We were rewarded for our long wait since the end of Doctor Who's last season with an inscrutable episode title: The Impossible Astronaut. The episode does feature a strange astronaut character but leaves us with a zillion questions. Of course that's to be expected for the first part of a two-part story, because we are clearly in the throes of "all h__l breaking loose". It was an excellent episode that's also a huge departure from the norms of Doctor Who.
For some reason the episode begins with Rory and Amy living in domesticated bliss, but clearly not in Ledwith. For some reason the Doctor is traveling and sending them messages through history books, a Marx Brothers TV show, and more. Should bored Time Lords be allowed to play with history like this? I found myself somewhat disgusted, but it quickly dissolved as the episode turned into a highly intense whodunit.
And, here's where it starts being wholly different from prior Doctor Who. It's clear that in Steven Moffat, as the show runner, we have a mad genius who is masterful with timey wimey wibbly wobbly time travel stories.
The Doctor has never been properly killed before, and we learn that it's simple to kill a Time Lord. Which makes me wonder why it's never been done before, or whether he just violated some principle of Time Lords. In any case the perfected algorithm for killing a Time Lord is: Shoot him/her enough to kill the body, then wait for a minute for the regeneration process to begin, then shoot him/her again. That process was said to interrupt the regeneration and then he's truly dead.
It was nice to see him again a couple scenes later, and intriguing to learn the Dead Doctor was almost 200 years older than the one we've known. Meaning that somehow this Incarnation of the Doctor was able to live for 200 years without regenerating, is that a record for Time Lords?
The bigger new thing is that in this episode (perhaps the whole season?) it is the Companions who are in charge, not The Doctor. It's because the Companions saw what they saw and know they cannot tell this story to The Doctor. Or, rather, we know that River Song told Amy and Rory they cannot tell this story to The Doctor. We do have to trust that it would be bad for the Doctor to mess with his own timeline, as River Song says. As Rory pointed out, last season was the result of the Doctor messing with his own timeline.
In Review: Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol I discussed a Doctor who is violating his own Prime Directive. This is an issue dating back to the earliest documentary of The Doctor's life outside Gallifrey, namely Doctor Who - The Aztecs (Story 6), in which Barbara Wright (one of the Companions) wanted to interfere with the Aztecs and stop them from barbarous practices, and The Doctor prevented her from doing so citing a form of The Prime Directive. Ever since the Doctor has been seen as sometimes changing history and sometimes reverting to his Prime Directive of non-interference. But in last season we saw Amy teasingly ask The Doctor whether "is this what we do, act like a Nature Documentary watching and recording but not interfering" only to see the Doctor dive right into interference. We see him get a clue about how one can literally rewrite time, and in A Christmas Carol we see him go full-fledged into rewriting someones history.
The mysteries at the moment include: