? Could the Doctor rewrite his own life and avoid his fate?
When you think about it, it’s so obvious. Moffat has been hammering away at the idea, that time can be rewritten, almost as if he’s been laying the groundwork for a big story story tell. It’s Chekhov’s gun on the mantelpiece.
If I were Moffat, that’s what I’d do and how I’d do it. Kill a future Doctor, and then see if and how the Doctor can escape his ultimate destiny. Obviously, we know that the Doctor will escape his fate — the BBC isn’t ending the series for the foreseeable future, nor does Matt Smith evince any desire to leave the role — but the journey would be utterly fascinating. 🙂