On Doctor Who Season Opener Speculations

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

By now, I think many people are aware that one of the main characters — The Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River — will die in the opening two-parter.

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. 🙂

5 thoughts on “On Doctor Who Season Opener Speculations

  1. The problem with killing even a future 11doc as an attempt to give your friend the endpoint she wants, is that as soon as Matt Smith decides to leave, it’ll be retconned when the 12th Doctor is cast.

    Which’ll mean colour me meh and not buying into the hype.

  2. Oh, if it is a future Doctor that’s killed in the first episode, I’d still expect it to be retconned away in the thirteenth episode, much like Doc Brown gets killed at the beginning of Back to the Future and then we find out at the end that, no, he wasn’t actually killed because of Marty fiddling about in the past.

  3. Billy West? Arrooo!! Seriously, no, Futurama‘s Nixon(‘s head) is over-the-top parody. And really, when you go back and listen to the real Nixon, you see that pretty much every non-dramatic actor ever to play him is also doing a parody.

    As for the worst Nixon, Hedaya can’t hold a candle to Anthony Hopkins. Nixon with a British accent — at least “Impossible Astronaut”‘s Nixon ain’t that bad.

  4. Ever since Flesh and Stone I’ve been expecting River’s next story to be the one when she kills a future Doctor. Perhaps The Impossible Moon will be that story.

    Which means that the preview scene from the opening story now circulating, in which Amy, Rory and River all know something they’re not telling the Doctor, would be from the end of the story and would be about Amy, Rory and River all knowing when the Doctor will die.

    I would have been surprised if your speculation on The End of Time had come out. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re right this time.

  5. I couldn’t remember what my theory on the end of “The End of Time” was, I had to look up the blog post where I theorized about narrative perspective in the story and how that might have given us the eleventh Doctor as a fait accompli. It was a good theory, or at least I think it was, but I should have remembered that “Army of Ghosts” began much the same way with Rose’s “This is the story of how I died,” and then the story that followed was nothing of the sort, except in a metaphorical way. Russell T. Davies didn’t always play fair with the story pieces he put on the table, and out-thinking Davies, though it was always fun because you could make very interesting structures with Davies’ toys, was a bit of a fool’s errand, especially when Davies pulled out something unexpected and unthought to magically wave away his plot problems.

    Moffat’s stories work differently. I thought that a bright viewer could have put together the resolution to “The Big Bang” at the end of “The Pandorica Opens.” Oh, they wouldn’t have had all the details of the episode down, but the mechanism for what would have to happen were apparent, because the clues had been planted all along.

    Interestingly, the more I’ve heard about the season to come, the less I want to actively seek out spoilers. This year of Doctor Who could be really special, maybe the standard by which all future seasons are measured.

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